How to Prepare Yourself for Consulting a Spine Surgeon

Consulting a Spine Surgeon

Although most of us avoid visits to the doctor as far as possible, health conditions force these visits. It is not easy to describe the situation concisely and accurately. In most cases, people forget to ask important questions from their doctor during the meeting. As with any other meeting, preparation is the key to success. So make sure you prepare questions you wish to ask and for those your spine surgeon may ask. Supplying complete and correct info will help your doctor arrive at an accurate diagnosis of the condition. It will help him know the type of spine condition you suffer from and the source of the problem.

Prepare a list of questions prior to meeting a surgeon. The surgeon will take a complete medical history during your first visit. Thereafter, the history and related information will be reviewed. For first time visitors, several questions will be asked by the staff such as insurance coverage, payment preferences, etc. It is important to be ready to answer the questions your doctor will ask.

Ways to Respond to Surgeon’s Queries

– Be complete but brief while explaining.

– Do not leave out crucial points about your condition.

– Be honest with the specialist.

Here is a list of possible questions your surgeon would ask at your meeting:


– What is your name, age, birthday, gender, social security number, marital status, religion, and race/ethnic group?

– Do you suffer from any chronic, recurrent health problems apart from the back or neck?

– Have you been taking medicines for the same?

– What is the name, strength, daily dosage, and purpose of the medicine you have been taking?

– Did you experience trouble with prescription or non-prescription drugs in the past?

– Do you have allergies to any medications, food, etc.?

– Do you take supplements, vitamins or herbal supplements? Which ones do you take and how often?

– What is the frequency of your alcohol intake?

– Have you experienced any recent unintended weight loss or gain?

– Explain your dietary intake?

– Did you have any surgeries in the past? What were the results?

– Do you have any family history of diabetes, liver disorder, high blood pressure, lung problems, kidney disorders, heart problems, stroke, stomach, blood, bowel, bone, joint, muscle, or nervous system disorders?

– Do you have any arthritis in the family? What was the age of onset?

– Do you have any history of neck/ back/spine problems in the family?

Social, Occupational and Recreational History

The surgeon will ask you several questions related to your general background and situation, such as:

– Education

– Occupational history (length of employment)

– Nature of the job

– Number of hours at work

– Illness / injury on the job

– Any depression

– Sleep pattern and number of hours spent sleeping on a day

– Sports or hobbies involved in the past and present

– Current body weight

– Energy level now

– Any recent infections

– Past history of cancer

Describing the Symptoms

The spine specialist will ask you to describe your symptoms in detail. Some of the common questions asked include:

– How long have you had your present back or spine problem?

– What is your major problem? The lower back, neck, mid back, arm(s), buttock, and/or leg(s)?

– How and when did your back problem start?

– What always makes your problem worse?

– What always makes it less or more better?

– Can you describe the pain? How dull, sharp, hot, crushing, electrical, numbing, burning, tingling, throbbing? Or any other?

– A list of activities you can do when the pain is at its worst. What you are unable to do?

– How has this pain affected your daily life, job, hobbies, sex life and social life?

– What are the ratios of spreading of sensations such as numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness, between parts of limbs, upper and lower limbs, arm/hand, neck, low back/buttock and lower legs/feet?

– When is the back pain at its worst or best? Can you specify time, season, day, night, etc.?

The Diagnostic Tests

The doctor will ask about diagnostic tests you have had in the past. Carrying the results of any major tests in the past, such as an MRI scan of spine etc. will help. You will be asked about the following tests:

– X-ray

– Myelogram

– CT scans

– Ultrasound scan

– MRI scans

– Tomography

– Radioactive bone scans

– Discogram

You will be asked the following:

– Which part of the spine was involved in the test (s)?
– When and where were the tests performed?
– What were the findings (diagnosis) from these studies?
– Did you have similar studies for other body parts?

Questions about Treatments in the Past for Back Pain and Back Problems

– What types of medications have you tried?

– Which of these medicines helped and which ones didn’t?

– Did you try any nonsurgical treatments for your back problem? Which, when, where and by whom?

– Which physical therapy program did you follow? What are the results?

– Did you get injections for spine problem (facet joints, nerve root, epidural)? What were the results?

– Did you undergo any type of spine surgery?

– Did you undergo any type of chronic pain rehabilitation? What were the results?


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