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How To Talk To Your Doctor About Back Pain Using The Oswestry Disability Index

July 31, 2019 | Health & Wellness

The Woes Of Back Pain

Reading Time: 2 minutes

When dealing with back pain, patients may have difficulty expressing issues or concerns. Many people may not understand the complexities of back pain or even relate health issues to back pain. Therefore, healthcare providers must be vigilant about educating patients and offering ways to help patients communicate problems. The most common way to communicate pain levels is through written assessments that allow patients to rate pain using a questionnaire and checklist. Written assessments with predetermined questions allow patients to articulate specific issues.

What is the Oswestry Disability Index?

The Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) is created from the Oswestry Low Back Pain Questionnaire and has 10 sections. The sections are:

  • Pain intensity
  • Personal care
  • Lifting
  • Walking
  • Sitting
  • Standing
  • Sleeping
  • Social life
  • Traveling
  • Employment/homemaking

Each section has six questions that clearly define an issue. For example, in the sleeping section, the questionnaire lists this statement: Even when I take medication, I get less than 6 hours of sleep. Each question the patient answers is worth a certain amount of points. The patients are only allowed to check one box for each item, so even if multiple answers apply, the patient can only select one statement. At the end of the questionnaire, the answers are tallied up to provide a score. The lowest a person can score is 0, which means no disability, and the highest score is 50, which means the person has a severe disability and crippling back pain.

Who can administer the questionnaire?

The ODI can be administered by any healthcare provider but is most used by physicians that treat spine and back ailments such as spine surgeons, chiropractors, and physical therapists. The test can be administered in a paper format or electronically. The analysis is usually performed with a series of other assessments to help providers diagnose and treat back pain.

Should I take the ODI?

The ODI may be something worthwhile even if a physician doesn’t suggest the test. Many patients feel like the screening helps address and identify back pain issues. When suffering from back pain, consider scheduling an appointment with a spine specialist to learn more about treatment options.

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