You will probably be asked by the spine specialist or spine surgeon to describe your symptoms in as much detail as possible, with questions such as:

  • How long have you had your present spine or back problem?
  • What is your main spine problem? Neck, arm(s), mid back, lower back, buttock, and/or leg(s)?
  • How and when did your back problem start?
  • What always makes your back problem worse? What always makes it better (even if only a little)?
  • Description of the back pain, neck pain, or other types of pain. E.g., Is the pain sharp, dull, hot, electrical, burning, crushing, numbing, tingling, throbbing, mixed? Other?
  • When the back pain is at its worst, what can you still do, what is it that you cannot do? What are the effects on your job? Recreation? Hobbies? Sex life? Social life?
  • For back pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling, indicate what changes them, for good or bad?
  • How intense is your back pain "right now", on average/typical, at best, and at worst on a 0-10 scale (10=intense)
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  • What are the percentages of distribution of these sensations between upper and lower limbs, parts of limbs, neck and arm/hand, low back/buttock and lower legs/feet, right and left sides, day and night, and other comparisons? (Such comparisons are often difficult to evaluate by the patient but important for the doctor to know.) You will be probably be provided with front and back sketches of the human body and requested to indicate where the pain, burning, crushing, weakness, numbness, tingling, and other sensations are located.
  • When is the back pain best? Worst? (Includes the time of day, week, month, seasons, etc.)

See When to Seek Medical Care for Low Back Pain

Diagnostic Tests Performed by the Spine Specialist

Your physician will most likely ask for background on which diagnostic tests you have already had. If possible, it's a good idea to bring the results of any major tests you've had to your appointment (e.g. recent MRI scan of your spine). Tests that will probably be asked about include:

  • Spine diagnostic tests: X-ray, CT scans, MRI scans, tomography, myelogram, ultrasound scan, radioactive bone scan, discogram, other? Which part of the spine was included, and when and where were the tests performed? What were the findings (diagnosis) from these studies?
  • Have you had similar studies elsewhere of your body parts, such as heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, kidneys, other organs or joints? Again, where and when were these performed and what were the findings (diagnosis) from these studies?
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Previous Treatments for Back Pain and Back Problems

Your spine specialist will probably ask for details about which types of treatments you have already tried for your spinal condition. For example:

  • What types of medications have your tried? What medications help the back problem? Which ones don't help?
  • What type of nonsurgical treatments have you tried for your back problem (osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation, physical therapy, etc)? When, where and by whom? Which physical therapy program? Results?
  • Have you had any injections for your spine problem, such as, nerve root, epidural, facet joints, other? By whom, when and diagnosis obtained? Results? Repeat injections?
  • Have you had any type of spine surgery? Have you undergone any type of chronic pain rehabilitation? What were the results?