A spine specialist used to just be a spine specialist. If you had a problem with your spine, you knew where to go.
Just like an M&M used to just be an M&M. It was black (or dark brown) and delicious. If you wanted delicious chocolate served in tiny pieces, you knew where to go. The choice was easy. Now, there’s peanut butter M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, M&Ms with pretzels, and only God knows what M&Ms are coming next year.
Similarly, all sorts of new spine specialists are popping up as the years go by – treating more specific parts of the spine in different ways. The choice is no longer easy. You may find yourself being referred from specialist to specialist while your pain keeps getting worse.
So how do you know which specialist is the right one for you? They usually have really long titles ending in -ologist. It’s the first part of their title that makes it tricky. The answer is that you have to educate yourself. All of the new M&M choices are a good thing. All of the new specialist choices is also a good thing. It’s something you should put the time and effort in to understand so that you can reap the benefits of making the right choice.
There’s a doctor out there – likely several of them – that have gained specialized knowledge, training, and experience on how to treat your specific condition or the region of your spine that is causing your pain. Why wouldn’t you want to work with him instead of the “general” spine specialist that used to be your only choice?
When choosing your specialist – if you need a surgeon – make sure to find out what procedures he’s done and how many of them he’s done. This can tell you how much experience he has operating on various parts of the spine. It’ll also tell you if he primarily focuses on one procedure – which might be just the procedure you need. Each time you rode a bike, it got easier and easier for you. Each time you pick up an instrument, you get a little better. Practice makes perfect. And it’s the same with spine surgery. Find a doctor who’s done the procedure you need more often. Some neurosurgeons also specialize in spine surgery.
If you don’t need a surgeon at the moment, there are a few general categories of specialists to choose from (and then sub-categories within them). If you’d like to try a natural treatment, look for chiropractors and physical therapists. Medical spine specialists can also offer other non-surgical treatment options if you’re spine is an eligible candidate for them.
Those are the major types of specialist categories. Once you’ve chosen one, do some detailed research to find out what sub-specialists exist in that category – someone may specialize in exactly the treatment you need.