Do You Need To See An Orthopedic Physician Or A Rheumatologist
Patients should use the guidelines below to help determine if they should choose an orthopedic physician or rheumatologist for their arthritis and joint pain.
Patients might need an orthopedic physician if they have:
- Joint or musculoskeletal pain that began after an injury
- Gradually progressive hip or knee pain that is worse with weight bearing
- Joint pain that is severe and interfering with function
- Moderate or advanced arthritis of the knee or hip
- Previous unsuccessful treatment for joint pain
- Been told by their doctor they might need a joint replacement
Patients might need a rheumatologist if they have:
- Pain involving many joints
- New joint pain not associated with any injury
- Joint or musculoskeletal pain associated with morning stiffness, fever, fatigue, rash or chest pain
- Joint pain that followed a tick bite
- Joint pain associated with back pain
- Joint pain and psoriasis
- Muscular pain with or without any other symptoms
- New headaches or muscle aches and are over the age of 50
- Back pain with or without pain in the legs
- Unexplained, ongoing symptoms such as fever, sweats or weight loss
A patients’ medical needs are important and unique, that is why UMass Memorial Medical Center offers specialty trained physicians that have devoted their education and career to treating specific medical conditions to serve you.
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain usually gets better with rest and pain relievers. Back pain that doesnt go away may be a sign of a more serious condition.
See your provider if you have:
- Pain that doesnt get better after about a week of at-home care.
- Tingling, numbness, weakness or pain in your buttocks or legs.
- Severe pain or muscle spasms that interfere with your normal activities.
- Fever, weight loss, bowel or bladder problems or other unexplained symptoms.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Millions of people live with low back pain. Stiffness, pain and limited movement can have a major impact on quality of life. But you may be able to avoid lower back pain by maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. Talk to your provider if back pain doesnt go away or if youre unable to do the activities you enjoy. Several treatments can relieve pain, help you move better and get more out of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/18/2021.
Specialists Who Treat Back Pain
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 , if the patient’s back pain is resistant to initial treatment then the services of a spine specialist may be necessary.
Read Also: Is Motrin Good For Back Pain
What Doctor Should I See For Back Pain
If your back pain is from a recent strain or mild injury, your primary care doctor can probably help. But if the pain is severe, ongoing, or accompanied by other symptoms such as numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, it may be time to see a back doctor. Start with someone who specializes in nonsurgical treatment for back pain. This can include a physiatrist, chiropractor, physical therapist, or orthopaedic physician assistant. They can evaluate your condition and offer appropriate treatment to help alleviate your pain. Depending on your circumstances, they might also refer you to another type of back specialist — for example, a pain management specialist or spine surgeon.
When Should I See A Doctor For Back Pain
When your back first starts to hurt, try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever and applying ice in the first 48 hours. You may apply heat after 48 hours. You may need to take it easy for a while, but its best to stay as active as tolerated, and to avoid absolute bed rest, said Dr. Guo.
If your back pain lasts more than two weeks and keeps you from participating in normal, daily activities, see your family doctor. If your pain is severe, you should see a doctor sooner. You should seek urgent medical care if you have:
- Fever associated with back pain
- Back pain after trauma
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Loss of strength in your arms and legs
- Unexplained weight loss associated with back pain
Also, always be more cautious if you have special risk factors for cancer, infection, or fractures that may affect the spine.
Read Also: Is Aleve Or Ibuprofen Better For Back Pain
Should I See An Orthopedic Doctor For My Knee Pain
Its hard to know when to see a doctor about knee pain, and even harder, sometimes to know what type of doctor to see. If you suffer from knee pain, one of the best things to do is start with the standard treatment for knee pain or injury: over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain meds like ibuprofen along with PRICE therapy .
Your knee should begin to heal and your pain should decrease after a week of this treatment. If youre still having significant pain after a week, you should get in touch with an orthopedic doctor. As a specialist in bone, joint and soft tissue injuries, orthopedic specialists know how to track down whats causing your pain and treat it.
Whatever you do, dont just tough it out. The inflammation thats causing your pain can spread to surrounding tissue, which can make healing take even longer.
What are some common causes of knee pain that wont go away?
Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by degeneration of cartilage in the knee. It can become so severe that the cartilage will be completely eroded, with bone rubbing on bone. The good news is that osteoarthritis is usually treatable without surgery. An orthopedic physician can definitely help you with this condition.
Ligament Injury. Ligaments hold your leg bones together and keep your knee steady when you move it. Ligament injuries are especially common in athletes and can cause severe pain. Such injuries may require surgery to repair.
Some knee pain requires immediate action.
