There are many types of health practitioners that care for patients with spinal conditions, and each has a slightly different role. Selection of the most appropriate type of health professional - or team of health professionals - largely depends on the patient's symptoms and the length of time the symptoms have been present.

The different types of health professionals who treat back pain tend to have varied training and interests. While it is common to start off with a primary care provider (a medical doctor, chiropractor, or doctor of osteopathic medicine), if the patient's back pain is resistant to initial treatment then the services of a spine specialist may be necessary.

See When to Seek Medical Care for Low Back Pain

There are three broad groups of health providers who treat back pain:

  1. Primary care providers are often the first port of call for patients when back pain strikes, and generally include:
    • Primary care physicians (Family practice doctors, Internists, Obstetricians, Gynecologists, Pediatricians)
    • Chiropractors
    • Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine
  2. Spine specialists have a more specific area of expertise in certain diagnoses and/or treatments for back pain and spinal conditions, and generally include:
    • Surgeons
    • Physiatrists
    • Anesthesiologists
    • Neurologists
    • Rheumatologists
  3. Therapists have expertise in either physical or occupational rehabilitation for back pain or psychological help for chronic pain, and generally include:
    • Physical therapists
    • Occupational therapists
    • Clinical psychologists

Find an integrated clinic at the Spine-health Spine Center Directory.

Dr. Philip Shalen is a diagnostic radiologist and neuroradiologist with training in the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI / MRA) of the head, spine, and peripheral nerves, and Computed Tomography (CT) of the head and spine.