Should I See A Spine Specialist Or My Primary Care Physician For Back Pain?

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

We always want to ensure we do right by our bodies, and sometimes that means seeking out a specialist when we’re dealing with a complex issue. Other times it simply means setting up an appointment with your primary care physician before the issue worsens. But how can you know if a situation calls for an appointment with a spine specialist or your primary care physician? We share some ways to help you make that determination in today’s blog.

General Practitioner Or Spine Specialist For My Back Pain?

Remember that the following is just general advice, and you should seek out a consultation from a doctor who can view your condition in person if you have questions or concerns. With that in mind, here are some ways to determine who to visit for your spine pain.

  • Symptom Severity – Symptom severity isn’t always the best method of predicting who you should see for your spine pain, but it’s the category that most people lean on the heaviest. People who have severe symptoms are more likely to head right to a specialist or seek a referral, while those with mild symptoms may see what their provider says at their next appointment. Oftentimes a spine specialist is a smart choice for severe symptoms, but as long as you’re being seen quickly by a professional, you’re doing the right thing for your body and spine.
  • Acute vs. Chronic – Did your back pain develop as a result of an acute moment of injury, like if you tweaked something while tying your shoes, or does your discomfort seem to come and go in waves, and has it been like this for some time? Mild to moderate acute cases of back pain may be able to be treated by a primary care physician for common issues, but chronic conditions are oftentimes best treated by a spine specialist who really understands how different spinal systems relate to one another and how to treat some not-so-common problems.
  • Quality Of Life – How much is spine pain disrupting your quality of life? If you’re unable to participate in some activities that you love because of your spinal discomfort, or you’re basing decisions on how your back is affecting you, it’s a sign that you should seek out a consultation. Similar to the symptoms section, while a spine specialist can be a great resource, the important thing is that you put your health first and you seek out a professional medical opinion. Don’t keep putting off treatment. Getting seen sooner is more important than who you visit for this initial consultation.
  • Other Health Issues – If you have other health issues that may complicate treatment, like diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure or similar issues, it may be in your best interest to connect with a spine specialist instead of your primary care provider, as they’ll have more experience treating all of the related issues as they pertain to your spine health.

Getting care for your back pain is a lot like taking care of your car. When it’s time for an oil change, you can take it to any mechanic for a simple procedure, but if the check engine light comes on and you’re dealing with a major issue, oftentimes you want to take it to the dealership where the mechanics specialize in your specific brand of vehicle. For major back issues, you’ll want to head to a specialist, and for minor bumps and dull aches, you may be able to get by talking to your primary care provider.

Whatever route you decide, the key is to address the issue soon. Driving with a check engine light or with bad oil for an extended period can lead to more serious problems, so pay attention to the warning signs and seek care when your body needs it. For more information, or for help with your spinal issue, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi and the team at the Midwest Spine & Brain Institute today at (651) 430-3800.

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