Angie's LIST Guide to
Spine and Neck Orthopedics
What a spine doctor treats
Orthopedic medicine for the spine and neck covers a medical specialty that focuses on providing treatment to patients suffering from injuries and abnormalities in addition to congenital defects and deformities that specifically affect the regions of the neck and spine. Treatment focuses on several areas including the underlying connective joints and tendons, tissues, muscles, ligaments and bones.
Examples of cases treated by orthopedic doctors include neck and back pain, and weakness in the hands and the feet that may be the result of disc problems. Injuries and ongoing wear and tear on the body's ligaments, joints, muscles and soft tissues often lead to a patient's complaint of neck or back pain. Disorders treated by orthopedic doctors include a slipped (herniated) disc, abnormal curvature of the spine (scoliosis) and narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis).
Doctors can attribute some neck and spine problems to the type of work you do, such as regular heaving lifting and not using protective measures to prevent injury. Overstraining the muscles and joints in the region of the neck and spine can necessitate a visit to an orthopedic doctor. You can also incur muscle, joint and ligament strains and injury from not wearing a seat belt during an accident. Caution can work wonders as a preventive measure against injury to your neck and spine.
What to expect from spine treatment
A good orthopedic doctor will use a patient-centered approach when treating you. A successful treatment plan includes patient education.
Your initial office visit should include an examination to assess and diagnose your condition. Depending on your symptoms, you may have X-rays or an MRI taken of your neck and spine. Your doctor may also order lab work that may include blood tests and should provide you with multiple options for treatment. If your symptoms do not warrant advanced treatment, you may be told to go home, rest and apply ice packs or moist heat.
Treatment may also include an exercise routine and prescription medications to help relieve pain. If you require physical rehabilitation as part of your treatment program, the doctor should work in conjunction with the physical therapist. Additional methods of treatment may include surgery, depending on the severity of your case.
Alternative medicine is another possibility that includes chiropractic care and acupuncture. If you have health insurance, check with your insurance provider to make sure your coverage will pay for treatment.
Finding a spine doctor
Doctors who specialize in spine and neck orthopedics have undergone extensive educational training in preparation for providing medical services and treatment in this field. Requirements for practicing within this field of medicine include completing several levels of post-graduate education as well as a residency.
Orthopedic doctors must pass national medical examinations in order to get a license to practice. Certification is an additional requirement for those doctors who choose to specialize in orthopedic surgery. Practicing doctors within this field regularly engage in ongoing continuing education and training to keep informed of new techniques and methods of treatment.
If you know that you'll need the services of an orthopedic doctor, contact your health insurance company to make sure that this medical specialty is covered. Read through the listing of orthopedic doctors in the provider directory available from your health insurance company and check with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Carefully research the orthopedic doctors you are considering. Verify their qualifications, education, continuing education, accepted insurance plans and affiliated hospitals by consulting Angie's List, where you can also see member reviews and rankings.
When you meet with you potential doctors, ask questions about their experience with the particular procedures you might undergo. Ask about recovery time. Note the conditions of the doctor's office. Is the staff friendly and accommodating? Do you have any difficulty in scheduling an appointment? You'll want to make sure you have a great rapport with your orthopedic doctor and the staff.