Back Pain Specialists

Usually, your primary care doctor will be the first person you will see if you have continued back pain that does not get better on its own, either through some combination of rest, time, over the counter medications, and simple do it yourself treatments. While in clinic with your primary care physician, he/she will give you a physical examination, check for numbness or weakness in one or both legs, and maybe order tests to get more information. These tests may include X-Ray images or tests such as MRIs or CT Scans that are more expensive but provide more detailed resolution of soft tissue injuries. The doctor may order additional tests such as blood tests to see if the patient's back pain is a symptom of another a disease (see causes of back pain). The doctor may then prescribe medication or refer the patient to one of the following specialists:
  • Orthopedic surgeon. An orthopedic surgeon is trained to treat diseases of and injuries to the musculoskeletal system.
  • Neurosurgeon. A neurosurgeon is trained to treat lumbar spinal stenosis and other conditions involving the spine.
  • Osteopathic physician
  • Physiatrist (rehabilitation doctor)
  • Rheumatologist

The specialists involved in your care and management of back pain may come from many different medical disciplines. The people involved in the treatment of your back pain may be the modern medical community, chiropractic, and people who practice holistic medicine. The specialists of each discipline may work closely together with one another, or they may regard the other disciplines with disapproval. Here is a comprehensive list of the different types of back pain specialists and their specific degree letters (MD, PhD, etc).

MD: An MD is a medical doctor who has graduated from medical school. An MD is usually the first person you will see if you are feeling back pain that you can't manage on your own, or experienced an injury and have to go to the emergency room. The MD may give you a hands on examination, or he may schedule you to have medical imaging to get a detailed look at the site of the back injury. The MD may be...
  • The person who has given you an examination and has referred you for medical imaging (X-Ray, CT, MRI)
  • The radiologist who looks at the medical images and reports on the findings
  • The orthopedists who prescribes either physical therapy or a consultation with a surgeon
  • The doctor who performs the injections at pain clinics for moderate to severe back pain
  • The surgeon who performs the back surgery
PT, Physical Therapy: Physical therapists (PT), or physiotherapists, are primary healthcare professionals who treat orthopedic injuries involved with damage to one or more sections in the musculoskeletal system. If the patient has had back pain for more than two months, or the MD medical doctor does not think that the symptoms will resolve themselves on their own, than physical therapy may be prescribed. Physical therapists will work with patients to improve flexibility and strength of the muscles involved in movement of the spine and protection of the soft tissues of the spine.