Orthopedic Surgeon or Neurosurgeon — Who to See for a Spine Problem

Michael Cluck
2 min readJul 31, 2020


A board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon based in San Jose and Merced, California, Michael Warren Cluck, MD, PhD, is the owner of Bay Area Spine Care and Valley Spine Care and serves as an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of California, San Francisco Department of Orthopedic Surgery. Michael Cluck, MD, PhD, uses conservative and minimally invasive surgical procedures to treat back and neck problems that result from spine disorders.

When patients experiencing back or neck pain visit a primary care physician for evaluation and treatment, they might be referred to an orthopedic spine surgeon or a neurosurgeon if the doctor suspects that the pain is caused by an underlying spinal condition. Although neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons are different, both are considered spine specialists and can diagnose and provide operative and nonoperative treatment for spine problems.

The main difference between an orthopedic spine surgeon and neurosurgeon is that an orthopedic spine surgeon specializes in only treating the spine, while a neurosurgeon treats other conditions affecting the whole nervous system, specifically the brain. All Orthopedic spine surgeons complete a fellowship after residency specializing in spinal disorders. Dr. Cluck completed his fellowship with the “Father of Contemporary Spine Surgery”, Dr. Henry Bohlman at Case Western University.

Conditions such as kyphosis (hunch back), scoliosis (curvature of the spine), and other spinal deformities are often treated by orthopedic spine surgeons who are specifically trained in the biomechanical principals required to treat deformities of the spine. Patients may be better served by seeking out orthopedic surgeons if they have been diagnosed with any of these conditions. Orthopedic Spine Surgeons like Dr. Cluck focus 100% of their time on neck and back surgery whereas neurosurgeons split their focus between the spine and the brain.

Regardless of the specialty of the doctor, patients should verify the training, experience, and outcomes of the surgeon they choose.