Tell me about any previous accidents, operations or illnesses, even if they seem irrelevant to your back pain.
This is one of my autopilot questions during a case history. The answer can be brief and fleeting (no, nothing) or absolutely huge (multiple surgeries, hospitalisations and ailments.) Even if it seems irrelevant. I need to include that bit, because people naturally assume that if they have come in with low back pain or neck pain, then surely that’s the only bit we’re looking at? If that back pain only started three days ago, why on earth do I need to know about having their appendix coming out ten years ago? I once had a patient insist that they had no surgeries to report. When they undressed I asked them what the massive scar down their chest was. A triple heart bypass performed two months earlier! Either my questioning wasn’t nearly clear enough (lesson learned) or this person had completely separated the front of their body from the back and deemed it unimportant to their current issue.