Important Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Updated: Feb 18


You’ve completed the first (and hardest) step! You’ve called your doctor and finally made that appointment that you’ve been dreading. Now, it’s time to prepare for it!

Doctors often have very busy schedules. They most likely have appointments before and after you, and they may be on a time crunch. Since your time with them may be limited, it’s important to have all your questions prepared beforehand.

Here are the top 10 questions we recommend asking your doctor at your appointment.

1. Do you think there's anything else contributing to the problem?

This may seem obvious since you are going to the doctor to get their opinion on what is going on. However, there could be more to the problem than meets the eye! Once they've told you what the main problem or concern is, see if they believe anything else is contributing to the problem. As an example, if your knee is the main concern, could your ankle or hip be an are to look at, too?

2. Are there any alternative treatment options? This one is especially important for those who may need surgery! If you are being told that surgery is your best option, press pause and don’t panic! Find out if there is an alternative option prior to surgery to see if you get relief. See if the doctor has less-invasive treatment options for you like physical therapy, injections, etc. Some insurances even require that you try to try these less-invasive options before you are even considered a candidate for surgery.

If it’s not a matter of surgery, it’s still important to know all your options. Whether your doctor is suggesting a specific medication or even an injection, ask the doctor what other options are available. Commonly, there are several ways of treating the problem and it’s best you know all your options before deciding what route to take.

3. How to prepare for surgery?

So you’re headed for surgery! It may be daunting, but we are happy you are getting the help you need. Your recovery may take some time, but congratulations as you are getting closer to being back to the old you! So what can you be doing to prepare for surgery? Do you need to make some adjustments to your home like installing a ramp for a wheelchair? Are there certain exercises you should be doing to help the recovery process go smoothly? Ask for guidance on how to prepare so you are ready for surgery day.

4. What to expect after surgery? The surgical procedure itself is just one step in the process. Although it would be great to have the surgery and resume your normal life the next day, that’s not typically the case. What should you expect? Do you need physical therapy? Is your doctor going to prescribe physical therapy at home? Are there any medications that you will be taking and for how long? Are you going to be facing any restrictions like home much weight can you put on a leg? Or movement restrictions? There are many things to consider for your post-operative care and the surgeon and their team, will know what you should expect in your journey.

5. What do the medications you prescribed me help with?

Have you ever been prescribed a medication and not known what it’s purpose was? It happens all of the time! There’s a reason behind it, but what that is, you don’t know!

Ask your physician or your pharmacist what the medications they are prescribing are meant to do. If they are meant to reduce swelling, but you still have a lot of swelling, you may want to call your doctor to ask him if your treatment plan needs to change.

Also, keep a list of the medications you are taking with you including the medication name and dosage. Your physical therapist or other medical professional may ask you what you are taking in case there are any precautions they need to take when treating you.

6. What activities am I restricted from? While it would be great if you could just return to your routine following a procedure, there may be some things your doctor wants you to hold back on. As an example, if you recently had a hip replacement done, they will ask you not to move your leg in a certain way as it puts you at greater risk of dislocation.

Be sure to ask when you are allowed to return to those activities as it will give you something to work towards!

7. Who would you recommend for a second or third opinion? Sounds odd, but they will not be offended! There are plenty of people that seek multiple opinions, especially if surgery is involved! Ask them who they would recommend you consult with for an additional opinion. Maybe try asking who they would go see. You need to be comfortable with their plan of care and sometimes hearing the opinion of another physician (or two) can help put your nerves at ease.

8. What are the next steps after PT?

After physical therapy, is there anything else they would like you to do? Your physical therapist will give you a home exercise program to continue even at the completion of therapy to help you maintain the progress you made. But, once you’ve discharged from PT, what are the next steps you should take?

9. If you were in my situation, what would you do? It’s an honest question! If the doctor was in your shoes, or if it was their family member the doctor was suggesting something to, what would they do? Does their answer change? Do you really need surgery or is there something else they would try before? It gets them to start thinking a bit differently!

10. Post-surgical: are there any signs or symptoms I need to look out for that would warrant a return to your office? We know! No one wants to go back to the doctor’s office! However, there are certain things that you will want to watch for that could prompt a visit to your doctor’s office. (or at least warrant a phone call). Some of the most common things we see that we know they will want you to call about are calf pain (after surgery), swelling, oozing at the surgical site, or a red bump (similar appearance to a pimple). Keep the list nearby and inform your caretakers of things to look for so everyone becomes your advocate!

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