One of the most common medical complaints is pain management for one’s lower back. This means that many patients go straight to their general practitioner for treatment. However, if four to six weeks of therapy, exercise, and painkillers don’t relieve the pain, perhaps it’s time to visit a specialist. Most of the time, your insurance company will require you to be referred by your general practitioner to a specialist before they will be willing to cover it.
There are many choices of specialists, pain management consultants, to choose from to treat your back pain, it can be difficult to choose one. You can choose from chiropractors, osteopathic physicians, physiatrists, and surgeons. Each of these has a different approach to treatment, and there is no treatment that is guaranteed to give you the relief you seek. Therefore, the one that you choose will depend upon your attitude towards the best treatment as well as your physician’s philosophy of treatment.
In most cases, a chiropractor is the “go-to” when it comes to treating back pain. In fact, in 2002, around 15 million Americans visited a chiropractor. Around 40 percent of those were seeking treatment for lower back pain. To become a Doctor of Chiropractic, an individual must complete four years of training at an accredited chiropractic college as well as spend one year as an intern. When choosing a chiropractor, you’ll want to make sure that he or she is board certified and holds a state license. Just like an osteopath, a chiropractor prefers physical manipulation of the body and a chiropractor will focus on manipulating your spine. Keep in mind that some chiropractors will make some pretty big claims about what they can cure- make sure that you’re choosing a chiropractor that is honest about the possibility of improving.
An osteopath holds a DO, or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, degree. Their training is very similar to that of a medical physician. However, osteopaths focus more on treating the whole body as well as manipulation of the musculoskeletal system. Just like a physician, an osteopath can perform surgery and write prescriptions.
A physiatrist is an MD that focuses on physical medicine and rehabilitation. This is a fairly new specialized field. The field actually started in the 1940s to treat the injuries sustained by the soldiers in World War II. Out of that, an entire field of medicine was created in order to evaluate as well as offer treatment for injuries to the brain and spine as well as treating amputees.
A surgeon will direct his or her focus more on invasive treatments. You can choose an orthopedic surgeon or a neurosurgeon- both of which perform surgery on the spine. Most of the time, people believe that a neurosurgeon only focuses on the brain, but actually most of their work is done on the spine. A neurosurgeon will spend six to seven years as a resident, and an orthopedist will spend four to five.
Which Should You Choose?
When it comes to choosing one of these to treat for back pain management, there is no road map telling you where to go. Asking for advice from your general practitioner is a great place to start. If you have a friend or family member that has struggled with back pain, this could be another great way to get some ideas. Do your own research as well.
Once you have ruled out the possibility of a more serious problem such as a tumor, treatment of your back pain will likely be a collaborative effort. You may end up seeing all of the above. Make sure that your general physician understands the wide array of caregivers available as well as the various approaches to pain management.
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