How to talk to your GP about your back pain


When you have pain the only priority is to make it go away, quickly.  The problem with back pain is it takes a bit of time to settle and usually it takes a whole approach - the combination of manual therapy, corrective exercise and a few lifestyle habits.  If you are keen to get out of pain but are skeptical about how your doctor can help then have a read of my 5 top tips for speaking to your GP about getting your back pain sorted.  

Your first port of call when you have pain is usually your GP.  Your GP is the gateway to further treatment options as you need referral letters to specialists.  Here are my 6 top tips for speaking to your GP about your back pain so you can open a discussion about a whole approach and get the best possible outcome for further treatment.

1.  A whole approach

It is widely known now that back pain does not respond to one solution.  Pain relief is the goal but how you get there can make a difference as to whether your back pain returns or not.  Go in with a mindset of taking a whole approach to getting better.  A whole approach means taking on board all systems of your health and using more than one method to settle your back. 

2.  A word on pain medications

It is tempting to take pain medication that will be offered.  If you decide that you will take it make sure you know the side affects of the medication and talk to your doctor about how long you should take it for.  Also note that pain medication puts a strain on your liver and aggravates your digestive system.  Be careful about what you do when you take medication - it takes away the pain so you can hurt yourself further without knowing until the effects of the medication wear off.  Pain medication is a band aid form of treatment.  It will not make your back pain better it will only take away the alarm that tells you something is wrong.  Ask you doctor about alternative forms of pain relief such as acupuncture that have less side affects.   

3.   Be specific

I am sure GPs are faced with countless "I have back pain, it just hurts" patients!  What is helpful to any medical practitioner is the quality of information you can give them.  Notice patterns of pain, when the pain occurs, when it gets worse and what makes it get worse.  What makes it get better? Does it ease throughout the day?  All this information helps your GP to make a decision about how best to help you.  Also, if you go in armed with information and an approach of wanting to get better you are much more likely to get the desired response from your doctor.

4.  Bare minimum referral

As a bare minimum your doctor should refer you to a manual therapist.  Ask your GP For a referral to a good physio or osteopath in the local area. I prefer this as a first step to your treatment plan over pain medication but it depends how bad your pain is.  This is a good start for your treatment plan as you will be working with a musculoskeletal specialist who can advise you more specifically for your condition.  

5.  Corrective Exercise for postural realignment

Also ask your GP about a corrective exercise specialist or rehab specialist in the area that can assess and correct your postural alignment which will be contributing to your back pain.  These specialists can train the active systems (neuromuscular) to give you better postural support and movement for your back.  Corrective exercise is now considered an integral part of recovering from back pain.  

5.  Looking inside the body

You may need to go back to your GP a few times before scans are discussed.  Looking inside the body through an x-ray or MRI can really help you and your doctor understand what is causing the pain.  I have a friend who has been suffering from back pain for nearly a year and repeatedly went to his doctor for advice.  The last time he went I told him to insist on an MRI.  He got one and a cyst was discovered in his spinal canal.  This was the cause of his pain and no one would have ever known unless he had the MRI. Talk to your GP about whether you need a scan and if not now when it may become an option.  A scan may show that nothing is structurally wrong with your back but at least you can begin looking for other causes.  

For more information on how corrective exercise for optimal postural alignment can help your back pain please contact me at  For a more comprehensive guide to sorting your back pain please download my free eBook "7 steps to getting your back pain sorted" the sign up is just to your left!