How to Know Whether to See an Orthopedist or a ChiropractorMarch 8, 2013 • By John Olsen
When people suffer back pain, they may not know whether to call an orthopedist or a chiropractor. Both medical professionals deal with skeletal system abnormalities. An orthopedist, typically an M.D. or D.O., is a physician who treats musculoskeletal conditions that require surgery or medication (fractures, severe back arthritis, severe disc herniations, etc). A chiropractor (D.C.) is a physician who treats musculoskeletal conditions (primarily neck pain, headaches, back pain, sciatica) that do not require drugs or surgery.
For most musculoskeletal conditions, it is best to consult a chiropractor first, as the treatment provided in a chiropractic office is less invasive than treatment provided by an orthopedic surgeon. Most conditions do not require surgery or medication. If your chiropractor determines that you should be referred to an orthopedist, neurosurgeon, or other professional, that referral will be made.
A good analogy would be the relationship between a dentist and an oral surgeon. The dentist can take care of most dental issues, such as fillings, cleanings, whitening, most extractions, root canals, etc. However, sometimes the dentist will find it necessary to refer a patient to an oral surgeon for more complex surgical situations.
Likewise, your chiropractor can treat most musculoskeletal conditions, such as neck pain, back pain, headaches, joint pain. In certain cases, however, the chiropractor may decide that a referral to an orthopedist or neurosurgeon may be the best way to approach the condition.