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What Types of Doctors Treat Chronic Pain?

There are many different types of doctors that can treat chronic back and neck pain. Trying to figure out which type of doctor should go to is tricky & sometimes based on your insurance, if you are lucky enough to have some, will determine which doctors that you can go to.

The following list is NOT shown in any order of recommendation as to which doctor you may want to see.

Type of Doctor Description
Family: Typically, if you have a family doctor, when you have any kind of problem at all you family doctor is the first one that you will see. Many times after he listens to your story and checks you out, he/she will send you for some tests to figure out where your pain is coming from. If you have chronic pain, he should be sending you for diagnostic tests and referring you to a specialist.
Neurologist: A neurologist will examine the nerves and how they are functioning to provide balance, movement, sensation, strength and reflexes. If you have a herniated disc (pinched nerve) he should be able to help figure this out. If he feels that surgery is needed he will refer you to a neurosurgeon.
Neurosurgeon: One of the neurosurgeon's specialties is nerves that branch out from the spine. This type of doctor, if needed, may perform surgery on your spine or spinal cord. neurosurgeons often act as consultants to other doctors.
Orthopedic Surgeon: An orthopedic surgeon specializes in the entire musculoskeletal system (your bones, tendon, ligaments, muscles, spine, etc.). This is a lot of area to cover & they can't specialize in every part. Many doctors feel that if you need surgery on your spine or spinal cord that you will get a better result if you have it done by a neurosurgeon. I have heard this many times, although this is not always true. If an orthopedic surgeon does your surgery make sure he specializes in the spine!
Osteopath: An osteopath is a wonderful type of doctor as not only can he provide medical care for your chronic pain, but they can also manipulate various parts of your body providing some immediate and/or long term relief to your back or neck. They have similar training to a regular MD. Be careful though, if you have a herniated disc some doctors will tell you that it is not safe to be manipulated as it could case your disc to blow and & this is not good.
Pain Management: This type of doctor, most often, will understand your chronic pain and usually is not afraid to prescribe the necessary medicine to manage your pain. Typically this doctor will also rely on alternative health care providers, such as acupuncturists & massage therapists to be part of your health care team! These docs have advanced training in the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of people with chronic pain.
Interventional Pain Medicine: This doctor many times is THE best one to figure out where your pain is coming from. I was lucky enough to find one of these incredible doctors, he used to be an anesthesiologist and now has changed his scope of practice. Not only do these doctors uses injections and minimally invasive techniques to diagnose painful conditions they also have some very incredible techniques to get rid of or minimize your pain. This doctor was THE one that has made me be able to live with my neck pain (ok, I also need my Pain Management doc!).
Emergency Room: If all of a sudden you have problems with your bowel or bladder or you can't stand on your legs, or have other symptoms such as this you probably want to go to the Emergency Room. If you have these kinds of problems and your doctor is in the office, you may want to call him before you head to the ER, as he may want you to come to his office first.
Rheumatologist: This type of doctor treats back & neck problems, but usually treats those patients whose pain is not isolated to a single area. They typically treat patients with arthritis & many, many other types of diseases that cause inflammation in the body.
Chiropractor: A chiropractor is not an MD & their training is not as extensive. The care they provide is based on the thought that the spine.

Don't forget that besides doctors there are many other types of health care providers that you may want as part of what I like to call your "healing circle"! Read: What type of health care providers make up your "Healing Circle"?
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