Preparing for Your First Appointment at the Norman Prince Spine Institute
Deciding to see a spine specialist for your back pain can be daunting. You may have been in pain for two weeks or for ten years, but if spine pain is impairing your quality of life, then there is never a wrong time to seek medical help.
You may have some questions or anxiety about your first appointment with a spine specialist. Preparing beforehand and knowing what to expect can help allay fears and ensure you get the best out of your appointment. Here you’ll learn what you can expect at your first appointment with the Norman Prince Spine Institute, as well as the type of long-term care our team will provide to reduce your pain symptoms and improve your quality of life.
What kind of testing will be done during the first appointment?
At your initial consultation, a physician will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to determine your specific pain generator. This evaluation will include a physical, neurologic and musculoskeletal exam. Your physician will also go over your medical history, family history, and social history to get a full picture of your condition. If you have diagnostic imaging tests from a previous consultation, your physician will review those as well. The results from this evaluation will help determine an individualized course of treatment and which type of treatment would be best. The initial evaluation will last approximately 30 to 40 minutes.
What kind of treatment options are available?
The care team at the Norman Prince Spine Institute includes surgeons, interventional pain physicians, therapists, behavioral health professionals, and other specialty trained providers. The treatment options available are just as wide-ranging. Our options include conservative methods, such as pharmacologic pain management and physical therapy; interventional procedures, such as steroid injections, nerve blocks, and radiofrequency ablation; and a full range of surgical options.
Our comprehensive care model includes consultation and evaluation, medical, surgical, and minimally invasive treatment options, and support services to aid in rehabilitation.
How will my treatment progress?
Based on initial evaluation and review of any diagnostic imaging available, patients will typically begin treatment with pharmacologic pain management and physical therapy. Many patients are already taking some kind of over-the-counter medication, so your physician may add medications to take in combination. If you see no improvement in your symptoms, you will typically need some diagnostic imaging, usually an MRI. Your physician will review those imaging results with you. At your follow up appointments, your physician will discuss how you are feeling with physical therapy and medications, address any behavioral components that may be contributing to your symptoms, and discuss any other physical medicine options that might be appropriate, such as acupuncture or chiropractic care.
Patients will typically receive physical medicine and medication management for four to six weeks before moving on to interventional methods. At that point, your treatment plan may include a combination of treatment options. For example, you may still take medication and go to physical therapy while you also begin receiving injections.
If a patient has exhausted the array of conservative methods, with no symptom relief, a surgical evaluation may be appropriate. Our center has the most advanced diagnostic and therapeutic equipment and surgical treatment options, including minimally invasive surgical procedures. However, if at any time during treatment a patient presents condition changes, surgical evaluation may be recommended sooner rather than later.
What are patients’ frequently asked questions?
Do I need surgery?
Surgery is typically a last resort. At your first appointment, your physician will discuss all the different conservative options that are available to target pain and reduce symptoms and then they will move onto interventional methods. Only when all the nonsurgical interventional methods have been exhausted will they consider surgical intervention.
What are my treatment options?
Your treatment team will develop an individualized treatment plan for your specific condition and goals. We offer a complete range of nonsurgical and surgical treatment options. Your initial options may include medication, physical and occupational therapy, osteopathic manipulative medicine, or aqua therapy. Depending on your underlying condition, there may be one or several interventional options to target your pain generator. If you are recommended for surgery, we offer endoscopic and minimally invasive spine surgery as well as complex surgical approaches, using state-of-the-art technology such as Cyberknife, Gamma knife, and image guided navigation.
Am I a candidate for spine surgery?
Not everyone who exhausts conservative treatment options is a candidate for surgery. There are times that patients may need to remain on conservative and interventional treatment to manage their long-term pain symptoms. In these instances, behavioral health services, social work services, and patient and family education may help support a patient’s chronic pain management.
What are some common misconceptions patients may have?
The treatment options available years ago are the same that are available today.
Treatment for spine pain has changed drastically over the years. Advancing technology, state-of-the-art equipment, and improved techniques means less invasive procedures, better results and easier recoveries for patients.
There are no other options left to try to relieve the pain.
It is rare for patients to have exhausted all treatments. By the time a patient comes to the Norman Prince Spine Institute, there is almost always some option they have not exercised previously. Our wide array of treatments also means we may have options that were not available to you otherwise.
I will eventually end up unable to walk.
Many patients fear their back pain means they may end up unable to walk. Chronic back pain is very unlikely to result in an inability to walk. However, if you feel your back pain is impeding your daily functions and quality of life, you should see a spine specialist for help.
What is unique about the Norman Prince Spine Institute?
The Norman Prince Spine Institute offers the most complete range of advanced, noninterventional, interventional, and surgical spine care services in the region. Our team is with you every step of the way through treatment, from initial consultation to support services to aid in rehabilitation. We offer a full complement of services, including interventional procedures, physical and occupational therapy, acupuncture, psychological and biofeedback intervention - many of these offered conveniently on-site.
Our skilled clinicians take a patient-centered, collaborative approach that includes weekly multidisciplinary patient-care conferences to ensure continuity of care between our nonsurgical and surgical teams. The goal of these conferences is to discuss the patient’s case, their condition and previous treatment, and to determine the best possible individualized treatment and care plan. Having this meeting of clinicians with varied specialized knowledge brings different perspectives and expertise to the process of deciding on a treatment plan, along with new and innovative ideas on how to help the patient get the best care possible.
Our team understands that long-term spine pain isn’t always just physical - it can take a toll on your mental well-being as well. Oftentimes, issues like depression or anxiety can actually feed into spine pain and exacerbate the symptoms. Our behavioral health team can work with you to develop healthy skills to cope with chronic pain and to address any underlying issues that may worsen your physical pain. Getting behavioral health support along with treating the physical pain is important as this will optimize pain reduction and improve your overall quality of life. We are the only center in the state that offers this behavioral health component of treatment and we provide these services on-site for the convenience of our patients.
It’s understandable to be nervous before a consultation for your spine pain. But the best step you can take for your overall health and well-being is to seek help from a specialist. Many patients find it reassuring to have their treatment plan laid out start to finish. This is what you can expect at your first appointment with the Norman Prince Spine Institute. But our care and support doesn’t end after that first appointment. From the moment you walk through our doors, each member of our care team works toward the goal of long-term pain management and improvement in your function and quality of life.