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Talking to Your Doctor About Low Back Pain and Sciatica

En Español (Spanish Version)

Main Page | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Screening | Reducing Your Risk | Talking to Your Doctor | Living With Low Back Pain and Sciatica | Living With Low Back Pain and Sciatica | Resource Guide

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with low back pain and sciatica. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
  • Write your questions down ahead of time, so you don't forget them. Remember that every question you have may not be able to be answered with the first visit.
  • Write down the answers you get. Make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask follow-up questions, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

About Low Back Pain and Sciatica

  • What is causing my back pain?
  • Exactly what is sciatica? Could my pain be from sciatica?

About Your Risk of Developing Low Back Pain and Sciatica

  • Based on my medical history, lifestyle, and family background, am I at further risk for low back pain and sciatica?
  • How can I prevent low back pain and sciatica?

About Treatment Options

  • How do I best treat low back pain and sciatica?
  • Will I need to have surgery?
  • What medications are available to help me?
    • What are the benefits/side effects of these medications?
    • Will these medications interact with other medications, over-the-counter products, or dietary or herbal supplements I am already taking for other conditions?
  • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that will help me?

About Lifestyle Changes

  • Should I engage in exercise?
    • What kind of exercise is best?
    • How often should I exercise?
    • How do I get started with an exercise program?
  • How can I find help to quit smoking?
  • Do I need to lose weight? If so, how much?
  • Do I need to stop participating in sports or other activities?

About Your Outlook

  • How do I know that my prevention or treatment program is effective?
  • Will I always be bothered by low back pain and sciatica?
  • Will the back pain worsen as I grow older?
  • Will I need to find a different job?
 

References:

  • Freedman MK. Saulino MF, et al. Interventions in chronic pain management. 5. Approaches to medication and lifestyle in chronic pain syndromes. Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 89(3 Suppl 1):S56-60, 2008 Mar.
  • Konstantinou K. Dunn KM. Sciatica: review of epidemiological studies and prevalence estimates. Spine. 33(22):2464-2472, 2008 Oct 15.
  • Pain. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chronic_pain/detail_chronic_pain.htm#Spine. Updated August 30, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.
  • 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. US Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/default.aspx. Accessed November 21, 2013.

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