Which Doctor Should Treat Your Back Pain?
Like many people, you may be confused as to which type of doctor to see for your back pain. Every person is different, and so the answer depends on your specific situation and personal preferences. Many types of specialists treat back pain, and each has different training, skills, and interests.
In the case of many health conditions, one type of medical specialist will typically coordinate your care. However, in the case of back pain there is no one type of specialist who generally coordinates care. This is especially true for any type of chronic or ongoing back problem, and you may find that you need to see more than one type of specialist to diagnose and treat your condition.
When a back problem first occurs, it’s typically a good idea to first consult with a primary care physician, osteopathic physician, or chiropractor. That doctor will conduct an initial exam, and, depending on the situation, he or she may refer you to a spine specialist.
If you are referred by a physician, it is most probably to one of these doctors:
Spine surgeons typically have training and board certification in either orthopedic surgery or neurosurgery. No one wants to have spine surgery, but it may be the quickest and most reliable way to address the cause of your pain.
Also called a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation doctor, physiatrists specialize in treating musculoskeletal disorders through nonsurgical treatments. Some physiatrists specialize in either pain management or physical rehabilitation, while others combine both in their practice.
Anesthesiologist (Pain Management)
Most people think of an anesthesiologist as the person who administers and monitors anesthesia during surgery. However, many anesthesiologists actually specialize in pain management, and some focus on treating spinal disorders.
Physical or Occupational Therapist
Therapists specialize in either physical or occupational rehabilitation for people with back conditions,, and rehabilitation is part of most back pain treatment plans. Other specialists may also provide physical therapy as a core part of their practice, such as chiropractors, osteopathic physicians, and physiatrists.
A rheumatologist is an internal medicine doctor who is trained in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases affecting your musculoskeletal system. If your back pain is caused by any type of arthritis, a rheumatologist will typically serve as your primary back-care specialist.