Residents across South Carolina or North Carolina who suffer from an attack of back or neck pain often travel to many cities and clinics in their quest for relief of pain symptoms. Along the way, they can receive treatments, diagnostic studies, contradictory advice and treatment that is often way too aggressive for the symptoms they display.
South Carolina Spine Center recognizes the national trend in spine care is to take a Center of Excellence approach, with a multidisciplinary team of spine specialists working together under one roof, emphasizing nonsurgical options.
South Carolina Spine Center is located in Greenwood, SC and includes the expertise of:
Fellowship-training is the highest level of medical education possible. A fellowship in spine means that the specialist has done an additional year of training in a spine center environment learning the most advanced methods of spine care.
Within the same building are spine therapists who help many patients back to activity without surgery. These spine therapists have an internal exercise gym where patients learn specialized stretches to reduce pain symptoms and strengthen the back and neck to make it more flexible and resistant to future strain. This addresses the prevention aspect of the treatment process to reduce future back strain and injury.
All the necessary diagnostic testing from x-rays to MRI, and non-operative treatment is provided at the same location. This is a welcome alternative to the typical fragmented approach to spine care, and eliminates the need for multiple referrals, delayed care, driving around town — and confusion and miscommunication among the specialists involved.
What makes South Carolina Spine Center unique is its emphasis nonsurgical treatment options to back and neck problems. This can include spine-specialized therapy or the use of spinal injections which can relieve pain symptoms. Spinal injections can also provide new diagnostic information to the spine care specialist about what is causing your pain symptoms.
Dr. Boellert is proficient in pain-relieving cervical, thoracic, & lumbar epidural injections, facet injections, medial branch blocks, and radiofrequency ablation as well as sacroiliac joint injections. This includes the new COOLIEF*, the latest technology that uses cooled energy to safely target the sensory nerves causing pain. The COOLIEF* system circulates water through the device to create a larger treatment area and more successful pain relief.
EMG tests provide by the physiatrist can also reveal the extent of neurological problems that may be caused by a herniated disc.
If your back or neck problem requires surgery, the spine specialized neurosurgeons and South Carolina Spine Center already treat the region’s most complex surgical cases. These cases include herniated discs, spinal fractures and spinal tumor. Our surgeons use some of the most advanced instrumentation and spine surgery techniques.
In early 2016, Dr. Greg McLoughlin was the first spine surgeon in the State of South Carolina to use the latest instrumentation to restore proper spinal curvature after fusion surgery. The new VariLift technology enables the surgeon to remove the damaged disc and restore the proper lordosis which lessens the risk of further disc degeneration at disc levels above and below the fusion site. The minimally invasive surgery is performed through a tiny incision with a tubular retractor which involves less blood loss, less time in the hospital and a faster recovery.
Where possible, the spine surgeons at South Carolina Spine Center use of minimally invasive techniques that shorten the incision, reduces blood loss, enables patients to be home the same day and speeds return to activity through a less painful recovery period.
Those patients needing neck surgery can also benefit from new technology in artificial disc replacement. The patient would have to meet criteria to qualify for cervical disc replacement.
In July 2010, South Carolina Spine Center at Self Regional installed the new iCT BrainSuite®, the first of its kind in the Southeast and only the fourth in the nation. This surgical navigation system integrates 3-D images from a CT scanner in the operating room with real time guidance of instrumentation that functions much like a GPS system, but is incredibly more accurate. This surgical navigation technology provides the surgeon with the most advanced visualization of key landmarks during surgery. Neurosurgeons can see images of the spine, discs and nerves during surgery and confirm placement within 1 millimeter. It provides the highest level of precision and accuracy available anywhere in the world, but it’s located right here in South Carolina.
Pain is a signal from the body to the brain that something is wrong. Either the back is too weak, too inflexible, something lifted was too heavy or the wrong body mechanics were used.
But unfortunately, there is great variation in the treatment of back and neck pain. Many times, well-intentioned doctors use methods that are outdated that often worsen rather than help the symptoms. Years ago, for example, doctors treated back pain with bed rest and heavy drugs to mask the discomfort. It was found, however, that this type of treatment was actually damaging to the back, because it caused muscles in the back to get weaker, in turn, causing more strain and pain. Patients became more dependent on drugs and grew more inactive and disabled.
For example, some physicians today still recommend too much rest or inactivity as a treatment for back pain when research has shown that too much bed rest is actually damaging to the body, and merely delays the person’s recovery from back or neck pain. Movement and customized stretches by a therapist can actually restore blood flow to injured tissues from a back strain. Case in point: When a person experiences a charley horse in their leg, they immediately get up to “walk it off” and relief the cramp. But when a person has a back strain, they instead restrict activity. Prudent use of customized spine therapy on the other hand can loosen the soft tissue injury and speed recovery.
Other times, some doctors over-prescribe pain killers and narcotics which in turn makes the patient dependent on these drugs, causing an additional drug dependency problem. In summary, those doctors who focus exclusively on pain symptoms often recommend a course of treatment that is the exact opposite of what the individual needs to recover from the back problem.
The latest medical advances have made it easier for physicians to detect abnormalities in the spine. While this is helpful, some disc abnormalities are simply a common by-product of aging. For instance, some studies have shown that nearly half of healthy people over the age of 40 — with no back pain whatsoever — can have MRIs that would suggest disc problems.
Most patients don’t understand that surgery is not appropriate for back or neck pain that relates to spasm or soft tissue injury. Specialists in non- surgical spine care can resolve these problems with spine therapy or spinal injections that bridge people
South Carolina Spine Center protocols emphasize six weeks of nonsurgical care (absent red flag symptoms like loss of bowel/bladder control or weakness in an arm or leg) before progressing to surgical options.
For those back and neck pain sufferers who have exhausted nonsurgical treatment options, spine surgery may be the next step in resolving pain or serious symptoms like numbness or weakness in a hand or foot. The spine surgeons at South Carolina Spine Center emphasize minimally invasive spine surgery techniques for the benefit of the patient. The smaller incision shortens time in the hospital, lessens blood loss, and speeds their recovery with a less painful return to activity.
If you’ve been told that you need spine surgery elsewhere, it is a good idea to obtain a second opinion. A second opinion from South Carolina Spine Center can provide patients the following benefits:
1. Determine if all possible treatment options have been considered and if there are any other nonsurgical options, such as injection or physical therapy, that can relieve symptoms without the need for surgery.
2. If spine surgery is necessary, what type of spine surgery should be performed. One surgeon may recommend a complex, multiple level fusion while a more proficient surgeon may recommend a less invasive surgery. South Carolina Spine Center also is able to provide artificial disc replacement for certain neck problems.
3. Provide a review of a patient’s detailed history and recent MRI. Those patients who have emergent symptoms can see a spine surgeon within 24-48 hours.
4. Determine if the patient is a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery which can involve a tiny incision that gets the patient home the same day for a faster, less painful recovery.
By having physical medicine doctors, spine neurosurgeons, spine therapists, an exercise gym,
MRI and an injection suite — all under one roof — on the campus of Self Regional Healthcare, the back or neck pain patient no longer has to drive around town. Best of all, communication is improved between the spine care team, which speeds the patient’s return to activity.