Who to see for back and spine pain

Unfortunately, back pain is a reality for many of us. An estimated 80% of our world’s population will at some point in their life experience a nagging pain in their back. While some are born with spinal conditions that cause long-term effects, most people experience back pain due to sprained ligaments, strained muscles, ruptured disks, and irritated joints.

Back pain plagues so many of us that it is now one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010. Taking care of our backs should be a high priority so that we can continue doing the things we love without discomfort.

Various back conditions can require treatment plans from different types of specialists, and The Center’s team of physicians are equipped to treat a variety of back conditions that can occur anywhere from birth to later in life. But how do you know who to see for your pain? For you to choose the correct specialist, it is first helpful to understand what type of spine and back conditions our physiatrists, neurosurgeons, and orthopedists specifically treat at The Center.

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Doctors

Our Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physicians (physiatrists) specialize in state-of-the-art diagnostics and non-operative treatment of a variety of musculoskeletal and neurologic conditions. Their approach to treatment often includes a non-surgical plan that is created based on a detailed medical history and physical exam, and may involve additional diagnostic tests including imaging studies, electrodiagnostic testing (EMG), and lab testing. This list is an example of just some of the back and spinal conditions a physiatrist will treat:

  • Acute/persistent back pain; may be associated with radiating extremity pain (pinched nerves)
  • Numbness, tingling, and weakness
  • Back injuries caused by motor vehicle, sport, or occupational accidents
  • Neurologic conditions
    • Spinal cord injury
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Spasticity
    • Multiple sclerosis

Neurosurgery Doctors

Neurosurgeons specialize in the treatment of medical problems affecting the brain, spine, neck, back, and central nervous system. These conditions can include stroke, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, aneurysms, and diseases of the brain and spine. The Center’s board-certified neurosurgeons practice a conservative approach, using a wide variety of non-operative treatment options for both adult and pediatric patients. When surgery is necessary, it is performed in the least invasive way to shorten recovery time and reduce pain. Some of the spine and back conditions treated by a neurosurgeon include:

  • Chiari malformations
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Congenital spine conditions
  • Spina bifida
  • Tethered cord
  • Compression fractures
  • Herniated disk
  • Sciatica
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spine trauma
  • Spine tumors
  • Spondylolisthesis

Orthopedic Surgeons

Orthopedists focus on conditions and injuries affecting the musculoskeletal system and specialize in certain areas, such as knees, shoulders, hips, and even the spine. While The Center orthopedists defer to our physiatry and neurosurgery team for all conditions concerning the adult back and spine, our pediatric orthopedic team takes a special interest in caring for children with complicated spinal conditions, such as scoliosis, spondylosis, spondylolisthesis, and others.  Our team of multidisciplinary specialists work together to leverage all of their specialized skills in order to offer patients the best possible care.

While there are many specialists who can treat backs and spines, each one typically plays a specific role. Beginning with a primary care physician can help you narrow down the type of specialist you need to see for your specific condition or pain.  For over 50 years, patients throughout Central Oregon have trusted our team of providers to diagnose back and spine problems. We leverage conservative treatment methods, and regardless of the source of pain, our providers are spine experts that are here to help you regain the life that back pain took from you.