Back pain is one of the most common medical problems; it affects about eight out of 10 people at some point in their lives.

Back and neck pain can be caused by a variety of issues with the complex and interconnected network of spinal nerves, discs, bones, tendons and muscles of the spine. Problems or irritation with any of these spinal structures can cause localized or radiating pain, tingling or numbness in your back, neck or extremities. In some cases, your balance or ability to walk may be affected.

But the real problem arises when you try to figure who to see for your severe back pain. Should you make an appointment with your family practitioner, a chiropractor, a physical therapist, a spine surgeon? Or should you go straight to the emergency room?

Comprehensive spine care is a new concept in health care that helps solve this problem. At a comprehensive spine care center, a highly skilled spine specialist - often a nurse practitioner or physician's assistant - will conduct a thorough evaluation. This could include a detailed history, physical exam, neurological testing and diagnostic imaging.

Following your assessment, the spine specialist will make a preliminary diagnosis. Common sources of discomfort in the neck and back are strained muscles, arthritis, sciatica, herniated or bulging discs, bone spurs, compressed or pinched nerves, spine trauma or osteoporosis.

From there, the provider will partner with you to create a customized treatment plan. They'll take into consideration your pain level, medical history and lifestyle to find a solution that works for you. This could include a mix of physical therapy, chiropractic care, pain management and perhaps even counseling. If your pain is unresolved through non-invasive methods and its affecting your quality of life, the provider can facilitate a referral to a spine surgeon.

The biggest benefit from comprehensive spine care comes from the time you save by not bouncing from office to office, looking for the right solution for your back pain. Thanks to their narrow focus of care, a spine center can typically see you within a few days, sometimes even the same day. And if you need a referral, they utilize their partnerships with fellow providers to get you seen as soon as possible.

Additionally, your spine specialist is with you throughout your care journey. From your initial assessment to treatment to follow-up, your provider is there as your partner, helping you with education and resources.