A back pain specialist is a medical professional who focuses on managing back pain. Chiropractors can offer this service, as can doctors like neurologists and orthopedic surgeons, who can be involved in management of chronic pain, as well as spinal conditions. In some regions, special certification is available to people who want to work as back pain specialists, while in others, people may be able to advertise as such without any training beyond that needed to qualify as a doctor or other health care provider.
Patients may go to a back pain specialist or be referred to one when they have intractable back pain that does not respond to treatment or responds poorly. The first step in treatment involves evaluating the patient thoroughly. This can include a physical examination, medical imaging studies, and a request to the patient to move so the specialist can look at movement and gait patterns. Posture will also be assessed to see if the patient is stooping or hunching because of pain and to check for signs of an abnormal spinal curvature.
In addition, the patient is interviewed about the origins of the pain, and information is collected on the patient's lifestyle. All of this information is pulled together to develop a picture of how and why the patient has developed back pain. This will be used by the back pain specialist to develop an appropriate treatment plan. Conservative measures like chiropractic adjustments, massage, and physical therapy may be recommended first. Medications and surgery can also be options.
Back pain specialists can also work with people to help them develop safe habits for working, exercising, and playing. Wearing braces, being careful about lifting, and modifying physical activities can reduce the risk of injuries to the back, prevent reinjuries, and limit the progression of back problems. Early intervention from a specialist may prevent the need for costly treatments later, in addition to improving quality of life.
A back pain specialist can take a variety of approaches to working with patients. People interested in the treatment philosophy used can see if the specialist has a website with basic information. They can also ask for an initial consultation without obligation to learn more about how the specialist treats back pain, where the care provider trained, and how many years of experience are being drawn upon for patient care. It is advisable to confirm professional memberships with their sponsoring organizations to make sure the back pain specialist is still a member in good standing.