How to Talk with Your Healthcare Provider About Back Pain
If your back hurts, you might write it off as a normal part of life. After all, a lot of people have back pain from time to time. But if back pain is severe, doesn’t go away with time, or is getting in the way of daily life, you might have a significant medical problem.
With proper treatment, pain can be managed. Talking with your healthcare provider is the first step to feeling better.
When to talk with your provider
Most of the time, back pain goes away on its own without treatment. However, there are certain times when it’s important to see a healthcare provider. You may have a herniated disk or another serious condition.
You should see your provider if you have back pain:
Accompanied by numbness or tingling
Following an injury, fall, or car crash
That doesn’t get better with medication
That gets worse after 2 or 3 weeks
What your provider needs to know
Be as specific as possible about the pain you’re experiencing. It may help to jot down your thoughts beforehand. Tell your provider:
If anything makes your pain better or worse. For example, does ice or a heating pad help?
If you have any other symptoms, such as nausea or trouble going to the bathroom.
What your pain feels like. Is it sharp, dull, or stabbing pain? Or does it feel like aching or burning?
When your pain started, how often you’re in pain, and what time of day the pain is worst.
Where on your back you feel pain and whether it radiates anywhere else.
In addition, tell your provider how bad the pain is so that they understand how you’re feeling. You may say it’s mild, moderate, strong, or severe. Or you could rate the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain possible.
Your provider will also ask about your medical history. Tell them about any health conditions you have and all the medicines you take.
Questions to ask your provider
Ask your healthcare provider how long you should rest and when you should start being active again. It’s usually OK to rest for a day or two if your back hurts. But most of the time, light activity will help you get better faster. Too much rest can weaken the back muscles and stall your recovery.
Also ask what types of exercise are best for you while you heal. Swimming and walking are usually good options.
You may also want to ask your provider:
How will you find what’s causing my pain?
Are there any stretches or exercises I should do for my back?
How do I avoid back injuries or back pain in the future?
Speak up if you don’t understand something your provider says. If you don’t say anything, they may assume you understand.
Don’t hesitate to talk with your provider if you have back pain. A simple conversation could help you find relief.