Which Professional is Best for Your Back Pain?

When you’re struggling with daily back pain it’s hard to know what to do—and who to turn to depending on the severity of it.

After all, different levels of back pain call for different types of professionals.

Don’t waste time hopping between different professionals.

Use our handy guide below to see who can help you and what they can do to relieve the level of pain you’re suffering from.

Let’s kick things off with our first level of Back Pain Professional…



When to See Them: Most people book an appointment with the chiropractor as soon as they start to notice their back pain creeping in.  And though chiropractic is great for immediate pain relief, you’ll see little long-term relief if you aren’t consistent with your visits.

The key for back pain success with chiropractors: Don’t just book an appointment when things start to feel off.  Often times weekly visits will help keep the pain to a minimum year-round.


What They do to Help:

If you’ve been to a chiropractor before, then you know that they focus on making adjustments to your spine to restore joint mobility.  Your spine can get “out of line” after long periods of sitting in awkward positions or even due to stress, and that in turn can be a cause of the pain you’re feeling throughout your back (Spine Health).

Essentially popping these misaligned parts of your spine back into place will restore your spine back to its original, intended position and take the pressure off vertebrae to give you some relief.

Outside of adjustments, many chiropractors will suggest massage, dietary restrictions, exercise guidelines, and options for heat and ice (American Chiropractic Association).  As always, it’s good to consult with your doctor should you have any conditions that would affect exercise and diet.

If the chiropractor doesn’t seem to cut it for your back pain, then you’ll want to move on to the next level of Back Pain Professional…


Physical Therapists

 When to See Them:  If chiropractic didn’t help and you find yourself having trouble doing daily tasks (i.e.: bending down to grab something at home or at work), then physical therapy is usually the next piece of the puzzle.

Keep in mind that physical therapy is meant to alleviate the pain enough to get you back to do doing tasks that were hindered by your back pain.  Few will find complete relief from their pain, but they will find enough to get back into their old routine.

*Note: Most times your general doctor will make the referral to PT, so make sure that you visit with them prior to going just in case they have other options for back pain relief available to you.


What They do to Help:  In general, the goals of physical therapy are to decrease pain, increase function, and provide education on a maintenance program to prevent further recurrences.

According to Spine Health, your physical therapy program for back pain is usually going to have two components:

-Physical therapy to help reduce your pain to a more manageable level

-Active exercises that you can do at home during therapy and after you’ve finished the program

The main purpose will be to rehab you enough to get you back to doing the things that you need to do at home and at work (walking up the stairs, bending down to grab something, etc…)

Physical therapists will give you exercises and stretches that you can do at home to keep the pain at bay and retain the range of motion that they’ve helped you to build.  However, these programs often aren’t long term, instead lasting weeks to months until you’ve seen a reduction in pain.

Considering physical therapy is only a short-term program (and fairly expensive), you’ll want to look to our next Back Pain Professional for help with the pain moving into the long-term…


Personal Trainers 

When to See Them:  Falling in a kind of no-man’s land before and after Physical Therapy is Personal Training, which is a little known helper of low back pain (and other aches and pains you’re feeling).

Many will use personal training in conjunction with chiropractic to minimize or completely relieve themselves of pain.  However, if you find yourself having issues with daily tasks, you may want to consider physical therapy prior to hiring a trainer unless the trainer is working with your PT or is otherwise qualified to assist with the severity of your condition.


What They do to Help: Stretching and strengthening are common prescriptions when it comes to alleviating your back pain.  The issue comes when you’re struggling with what exercises you should or shouldn’t be doing, ultimately
increasing your risk of re-injuring your back if you aren’t working out with proper form and weight.

And that’s when trainers come into play.

We realize we’re not exactly your first thought when it comes to resolving back issues, but we can minimize or completely eliminate the pain for you by targeting specific muscle groups.  Here’s how:

Low back pain happens when one or more of the muscle groups surrounding the hips becomes weak or tight—particularly the hip flexors, which pull your pelvis forward and put un-needed pressure on the lower back.

The right exercises and stretches will help to loosen the pull of the hip flexors and strengthen your core and glutes, putting everything back into proper alignment and giving you the relief you need.

However, if you’ve worked with chiropractors, PTs, and Personal Trainers to no avail, you may have to look into the final level of Back Pain Professional…


Orthopedic Surgeons/Physiatrists

When to See Them: Visiting an Orthopedic Surgeon is usually seen as a last resort since more invasive methods of pain relief come into play.  We’re talking chronic and severe pain for this level.

From both a cost and recovery perspective we would strongly suggest going through the other professionals we’ve listed so far before deciding on a surgery.


What They do to Help: It’s usually recommended that you meet with your primary physician (who can recommend over the counter pain medications) and consult with them about a referral if you’ve exhausted all other options.

A mid-step before deciding on surgery would be to visit a physiatrist who deals with interventional pain medicine and is trained to do injections, such as epidural steroid injections.  However, if you find that the injections don’t do the trick, then surgery may be something to consider.

According to Spine Health, low back surgery is only capable of correcting anatomical conditions that result in either spinal instability or nerve pinching.  You can determine if you’re a good candidate for the surgery based off imaging results.  However, if there is no identifiable anatomic cause for your low back pain once imaging has been done, then back surgery is not an option. Regardless, the decision on whether or not to undergo back surgery for low back pain is almost always the patient’s decision.

Just keep in mind that surgery to treat low back pain can be a far more extensive type of back surgery, with a longer healing period and a somewhat lower success rate.


Now that you know the 4 most common Back Pain Professionals, who should you be seeing right now?



Kelly Crites

Admin for our Cape studio and the face behind our blogs, Kelly is a year into her new, healthier lifestyle and ready to share the tips and tricks she learns along the way. Current Goal: Making it through an entire Tough Mudder.

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