Physicians and Specialists
Who treats conditions of the spine, shoulder, and pelvis?
Conditions of the spine, shoulder, and pelvis may be treated by your physician and/or other medical specialists and healthcare providers. Several physicians 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 Physician
A primary care physician is one who has specialized education and training in general internal medicine, family practice, or another first-level-of-care area. Primary care physicians are those who provide patients with any/all of the following:
- routine healthcare (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 physician may treat and/or diagnose your disease, he/she may refer you to a specialist for more specialized treatment of certain aspects of a disease.
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 physician who specializes in neurology is called a neurologist. After completing medical school, physicians specializing in adult neurology complete one year of residency in internal medicine and three years of neurology residency.
Neurological surgery is the branch of medicine that provides both operative and non-operative management of disorders that affect the central and peripheral nervous systems, including their supportive structures and vascular supply, and the operative and non-operative 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 discs, and disc degeneration.
The physician who specializes in orthopaedic surgery is called an orthopaedic surgeon, or sometimes, simply, an orthopaedist. Orthopaedists are educated in the workings of the musculoskeletal system, which includes (but is not limited to) diagnosing a condition or disorder, identifying and treating an injury, providing rehabilitation to an affected area or function, and establishing prevention protocol to inhibit further damage to a diseased area or component of the musculoskeletal system.
The orthopaedist may have completed up to 14 years of formal education. After becoming licensed to practice medicine, the orthopaedic surgeon may become board-certified by passing both oral and written examinations given by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.
Many orthopaedic surgeons choose to practice general orthopaedics, while others specialize in certain areas of the body (i.e., foot, hand, shoulder, spine, hip, or knee), or in a specialized area of orthopaedic care (i.e., sports medicine, trauma medicine). Some orthopaedists may specialize in several areas and may collaborate with other specialists, such as neurosurgeons or rheumatologists, in caring for patients.
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), 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 physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation is called a physiatrist.
A rheumatologist is a physician 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 four years of medical school and three years of specialized training in internal medicine or pediatrics, a rheumatologist has had an additional two or three years of specialized training in the field of rheumatology. A rheumatologist may also be board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
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 physician who specializes in anesthesiology is called an anesthesiologist.
An anesthesiologist has completed four years of post-medical school training in anesthesia, in addition to the required four years of medical school. Anesthesiologists usually further specialize in certain surgery specialties, such as neurosurgical anesthesia. The anesthesiologist is involved in all three phases of surgery: preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative management, including the medical discharge of the patient from the recovery room.