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Is it “normal” to get a second opinion for my neck or back pain?



"Is it acceptable to get a second opinion?"

After an initial spinal consultation and diagnosis, most patients don't dare to ask that of their spine surgeon. After the doctor recommends surgery to help relieve back or neck pain, patients may want to ask if they can get a second opinion, but few actually do.

Perhaps the patient feels it is disrespectful—the surgeon knows their field of medicine, and it would seem insulting to second guess him or her.

But asking for a second opinion isn't second guessing; it's actually being a first-rate patient. It's taking a very active role in your treatment and recovery. In fact, physicians often times encourage a second or even third opinion. 

Spine surgery is a significant procedure, and deciding whether or not to have it is a very personal decision. Yes, the surgeon can recommend surgery, but the final go ahead comes from the patient. To help you make your decision, you should be as informed as possible and serve as your own advocate. This includes asking your surgeon as many questions as you need to fully understand the procedure and arrive at your decision for the best treatment plan.

I see numerous patients each week who come to gain a second or even third opinion, or patients who have had surgery elsewhere which were not successful. The important thing I tell them is that beyond the diagnosis they also have to be confident in the surgeon they select and trust that they are proposing the best treatment option for their specific condition. We view the patient-physician relationship like a team. We are all working together for one goal; relieving the patient's pain as safely and effectively as possible.

Be sure to advocate for your health and if you aren't comfortable with your initial diagnosis don't hesitate to gain a second opinion prior to proceeding with surgery.

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