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Published on December 10, 2015

Steps Toward a Better Back

Having gone through back surgery 26 years ago, Chris Bender wanted to address new back pain with more conservative approaches before considering surgery again.

“I know that things are a lot different now, with new minimally invasive techniques. But I still wanted to try more conservative treatments first to see if it could resolve the pain,” said Bender, who works as a nurse anesthetist.

After he had back surgery 26 years ago, Bender got along well until January or February of this year. “I noticed that I needed to begin taking Aleve more frequently. It progressed to daily, and it wasn’t working like it used to.”

By summer, things had ramped up to include not only back pain, but also numbness, tingling and weakness in his legs. He went to his family practitioner, Scott Dierks, MD, at Avera Medical Group McGreevy 69th and Western, who started him on medications. When the pain wasn’t resolved, Dierks referred Bender to Jose Santos, MD, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist with the Avera Medical Group Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Sioux Falls.

An MRI revealed a condition known as spinal stenosis in which degeneration and bone changes in the spine cause a narrowing of the nerve canal, compressing the nerves which send signals to leg muscles.

Physical therapy and medications have succeeded in delaying surgery and easing back pain. Yet the numbness, tingling and weakness in his legs are still there.

Most recently, Bender had electromyography (EMG), a test that measures the speed and strength of nerve signals between two points to pinpoint the source of nerve dysfunction. It will help his surgeon determine the location and extent of any surgical intervention that’s needed.

The Avera Spine Center has designed a step-by-step approach to neck and back pain to streamline care and improve outcomes.

This approach emphasizes conservative, non-surgical methods first, such as medication, physical therapy and altered activities. Surgery is considered if more conservative treatments are not effective.

Pain with limited mobility is the body’s way of shutting down injured areas of the spine to allow it to heal on its own. Addressing symptoms can help patients manage pain and regain mobility during that time of healing, and go on to experience recovery.

Five Steps Toward Healing

When back or neck pain is severe or ongoing, it interrupts your life. The Avera Spine Center is designed to provide streamlined, patient-focused care through five steps toward healing:

  • Step 1: Call the spine navigator at 605-322-8805, who will visit with you to gather your health history and symptoms
  • Step 2: A physical medicine and rehabilitation physician will then discuss treatment options with you. Depending on your situation, this specialist may recommend physical therapy, medication, altered activities, injections, surgery or a combination of treatments.
  • Step 3: Nonsurgical methods, such as physical therapy or altered activities, are tried first to address symptoms and allow the body to heal.
  • Step 4: If nonsurgical methods aren’t effective, surgery is then considered. Five physicians at the Avera Spine Center perform a number of specialized surgeries to address back and neck problems.
  • Step 5: Before surgery, you will receive education about the surgical process from a community educator. Your recovery plan will include physical therapy, activity guidelines and any follow-up procedures.

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

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