Before deciding on a physician, ask the right questions…
What is the physician’s experience?
Choosing the doctor who is right for you and your condition depends on asking the right questions, not on gut instinct. Ask him or her the following:
- How many patients like you has the doctor treated?
- If the doctor recommends conservative therapy (medication, physical therapy, etc.), how long should you undergo those treatments before trying invasive pain treatments or surgery?
- What are the short- and long-term risks of any medication or surgery the doctor prescribes?
- How does the physician decide whether to treat you with invasive pain relieving techniques like those listed below?
- nerve blocks
- facet blocks
- disc lesioning procedures
- radiofrequency lesioning
- vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty
- spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulation
- implantable pumps
- deep or cortical brain stimulation
- In what order does he or she use these treatments (if one fails to help you, what will the doctor use next)?
- What conditions does the doctor feel are best treated surgically? How does the doctor diagnose these conditions? When does a doctor refer you to another specialist?
- If surgery is recommended, do you really need a fusion or can you get by quite well with a simpler operation?
Be realistic about what the physician can and can’t do
Know about the long-term results
Getting better for a only a few hours, days, weeks or even months from an invasive treatment designed to give long-term help is unacceptable.
- What are the long term results of this physician’s treatments and how do they compare with results published by other doctors using the same methods in similar patients?
- What percentage of patients similar to you were able to decrease their medication usage and increase their functional activity (at work and at home) by at least 50% for at least 18 months, following any course of conservative therapy, invasive pain management techniques, or surgery prescribed by or carried out by the doctor?
- Were most patients like you significantly relieved or cured of their pain for years? If not, what became of them?