Spine Specialists

Orthopaedics is a medical specialty that focuses on the body’s musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. An orthopaedic spine surgeon is an orthopaedist who further specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of spinal diseases and conditions.

Orthopaedic spine surgeons provide non-operative and surgical treatment to patients of all ages, although some focus on treating children (pediatric) or adults. Some orthopaedic spine surgeons exclusively treat certain spinal problems such as scoliosis, degenerative disorders, or a particular region of the spine (cervical/neck, lumbar/low back). Patients with neck and back pain usually seek medical care first from their family doctor or primary care physician. However, many patients require the services of a spine specialist.

A spine specialist is a physician who has completed additional years of medical training in the diagnosis and treatment of spinal disorders such as scoliosis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, herniated discs, stenosis, spine injuries, fractured vertebrae, spinal deformity, tumors, infections and congenital abnormalities. Most spine surgeons are either orthopaedic surgeons who are fellowship-trained in spine

What to Look for in a Spine Surgeon
In today’s complex medical field, it is important for patients to be as involved as possible in their own medical care. This includes the choice of doctors. Some managed care programs leave little room for choice, but if you are able to choose your physician, here are some guidelines on what to look for in a spine specialist:

  • Make sure the spine surgeon is board certified in spine. This means that in addition to the usual surgical residency requirements, he or she has completed a fellowship program in spine.
  • Choose a spine surgeon who devotes at least 99% of his or her practice to the treatment of spinal conditions. A physician who sees mostly spine patients will be more up-to-date on newer technologies and techniques than a physician who only sees spine patients occasionally. A physician who sees mostly spine patients will be more up-to-date on newer technologies and techniques than a physician who only sees spine patients occasionally.
  • In addition to the physician’s credentials, make sure the physician you choose is someone you feel comfortable with. After all, finding a physician you can trust is almost as important as his or her experience. Good communication is essential in a doctor/patient relationship, so ask yourself these questions:
  • Does the doctor answer all of your questions and provide you with enough information about your condition?
  • Does he or she spend enough time with you?
  • Is the physician reachable? Open-minded? A good listener?
  • Does he or she welcome a second opinion?
  • Talk to the physician about his or her experience with the latest techniques and technologies in spine surgery. How many procedures has he or she performed? Is the doctor willing to refer you to any former patients who may be available to share their experiences with you?
  • Talk to the physician, or someone in the office, about your medical insurance to find out what is covered and what you may be responsible for
  • Choose a physician who is referred to you by a reliable source such as your primary care physician, or a friend, or relative.