A back specialist is a medical practitioner whose main purpose is the treatment of patients suffering from backache. There are various types of back specialists, each concerned with treating different types of spinal conditions. The selection of an appropriate one depends upon the type of condition and severity of the symptoms you are suffering from.
Each back specialist has a different approach to the treatment of back pain. If you experience mild symptoms, then start off with a doctor of osteopathic medicine or a chiropractor. If the symptoms do not resolve after the initial treatment, then you need to consult a spine specialist.
Here in this article, you will find appropriate information regarding your back pain and what type of treatment you need to seek from a back specialist.
Types of back specialists
When you experience back problem for the first time, it is typically good to see a primary healthcare provider. The doctor will perform a general examination to diagnose the exact condition. If the symptoms are mild, then the primary care physician can effectively treat them. If the symptoms are worse, then he or she may refer you to a spine specialist
If you want an effective treatment for the management of back pain, then you should consult an appropriate doctor depending upon the condition you are suffering from. Here are some of the back specialists.
- General practitioner
- Physical therapists
- Orthopaedic surgeons
- Pain management physicians
If you experience back pain for the first time, you should consult your regular doctor or general practitioner. He will suggest certain measures for the initial management of back pain. These include;
- Prescribing certain pain killers for pain relief
- Suggest you few exercises
- Order some tests to diagnose the condition
- Referral to a physical therapist
In most cases, the treatment offered by a general practitioner improves the condition. But if your symptoms worsen over time and the condition is not improving, then he or she may refer you to a back specialist.
Back pain usually happens due to the abnormality of spine. The main goal of chiropractors is to reduce the pain and restore normal functions of the spine by doing some spinal adjustments(1). Chiropractic adjustments increase the flexibility of your spine and maintain good alignment. This treatment helps if you have lost range of motion or you are having stiff muscles.
Starting with physical examination, the chiropractors examine the position of your spine and muscle reflexes. X-rays and MRI scans are taken to confirm the abnormality. They do not prescribe any kind of pain medication. Instead, they rely on the ability of your body to heal itself.
Chiropractor treatment involves the application of force using hands or specific instruments, on joints of the spine. Moving joints in a specific direction improve the alignment of the spine. This decreases muscle stretch and has positive effects on reducing pain. However, chiropractic treatment may also harm you if you have any connective tissue problems.
Back specialist physical therapists
Physical therapists play an important role in the treatment of your back pain. Patients suffering from most forms of back pain are referred to a physiotherapist. Physical therapy is often called conservative treatment for the management of most forms of pain. It is usually done prior to any medical or surgical treatment.
The main purpose of physical therapy is to reduce pain, improve function and enhance movements. It is also a part of the rehabilitation program. Physical therapy may be used as a single-line treatment or in combination with massage or traction. There are two forms of physical therapy.
Active physical therapy focuses on exercises and stretching. Active exercise is the main focus of the treatment for most lower back pain(Lumbar Pain).
Passive physical therapy includes the application of heat or ice packs. Heat pads are applied prior to exercise to warm up the muscles and icepacks are used afterward to have soothing effects on muscles which are effective in reducing pain.
Orthopaedic doctors and surgeons are medical practitioners that are concerned with the treatment of musculoskeletal system abnormalities. This type of doctor can help to treat any issues you may have with pain in the cervical, or spine, disc-related pain, and other common back pain complaints.
If the cause of your back pain is a ruptured or herniated disc, degenerative spinal condition, scoliosis, osteoporosis, or repetitive stress injuries, then you need to consult an orthopaedic (spinal surgeon). These are the conditions that cannot be treated by conventional methods and surgical treatment is inevitable for reducing pain.
There are various methods that orthopaedics (spine surgeons) can perform in order to relieve pain. Discectomies and spinal fusion are some of the common ones(2). Prior to undergoing spinal surgery, you need to understand the potential risks and benefits of such a treatment.
A rheumatologist is another sort of specialist that may be able to help you with your back discomfort. These doctors have additional training and are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of inflammatory and other autoimmune conditions.
Your general practitioner usually refers you to a rheumatologist, if the cause of your back pain is arthritis. Inflammation of the spinal cord can cause irritation of spinal nerves that results in back pain. They also treat certain other conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis(3), osteoporosis, and spondylosis.
If your back pain persists for more than a few days and does not respond to the use of painkillers, then you should see a rheumatologist. They determine the exact cause of pain and swelling and then suggest an appropriate treatment plan in order to alleviate the pain.
Back specialist paediatrician
Paediatricians diagnose and treat children. They cover a wide range of issues including injuries and back pain. These specialists are involved in the treatment of many paediatric conditions. If a child is suffering from back pain, then you should visit a paediatrician for treatment. They have an effective treatment plan for managing the causes of back pain in children.
Children usually have different causes of back pain and therefore they should be given different treatments. A paediatrician or child specialist determines the cause and will give an appropriate treatment plan. Your paediatrician is the first person to call if your child is suffering from back pain.
Physiotherapists are practitioners who specialized in the nonsurgical management of back pain(4). They are also called rehabilitation physicians. Physiotherapists diagnose and treat the disease using physical means, such as prescribing medications and physiotherapy.
Musculoskeletal conditions interfering with normal body functioning are treated well by physiotherapists. They are also involved in the rehabilitation process after an injury. Some of the conditions that are well managed by physiatrists include;
- Low back pain
- Sports injuries affecting your back
- Athletic injuries
- Learning to walk after a back surgery (spine surgery)
When to see a back specialist?
Mild symptoms of back pain can be treated at home with conventional methods, such as massage and the use of painkillers. In addition, proper rest is necessary if you want your back pain to disappear quickly. Massage improves the blood supply and causes muscle relaxation. Painkillers such as ibuprofen and other NSAIDs(5) help to reduce pain.
If your condition is not improving with conventional treatment, then you should consult your general practitioner for a better treatment plan. He will suggest you some other medications and exercises that are helpful in reducing the pain. But you need to see a spine specialist if you are experiencing one of these symptoms;
- Chronic pain lasting for 12 weeks or longer
- Pain interfering with your daily activities
- Limited range of motion
- Pain and numbness in the lower limb (sciatica-like)
Exercise is one of the important measures which are effective in preventing back pain. Regular physical activity eases muscle tension. However, you should be careful not to exercise too much as it may aggravate the pain.
Pay attention to your posture(6). You should maintain a proper posture in order to prevent back pain. You should check your posture from time to time to maintain the right one.
Avoid lifting heavy objects in a bending position. Bend your knees to lift any object and keep your back straight. Keep the object close to your body. Avoid twisting your body while lifting.
Avoid high heels as they can shift your centre of gravity. This puts an extra strain on your lower back muscles and also increases tension in them.
Sideways sleeping is recommended by most doctors because it significantly reduces the chances of back pain. Getting enough, restful sleep is always important for maintaining good health.
Back pain is a very distressing condition. You have a lot of options for treating back pain. The general practitioner often forms the first line of defence. If their treatment does not improve the condition, then he or she may refer you to a back specialist. These include rheumatologists or surgeons. They are mainly concerned with the treatment of chronic pain associated with arthritis.
Back pain isn’t something that you can simply live it. It interferes with your daily activities from walking to doing some regular work. Therefore proper diagnosis and treatment by an appropriate specialist is inevitable if you want to get relief from pain.
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- Wang, J., Zhou, Y., Zhang, Z. F., Li, C. Q., Zheng, W. J., & Liu, J. (2010). Minimally invasive or open transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion as revision surgery for patients previously treated by open discectomy and decompression of the lumbar spine. European Spine Journal, 20(4), 623–628. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00586-010-1578-4
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