If you’re wondering which doctor to consult for lower back pain, you’re not alone. It can be difficult to know where to turn. Doctors and other professionals who might help include orthopedists, chiropractors, and physical therapists.
Many types of doctors and other healthcare professionals can help treat lower back pain. You may want to consult a doctor if your lower back pain becomes unmanageable or lasts longer than 12 weeks.
When deciding which doctor or specialist to consult for your lower pain back, you might consider several factors. This article can help you decide who might be a good fit for you.
Your primary care doctor will usually be a good starting point, if you have one. They should already have a fairly thorough understanding of your medical history, especially if you see them annually.
This information can help them narrow down the possible causes of your back pain. You can expect your primary care doctor to perform a physical evaluation and ask questions about the onset, length, and intensity of your lower back pain.
They may recommend a treatment plan right away. They might also order diagnostic tests or refer you to one of the specialists covered below.
Another common treatment option for lower back pain is to visit a chiropractor. Chiropractors are not medical doctors, but they must complete training and be licensed to practice.
Chiropractors will manipulate your joints with their hands to provide pain relief. They primarily treat your spine, including your back and neck, but may also treat other parts of your body.
An orthopedist is a doctor with specialized training in your musculoskeletal system. This includes your bones and muscles as well as connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments.
An orthopedic doctor will start with a physical evaluation to diagnose the cause of your lower back pain. They will often order X-rays to evaluate bone health and look for alignment issues in your spine. They may also order an MRI to examine your spinal cord, nerves, and spinal joints.
Orthopedists might recommend conservative treatments, including physical therapy and supportive equipment such as a brace. In more severe cases, you might need to consult an orthopedic surgeon to find out whether surgery is necessary to treat your back pain.
Physical therapists specialize in movement and can help treat movement dysfunction. Many (but not all) physical therapists have a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree. However, a physical therapist is not a medical doctor (MD).
Physical therapists can assemble a treatment plan that involves specific exercises and stretches you can perform at home or in a clinic under supervision. These exercises might improve your range of motion, strengthen specific muscles, and train your body to move more effectively. This may help improve your posture and fix gait imbalances.
Depending on the circumstances around your lower back pain, your primary care doctor might refer you to a pain management specialist. This type of doctor has special training in diagnosing and treating chronic pain, such as lower back pain that has been going on for 3 months or longer.
Neurologists (doctors who treat nerve pain) and anesthesiologists (doctors who use medications to help reduce pain) are specific types of pain management specialists.
A rheumatologist is a doctor who treats musculoskeletal and autoimmune disorders. Conditions a rheumatologist might treat include:
All these conditions can cause lower back pain. A rheumatologist might prescribe medication that prevents your immune system from causing inflammation in your spine.
A massage therapist may work alone or as part of a larger practice that incorporates other specialties, such as chiropractic care and physical therapy. A massage therapist is not a medical doctor, but most states require that they have a license to practice.
Massage therapy may be used on its own or in conjunction with other treatments to help loosen tight muscles and promote blood flow. But if you have persistent lower back pain, you should seek the advice of a medical doctor.
Much like a massage therapist, an acupuncturist might have their own practice or share a practice with professionals in related disciplines. Acupuncturists are not medical doctors, but most states require a license and many require board certification.
Acupuncture for lower back pain is generally considered safe and is associated with positive outcomes. It’s considered a conservative treatment that can help desensitize painful nerves.
In many cases, lower back pain will go away on its own within a few days or weeks. Engaging in light stretching, applying ice or heating pads, and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are some of the ways you can treat mild lower back pain at home.
There are many home remedies for back pain, but if your pain persists or becomes intolerable, consider consulting a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.