APPLETON, Wis. – According to numerous studies, and years of research, health experts say back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In fact, half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
“The back is complicated,” said Brent Meier, MD, a Pain Medicine Physician with ThedaCare Pain Management and Medical Director of Surgical Specialties at ThedaCare. “The way bones, joints, ligaments and muscles all work together can lead to opportunities for injury and pain for many people. We know that pain can impact a person’s life, leading them to miss work, changing family habits such as playing with grandchildren or becoming less physically active which can negatively affect a person’s overall health.”
According to Dr. Meier in older adults, one of the most common sources of lower back pain is Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS), which is a narrowing of the spinal canal, compressing the nerves traveling through the lower back into the legs. More than two million LSS patients nationwide are diagnosed and treated each year. It is generally found in people over the age of 50, and the likelihood of developing LSS increases with age.
Symptoms of LSS include:
- Pain or numbness in the lower back when standing upright
- Pain, numbness, heaviness or tingling in upper legs or buttocks when walking
- Pain when lying down that may be relieved by curling into the fetal position
- Temporary relief when bending forward while sitting or standing as pressure on the spinal cord is released and space in the spinal canal is ‘opened’
- Common actions include finding a chair, leaning over shopping cart, using walker or cane.
“The spinal canal narrows slowly over many years or decades,” explained Dr. Meier. “The disks become less spongy with aging, resulting in loss of disk height, and may cause bulging of the hardened disk into the spinal canal. At the same time, bone and connective tissue within the spinal canal can become overgrown, further narrowing the space for nerves to travel. Eventually there is not enough space; the nerves become compressed and symptoms start”
ThedaCare Now Offering mild®
To provide an option for those suffering from LSS, ThedaCare Pain Management teams are now performing mild® (Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression), if conservative therapies, are not providing adequate relief.
mild® is an outpatient treatment option where the provider creates a small incision in the patient’s lower back where they use a specialized tool to remove small pieces of bone and thickened ligament to restore space in the spinal canal, which reduces compression of the nerves. The procedure typically takes less than an hour. ThedaCare is one of three hospitals in Wisconsin to have access to this advanced procedure.
“We’re proud to offer mild® therapy to our communities,” said Dr. Meier. “It plays an important role in the continuum of care for LSS. For many patients with LSS, medications and injections do not provide adequate and/or long lasting relief and spine surgery is either not an option or not desired; these are the patient for whom mild® can be a game-changer. Results we see include increased standing time and walking distance, less pain and improved mobility. Their activities of daily living often become better. That’s truly our goal for any patient we see – helping them return to the things that make them happy, getting them back to living their best life possible.”
The mild® procedure is one treatment offered by the ThedaCare Pain Management Program. Other treatments include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT)-mental health support
- Medical management
- Ultrasound guided injections
- Infusion therapy
- Epidural steroid injections
- Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) Both the back and knee
- Facet Joint Injections
- Spinal cord stimulation
- Dorsal root ganglion stimulation
- Peripheral nerve stimulation
ThedaCare Pain Management is part of ThedaCare Orthopedic Care, which is comprised of specialists in both orthopedic surgery and non-operative sports medicine, helping providers and patients pinpoint and pursue orthopedic solutions.
Getting Back to Life – Gerry’s Story
“I felt relief almost immediately,” said Geraldine “Gerry” Benz, a patient who has undergone the mild® procedure. “I was able do things around the house again, which was very important to me.”
Gerry, 79, has experienced lower back pain for years due to arthritis. She previously received injections, and wanted to explore other treatment options. After speaking with Dr. Meier and her care team, she learned more about mild®.
“Before, I couldn’t do much of anything, I was in so much pain from simply cooking and cleaning,” she explained. “I knew it was time to try something else.”
After the outpatient procedure, Gerry said there was hardly any recovery time at all. Now she’s moving around better, and living more independently.
“I would recommend the procedure to anyone with lower back pain that is interfering with simple tasks,” she said. “Talk to your doctor. It worked for me, and I am very glad I did it.”
Orthopedic, Spine and Pain Center Update
In August 2020, ThedaCare broke ground on the new Orthopedic, Spine and Pain Center located at the Encircle Health campus in Appleton. The location will be the region’s only comprehensive health center specializing in orthopedic, spine and pain care. The Center is a collaborative effort between ThedaCare and Neuroscience Group to meet growing demand for orthopedic, spine and pain services as Wisconsinites are aging and becoming more active.
The Orthopedic, Spine and Pain Center will include a medical office building, specialty surgery center, and orthopedic and spine hospital, which will include operating suites, 25 inpatient beds, and support services such as imaging, lab, pharmacy and dining. Other features include a warm-water therapy pool, a simulation apartment allowing patients and their families to prepare for life post-discharge, private recovery rooms, a heated patient discharge area and more.
“It’s exciting to see the progress as our state-of-the-art facility begins to takes shape,” said David Corso, Vice President of Orthopedic, Spine and Pain Center-Encircle and ThedaCare Medical Centers-New London and Waupaca. “The new Center will enhance access to specialized experts, offering patients the most comprehensive, integrated care all in one location.”
The 230,000 sq. ft. Center is expected to open in summer 2022. To learn more about the Orthopedic, Spine and Pain Center and take a virtual tour, visit ThedaCareOSP.org.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care
Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.