Which doctor should you see for back pain?

Whether you are in the acute phase of back pain or it has progressed into a chronic problem, you may eventually seek medical care or evaluation for pain relief or a cure. Which doctor should you see? There are many different qualified types of professionals inside and outside the medical industry to treat/manage/cure your back pain. Most patients will first seek treatment within the organized medical establishment before branching out in other directions for care, including chiropractic and holistic (e.g. Ayurvida, CAM, Chelation therapy, Hatha Yoga).

It is through the doctors that patients know that they will make their first attempt at back pain management/therapy. Though criticisms of the healthcare industry permeate American politics and culture, the majority of people actually do have good health insurance, and most diagnostic tests, procedures, and physical therapy ordered by doctors are paid for by health insurance. And while there is a lot of distrust and anger about topics such as universal healthcare, the greed of insurance companies, and issues such as medical malpractice, most people do like their doctors, and report excellent care from the physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers they have interacted with.

In summary, though most people do recognize problems with the healthcare industry, they do like and trust their doctors, and they will go to them for any medical issues they have, including joint pain and back pain. Usually, patients will go to their doctors and be compliant with any medications, tests, and treatments prescribed by their doctors, at least until some degree of time has passed before they try other back specialists.

Primary Care Doctors: Your primary care doctor will probably be the first person you see for your backache, unless you have suffered some type of accident that requires immediate care (such as from a fall or accident). Aside from spinal injuries that require a trip to the emergency room, most back problems will first be evaluated by your primary-care physician. Though your primary-care physician will probably not be a back specialist, there are a lot of things he can do to evaluate your problem, or to decide which type of back specialist to send you to. 1. Your doctor can order various medical tests either to either confirm or rule out structural abnormalities. Your doctors can order blood tests and medical imaging to look for joint disease, or to rule out back pain as a symptom of some other disease or disorder. 2. Your doctor can perform a physical examination to look for any spinal abnormalities and weakness, pain or numbness in one or both of your legs. After your primary care doctor has given you an examination and/or ordered medical tests such as X-Rays, CTs, and MRI images, he/she may make a determination that the back problem will be likely to get better on its own, or he/she may decide that that your back problem will require some type of medical therapy to rehabilitate the injury or speed its recovery. Your doctor may refer you to one of the following specialists:
  • Rheumatologist
  • Physiatrist (rehabilitation doctor)
  • Osteopathic physician
  • Neurologist
  • Orthopedic surgeon
  • Neurosurgeon