Finding the right back specialist for you

Trying to live with chronic back pain can be physically and emotionally exhausting. While your pain might come on gradually, over time you may realize that the once-simple activities in your life, like walking and gardening, are now painful and difficult. While it is possible to find lasting relief from back pain, it can be difficult to know where to start. In some cases, your primary care doctor can help you diagnose and treat your back pain but in other situations you may require a back specialist for more involved care.

By learning more about the treatment process for back pain, you can be a more confident and engaged patient who can work closely with a prospective back specialist to find the relief you deserve.

Where to start for spine treatment

The best place to begin is with your primary care physician. Your doctor will be able to perform a series of exams and ask questions to help determine the cause of your pain and the best treatment options for you.

An evaluation with your primary care doctor may consist of the following steps:

  • A physical exam. A doctor can examine your back and other areas to check for areas of tenderness or swelling. A physical exam may also include tests for strength, reflexes, range of motion and flexibility.
  • A review of your symptoms. Your doctor will want to know about your symptoms, including their location and severity. Write down notes about your symptoms prior to your exam so that you are prepared to provide as many details as possible about your discomfort.
  • Medical history. Some patients are genetically predisposed to developing certain spine conditions, so be sure to let your doctor know if any of your family members have experienced chronic neck or back pain in the past. He or she will also review your personal medical history to determine if any past injuries, surgeries or other health conditions could be contributing to your pain.
  • Diagnostic testing. An X-ray, CT scan or MRI may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis of a spine condition. These diagnostic imaging scans will help your back specialist to see the exact cause and location of your back condition, in addition to any nerves that may be damaged or compressed.

Finding a back specialist for treatment

Depending on the cause and severity of your pain, your doctor may recommend at-home treatments, like rest, over-the-counter medication and therapeutic stretches. It is also possible you may be referred to a specialist who can provide more intensive treatment, or provide a more detailed diagnosis in some cases. Some common back specialists include:

  • Physical therapist
  • Chiropractor
  • Massage therapist
  • Physiatrist
  • Spine surgeon, such as an orthopedic spine surgeon or neurosurgeon

Surgery is usually a last-resort option for chronic back pain, but can become a serious recommendation if your pain is interfering with everyday activities and you have exhausted conservative treatments. As an alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, Laser Spine Institute provides minimally invasive spine surgery. By using muscle-sparing techniques like a less than 1-inch incision, our outpatient procedures offer our patients a shorter recovery time^ with less risk of complication compared to traditional open spine surgery.

Contact us today for more information. Our dedicated team can help you receive a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.