Spine Specialist Vs. Primary Care Provider: What’s the Difference?

Dr. Christian Athanassious, a recent guest on the California Work Comp Report Podcast and a trained spine expert, gave us the lowdown on spine exams in workers’ compensation. If you’ve ever wondered how a spine exam might differ from a regular trip to the doctor, then look no further.

Spine specialists look at the exam from the point-of-view of what they can treat and what they can fix: something objective that the spine specialist can take care of. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are looking for something to operate on using surgery. Rather, a spine specialist will search for a structural cause that the specialist can give an answer to, and more than likely predict the outcome for the patient.

Depending on where along the spine the patient is experiencing pain (neck, mid-back, and/or low-back) and how that motion relates to his or her disability, the spine specialist can create a plan for medical care.

The spine specialists also considers how back pain is related to the motion of the upper or lower extremities.

Every spine exam measures the patient’s sensory function, reflex function, and motor strength. This is measured using a system of dermatomes which is how nerves map throughout the body and gives it sensation, and myotomes, which is how the nerves connect to the different muscles within the body.

Once the specialist gets an idea of where the disease or pain is coming from, then he or she can determine the specific nerves that are related to the patient’s pain or disability.

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