The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


What is the difference between a neurosurgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, a physiatrist, and a chiropractor?

All of these doctors are spine specialists. Each approaches the back from a different perspective.

Chiropractors and physiatrists provide conservative care. Neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons will provide conservative care, but can also perform surgical procedures when needed.

Orthopedists complete up to five years of training that focuses primarily on bone problems. A neurosurgeonís seven-year residency training emphasizes the nerves as well as the spinal bones. All neurosurgeons receive extensive training in spinal medicine and surgery during their residency. All have experience in pain management. Most neurosurgeons also take additional advanced training in spine care. If you are referred to a spine specialist for nerve problems like sciatica, you need to ask about their training and experience. In Northern Californian, most neurosurgeons have spent their careers specializing in spine.

P.S. Of all residency training programs, neurosurgery is the longest. In addition to four years of college and four years of medical school, most neurosurgeons complete seven years of residency and one or two years of fellowship.



The information in this site briefly describes issues related to medical treatments, and has been licensed by from Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc., who is solely responsible for said content.  This web site is not a substitute for good medical care or for a consultation with a spine specialist. It should not be used to plan your treatment. The well considered advice of a specialist who has personally examined you is always superior to even the best internet pages.

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Last modified: 07/27/08