Working With Your Doctor

When working with your doctor to describe your back pain condition, you will provide your physician with your chief complaint as well as an accurate medical history.

Back Pain Doctor: Patient Medical History

When you either experience a sudden bout of intense, acute back pain, or if your condition seems to be lingering, with the potential of becoming a chronic, you will likely seek your doctor's consult. Typically, the first doctor you will see is an emergency room physician in the event of severe, intense acute back pain or your primary care physician if you are able to wait long enough for an appointment. There are probably over a thousand different types of back pain treatments from among western and eastern health sciences, but your primary care physician will likely be someone you will trust the most. Your primary care physician will have access to the world's best diagnostic resources, and this will be the healthcare that will be the most likely to be covered by your healthcare insurance. Don't be scared off by the association with doctors and back surgery. Doctors will always try every possible conservative treatment before surgery is considered. Also, back surgery is only performed in a small percentage of cases.

Working with Your Doctor: When you arrive at your doctor's office, be as prepared as possible to provide him or her with all the information needed to make an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor needs to get a complete picture of you and your back pain before he can proceed with the appropriate diagnostic tests. Your doctor is going to ask you information about your general health, your lifestyle, and history with back pain or other orthopedic conditions. Try to be as detailed as possible, because any one fact might be a clue that solves the puzzle of your back pain. While medical imaging diagnostics (e.g. X-Ray, MRI) may be necessary, often diagnoses are established during the history portion of the examination.

Your age and gender profiles make some back pain conditions more likely than others. For example, data has shown that herniated discs and degenerative disc disease is not simple a condition that effects the elderly. In fact, herniated discs are most common in those between the ages of 25-45. Conversely, approximately 80 percent of people with cancer of the spine are fifty or older. Men are more likely than women to suffer from back pain - possibly due to the fact that they more likely to be employed in heavy lifting occupations or more likely to do the heavy lifting and shoveling chores at home. Other medical disorders that may cause back pain are more common in women, such as fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, and systemic inflammatory disease (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, Reactive Arthritis).

The history you provide is the most important part of the diagnostic process. Today, we have incredible diagnostic tools that give us 3D images of the structures of the spine, programs to record muscle functioning, and the ability to look at the anatomy and physiology of the back as never before. Yet, many soft tissue injuries that actually cause back pain don't show up on medical images. Often, factors such as stress, post-traumatic stress, muscle weakness, and the straining of the spinal ligaments due to poor posture are the reason why many of us suffer from back pain, not the serious conditions that require back surgery. The information that you provide us may be as important as or more important than any high tech testing we could perform.

The more complete the information, the greater its value. Every evaluation or decision made for you case may be affected by the quality of the information you provide in your medical history.

Chief Complaint: Your chief complaint describes the reason why you have made your doctor appointment, and what specific symptoms you have. Patients may present in the doctor's office with pain that is restricted to their lower back, or pain that begins in the back and radiates down one of their legs.

Your Chief Complaint description guides the doctor's questions.