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Healthcare Providers and Specialists

Who treats conditions of the spine, shoulder, and pelvis?

Conditions of the spine, shoulder, and pelvis may be treated by your healthcare provider or other medical specialists. Several healthcare providers from different specialties may be involved your care. This is important in managing the symptoms of a condition, especially because some symptoms are chronic or may change in severity over time. Some of the more common medical professionals involved in the treatment of spine, shoulder, and pelvis conditions may include the following:

Primary care healthcare provider

A primary healthcare provider has specialized education and training in general internal medicine, family practice, or another first-level-of-care area. Primary healthcare providers provide the following:

  • Routine healthcare (including annual physical exams and immunizations), health promotion, and disease prevention 

  • Treatment for acute medical conditions

  • Care for conditions that may become more serious or chronic

While your primary healthcare provider may treat and diagnose your disease, he or she may refer you for more specialized treatment of certain aspects of a disease.


Neurology is the branch of medicine that specializes in the treatment of disorders of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. The healthcare provider who specializes in neurology is called a neurologist. After completing medical school, healthcare providers specializing in adult neurology complete one year of residency in internal medicine and at least three years of neurology residency.


Neurological surgery is the branch of medicine that provides both operative and nonoperative management of disorders that affect the central and peripheral nervous systems, including their supportive structures and vascular supply, and the operative and nonoperative management of pain. Neurological surgery encompasses disorders of the brain, meninges, skull, and blood supply. The surgeon who specializes in neurological surgery is called a neurosurgeon. Neurosurgeons also do spine surgery for conditions, such as spinal stenosis, herniated disks, and disk degeneration.

Orthopedic surgeon

The healthcare provider who specializes in bone and joint injuries and disorders is called an orthopedic surgeon, or an orthopedist. Orthopedists specialize in the musculoskeletal system. This includes identifying and treating an injury, providing rehabilitation to an affected area or function, and advising on how to reduce more damage.

The orthopedist will have completed medical school, a residency in orthopedic surgery, and possibly some additional specialized training. After becoming licensed to practice medicine, the orthopedic surgeon may become board-certified by passing both oral and written exams given by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Many orthopedic surgeons choose to practice general orthopedics. Others specialize in certain areas of the body. This might include foot, hand, shoulder, spine, hip, or knee, or in a specialized area of orthopedic care, such as sports medicine and trauma medicine. Some orthopedists may specialize in several areas and may work with other specialists, such as neurosurgeons or rheumatologists, in caring for patients.


Physical medicine and rehabilitation is also known as physiatry. It is a medical specialty that involves the process of restoring lost abilities for a person who has been disabled as a result of disease, disorder, or injury. Physiatry provides integrated, multidisciplinary care aimed at recovery for the whole person by addressing the patient's physical, psychological, medical, vocational, and social needs. The healthcare provider who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation is called a physiatrist.


A rheumatologist is a healthcare provider who specializes in the treatment of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases that may affect joints, muscles, bones, skin, and other tissues. Most rheumatologists have a background in internal medicine or pediatrics and have additional training in the field of rheumatology. They are specially trained to identify many types of rheumatic diseases in their earliest stages. This includes arthritis, many autoimmune diseases, musculoskeletal pain, disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and osteoporosis. In addition to four years of medical school and three years of specialized training in internal medicine or pediatrics, a rheumatologist has had an additional two or three years of specialized training in the field of rheumatology. A rheumatologist may also be board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.


Anesthesiology is the medical specialty gives medicines to control pain and support life functions before, during, and after surgery. The healthcare provider who specializes in anesthesiology is called an anesthesiologist.

An anesthesiologist has completed four years of postmedical school training in anesthesia. This is in addition to the required four years of medical school. Anesthesiologists usually further specialize in certain surgery specialties, such as neurosurgical anesthesia.

Online Medical Reviewer: Moloney Johns, Amanda, PA-C, MPAS, BBA
Online Medical Reviewer: Ogiela, Dennis, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2016
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