Living with back pain isn’t easy, especially when everything you do is a reminder of what you can no longer do. By now, you’ve probably tried some combination of medications, epidurals, physical therapy, and chiropractic care. If you’ve had little to no success with non-surgical treatments over the last few months, it’s time to talk to your primary care doctor about getting a referral to a specialist.

What Should I Tell My Doctor About My Back Pain?

When you talk with your primary care doctor, it’s important to describe the pain you’re experiencing as completely and clearly as possible. Using our Doctor Discussion Guide to create a pain map and answer questions about your back pain journey can help.

What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor?

Going to your appointment prepared with your questions will help you get the conversation started—and help you get the most out of your visit.

Here are some questions to help get you started:

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • What treatment options are available to me?
  • What type of alternative therapies should/can I try?
  • How should I keep track of my pain?
  • Will you put me on medications? If so, what are they and are there any side effects?
  • Will my insurance cover the treatments?
  • How often will I need to see you?
  • Is surgery possible in my future? If so, what type(s) of surgery?
  • What pain management options haven’t I tried?
  • What other specialists could I be referred to?
  • What lifestyle changes, if any, will I need to make?
  • Who should I call in your office if I have more questions?

What If My Primary Care Doctor Doesn’t Think I Need Surgery?

Only you know your body and how you truly feel, so it’s important to advocate for yourself. Oftentimes, we’re inclined to trust the opinions of people in positions of authority, including physicians, but that doesn’t always make it the right thing to do. You have every right to ask for a referral—so don’t hesitate to challenge your doctor’s opinion. If you think it might help, bring along a friend or family member to your appointment, so they can help advocate for you too.

There’s nothing worse than losing momentum on your journey to finding relief. If it comes to it, be sure to take matters into your own hands! If you would like to have a consultation with a surgeon or pain management specialist and your primary care doctor is reluctant to refer you, use our Find a Specialist tool today.

Before you visit your doctor, make a list of questions. You’ll find the suggested questions above plus additional talking tips in our customizable Doctor Discussion Guide.