1. Be Descriptive

When you talk with your spine surgeon, 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.

2. Keep an Open Mind

During your appointment, talk with your doctor about your condition, the treatment options available to you, and the pros and cons of each.

If you have heard of a new technology, it's okay to ask your doctor if you are a candidate. But try not to become immediately fixated on a new treatment option, or you may deny yourself the chance to obtain a complete perspective and possibly the most appropriate treatment for your specific symptoms.

3. Research All Your Options

Take some time to learn about different surgical options—even if you don't like the sound of them at first. Ask your surgeon if he or she has some informational brochures on various procedures. And visit websites used by doctors, as they contain professional journal articles and more technical information.

As you start to look for information, remember a few things:

  • Not all information about a particular condition will apply to your situation.
  • Double check information by visiting different websites, or by researching your topic in several magazines or reference books.

In addition to surgical options, if your doctor is not familiar with the range of treatments for chronic pain, you may want to ask for a referral to a pain management specialist. Or, find a specialist in your area who is familiar with Medtronic Chronic Pain Therapies.

4. Ask Lots of Questions

To help you learn more about your spinal surgery options, it can be helpful to create a list of questions for your surgeon. It’s also a good idea to involve a loved one in the process as they may have questions too. Knowing what you want to ask ahead of time will help you get the most out of your visits.

Here are some questions to help get you started:

  • What are all of my options?
  • What is the most common procedure for my diagnosis?
  • Based on my diagnosis, what procedure is best for me?
  • What do we know about the long-term effects of the procedure?
  • Am I the right type of candidate for the procedure?
  • Does my diagnosis match up with what the procedure is designed and approved for?
  • What type of surgical approach is used?
  • Where will the scar be and how large will it be?
  • Will I need a bone graft?
  • What type of bone graft options do I have?
  • What are the pros and cons of each?
  • Will I need any implants?
  • Who manufactures the implants?
  • What is the success rate with these implants?
  • What will the type of surgical approach mean for my recovery?
  • How long will I need to stay in the hospital?
  • Will I need physical therapy or post-surgical rehabilitation?
  • How long have you been performing this type of procedure?
  • Can you tell me about the outcomes of your other patients who have had the procedure?
  • What if I want to choose a procedure you don't think is best for me?
  • What are the risks of having the wrong procedure?

5. Build Your Relationship

After you have found a spine surgeon you feel comfortable with, it is important to develop a strong doctor-patient relationship so that you can trust their advice and assessment. Tell your surgeon what you think about each of your treatment options. Discuss the benefits, risks, and alternatives. Ideally, you want to rely on your surgeon’s judgment. If you don’t feel comfortable with your surgeon’s recommendation, get a second opinion.