There are three steps to preparing for your spinal pain consultation. First, reduce your fear about spinal surgery. Second, keep a pain journal for at least a few days so you can explain the pain to your licensed healthcare provider.
And third, download the spine and pain management specialist’s New Patient forms from their website, and fill them out. This article will go into detail about each one of these steps.
Step 1. Reduce the Fear You Have About Spinal Surgery
When someone has spine pain, low back, or neck pain, preparing for a consultation with a spine and pain management specialist, or a neurologist, can cause a bit of anxiety in some people. They fear that they will be told they’re going to need spinal surgery. This fear may prevent them from initially making the appointment.
Reducing fear about spinal surgery may be an important step in your list of things to do. The common fear is that spinal surgery can damage the spine, which controls many different functions in the body.
Other reasons include: that it may also take too long to heal; may cause a lot of pain and discomfort, as well as complications during the healing process; and that the results may not be good. Other worries associated with this fear are that you will be a burden on family members, and the lack of income during the recovery time may result in a disastrous economic predicament.
And although there are some people who ultimately need the surgery, according to Dr. Brandon Claflin of Oklahoma Interventional Spine & Pain in Tulsa, spinal surgery is rarely the first option that a doctor will recommend. There are several undertakings that a doctor has to do, before determining that surgery is even an option.
Statistics by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Report, on trends in operating room procedures in the U.S., confirm this approach. Compare the 900,000 lumbar spine surgeries performed annually, to the 20 to 31 million adults who have back pain at any one point in their lives. Back surgeries, therefore, account for only 3 to 4.5 percent of the number of those with back pain.
Step 2. Keep a Pain Journal
“The next thing to do is write down your answers to questions that the spine and pain management specialist will be asking. It may take you a little while to determine the answers and the more accurate you are, the better and more quickly your doctor can help you,“ Dr. Brandon Claflin in Oklahoma said.
The sample list of questions that will be asked is below.
- What caused the pain? Was there an injury?
- What does the pain feel like? Is it stabbing, sharp, dull, aching, heavy, hot or burning, shooting, cramping, aching, gnawing, throbbing, or exhausting?
- How severe is the pain? On a pain scale of 1-10, where 10 is the worst pain you could imagine, how bad is it?
- Where exactly is the low back pain?
- Does the back pain stay in one area or does it travel?
- How often do you have the pain? How long does it last?
- When during the day does the pain start?
- Does the pain prevent you from doing anything in your regular life?
- What makes it better?
- What makes it worse?
When intense pain is continual, it interferes with your ability to recall details. In fact, studies over the past two decades have shown that chronic pain adversely affects working memory, recall, and concentration in the pain sufferer’s daily activities.
Keeping a pain diary for a few days while you wait for your appointment, gives you the most accurate picture you can present to your physician.
The best way to do this is, to record the answers for questions two through seven a few times a day (morning and night), and questions eight through ten once daily. You’ll need about one page for each day. Some people know how to use software such as Excel or other programs to make this easier, especially if they are planning on journaling their daily progress over the next 30 days.
“A detailed history such as a pain diary gives a doctor insight into the problem and saves time at the office. In your back, there are muscles, bones, and nerves. Each of these could be the source of the pain. Each of them has a specific type of pain. Muscle damage is a very common cause of backache. There may be soreness, spasms, knots, and tenderness. Heat, rest, or massage can help them a lot,” Dr. Brandon Claflin in Oklahoma stated.
However, tissues such as the vertebrae of the spine cause other symptoms, including limited movement, stiffness, and sharp pain. For nerves, symptoms of burning, electric sensations, tingling, and shooting pains are signs that they are damaged in some way.
“Sometimes a patient may have more than one of the three parts of the back that is causing the pain. This is why it’s so important to get a physical examination from a qualified practitioner, especially one who is board-certified who can really decide what the situation really is,” Doctor Brandon Claflin in Oklahoma noted.
The physical exam views overall health and the area of pain, as well. There are many possible diagnoses. Being thorough may include imaging studies, such as x-rays and MRTs. MRT stands for a magnetic resonance tomography procedure that will diagnose what is happening in the organs and joints. This scan is painless and does not use x-rays. Lab work is also often ordered, because there may be an underlying disease that shows us what is actually happening.
Continuing the pain diary after your appointment is important, as it will keep your doctor abreast of any changes in your condition.
Step 3. Download and Fill Out the New Patient Forms From the Clinic Website
Almost every physician now has New Patient forms on their website. These forms inquire about your previous health history and any other doctor visits you may have had. Filling these out ahead of time will save you time at the clinic. It also gives you the opportunity to look up answers, if you are unsure of them.
These forms will also contain information about your health insurance, to ensure that the visit can be properly taken care of financially.
Preparing for your initial consultation with a spine and pain management specialist is a simple three-step process. First, understand the realities about spinal surgery and how you likely will not be referred immediately for it – if at all.
Second, prepare your pain journal with all the details about your pain. And third, download and fill out the new patient forms from the clinic’s website.
Once you have done all of these, you are now ready for your appointment! Go in with your records, hold your head up, and realize that you have done everything to properly prepare for an accurate diagnosis.