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What kind of doctor should I see for back pain?

While a primary care physician can treat back pain, a specialist such as an orthopedic doctor or neurologist can provide a higher level of care. After medical school, for example, orthopedic physicians complete several additional years of training in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions. Some also choose a sub-specialty, such as neck and back, hip and knee or hand and wrist care. If you’re searching for a physician who can help you manage your back pain, your best bet is to find an experienced spine care specialist. If you’re not sure where to start, you can ask your family physician for a referral.

Questions to ask a back pain doctor

When meeting with a physician, you might find it helpful to ask some or all of the following questions:

  • How many years have you been practicing?
  • Are you board certified?
  • Did you complete a fellowship or focus on a specific type of orthopedics?
  • How often do you treat patients who have my diagnosis?
  • What is your typical approach to treatment?
  • Do you specialize in any specific procedures (e.g., injections)?
  • What are your outcomes?
  • What will we do if we need to make any changes to my treatment plan?
  • Will you refer me to any other medical professionals, such as a physical therapist or a surgeon?
  • Should I get a second opinion before we get started with treatment?

You’ll want to choose a back pain doctor who can openly and honestly answer all of your questions. Back pain treatment is often a long-term process, and finding a physician who you can remain fully comfortable with is important.

When to see a physician

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to consult with a doctor if you have back pain that persists for several consecutive days. Minor issues usually go away on their own, but conditions such as spinal stenosis and herniated discs may require professional treatment. The quicker you get started with the diagnostic and treatment process, the quicker you may be able to find relief and get back to the things you love.

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