Living with Chronic Pain
Finding the Right Care Team to Manage Chronic Back Pain
Back pain can be tricky to diagnose and treat as it often involves muscles, nerves and/or bones. It often takes specialists from several medical disciplines to both find the root cause of back pain and create a comprehensive treatment plan.
If back pain recently started, whether the cause is known or unknown, a timely appointment with a health care provider is important. If needed, they can make a referral to a specialist for further treatment.
If the pain does not resolve and chronic back pain becomes an issue, a team of specialists to help treat and manage the pain is often beneficial. Depending on the cause of back pain, these specialists may include the following health care professionals:
Physiatrists (physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors) specialize in treating musculoskeletal problems without surgery. This type of physician is a good candidate for creating the foundation of a chronic back pain management team as they are often well versed in alternative therapies as well.
Anesthesiologists do more than “put people under” for surgery. They also administer pain-relieving treatments, such as epidurals, to treat chronic back pain.
Neurologists treat conditions of the nervous system. Back pain often involves nerve issues and/or damage that requires the treatment of a neurologist.
Orthopedists treat chronic pain caused by injuries or conditions that affect the body's musculoskeletal system. Orthopedic surgeons not only perform surgery, they are also trained in pain management.
Physical therapists help individuals alleviate pain and increase strength and mobility with stretches and exercises. Most people with chronic back pain will have a physical therapist on their care team.
Psychologists help individuals in chronic pain to not only manage pain, but also to change the body’s response to it through therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback. Psychological therapy is particularly relevant if chronic pain does not improve through medical means.
If back pain continues despite rest and/or other therapies, surgery may be an option. Depending on the underlying condition causing the pain, a primary care doctor can make a referral to an appropriate surgeon.