- Unbearable pain
Specialists That Can Help Your Back And How To Pick One
Low back pain is one of the most common medical complaints, so family doctors see a lot of back pain patients. But if four to six weeks of painkillers and exercise therapy doesn’t help a patient, it may be time for a specialist. Many insurance companies require that you get a referral from a family doctor or another primary care physician before they will cover the cost of a specialist.
Between orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, physiatrists, neurosurgeons, and osteopathic physicians, it’s hard to know which doctor can best treat your pain.
Each approaches treatment from a different perspective. No treatment is guaranteed to give relief, so your choice will depend in part on your attitude toward the body and medicineand your doctor’s own philosophy.
Recommended Reading: Advil Vs Ibuprofen For Back Pain
How Is Back Pain Treated
Acute back pain usually gets better on its own. Acute back pain is usually treated with:
- Medications designed to relieve pain and/or inflammation
- analgesics such as acetaminophen and aspirin
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen may be sold over the counter some NSAIDS are prescribed by a physician
- muscle relaxants are prescription drugs that are used on a short-term basis to relax tight muscles
- topical pain relief such as creams, gels, patches, or sprays applied to the skin stimulate the nerves in the skin to provide feelings of warmth or cold in order to dull the sensation of pain. Common topical medications include capsaicin and lidocaine.
Exercising, bed rest, and surgery are typically not recommended for acute back pain.Chronic back pain is most often treated with a stepped care approach, moving from simple low-cost treatments to more aggressive approaches. Specific treatments may depend on the identified cause of the back pain.
You Have Unexplained Weight Loss
If you experience sudden weight loss that can’t be explained by diet and lifestyle changes, then you should always pay attention to what your body is telling you. This is especially true when the unexplained weight loss is accompanied by back pain. See your doctor to rule out the possibility of a more severe condition, such as an infection or tumor.
You May Like: Ibuprofen For Back Pain Dosage
Back Pain And Pregnancy
Back pain during each trimester of your pregnancy can be common, and several causes are to blame. However, you should be sure to talk with your doctor about what youre experiencing, in case the pain may be part of a bigger problem.
Here are a few reasons why you may be experiencing back pain during pregnancy:
Shifting center of gravity
As your baby grows, the center of your bodys gravity moves outward. Your spine and back arch to make up for the change in balance. This put extra stress on the lower lumbar spine.
Weight gain can be a healthy part of pregnancy, but even the little bit youre likely to gain during those 9 months can put more stress on your back and core muscles.
As your body prepares to deliver the baby, it releases hormones that loosen the ligaments that stabilize your pelvis and lumbar spine. These same hormones can cause the bones in your spine to shift, which may lead to discomfort and pain.
Why Go To An Orthopedic Doctor For Back Pain
Most us will experience back pain at some point in life. While most back pains resolve on their own or with conservative treatments, some need serious medical attention. Back pain may be a sign of a serious condition, and it will progressively get worse if left untreated.
If your back pain is not getting better and is limiting the activities you can engage in, see an orthopedic doctor. Why go to an orthopedic doctor for back pain? Why cant your primary care physician just treat it? Orthopedic doctors have specialized knowledge, training, and experience in diagnosing, treating, and preventing musculoskeletal pain. While a primary care physician can treat a plethora of health issues, an orthopedic doctor can do it better.
Read Also: Advil Or Aleve For Back Pain
Low Back Pain Fact Sheet
If you have had lower back pain, you are not alone. Back pain is one of most common reasons people see a doctor or miss days at work. Even school-age children can have back pain.
Back pain can range in intensity from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp or shooting pain. It can begin suddenly as a result of an accident or by lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time as we age. Getting too little exercise followed by a strenuous workout also can cause back pain.
There are two types of back pain:
- Acute, or short-term back pain lasts a few days to a few weeks. Most low back pain is acute. It tends to resolve on its own within a few days with self-care and there is no residual loss of function. In some cases a few months are required for the symptoms to disappear.
- Chronic back pain is defined as pain that continues for 12 weeks or longer, even after an initial injury or underlying cause of acute low back pain has been treated. About 20 percent of people affected by acute low back pain develop chronic low back pain with persistent symptoms at one year. Even if pain persists, it does not always mean there is a medically serious underlying cause or one that can be easily identified and treated. In some cases, treatment successfully relieves chronic low back pain, but in other cases pain continues despite medical and surgical treatment.
Pain That Keeps You Up At Night
Back pain that keeps you up at night, or gets worse when you rest, is generally not life-threatening. That said, it’s best to get it checked, especially when accompanied by fever.
