What Type of Doctor Should I See for Neck Pain

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Neck pain is a common ailment among all sectors of the population. At any given time, an estimated 10 percent of people are suffering from it. A recent study looked at various types of doctors and examined how treatments varied among them.

Who Conducted the Study?

The study was reported in Spine, perhaps the most prestigious journal of research into spinal conditions.

How Was the Study Conducted?

This was a very large study – 770,326 patients – were followed during their first 180 days of care. These patients represented a mixture of ages and geographic regions across the U.S. The study looked at the treatment they received from chiropractors, primary care physicians, emergency room physicians and orthopedic specialists.

What did the Study Reveal?

Essentially, the study revealed much higher usage of expensive and sometimes invasive treatment of acute neck pain patients if they were seen by other types of doctors aside from chiropractors. Plain film X-rays, CT, MRI, spinal injections, and major surgery were all done at higher levels by non-chiropractors. But the results were not better, despite these expensive treatments.

What is the Take Home Message?

The study suggests that the design of health care systems should encourage patients to directly seek the care of chiropractors or physical therapists, without going through a specialist. The study also suggests designing health care systems to engender more frequent referrals from primary care or specialist physicians to chiropractors for patients with new-onset neck pain.

In summary, the study found that the care provided by chiropractors and physical therapists was at least as beneficial as that provided by primary care, emergency room or orthopedic doctors, and at a greatly reduced cost.