Needing back surgery can be pretty traumatic. You may have postponed this surgery for a while but need to forge ahead and take that brave step. But you’ve had a consultation and forgot to ask the spine surgeon some pertinent questions. This omission happens to most people who need a back doctor. You go in for a consultation thinking you have prepared well—only to leave, realizing you should have asked several more questions. Here are those typical questions to write down and ask the surgeon, so you leave their clinic with peace of mind.

Why do you advise this procedure for me?

You’ve undergone an initial examination by the back doctor, and they have recommended a specific procedure to improve your spinal health. Your responsibility is to explore why they recommend a particular strategy and what options are available. Specifically, you need to find out details about why pain management or physical therapy is viable in your circumstances, for example. Another part of this question involves how beneficial the recommended treatment will be in relation to others.Before advising surgery, a spine doctor typically suggests less invasive procedures. Only once these prove ineffective will they recommend surgery. If surgery is the only available solution in your case, then you should move on to the next question.

How invasive is the surgery that you recommend?

Many back doctors now use Microdiscectomy because it is far less invasive than earlier techniques. Your spine doctor can discuss whether this type of surgery will resolve your health problem. They will also advise on the recovery period following this type of surgery compared to other methods. For example, Microdiscectomy is a common choice of back doctors for a lumbar fusion, if this is feasible. However, if this minimally invasive surgical technique is not an option, ask your specialist to explain the alternatives and recovery times.


How much experience does your spine doctor have when it comes  to performing the recommended surgery? Typical questions that need more detail include:

  • How frequently do you perform this type of surgery–weekly, monthly, or yearly?
  • What are the expected patient outcomes in terms of the successful performance of this type of surgery? In other words, what are patient recovery times, and what results do they enjoy, such as increased mobility and reduced pain following the type of surgery.
  • What is the timespan of this surgery—do patients need follow-up surgery in later years?
  • Do patients need substantial physical therapy after the operation?

Once you ask these questions, you have a greater sense of your back doctor’s level of experience, and you can make beneficial decisions.

What outcomes can I expect?

Moving from general to specific questions—once you know the extent of the back doctor’s experience, you’ll also want to know about the details in your particular case.This question should cover the spine doctor’s expectations of success for you personally. Your case may look like other patients, but issues such as age, diet, general health, and the extent of damage will differ from others.Find out from your back doctor what your prognosis is should you proceed with the surgery they recommend.

Return to regular activities?

If you’re in retirement, great—but you’ll still want to know how long it will take to resume your favorite pastimes. If you’re taking time off from work for a back operation—the recovery time will have a more significant impact.Ask your spine doctor for a forecast about your recovery time. Once you have the answer, you can plan the timing of the operation far better.