The Top Five Reasons Why You Need to Consult a Neurologist
- You were involved in a car accident
Persistent neck and back pain are the most common complaints following a motor vehicle accident. Most people will consult either a chiropractor or their family physician for evaluation and treatment of these injuries. These are not bad choices, but are they your best choice?
If you don’t respond to the treatment advised by your chiropractor or family physician, odds are that they will refer you to a neurologist for further evaluation. So why not start there? Why not obtain a comprehensive evaluation from an expert in neck and back injury and explore all of your treatment options at the start?
- You injured your neck or back at work
Work related neck and back injuries are even more likely to require a neurologist than are injuries from motor vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, these referrals are more often made to orthopedic surgeons than they are to neurologists.
Why is this unfortunate? There are a number of reasons.
- Orthopedic surgeons are surgeons.
Most surgeons tailor their examinations to detect a condition that can be treated surgically. They have little interest and even less training in detecting non-surgical conditions.
- Neurologists are better diagnosticians.
The training for neurology includes the full range of conditions causing neck and back pain. Neurologists are therefore more likely to perform a more thorough evaluation and explore all treatment options.
- Neurologists are skilled in disability evaluations.
Most neurologists are familiar with impairment ratings and are likely to optimally assess the appropriate level of impairment for your injury. Your family physician may lack these skills.
- You may have to live with your first choice.
In the worker’s compensation system, the first physician you choose is often recognized as your treating physician. Changing physicians requires approval from the worker’s compensation insurer and may be difficult to get.
The evaluation and treatment of headache can be complicated. While not all headaches require evaluation by a neurologist, the following headache types are good indications for consulting a neurologist:
- Persistent Headache
Most benign tension type headaches will last for a few hours to a few days at most. Headaches lasting longer than this warrant evaluation, particularly if the headache is progressively increasing in severity.
- Severe Headache
The headache from a ruptured aneurysm producing a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is typically described as the worst headache of your life. This is a life-threatening condition and requires emergency evaluation. Fortunately, not all severe headaches are due to SAH. Not being life-threatening, however, doesn’t lessen the pain. Escaping that pain requires identification of the pain’s cause.
- Frequent Headache
Even headaches that are not severe can be disruptive if they are frequent. Determining the cause of the headache is preliminary to designing a plan to reduce the headache frequency.
- Persistent Neck or Back Pain
Nothing will disrupt life more than unrelenting pain. This is by design. Pain is our body’s way of demanding attention for what is often a serious problem. Pain may be the harbinger of something as serious as cancer or as benign as a persistent myofascial spasm. Whichever it is, pain is an early warning system that we ignore at our peril.
- Onset of Weakness in an Arm or Leg
The sudden loss of strength in an arm or leg without warning is usually consequent to a loss of blood flow. The lack of blood flow may occur in the brain, representing a stroke, or may result from an embolus occluding blood flow directly into the arm or leg. Either condition represents an emergency.
The gradual loss of strength can occur with or without pain and with or without an accompanying loss of sensation. While these conditions do not usually constitute emergencies, they are usually serious and require urgent neurological evaluation.