Living with Chronic Pain
Finding the Right Care Team to Manage Chronic Back Pain
Back pain can be tricky to diagnose and treat. It often takes specialists from several different medical disciplines to both find the root cause of back pain and create a comprehensive treatment plan that is in the best interest of the patient.
Back pain can be complicated and it may involve muscles, nerves, and/or bone. It’s also difficult to resolve in some cases, due to the nature of the problem. Individuals with chronic back pain might need an entire team of varied medical professionals to treat their back pain.
Here’s how you can go about getting the answers you need to feel your best. First off, if you back has just begun hurting, whether the cause is mysterious or you know that you’ve injured it within the past couple days, you should go see your primary care physician. They can help you care for your back now and potentially help direct your care if it requires further treatment.
If the problem doesn’t resolve quickly and you find yourself the sufferer of chronic back pain, you may need an entire team of specialists to help.
These specialists might include the following:
If your back problem isn’t going to go away with rest or other therapies and the problem can potentially be resolved surgically, you’ll need a great surgeon. Thankfully, there are plenty of orthopedic surgeons that specialize in spinal surgery out there. Your primary care doctor can refer you to a good spinal surgeon.
If you’re not a good candidate for surgery, you may need a physiatrist for physical medicine and rehabilitation. These doctors specialize in treating musculoskeletal problems without surgery. This type of doctor is a good candidate for the leader of your chronic back pain management team as they’re often well-versed in alternative therapies as well.
Pain Management Anesthesiologist
This type of anesthesiologist isn’t there to put you under for surgery. Instead, they help administer treatments like epidurals to treat chronic pain and help your doctors to monitor your condition.
If your condition may be the result of a medical condition related to the immune system or a connective tissue disorder, then a rheumatologist will be crucial to your pain management plan. They can prescribe medications to reduce the effects of the condition and deescalate the pain you’re experiencing.
You may be thinking of a neurologist as a brain doctor, and that’s true, in part. However, they also treat the rest of the nervous system. Since a lot of back pain is caused in part by nerve issues or the back issue that’s causing pain is also causing nerve damage, a neurologist may be called in to monitor your nerve health.
Wait, what? Wrong kind of therapy, you may be thinking, but there’s pretty solid evidence that several types of psychotherapy may be able to help combat chronic pain. It’s particularly relevant if your chronic pain isn’t likely to be resolved through medical means. It may be able to help you learn to live with pain and change your body’s response to it through therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback.
Most people with chronic back pain will have a physical therapist on their care team. This specialist helps alleviate pain and reduce the amount of damage being done through stretches and exercises.