Neurosurgeon or Orthopedic Surgeon: How to Choose the Right Surgeon for You

Neurosurgeon or Orthopedic Surgeon: How to Choose the Right Surgeon for You

Many years ago, spine surgery was performed primarily by neurosurgeons. Today, however, spine surgery is often performed by either a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon. And while both are very knowledgeable and qualified to perform spine surgery, there are some differences that can be helpful to understand when making a decision on who you choose for your back or neck pain treatment and care.


Many people think neurosurgeons only operate on the brain. While they do perform brain surgery, the majority of operations performed by neurosurgeons across the U.S. today are spine surgeries! That’s because neurosurgeons specialize in surgery of any area of the human nervous system, including:

Doctor showing anatomical spine in clinic
  • Brain
  • Spine and spinal cord, including the neck
  • Nerves

Neurosurgeons, who are either medical doctors (MD) or doctors of osteopathic medicine (DO), gain experience during a 5 to 7 year residency program which focuses on diagnosing and treating neurological conditions both surgically and non-surgically. Training covers a variety of disorders ranging from the brain, to the neck, and down to the tailbone, as well as an understanding of the joints in the neck and back.

Additionally, neurosurgeons are trained to perform procedures inside the lining of the spinal canal (called the dura). Neurosurgeons who wish to gain even more advanced training, may elect to do a post-graduate fellowship in spine surgery, brain surgery, or both.

Read more about Dr. Fayaz’s training in neurosurgery.

Orthopedic Surgeons

An orthopedic surgeon is also an MD or a DO, and completed specialty training. They gain experience during a 4 to 5 year residency program where they are trained in the entire skeletal structure, including the spine, as well as muscles, tendons and joints throughout the body. An orthopedic surgeon may choose to focus on a specific area of the body or have a specialty such as trauma, joint surgery, or sports medicine.

Some orthopedic surgeons specialize exclusively on spine surgery while others may focus their practice on the diagnosis and treatment of bone and joint disorders.

Choosing the Right Surgeon for Your Back or Neck Surgery

When you are experiencing back or neck pain, Dr. Fayaz recommends you first visit with your primary care provider to discuss possible causes and non-surgical solutions to your back pain or neck pain. If the pain continues, your primary care doctor can order images of your spine that can help with a diagnosis, such as X-rays or an MRI.

Once the images are available, you can schedule a consultation with either a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in spine surgery. Don’t be afraid to ask the surgeon questions regarding his or her training, focus of the practice, and experience with any procedures that are recommended.

Dr. Fayaz specializes in back and neck procedures that can reduce pain. If you are in the greater Houston area, including The Woodlands, Spring, and Conroe, and you believe that you need to be seen by a spine specialist, contact us to schedule an appointment.