With so many different types of doctors in the world today, you may have a hard time keeping them all straight. For example, if you are having problems with your back, should you see a chiropractor, physical therapist, orthopedic surgeon, or neurologist? The answer will depend greatly on what type of back pain you are having. If you feel like you have just tweaked something, a chiropractor or physical therapist may be able to help you. However, if you think there may be deeper problems, you may need to see an orthopedic or neurologist specialist.
When to See a Neurologist
A neurologist is a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating illnesses including the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. They will deal with issues including but not limited to migraines, vertigo, numbness, tingling, nerve issues, and weakness. Individuals who suffer a catastrophic injury such as a spinal cord injury will likely have frequent appointments with a neurologist in order to monitor and treat their challenging injury. If you feel that an injury you suffer affects more than just your bones (such as your spinal cord or nerves) you will likely need to see a neurologist. Some other disorders may require the treatment of a neurologist, including sight, balance, and sleeping issues.
When to See an Orthopedic Surgeon
An orthopedic surgeon specializes in treating musculoskeletal issues. For example, people who break bones and need them to be reset or surgically put back into place will see an orthopedic surgeon. If you have a broken or crushed vertebra or need a spinal fusion, an orthopedic surgeon can likely handle the surgery you need. Orthopedic surgeons focus more on the actual bones of the spine, while neurologists understand and treat the spinal cord that passes within. For injuries that take place during sports or movement, a neurologist may consult with an orthopedic surgeon to determine the best way to treat you as a patient.
In conclusion, if you are dealing with a challenging spinal issue, you should probably start by seeing your primary care physician. They will likely be able to help you determine exactly what help you need, and send you a referral to get the process going. Back and spinal issues are challenging and can require precise and careful surgery and treatments. Fortunately, neurologists and orthopedic surgeons can help you to get your life back following an injury. If you are unsure of which specialist to visit, talk to your family doctor.