Ask Dr. Sabers: What Questions Should I Ask Before Committing To A Pain Treatment Program?

When back pain is keeping you from the activities you enjoy, Summit offers a spectrum of treatment options to help you reclaim your life. Dr. Sabers has some suggestions to help you evaluate your options and choose the best treatment for you.

No one wants to be in pain. When your back hurts and prevents you from enjoying your life, you want treatment that makes you feel better and gets you back to the life you love. Interventional spine physician Dr. Steven Sabers discusses the array of pain treatments offered at Summit with tips to help you evaluate your options.

“Generally, we focus on managing spine pain nonsurgically before surgery is considered,” explains Dr. Sabers. “One of my surgical colleagues tells me that out of every 10 patients he sees, only one needs surgery. In my pain practice, the percentage of patients treated nonsurgically is even higher. I encourage patients to pursue less aggressive options first whenever they are appropriate. We’ll consider more aggressive treatment options—like surgery—only as needed.

Dr. Sabers explains that although Summit’s spine team includes skilled surgeons, it is not solely a surgery-based practice. “A strictly surgical practice may not offer a range of conservative treatments in addition to surgery,” he says. “At Summit, we provide a full spectrum of pain treatments from nonsurgical management with physical therapy, occupational therapy, and medications to more aggressive treatments, including injections, procedures, and, in rare cases, surgical intervention.”

He encourages patients to ask questions that help them make an informed decision about a recommended treatment.

  • Ask your doctor about his or her experience with treating your condition. How many times has the doctor performed the treatment being recommended? It is important to know if your doctor done two procedures, or 2,000. When it comes to injections and especially surgeries, you want someone who does three of these procedures every week—not three procedures every year.
  • Ask about any problems or significant complications your doctor may have experienced performing this procedure. If there were complications, how were they addressed?
  • Finally, ask if your doctor would recommend the procedure for a family member. If a doctor is suggesting a treatment that he or she wouldn’t recommend to a family member—why? “I’ll tell my patient that if he or she were a family member, I would give the same advice: that this is the best treatment option,” says Dr. Sabers.

“There are many treatment options for pain, and if you can treat your pain with lesser interventions, that’s in your best interest,” Dr. Sabers concludes. “Finally, whenever you are contemplating surgery or major procedures, it’s always good to get a second opinion. I tell my patients that I am never insulted if they want to talk with another physician about their questions or concerns. Trust is important, and I want my patients to feel comfortable with the treatment recommended.”


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