When you're injured in a car accident or slip and fall accident, there are a variety of medical providers that can offer care to you. Here's a quick guide.
Orthopedic surgeons are considered to be the ‘gold standard' in orthopedic care. These are medical doctors and their specialty is surgery. Usually at a first appointment the orthopedic surgeon will examine you, take x-rays, and refer you to physical therapy. Thereafter, you'll usually follow up with the orthopedic surgeon once every six weeks or so. Most of the time you're not going to need surgery unless you have a tear of a ligament or a serious injury to a disc in your neck or back. Orthopedic surgeons can prescribe medication, and offer injections which can lessen pain.
Internists/family doctors are often the initial treater after an accident. An internist will examine you, and usually refer you to physical therapy. They may prescribe medication to you as well. Because an internist sees and treats everything from orthopedic injuries to diabetes, etc. it is my layman's recommendation that after an initial visit to an internist, that you see an orthopedic specialist.
Chiropractors are orthopedic specialists but they cannot prescribe medication. Chiropractors are specialists in therapy for the back and neck. Some chiropractors have advanced training in spine. Chiropractors are your day-in, day-out providers. Oftentimes clients will go to chiropractors three times a week getting treatment to reduce their pain and disfunction in their back and neck. Chiropractors offer adjustments to the spine as well as many of the same type of therapy techniques as physical therapists.
Physical therapists offer therapy for orthopedic injuries. Like chiropractors, physical therapists are your day-to-day medical providers that are sometimes going to be seeing you three times a week (initially) to reduce your pain and increase your mobility/functioning. There are many types of therapy, and many different therapeutic techniques. Usually clients don't go to physical therapists without first getting a referral from a doctor. Physical therapists can be very important in your recovery from orthopedic injuries.
Physiatrists are medical doctors that specialize in physical rehabilitation. While they don't perform physical therapy, they refer their patients out to therapy. Physiatrists often prescribe medication and offer injections to their patients to reduce pain and inflammation, and disfunction. Physiatrists don't perform surgery if it is required. As with pain management doctors, the number of different injections and non-surgical procedures that these doctors can offer is growing every year.
Neurosurgeons are surgeons that specialize in surgery on discs in the spine. They can either be the primary doctor on a case or a patient can be referred out to them after an abnormal result on a MRI (such as a protrusion of a disc in the back or neck).
Pain management doctors usually come in to the case some months after treatment has started elsewhere. They are usually consulted after a client has done therapy/chiropractic and a client's pain is not reduced. Pain management doctors are going to offer treatment with prescriptions or injections. There are an ever-increasing number of options that they can offer to patients with persistent pain that doesn't respond to therapy.
The point of this article is to show a client that there are a lot of options available to them. Sometimes a clients' options may be limited by their insurance, but often there are ways to work around these limitations.