Doctors tend to have a way of looking at a patient's problem in terms of where their expertise lies: a surgeon evaluates patients in terms of whether or not they should have surgery, a pain medicine anesthesiologist will consider an injection, and a chiropractor will evaluate patients for manual manipulation therapy.

Three different specialists may have three different treatment plans for a herniated disc. See What's a Herniated Disc, Pinched Nerve, Bulging Disc...?

So when a back pain patient goes to 3 different doctors, they will typically get 3 very different treatment recommendations.

See Specialists Who Treat Back Pain

So what's a patient to do?

First, get educated. Research your symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options on our site, and chat with informed members on our forums.

Check other patient education sites on the web, but make sure their information is reliable. Are the articles peer reviewed? Is the site sponsored by a company selling something?

Ask your doctor questions, and evaluate their responses.

Keep in mind that with all the complexity involved with back pain diagnosis and treatment, it's sometimes not feasible for one doctor to know enough to be able to make the right recommendations.

See How and When to Get a Second Opinion Before Spine Surgery

You could consult with three or four doctors for their opinions, but this is quite a hassle, and if you're in a great deal of pain then you might not want to wait that long. Here's where integrated spine care comes in: you can go to a spine clinic that has all of the specialists working together under one roof.

See Integrated Spine Clinics for Back Pain Treatment

What does integrated spine care mean for you?

  • No more losing your MRI scans while they're being transferred from one clinic to another because your MRIs, other tests, and medical files all stay in one place.
  • No more having to listen to a surgeon tell you why a chiropractor can't be trusted, or vice-versa. They've already agreed to work together, so you know they trust each other and value each others skills.
  • No more having to find physicians who specialize in back pain all on your own and going for several opinions - you know that the different specialists (physiatrists, physical therapists, chiropractors, surgeons, etc.) all specialize in spine care. At an integrated care clinic they should all be working on your case.

Traditionally, the practice of medicine has been an individual effort, with one or two person clinics. As the field of medicine has progressed there are several more treatment choices available for many disease entities, and collaboration among physicians has become more important.

This is particularly true with back pain, where each specialty brings a certain skill set to the treatment of patients with complicated problems such as chronic low back pain.

Integrating the different specialties gives patients options for treatment that would not be as readily available in single specialty practices.

If these same specialists are collaborating with one another in an integrated clinic (and not competing against each other), they will be much more inclined to offer a patient more treatment options in a more fair and balanced fashion. Also, they are more likely to learn from the other specialists what does and does not work for any particular diagnosis.

See Potential Benefits of Integrated Spine Clinics

In my former practice, we believed the patient also benefits from focusing on non-surgical care first. Patients are usually first diagnosed and treated by a chiropractor, physiatrist or physical therapist, or by a combination of these specialists.

See Back Pain Treatment: Non-Surgical Options for Pain Relief

If they do not find enough pain relief with these treatments, or if their pain is so bad that they are unable to function, then they are referred to a spine surgeon in our practice for evaluation and possibly surgery.

See When to See a Surgeon for Low Back Pain

I'm interested to read your thoughts on this topic. Do you go to an integrated spine clinic? Please comment on our Facebook page or in our forums.

Research and find an integrated clinic in the Spine-health Spine Center Directory.