A second opinion on back pain can be an excellent tool in a patient’s treatment arsenal. A fresh viewpoint can help to make an accurate diagnosis of the actual condition causing the pain. If at all possible, every patient should get at least 2 medical opinions, before beginning any treatment for back pain. If the patient is considering surgery, then getting three or more opinions from different types of doctors is not only advised; it is simply common sense.
This commentary details the value of a second diagnostic opinion before seeking drastic care.
Back ache can be a complicated condition to accurately diagnose and treat. The number one reason for the current back pain epidemic is common misdiagnosis of the actual cause of most patient’s symptoms.
The spinal structures and nerves are very complex and it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact location of the problem in many patients. Add to this the fact that many chronic conditions are either caused or perpetuated by a psychoemotional process, and you have a messy and difficult clinical picture of suffering to decipher.
For patients who are lucky enough to enjoy the benefit of a correct diagnosis, treatment is often successful. However, when therapy fails, this usually points to a mistake in the diagnostic process, rather than a problem with the treatment itself. This is incredibly common.
The medical fraternity sticks together. Most doctors will not contradict a previous diagnosis made by another physician. If there is some conflict of opinion, it will often be overlooked in order to preserve the mutual respect between practitioners, often at the expense of the patient.
Although it would be advisable to get a second opinion without bringing up the original diagnosis, most insurance plans make that an impossibility. Many healthcare plans require doctor referrals in order for insurance to pay the bill. This prevents patients from finding an objective second opinion in the majority of cases.
It has become of question of integrity. If you were a doctor, would you contradict another physician who sent you this patient as a referral? Would you risk stepping on the toes of a colleague, one whom you must see and possibly work with regularly? Would you tell the truth to save a patient’s life?
Diagnostic eclecticism is common when it comes to back pain. Ask 3 different care providers for a diagnosis and you will likely receive 3 different answers. However, if the different providers have time to read another physician’s diagnosis, they will most likely get on-board with the original doctor.
I have experienced this event more than once during my many years of back pain treatment. I have had physicians give me their diagnostic opinion and then back peddle on it after conferring with my original doctor. I have had several different diagnoses from doctors who all blamed different conditions as the root cause of my pain problem. I have also had doctors literally confirm another doctors diagnosis without even conducting a proper examination on me, even when the original diagnosis was years old and my condition had changed! My experiences have been quite unbelievable when it comes to second, third and subsequent opinions on the true cause of my pain.
If you are suffering from treatment-resistant back pain, you need to discover why all these therapies are unsuccessful. Holding on to an incorrect diagnostic theory will doom all your future treatment efforts to failure before they even begin.
Try to get an objective second opinion, even if you have to pay for it yourself. After all, what value does money have, if you do not have your health intact to enjoy it?
Try different types of doctors rather than just consulting with 3 of the same variety and specialty. I suggest an orthopedist, a neurologist, a physical therapist and a complementary caregiver, such as a chiropractor, for a balanced view of what may actually be wrong with your back (if anything).