How to Prepare for a Consultation With Your Spine Doctor

November 10, 2022
Dr. Mark Wang is a fellowship-trained and board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon. He dedicates his full attention to working together with his patients to identify their pain source and find the least invasive treatment that works for them.


Preparing for a spine doctor consultation helps you communicate with your care provider and helps your provider determine the most effective treatment plan. You can prepare for a consultation by gathering essential information, creating a list of important questions, understanding your medical history, and asking a supportive individual to accompany you to your appointment.

What Is a Spine Doctor?

A spine doctor is an individual who specializes in spine conditions that arise from bones, nerves or soft tissues such as tendons, muscles and ligaments. A spine specialist can be a physician or a non-physician, and the type of spine doctor who treats you depends on your specific condition. You may need care from several different spine specialists if you have a complex spine condition or your symptoms do not improve with certain treatments. The following medical specialists focus on treating spine conditions:

  • Orthopedic surgeons
  • Neurosurgeons
  • Neurologists
  • Physical therapists
  • Physiatrists
  • Pain management physicians
  • Chiropractors
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Rheumatologists

A spine specialist can diagnose what is causing your back pain and symptoms to determine the most effective treatment plan. Spine specialists use their expertise to evaluate patients and recommend the following solutions based on symptoms and conditions:

  • Non-surgical treatments
  • Minimally-invasive treatments
  • Pain management
  • Spinal health maintenance

Reasons to Visit a Spine Doctor

Approximately 25% of American adults experience acute low back pain. Many common types of back pain typically dissipate with home remedies, including back pain caused by:

  • Physical strain
  • Poor posture
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • A weak core
  • Age

However, back pain can sometimes indicate a more serious condition that requires medical treatment or surgery. You should consider visiting a spine doctor if you notice the following signs:


  • Chronic pain

    Pain that persists for 12 weeks or more can indicate a spine condition that needs treatment. 

  • Intrusive pain

    You should visit a spine specialist if your back or neck pain prevents you from performing your daily tasks. If your pain makes it difficult to get out of bed, perform work duties or participate in hobbies you once enjoyed easily, you may need specialized treatment or surgery. 

  • Instability and constant pain

    If you are unstable on your feet and find it difficult to walk far without pain, you should consult with a spine specialist. You should also talk to a spine doctor if you continuously feel pain when sitting, standing and lying down.

  • Minimal range of motion

    It may be time to visit a specialist if you cannot stand upright, twist sideways, or bend over without pain.

  • Bladder and bowel symptoms

    Needing to use the bathroom too frequently or not frequently enough can indicate a potentially serious condition, such as a spine tumor. It’s critical to see a specialist as soon as possible if you notice these signs. 

  • Pain that extends down your leg

    Pain that travels from your back and down your leg can indicate that your spinal nerve root is compressed, inflamed or injured. This condition is known as radiculopathy.

  • Weakness or numbness

    If your hips, legs, or crotch feel weak or numb for longer than a couple of days, your lower spine may be compressing your nerve sac. This is a severe condition that requires medical care. 

  • Foot or leg tingling

    A tingling sensation in your legs or feet can indicate that a serious condition is placing pressure on your spine.

  • Fever

    If you have back pain or other symptoms and your body temperature rises above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, you could potentially have a spine infection in your joints, vertebrae or discs. 

  • Traumatic injury

    If you experience back pain following a traumatic accident or injury, you should visit a spine specialist because an accident or injury can affect your spine’s discs. 

How to Prepare for a Consultation With Your Spine Doctor

A consultation with your spine doctor is an opportunity for you to explain your symptoms so your doctor can determine the best treatment options. During a consultation, you can learn more about what is causing your symptoms and how you can find relief. Additionally, your doctor can recommend the least invasive surgical or treatment option to address the cause of your symptoms.

Preparing for a spine doctor visit helps you have a positive experience and ensures your doctor receives essential information about your symptoms. If you are planning your first visit to a spine doctor or wondering how to talk to your back surgeon, consider the following tips:

Come With a List of Questions

Your spine doctor’s goal is to provide the best treatment possible and make you feel comfortable throughout the process. Asking questions helps you gather all the information you need to feel as comfortable and positive as possible moving forward.

Make a List of Your Symptoms

Create a list of your symptoms and describe them clearly and concisely for your care provider. Include all your symptoms, such as pain, unexplained weight change, fever, tingling sensations, and numbness. Tell your doctor about anything that hinders your daily routine or limits your mobility. It’s also important to include information such as how often you experience symptoms, when they started, how long they typically last, the time of day they usually occur, and if they are improving or worsening.

Bring Someone With You

Bring a trusted individual with you who can help you communicate with your doctor and ask questions for you. Physical pain or emotions such as anxiety can hinder your ability to process information and make decisions. A friend or family member can provide support during your consultation and make the meeting easier.

Provide CD Copies of Your Radiology and Imaging Reports

Obtain CD copies of your radiology and imaging reports for your doctor. Diagnostic imaging is one of the most important resources spine specialists use to diagnose back conditions and determine treatment plans. Collect CD copies of any MRIs, X-rays, and CT scans you have received so your doctor can see the specific structures causing your pain and develop the most effective care plan.

Gather Your Personal and Family Medical History

During your consultation, you will discuss your personal medical history with your doctor and describe any past experiences you have had with back pain. Your doctor will also ask you about your family’s medical history and may ask you to fill out a form with this information. Familiarizing yourself with your medical history and the conditions that run in your family can help you communicate effectively while saving time. 

Bring a Detailed List of Current Medications

Create a list of current medications you are taking daily and as needed, including over-the-counter medicines and supplements. Be sure to include each medicine’s specific name. Many medications have side effects or can interact negatively, so your care provider or surgeon needs to know what you are taking. 

Bring Your Insurance Card and Complete Any Forms Sent to You

Bring your insurance card to your consultation, and fill out any necessary forms your doctor sends you before the appointment. Filling out essential forms before you meet with your doctor will allow you to focus on asking questions, gathering information, and making decisions about your treatment.


Make an Appointment at Desert Institute for Spine Care

Your first visit to a spine doctor is a step toward healing and reduced pain. Preparing for a consultation with your spine doctor can help you make the most of your appointment, gather essential information, and make informed decisions. 

Desert Institute for Spine Care offers a team of top physicians and orthopedic surgeons who will determine the most effective treatment plan for your neck or back pain. We offer innovative treatments and evaluate your condition to recommend the least invasive options. Schedule an appointment or contact DISC to learn more about our experienced medical team and how we can treat your back and neck pain.


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