The idea of going to a spine doctor for the first time may seem intimidating. If you’ve never been to a spine specialist in the Philadelphia area, you may not be sure what to expect. What questions should you ask? What should you be prepared to answer? How do you explain the pain you’re experiencing? Most likely if you’re seeing a specialist, you’re already in a significant amount of pain. The combination of pain and uncertainty can be very unnerving. Being as prepared as possible for your appointment will ensure things will go smoothly, and you’ll feel more confident.
Before meeting with your spine doctor, prepare your full medical history. This could include:
- Previous surgeries and treatments you’ve had
- Medicines you take
- Family medical history
- Allergies you have
- Any past reactions you’ve had from certain medications or substances
It’s important to relay these details to your spine doctor, so they can find the best approach for you. It may be most beneficial for you to write these things down, so you don’t leave anything out.
What to bring
Spine doctors in the Philadelphia area differ from practice to practice; this list of what to bring is not exhaustive and is very general. To be fully prepared, it is advised that you check with your spine specialist’s office prior to your appointment.
- List of questions. Writing down a list of questions can help you stay focused and get the answers you want. Your questions could include:
- What are the possible causes of my pain?
- What are my options for treatment?
- Will I have to undergo any testing?
- What risks are associated with treatment?
- Are there any side effects to the medicines?
- How long is the recovery time?
- Supportive friend/family member. If you’re in a lot of pain or you just want some backup in case you forget something, it’s a good idea to bring a friend or family member. When you’re in pain or feeling anxious, it may be difficult for you to process information. Having that extra support is always a good idea.
- Pen and paper. A lot of information and medical terms are going to be thrown at you. It can get confusing, which is why a pen and paper is good move. If you want to take it to the next level, ask your spine doctor if it’s OK to voice record the appointment, so you don’t miss anything.
- List of symptoms. Again, writing things down will ensure you don’t leave any important details out. A full list of the pain you’re experiencing, where the pain is, how severe the pain is, what it feels like, and if there were any prior injuries are all things you should share with your spine doctor.
Questions you may have to answer
It’s your doctor’s job to ask questions to get to the root of your situation. Reciprocating with relevant and detailed answers is the other side of that equation. The best way to be prepared is to anticipate the questions the spine doctor will ask. Here are a few questions you will most likely have to answer:
- When and how did the symptoms start?
- Where is the pain on your body?
- How long have you been dealing with the pain?
- Are there times when the pain is better or worse?
- Is the pain affecting your daily life?
- Have you tried to treat the pain before?
- Describe your pain.
Explaining your pain
All patients are different and have different thresholds of pain. Your Philadelphia area spine doctor can look at your medical records, but the diagnosis is all in the details of the pain you are personally feeling. Follow these tips to help explain what you’re feeling:
- Start small; you should be able to give a good estimate of when your pain started.
- Throughout your day, take note of how frequently the pain occurs and how long it lasts.
- Notice what might be causing your pain and what helps it subside. Does pain start shooting down your leg only when you’re sitting in your office chair?
- Pinpoint where it hurts and notice whether it’s internal or external.
- Get to know the different pain scales. This will help you and your doctor properly assess your pain.
- Start a pain journal. Document the pain you’re feeling throughout the week. Be sure to take note of any medicines or at-home treatments you used that lessened or worsened your discomfort.
Even if you’ve had appointments with other spine centers in the Philadelphia area, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion. Sometimes, spine surgeons will push a surgical approach, which may not be the best option for your situation. Not sure if you need a second opinion? Check out our blog on when and why to seek a second opinion.
Located just outside Philadelphia, the spine doctors at Coastal Spine are committed to finding the right treatment for you.