3 Questions To Ask Before Referring To A Spine Specialist

If you’re a medical provider and your patient has a spine-related injury, then it might be a good idea to refer him/her to a spine specialist.

Before you write the referral, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can the patient return to work without exacerbating his/her back injury?
  2. Is further treatment for the spine necessary?
  3. Could the patient’s back injury benefit from a different type of physical therapy, or a different type of medication?

If you can’t answer these answer these questions, then it may be best to refer your patient to a spine specialist who can.

For more information, check out our “Spinal Injuries in Work Comp” episode of our podcast.

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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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