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Should I Choose a Neurosurgeon or Orthopedic Surgeon for My Back Surgery?

Sep 01, 2023
Should I Choose a Neurosurgeon or Orthopedic Surgeon for My Back Surgery?

Should I Choose a Neurosurgeon or Orthopedic Surgeon for My Back Surgery?

Physical therapy and medication are often enough to alleviate back pain symptoms, but not everyone with back pain is so lucky. 

For people with chronic back pain that doesn't seem to respond to medication or physical therapy, surgery might be the last resort to relieve their pain. 

If this is you, the type of surgery you get and who you get it from depends on various factors, from the cause of your pain to your health status. The first step is often deciding between a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon for your back surgery. While both specialists can perform back surgeries, they approach the procedure from different angles.

At NeuroSpine Center in Tampa, Florida, Dr. Phillip Henkin and our team understand the importance of carefully considering your options for back surgery.

This blog explores these two specialties' differences and guides you through this crucial decision.

Understanding the problem

Your spine is a complex structure of bones, muscles, nerves, and ligaments. These different parts can lead to varying issues. Here's how each piece plays a role in the development of back pain.


When your vertebrae are affected, it can lead to conditions like spinal stenosis.


Conditions like sciatica stem from nerve-related problems.

Muscles and ligaments

Strains and tears in your muscles and ligaments can lead to chronic pain.

Understanding which part of your back is affected helps you narrow down which specialist to consult.

Symptoms and diagnosis 

Back pain symptoms can range from a sharp, stabbing pain to a dull, continuous ache. Some common conditions that may lead to surgery include:

  • Degenerative disc disease: the breakdown of discs between vertebrae
  • Spinal fractures: might require stabilization through surgery
  • Scoliosis: an unusual spine curvature that may require surgical correction

Accurately diagnosing the cause of your pain is the first step for effective treatment and choosing the right type of surgeon.

The roles of neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons

Neurosurgeons specialize in surgeries involving the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. Their expertise includes:

  • Complex spinal disorders such as tumors or congenital deformities
  • Nerve issues like nerve entrapment or nerve injuries
  • Spinal cord problems like trauma or degeneration of the spinal cord itself

On the other hand, orthopedic surgeons focus on the musculoskeletal system, including bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Seek an orthopedic surgeon for:

  • Joint issues such as joint replacements.
  • Bone problems like fractures or deformities.
  • Soft tissue concerns like tendon or ligament tears

Understanding the specific nature of your back condition and the expertise of each type of surgeon will guide you in choosing the right specialist for your surgery.

Factors to consider when making the decision

Choosing the right surgeon involves several factors:

  • Nature of the condition: Is it primarily a nerve or a bone/muscle issue?
  • Surgeon's experience: Look at the surgeon's track record, success rates, and subspecialty training
  • Consultation and second opinions: It can be valuable to consult with both types of specialists

Consulting with the specialists at NeuroSpine Center can help you navigate this decision, providing personalized recommendations based on our extensive experience in back surgeries.

What to expect from surgery

Being prepared for the surgery itself can ease your concerns. Preparation involves medical evaluations, pre-surgical instructions, and potential lifestyle changes.

Understanding the process and length of the surgery can be calming during the surgery, so ask as many questions as you can beforehand. 

Choosing between a neurosurgeon and an orthopedic surgeon is complicated. It requires careful consideration of your specific diagnosis, the surgeons' expertise, and your comfort level with the treatment plan. 

At NeuroSpine Center, Dr. Henkin and our team of professionals are committed to guiding you through this complex decision, offering a customized approach that aligns with your individual needs. Schedule an appointment online today or call 813-534-4945.