Back or neck pain with fever may be a sign of an infection such as meningitis. Infections can get serious, fast, so don’t delay that call to your doctor prompt diagnosis and treatment may save your life.
Also Check: Is Advil Good For Back Pain
Other Causes Of Back Pain
There are many other potential causes of back pain, but most are rare. Be sure to see a doctor if you experience regular back pain that does not go away.
After ruling out the more common causes of back pain, your doctor will perform tests to determine if you have a rarer cause. These can :
- one of the vertebrae moving out of place and onto a nearby vertebra, called degenerative spondylolisthesis
- loss of nerve function at the lower spinal cord, called cauda equina syndrome
- fungal or bacterial infection of the spine, such as Staphylococcus, E. coli, or tuberculosis
Back pain can have many symptoms, including:
- a dull, aching sensation in the lower back
- a stabbing or shooting pain that can radiate down the leg to the foot
- an inability to stand up straight without pain
- a decreased range of motion and reduced ability to flex the back
The symptoms of back pain, if due to strain or misuse, are usually short lived but can last for days or weeks.
Back pain is chronic when symptoms have been present for 3 months.
Continuing Low Back Pain Treatment
Living with chronic low back pain is a challenge, but chiropractors want to emphasize to patients that self-therapy is a vital component of pain management. This can include rehabilitation and range-of-motion exercises. However, chiropractors also may encourage more multimodal approaches, such as incorporating , , , , and many more treatment options that can be very beneficial. The treatments recommended and the benefits gained can vary with every individual, which is why it is important to be in a proactive, communicative relationship with your chiropractor.
Globe G, Farabaugh RJ, Hawk C, et al. Clinical practice guideline: Chiropractic care for low back pain. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2015. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmpt.2015.10.006
Recommended Reading: Aleve For Lower Back Pain
What Is Back Pain
Back pain refers to pain that you may feel in your back or spine. It is a very common problem: 1 in 6 Australians report having back problems, and 4 out of 5 experience it sometime in their life. While both men and women report that they experience back problems, it is more commonly reported by people 25 years and older.
Back pain can be grouped into different categories. Lower back pain refers to pain felt in the lower part of the spine . Back problems can also affect the upper back , the neck as well as the tailbone .
People experience back pain in different ways. Some people say it feels like a sharp pain other people report aches or spasms. You may feel stiff, or find it hard to turn or bend in certain directions. In some cases, such as sciatica, pain can travel down one or both your legs.
Back pain can impact you physically and mentally. People suffering from back pain may feel irritable or short-tempered. They may worry about whether the pain will control their life and may experience feelings of helplessness.
Informed Choice Can Help You Choose A Trustworthy Provider
There are as many choices as there are colors in the rainbow. There are a number of distinct physicians within the medical world that you have a choice from. Internists, family physicians, orthopaedists, neurosurgeons, spine surgeons, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, neurologists, anesthesiologists, and even some psychiatrists that treat lower back disorders. There are places that have multiple specialists who treat these disorders as a group.
There are a number of distinct physicians within the medical world that you have a choice from. Photo Source: 123RF.com.There are many types of nonmedical practitioners to choose from, and they vary greatly even within their own specialty. You can go to a chiropractor, physical therapist, massage therapist, athletic trainer, acupuncturist, Feldenkrais or Pilates practitioner, personal trainer, or even an aroma therapist.
Recommended Reading: Mayo Clinic Lower Back Pain Exercises
Which Lifestyle Factors Contribute To Lower Back Pain
There are three major lifestyle factors that may affect your chances of developing lower back pain:
- Multiple studies have established a link between smoking and lower back pain. Smoking raises inflammation inside the body and hinders the body from healing itself.
- Obesity is also associated with several types of chronic pain, including lower back pain. In people with high body mass index , the stress on the spine increases, contributing to even more wear and tear.
- Your level of physical activity can also play a role in your lower back health. While a sedentary lifestyle could increase your risk of developing lower back pain, so can excessive or strenuous physical activity. Check with your doctor if you are unsure about your ideal level of physical activity.
Symptoms Of Lower Back Pain
The symptoms of lower back pain can vary from person to person. It may come on suddenly, perhaps after youve lifted something heavy or moved in a way thats hurt your back. Or it may come on gradually over time or for no apparent reason. The pain can be mild or severe. Some people also have pain in the buttock or down one leg, sometimes as far as the calf or the toes. This is called sciatica.
Most people with back pain symptoms have whats called non-specific back pain. This means theres no clear or specific cause . It means that often tests cant really help because no specific damage to the spine or muscles around it would show up on them. This might sound unsettling, but it means that theres no serious cause for the pain.
You May Like: Does Motrin Help With Back Pain