When you have spine pain, obviously the first step is to see a doctor. But what kind of doctor treats back and neck conditions? There are a number of options available to you when selecting a back and neck pain specialist, and choosing the right type of specialist depends on a bevy of factors, including (but not limited to) the severity of your pain, the length of time the condition has been present and your comfort level with the treatment options provided by each doctor.
First stop: your general practitioner
When you first experience back or neck pain, if the pain lasts for more than a day or two, you should make an appointment to see your family doctor or general practitioner (GP). Not only do many insurance carriers require a trip to the GP before they will authorize payment to specialists, but your GP will be able to use his or her prior knowledge of your medical history and familiarity with your general health to start the diagnostic process.
A visit to the GP is also helpful because back or neck pain can have a variety of different causes, ranging from muscle and skeletal injuries, to nerve disorders, to some organ diseases, like kidney disease. A GP can evaluate your symptoms, order diagnostic tests and determine what kind of specialist you need.
Types of specialists
Your general practitioner may arrive at a diagnosis, or he or she may compile a list of potential causes before referring you to a specialist. Based on your condition, your GP may initiate treatment or refer you to one of the following:
- The Emergency Room – The ER may be warranted in some extreme situations, such as a serious accident, infection, or other underlying serious disease requiring immediate attention.
- An Orthopedic Doctor – An orthopedist deals primarily in bone and muscle disorders. Thus is the most frequently consulted type of doctor for neck and back pain. An orthopedist can help address ruptured discs, bulging discs, sciatica, degenerative disc disease, and similar conditions.
- A Neurologist – If your doctor suspects a problem with the nervous system, he or she may refer you to a neurologist. A neurologist will be able to evaluate your nerves to make sure they are not impairing your reflexes, strength, balance, movement, or physical sensation. Neurologists are most often consulted in cases of chronic neck and back pain.
- Rheumatologists – If your symptoms and diagnosis indicate that you are suffering from an auto immune or connective tissue disease,, your doctor will likely refer you to a rheumatologist, who deals with non-infectious inflammatory conditions of the joints and soft tissues.
- Neurosurgeons – Neurosurgeons specialize in treating disorders of the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal column, and spinal cord. Because open back surgery is such a drastic step, a referral to a neurosurgeon is often only made after all other conservative treatment options have been exhausted.
If you have neck and back pain, finding relief can be difficult. If you’ve exhausted conservative treatments and want a less drastic option than traditional open back surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our experts are waiting to tell you more about how you may recover your health without open spinal surgery.