Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Back Pain

Dr. Constantine Toumbis

08 October 2020

Back pain can disrupt your life and rob you of the enjoyment of many activities. As much as 80% of the U.S. population will experience back pain at some time in their life! If you’re among them, you may feel frustrated, worried or scared. The good news is, back pain often resolves with minimal intervention and patients return to normal relatively fast. However, you probably want to know if your back pain is serious and whether it will require medical treatment. If you choose to see a doctor, come to your appointment prepared. This blog will help you ask the right questions about the issues you’re experiencing with a painful back.

When to See a Doctor About Back Pain

For many back pain sufferers, the first question is whether it’s necessary to visit a doctor. Every individual is different, so you should trust yourself if you feel you need medical care. However, if you experience any of these factors, it is definitely time to immediately seek help and call your doctor.

  • Pain that spreads down your legs
  • Pain associated with numbness or tingling anywhere in your body
  • Swelling or redness on your back
  • Recent change in a medication that lists muscle spasms as a side-effect
  • Lasting, severe pain that makes it impossible to get comfortable 
  • A fever or other symptoms of a serious illness
  • Incontinence (loss of bladder and bowel control)
  • Sudden weakness in the legs, or loss of power and control of legs
  • Back pain as a result of a traumatic injury or fall
  • Back pain that worsens when you cough or bend forward (this could be an indication of a herniated disc)

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

When planning to see your doctor about back pain, write down your questions or record them on your phone ahead of time. That way, you will remember what you want to ask. The questions below are only a guideline; feel free to speak your mind about whatever is concerning you.

Should I Limit My Physical Activity?

Generally, bed rest for back pain works only in small doses, if at all. It’s usually better to keep moving and stretching to the degree you can manage. However, the nature and location of your pain might indicate that you should refrain from certain activities, especially any activity that may have caused the pain in the first place. Your doctor may suggest gentle activity such as walking or yoga until you feel better.

What Can I Do for Immediate Relief?

Undoubtedly, you will want to relieve as much pain as possible right away. Talk to your doctor about anything you have already tried and anything else he or she recommends. You might get some relief from heat, ice, massage, pain medications or simply changing how you sit at a desk.

What Tests Will I Need to Fully Diagnose My Condition?

You and your doctor might identify easily that your pain stems from a strained or tight muscle. Otherwise, you may need tests to get to the root cause. Your doctor may order x-rays, an MRI,  bone density test, joint fluid test or muscle biopsy. If he or she suspects an underlying condition, you may need to visit another specialist for a complete diagnosis or to rule out certain conditions.

Could My Condition Progress and Get Worse?

You probably won’t know the answer to this question until you have a diagnosis. Some back conditions, like degenerative disc disease, are progressive meaning they tend to worsen in the absence of treatment. Talk to your doctor about how often you should be seen to monitor your condition.

Will My Condition Require Surgery at Some Point?

Some back conditions, such as spondylolysis or stenosis can be treated with surgery. That doesn’t mean that everyone who has these conditions needs surgery. Sometimes, more modest treatments can relieve symptoms or halt progression. Your doctor cannot predict the future but can speak from experience with other patients about what you might expect.

Am I a Good Candidate for Surgery?

If back surgery is an option in your situation, you will need to ensure that your overall health is such that you can handle surgery. Your doctor will want to know additional information about your health history and genetics in order to provide the best advice. If you do plan to move forward with surgery, ask about how to prepare for back surgery and what to expect afterwards.

Contact Citrus Spine to Discuss Your Back Pain

If back pain is concerning you, contact Citrus Spine to arrange an appointment. We have a live, high resolution x-ray machine along with numerous other diagnostic tools at our disposal. Our board-certified healthcare providers will seek to answer all your questions and then consider any non-surgical or surgical options to create a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

If you are experiencing any of the back pain symptoms listed above, you should visit your doctor or emergency care immediately. If you are not satisfied with your doctor or require specialized care, it is recommended to get a second opinion from a back pain specialist.

Dr. Constantine Toumbis

Dr. Toumbis is a board certified, fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in cervical, thoracic and lumbar surgery. He received his undergraduate degree in Biology from New York University in 1987, then continued on to receive his Masters in Natural Sciences as well as a PhD in Experimental Pathology from State University of New York at Buffalo. He completed his medical degree at Wayne State University School of Medicine with a distinction in Biomedical Research. After moving to Florida to complete his internship and residency in orthopedics at the University of Florida Shands Hospital, he went on to pursue a fellowship at Cleveland Clinic's Florida Spine Institute. He moved to Citrus County and has been in private practice since 2005.

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