Back Doctor Specialist
Depending on what type of back pain you have, and what specific symptoms you have, you will likely have plenty of options to take in terms of the type of doctor you see and your course of treatment. Every type of back doctor specialist, as well as Generalist, is trained in the arts of modern medicine, and has a vast knowledge in the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Each doctor, regardless of specialty, is trained in how to read medical images, to understand the results of medical tests, and in how to examine patients for signs of problems with their spine. On the other hand, the individual specialists vary in the amount of training they received in understanding each organ system and in the type of back pain treatments that they are trained to provide. For example, Osteopaths are trained to provide spinal manipulations for patients with misalignments of their spine. Spine surgeons are trained to perform pain management injections or spinal fusion surgeries.
In this article, we will take a closer look at back specialists, and which one may be appropriate for your particular case.
Who to see: a Specialist or a Generalist
The type of doctor that you have an appointment to see will often be a reflection of the amount of time that you have been suffering from back pain and the type of doctors that you have seen in the near past. For example, when most patients begin suffering from back pain, they will first go to see their primary care physician. Though your primary care physician is unlikely to be a spinal specialist, he or she will be trained in the art of reading imaging modalities such as X-Ray, MRI, CT, and Ultrasound. The doctor will also be trained in how to give the patient a proper physical examination, in order to determine whether the problem required immediate medical attention. Some red flags that your primary care physician might observe through touch or from your own accounts include the loss of bowel/bladder control, increasing weakness in the legs, and the loss of sensation. This may be indicative of nerve root entrapment and may require emergency treatment. If your doctor does observe any red flags, he may order immediate medical intervention, in the form of additional diagnostic testing and back surgery.
Once your doctor has rules out any serious medical problems, he/she may move on to recording when the pain began, how long it has lasted, and the severity level of the pain. The doctor will ask you how bad your pain is on a scale from zero to ten, with ten being the worst possible pain. The doctor will test for your muscle strength and the reflexes in your arms and legs. Muscle weakening could indicate the compression of one or more nerve roots supplying information to the leg. Muscle weakening may also indicate muscular imbalance, which may indicate damage to one or more muscle groups, or the body's adaptation to an injury in another part of the body. The loss of a strong motor reflex in one or more of the nerves may also indicate the compression of one or more nerve roots exiting the lumbar spine.
Once the doctor has completed the physical examination, he or she may do one of three things:
- The doctor may order more testing as needed to complete the diagnostic process.
- The doctor may prescribe a back pain treatment directly, without the need for another back doctor specialist to get involved in the case. For example, a primary care physician may directly order pain medications, physical therapy, and simply offer the advice of hot therapy (heating), cold therapy (icing), and rest.
- The doctor may also refer you to an orthopedic or spine specialist. Other back specialists include Chiropractors, Orthopedic Surgeons, Spine Surgeons, Neurosurgeons, Neurologists, and Osteopaths.