Tips for Communicating Back Pain to a Doctor

Tips for Communicating Back Pain to a Doctor

The key to a positive experience with a back doctor is effective communication. After all, poor communication can prevent them from understanding the root cause of your back pain and designing a treatment plan that is ideal for your unique lifestyle and goals. So if you have an upcoming appointment about your back pain, keep these tips in mind to make the most out of your time with the doctor.

Describe Your Back Pain Properly

When the doctor asks you to describe your back pain, saying things like "It's terrible," or "It's not too bad" won't help them. After all, what's terrible for one patient may be no big deal for another. Instead, let them know how long you've been facing chronic back pain. A few months? A few years? Also, explain how often it comes on and how long it lasts. In addition, share what reduces it and makes you feel better.

Explain Where Your Back Pain Occurs

Chances are there are certain areas of your back where you feel your back pain more than others. The doctor may show you a diagram of your back and ask you to point out exactly where you experience it the most. Is it the upper back? Mid-back region? Lower back? Be sure to think about the location of your pain before your appointment.

Understand the Back Pain Scale

The doctor will likely ask you to rate your back pain on a scale from 1 to 10. But if you don't know what the numbers of this scale mean, it can be difficult to rate your back pain accurately. Here's a brief overview of the numbers on the back pain scale.

  • 0 - No pain
  • 1 - Occasional minor pain
  • 2 - Minor pain that's mild and virtually unnoticeable
  • 3 - Noticeable pain you can easily adapt to
  • 4 - Moderate pain you can ignore for a while
  • 5 - Moderate pain you can only ignore for a bit of time but does not prevent you from working or engaging in some social activities
  • 6 - Moderate pain that leads to concentration challenges and gets in the way of your day-to-day activities
  • 7 - Severe pain that obstructs your sleep and reduces your ability to participate in everyday activities
  • 8 - Intense pain that limits your physical activity
  • 9 - Excruciating pain that leads to uncontrollable crying
  • 10 - Unbearable pain that keeps you bedridden and compromises your mobility

Keep a Back Pain Journal

When you're put on the spot at the doctor's office, it can be difficult to remember details related to your pain cycles. The best solution to this issue is to create a back pain journal. Document when you experience back pain and what you did to minimize your discomfort.

A back pain journal can turn the focus of your appointment toward your treatment plan rather than diagnosis. You won't have to think about the specifics of your condition because you'll have it all documented and ready for the doctor.

Remember your time with the doctor is valuable. By following these communication tips, you can ensure your appointments are productive and steer you toward the relief you deserve.


All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

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