I hurt my back at work and now I'm supposed to see a doctor. I don't really have a regular doctor. When it comes to finding the right back doctor, what should I really look for?

Most patients want a physician who has good credentials, experience, and a positive bedside manner. Choosing a physician may depend on the type of insurance or the third party payer plan you have.

If you have filed a Worker's Compensation (WC) claim, you may be directed by Worker's Comp to a list of physicians approved or associated with WC. This could be a primary care physician who is a family practice physician. Or it may be an orthopedic surgeon or occupational medicine specialist.

You'll want someone who can listen to you, take your symptoms seriously, and explain both the injury and the treatment plan to you. A good examination and an accurate diagnosis are needed to form the best management or intervention approach. If you need more specialized services, the primary care physician can refer you to the right person.

In a recent survey of patients with work-related back pain, most patients valued effectiveness of care more than bedside manner. Patients who were satisfied with their care were more likely to get back to work and return to work sooner.

Patients seemed to respond better with health care that was delivered by a chiropractor, physical therapist, or surgeon. This type of treatment was more active than the passive care offered by nonsurgical medical staff.

Reference: 

Richard J. Butler, PhD, and William G. Johnson, PhD. Satisfaction with Low Back Pain Care. In The Spine Journal. May 2008. Vol. 8. No. 3. Pp. 510-521.

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