Brain Specialists & Spine Specialists: What’s the Difference?

October 6, 2021 | Brain and Spine Specialists

Often in the world of Neurology, brain specialists and spine specialists are lumped into one category. The fact of the matter is that the two specialists have some similarities but many differences as well. With complex symptoms and diagnoses becoming more prevalent in the field of Neurology, the lines between the two specialty types tend to become blurred depending on the condition. One thing that sets Brain & Spine Specialists apart from other practices is that our physicians specialize in conditions associated with both the brain and with the spine. Below we will break down each of the two fields our neurologists specialize in to explore their resemblances and discover what sets one apart from the other.

Brain Specialists

A Brain Specialist is a healthcare professional specializing in diagnosing and treating conditions of and relating primarily to the brain. These physicians study the brain and how it interacts with the body and responds to outside stimuli.

Types of Brain Specialists

When it comes to Brain Specialists, there are three subcategories of doctors that cover everything from research and lab studies to diagnosing and treating patients. Neurologists use tools such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and specialized brain-mapping equipment to conduct patient tests and interpret results for neurological disorders such as epilepsy, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and chronic pain. Similarly, neuropharmacologists use MRIs and specialized brain-mapping equipment when studying brain activity. However, unlike neurologists who treat patients, the purpose usually is to conduct research for pharmaceutical companies or other research facilities. Neuropharmacologists mainly study how the brain responds to different medications used to correct brain function. On the other hand, when medication is not enough, we see the presence of another Brain Specialist, the neurosurgeon. Neurosurgeons are experts at making surgical repairs to the brain, focusing on brain conditions and disorders that require surgery, such as cancer, nerve damage, or paralysis.

When to see a Brain Specialist

Your doctor may refer you to a Brain Specialist if you are experiencing any symptoms that could be caused by an underlying neurological condition. These symptoms include but are not limited to memory loss, neuropathic pain, loss of balance, seizures, migraines, and/or loss of vision. Other reasons to see a Brain Specialist are if you have multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, or if you have had a stroke.

Spine Specialists

A Spine Specialist is a healthcare professional that specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions of the spine. Using various methods and treatment options, these specialists are skilled at diagnosing and treating diseases and disorders causing patients back pain and discomfort.

Types of Spine Specialists

When it comes to matters of the spine, there are many different “specialists” that you can be referred to. Chiropractors practice a form of alternative medicine, or complementary medicine, by adjusting and manipulating the spine manually to treat neuromuscular disorders that cause irritation to spinal nerves. Physiatrists, also known as PM&R physicians, treat conditions of the spine with physical medicine and rehabilitation for whole body treatment. Similarly, physical therapists use massage, exercise, and heat treatment to address injuries and improve the patient’s quality of life without medication or surgery. Another form of spine specialist, orthopedic surgeons, are trained in diagnosing and treating spinal conditions, fractures, trauma, and arthritis. Though specializing in surgical treatment, orthopedic surgeons can also treat some conditions without surgery. Neurosurgeons are physicians specializing in surgery involving the nervous system. Their specialties include so much more than just conditions of the brain. They are experts at diagnosing and treating disorders of the spinal column and spinal cord.

When to see a Spine Specialist

Your doctor may refer you to a Spine Specialist if you are experiencing symptoms that cause chronic upper and/or lower back pain. Pain is considered chronic if it persists for three months or longer. Though on its own pain doesn’t warrant seeing a specialist, when accompanied by any of the following symptoms, pain can be a key indicator of an underlying issue. Trouble controlling bathroom urges, leg weakness, pain traveling down the leg, changes in the sensation of legs and feet, fever and/or unexplained weight loss can all be common symptoms of spine disease/disorder.

Talk to your Doctor

Both Spine and Brain Specialists are experts in their fields. Though there are several differences between the two specialties, the main similarity is their common goal of diagnosing, studying, and treating their patients’ head, neck, and back pain so that they may have a higher quality of life. These similarities enable our physicians to be experts in both specialties. Talk to your doctor today to see if a referral to Brain & Spine Specialists is right for you!