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Doctors and Specialists

Who treats conditions of the spine, shoulder, and pelvis?

Conditions of the spine, shoulder, and pelvis may be treated by your doctor and/or other medical specialists and health care providers. Several doctors from different medical specialties may be involved in the treatment at the same time. This multidisciplinary team approach is particularly important in managing the symptoms of a condition, especially as many symptoms are chronic and change in severity over time. Some of the more common medical professionals involved in the treatment of spine, shoulder, and pelvis conditions may include the following:

Primary care doctor

A primary care doctor is one who has specialized education and training in general internal medicine, family practice, or another first-level-of-care area. Primary care doctors are those who provide patients with any or all of the following:

  • Routine health care (including annual physical examinations and immunizations)

  • Treatment for acute medical conditions

  • Initial care for conditions that may become more serious or chronic in nature

While your primary care doctor may treat and/or diagnose your disease, he or she may refer you for more specialized treatment of certain aspects of a disease.

Neurologist

Neurology is the branch of medicine that specializes in the treatment of disorders of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. The doctor who specializes in neurology is called a neurologist. After completing medical school, doctors specializing in adult neurology complete 1 year of residency in internal medicine and three years of neurology residency.

Neurosurgeon

Neurological surgery is the branch of medicine that provides both operative and nonoperative management of disorders that affect the central and peripheral nervous systems, including their supportive structures and vascular supply, and the operative and nonoperative management of pain. Neurological surgery encompasses disorders of the brain, meninges, skull, and blood supply. The surgeon who specializes in neurological surgery is called a neurosurgeon, or neurological surgeon. Neurosurgeons also perform spine surgery for conditions, such as spinal stenosis, herniated disks, and disk degeneration.

Orthopedic surgeon

The doctor who specializes in orthopedics is called an orthopedic surgeon, or sometimes, simply, an orthopedist. Orthopedists are educated in the workings of the musculoskeletal system, which includes (but is not limited to) identifying and treating an injury, providing rehabilitation to an affected area or function, and establishing prevention protocols to minimize further damage to a diseased area or component of the musculoskeletal system.

The orthopedist may have completed up to 14 years of formal education. After becoming licensed to practice medicine, the orthopedic surgeon may become board-certified by passing both oral and written examinations given by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Many orthopedic surgeons choose to practice general orthopedics, while others specialize in certain areas of the body (for example, foot, hand, shoulder, spine, hip, or knee), or in a specialized area of orthopedic care (for example, sports medicine and trauma medicine). Some orthopedists may specialize in several areas and may collaborate with other specialists, such as neurosurgeons or rheumatologists, in caring for patients.

Physiatrist

Physical medicine and rehabilitation, also known as physiatry, is a medical specialty that involves the process of restoring lost abilities for a person who has been disabled as a result of disease, disorder, or injury. Physiatry provides integrated, multidisciplinary care aimed at recovery for the whole person by addressing the patient's physical, psychological, medical, vocational, and social needs. The doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation is called a physiatrist.

Rheumatologist

A rheumatologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases that may affect joints, muscles, bones, skin, and other tissues. Most rheumatologists have a background in internal medicine or pediatrics and have received additional training in the field of rheumatology. Rheumatologists are specially trained to identify many types of rheumatic diseases in their earliest stages, including arthritis, many types of autoimmune diseases, musculoskeletal pain, disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and osteoporosis. In addition to 4 years of medical school and 3 years of specialized training in internal medicine or pediatrics, a rheumatologist has had an additional 2 or 3 years of specialized training in the field of rheumatology. A rheumatologist may also be board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Anesthesiologist

Anesthesiology is the medical specialty that involves the preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative care for patients in the administration of medications to control pain and support life functions during surgery. The doctor who specializes in anesthesiology is called an anesthesiologist.

An anesthesiologist has completed 4 years of post-medical school training in anesthesia, in addition to the required 4 years of medical school. Anesthesiologists usually further specialize in certain surgery specialties, such as neurosurgical anesthesia. The anesthesiologist is involved in all 3 phases of surgery: preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative management, including the medical discharge of the patient from the recovery room.

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