Your back is killing you. You suspect you have a herniated disc and want to see a doctor. But what type of caregiver do you see?

A neurosurgeon may recommend removing the offending portion of the disc. An orthopedic surgeon may want to fuse your spine. A physiatrist may want to inject a steroid around the nerve to reduce inflammation. Your family doctor may send you to a physical therapist or a chiropractor.

If you're like most people in the United States you have a a hard time sorting out what to do, according to a survey by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Just 12 percent of the nation's 228 million adults have the skills to manage their own health care proficiently, the survey found. Nearly 22 percent of those surveyed had just a basic understanding of medical treatments and 14 percent could only accomplish the most rudimentary tasks, such as understanding a short set of treatment instructions.

AHRQ, a federal agency, offers such help at http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/

Contact staff writer John Sullivan at 215-854-2473 or johnsullivan@phillynews.com.