The first medical professional you’ll likely see when you have back pain is your own primary care physician. Your primary care physician will typically evaluate your symptoms and perform routine examinations to get a better idea of what may be going on with your spine. But if it’s determined you would likely benefit from care provided by a back pain specialist, there are several options. Below, you’ll find details about the different professionals who may be able to help you enjoy welcome relief.
Electrodiagnostic (EDX) studies are sometimes done by physiatrists (who focus on nonsurgical treatments) to test nerve and muscle functions before recommending treatment plans, especially if patients are experiencing back pain combined with muscle weakness or nerve-based symptoms like tingling or numbness. Treatment options could be focused on symptom management, rehabilitation, or a combination of the two.
Physical rehabilitation is a common treatment for back pain. It’s often provided by a licensed physical therapist, although orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, and physiatrists may also offer suggestions for treatment with physical therapy. Typically, this type of care involves:
• Therapeutic exercises and similar active treatments
• Hot/cold applications and other passive treatments
• Lifestyle recommendations
An anesthesiologist is someone who normally administers anesthesia prior to surgery and monitors patients during surgical procedures. However, some anesthesiologists also offer pain management suggestions for people with back pain.
Simply being referred to a Los Angeles spine surgeon doesn’t mean surgery will be your only treatment option. This type of specialist typically performs specialized tests to identify the likely source of back pain. However, a spine surgeon may recommend surgery under the following circumstances:
• Nerves are being irritated and your symptoms are severe
• Nonsurgical treatments haven’t been effective
• Your quality of life is being significantly affected
• Discomfort is steadily worsening
• There’s a clear structural problem that can likely be corrected surgically
Also described as an internist, or internal medicine doctor, a rheumatologist is a specialist who treats musculoskeletal conditions and autoimmune (rheumatic) diseases. You’re more likely to be referred to this type of specialist if your back pain is related to some form of arthritis.
Some patients benefit more from a group or multidisciplinary approach to back pain treatment that involves input from several different specialists. You might find this type of care at an integrated spine care clinic. Even if you don’t have immediate access to such a facility, keep track of your symptoms and how you’re responding to various treatments. If you aren’t seeing the desired results, it may be time to see another specialist.
Lastly, take some steps to be as prepared as possible when visiting any of the specialists discussed here. One way to do this is by keeping a journal that includes details about your symptoms, such as how severe they are and what seems to trigger them. Since back pain is often subjective, this information can help a specialist make more precise treatment recommendations likely to benefit you.
If you have questions or concerns about your spinal health, the industry-leading professionals at The Spine Institute are here to help. Our spine experts are pioneers in every aspect of spine care, including prevention, nonsurgical treatment, and state-of-the-art surgical procedures such as coflex back surgery. Los Angeles residents should call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.