To find the right type of doctor for you, look for someone who can offer the full range of treatment options for your chronic or back pain. If your doctor is unable or unwilling to offer you further treatment options, ask for a referral to a surgeon or pain management specialist—or, find a specialist in your area now.

As you explore treatment options for your back or chronic pain, your medical team could include some or all of the following healthcare professionals.

Primary Care Doctor

If you see a primary care doctor for annual visits and screenings, he or she is probably the first person you'd talk to about your chronic back pain. And if non-surgical treatments like over-the-counter medications don’t help, your primary care doctor can refer you to a surgeon or pain management specialist to help determine how to best relieve your pain.

If you’ve been seeing your primary care doctor for treatment and your pain isn’t going away, ask to have a consultation with a specialist. Create a customized Doctor Discussion Guide—it can help make the conversation easier.


Depending on the treatment options you consider, you may have a surgeon on your medical team. From neurosurgeons to orthopedic surgeons, surgeons have extensive training in diagnosing back conditions and will refer you to other specialists if you don’t need surgery. Aside from performing the surgery itself, your surgeon will also act as a consultant with you and your medical team on the risks and benefits of a variety of surgical options for your particular situation. He or she may perform a range of corrective back surgeries and/or use chronic pain therapy devices, such as neurostimulators and pain pumps to help with your particular pain treatment strategy.

Just because you are seeing a surgeon does not mean you will get surgery. In fact, most surgeons do not offer surgery to more than two-thirds of patients they see, and settle them with non-surgical therapies instead.

Pain Management Specialist

A pain management specialist's primary concern is your quality of life. Working with other members of your medical team, your pain management specialist will coordinate your care, including diagnosing the causes of your chronic or back pain and determining treatment options.

Physical or Occupational Therapist

A physical or occupational therapist may work with you to make daily activities less painful, such as walking, driving, doing dishes, and working. In addition, if surgery is part of your treatment plan, you will probably need a physical or occupational therapist to help you get back to your everyday tasks.

If you’re still in pain after trying non-surgical treatments, it may be time to take the next step. Ask your doctor for a referral or find a specialist.