Should I get a second opinion for lower back pain or sciatica?


This episode is entitled ‘should I get a second opinion for lower back pain or sciatica?’ In it you will learn how I would make that decision and what to look for when getting that second opinion. 


How would I make the decision whether to get a second opinion or not for lower back pain and sciatica? 


Quite simply, are you pleased with the progress that you’re making? So if I’m not pleased with the progress I’m making, I would be asking my practitioner why that is. I would simply fraze it in ways such as “I’m just concerned that I’ve had this for a pain for a while. I’ve been to see you X number of times. I’m not really feeling like I’m making the kind of progress I hoped I would make. What’s your read on this?” 


I can tell you, as a practitioner, having been in this position before with patients asking me these kinds of questions, it’s not that uncomfortable. Most of the time, I wasn’t happy with the progress they were making either. So you should definitely have that conversation and raise the subject with your existing practitioner. 


How I would like my concerns dealt with


Ideally what you’re looking for from them is concern. A concern that you are concerned even if they weren’t concerned themselves in the first place. The fact that you are concerned at the lack of progress should concern them. If they are offhand about it or that you feel afterwards that you didn’t really get a satisfactory answer, then that for me would definitely be a sign to go for a second opinion somewhere else. 


Other signs that you should be looking for a second opinion


Again, it comes back to lack of progress. If you’ve been going several times and the practitioner hasn’t given you any kind of estimate about how long it might take to achieve X percent improvement or a kind of landmark improvement. For example, that you ought to be able to tie your shoes by the end of the month. There should be some expectations set fairly early on by the practitioner around what you should expect, in terms of progress. 


If they haven’t set that, I would be nudging them saying “what sort of time span do you think we should be putting on this before I can see that kind of improvement?”. Those are the kind of broad things I’d be looking for.


Comparing progress to others. 


You might compare notes with friends who’ve had back pain/ sciatica. The problem with that is we all have slightly different versions and so just as it may have only taken your pal a couple of treatments at the chiropractor and he was feeling 100%. For you, unfortunately, it may take longer before you can see a substantial improvement. That’s because your problem is very different to your friend’s back pain and problem. So bear that one in mind. It’s important for all of us to be regarded as individuals and that there is not a one size fits all approach to this.


Should you get a second opinion for your lower back pain or sciatica?


In summary, my way of making that decision is I’d raise the subject with the practitioner. If I felt they’d been offhand at all, then I’d be looking somewhere else for that second opinion. If they had taken me seriously but still couldn’t give me some kind of reassuring estimate about how long this process might go on, then again, I’d be looking for a second opinion elsewhere. 


Another element is if I just feel like I’m being strung along. If I had an intuitive sense that this just doesn’t seem right. I’d be looking for a second opinion. But I would raise that with the practitioner. I would give them the benefit of the doubt and give them the opportunity to defend their position. But again, if I felt they hadn’t defended it well and weren’t allaying my fears and concerns, I’d be looking elsewhere. 


So that’s how I would make that decision whether to look for a second opinion or not. 


What to look for when getting a second opinion


Well, that’s a tough one. But, bear in mind, I am biased as I’m in this industry. And lots of people will come and see me sometimes off the back of this podcast. 


Personally, I don’t want someone who’s going to fix me. But someone who’s going to explain to me how I’ve come to be in the position I am in and empower me to help myself to A) get better and B) prevent recurrence. Someone who’s specializing in this field of work, back pain or sciatica, and will address not just the relief element but also prevention.   


I don’t want a passive approach. I don’t want to be told to take pills or injections, surgery. Not that there isn’t sometimes a place for those things, but if there is a recommendation to go that route, I want to understand why. So you might not be like that. You might just want somebody to fix you. However, just fixing you is unlikely to last because unless you get to the root cause. Tackling the different risk factors for your particular problem. By addressing those your problem is less likely to recur. 


Remember, 60% of lower back pains recur within 12 months, so it’s really important. I would argue that you see someone for that second opinion who will explain to you what the various causes, risk factors are for your pain, and how to reduce them in the long-term. 


So that’s what to look for when getting a second opinion. 


Someone who’s going to explain things to me in a way that I can understand and share the decision making with me around what I want to do about that and how to go about it and support me in that process. 

If, after that, you would like support in helping to work out which exercises are best for the relief of your back pain, you can use our chat bot, or you can book an online for an in clinic consultation if you want a personal approach. But you can also engage with us online for a consultation. There is evidence that online consultations are at least as effective as in-person, particularly for people with long standing problems, which you may well be if you’re looking for a second opinion. And finally, please give us a review on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you are listening to this podcast. It is greatly appreciated. It helps people like you who are suffering like you to find us. Thank you and speak to you again soon.