Who Treats Back Pain?
When you’re experiencing intense back pain, or even mild back pain, on a regular basis you’ll most likely reach out to a primary care doctor. There are many levels of back pain, sometimes it’s chronic, and sometimes it’s a one off experience. Depending on what the specific situation is your primary care physician can prescribe medications to help with the pain, or refer you to physical therapists to improve mobility. However, if the pain isn’t going away with the first treatment options they may refer you to a spine specialist or back pain specialist.
Orthopedic Physicians for Back Pain
There are a few types of spine specialists who can help with chronic back pain. An orthopedic physician or a doctor of osteopathic medicine deals with the musculoskeletal system of the body, including the bones, joints, tendons and ligaments. Back pain from joints in the spine is pretty common, so orthopedic doctors can address this type of joint pain and diagnose the problems in your back.
Orthopedic doctors frequently diagnose and treat sports injuries and overuse injuries, which are common causes of back pain. They also work to prevent future injuries after treatment, as well as work to improve range of motion. They go through medical school, as well as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree or Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree which is followed up with a 2-4 year residency. DO’s can also opt for Board Certification testing which provides patience with assurance from a medical board that the physician is up to their standards.
Neurosurgeons Who Treat Back Pain
Much of the time back pain is caused by nerve damage which happens to be a neurosurgeons specialty. The “neuro” in neurosurgeon refers to the nervous system, and these types of doctors specialize in treating and repairing any kind of conditions relating to nerves and the nervous system. The spine has the spinal cord and an array of nerves throughout which causes chronic back pain if pinched or damaged in any way. This system of the spine is related to the central nervous system, and the most common causes of back pain come from the lumbar section of these nerves or the cervical section. Lumbar is the medical term for the lower back, and cervical is the term for the neck.
Nerves in the spine can become pinched because of a sudden injury, or with age like in the case of osteoarthritis. Generally a neurosurgeon will attempt conservative treatment to start with, such as medicine, physical therapy, or injections to help reduce inflammation. If these types of treatments aren’t working, or the situation is very severe then surgery will be presented as an option.
Surgery for Back Pain
Spine centers that specialize in treating back pain offer surgeries for various areas of the back. Lower back surgery is a treatment for spine related conditions that cause back pain such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis. Surgery is reserved for those who have debilitating pain, or can’t function due to their spinal condition in day to day life. Treating spine conditions early helps prevent progression of many conditions and stop further nerve damage.
Types of Spine Surgery
The two major distinctions of spinal surgery are minimally invasive techniques and traditional open surgery. Minimally invasive aims to reduce the amount of tissue damage while fixing the underlying condition. Open surgery is the method surgeons have been using throughout the history of surgery, as it opens an area of the body so the surgeon can view the area being operated on. With the progression of technology surgeons can now use cameras and thin small tools, like an endoscopic surgical tool, to operate on a very specific area without nearly as much cutting or damage to surrounding tissue. Many minimally invasive surgeries use incisions as small as 1 inch, as opposed to 5-8 inches of an open surgery.
There is also laser spine surgery, which doesn’t even require an incision and can be done through a needle in which a laser is fed through. The other most frequently performed types of surgeries include:
Pain Management Specialist Doctors
Managing pain in the case of a herniated disc, or a back issue that is only temporary such as a pulled muscle, is another aspect of being a back pain doctor. Many times things such as herniated discs will resolve without the need for surgery, and simply needs pain management as the body heals. However, you should still consult with a doctor if suffering from back pain, as it might progress and cause permanent damage. Better to find out exactly what’s wrong and what types of treatment options are available than not. Pain management specialists can prescribe pain medications, or offer back injections to help with the pain and daily activities. There are also pain inhibiting spinal cord stimulations that help manage any chronic or daily pain in the back.