Questions You Need To Ask

In order to minimize emotional distress, it is important to ask your health care provider questions about your back pain so you do not leave the office uncertain or anxious. Understanding your pain will help decrease your anxiety. Keep in mind that, if your pain lasts more than 2-4 months (which is usually considered a normal healing time for most back problems), your condition may become chronic. Chronic pain can be associated with even greater psychological distress.

During the acute period, feelings of helplessness, stress and even anger towards your health care provider (for not relieving your pain) may occur. In order to help allay this distress, you need to be sure that your health care provider is attending to all of your important physical and psychological needs.

You and your health care provider should do the following:

  • You should express your concerns about your pain symptoms. It is normal for patients to fear serious disease or disability.
  • Be certain that your health care provider addresses your fears through appropriate medical evaluation and, if necessary, medical tests to rule out serious conditions.
  • Be certain that your health care provider fully explains what is being looked for or ruled out during these evaluations and tests, and make sure you get the results in terms you can understand.
  • If your health care provider recommends staying active, be certain that he or she discusses with you how to stay active safely.
  • Inform your health care provider of any functional difficulties your pain is causing (eg, problems with bending, lifting, etc.) and identify with him or her ways to overcome these difficulties. Also have your health care provider address any problems you have performing your normal work activities.
  • The information you receive about your diagnosis and prognosis should be clear to you. Make sure you understand the natural progression of back pain, what “improvement” can be expected and when it is likely to occur. Whenever any recommendations are made, be sure that you or your health care provider writes them down so you can review them after leaving the office.