Ask Dr. Nick Wills: What Steps Does Summit Take To Manage Spine Pain Safely?

Spine problems are about pain. Summit has long recognized the problem with controlling pain through opiate medications, and Dr. Wills discusses Summit’s strategy for managing back pain in safer ways.

manage spine pain

“When people are in pain, they want to feel as if someone cares,” says Summit spine surgeon Dr. Nick Wills. “At Summit, our approach to manage spine pain differentiates us from other spine practices in the Twin Cities.”

A differentiated approach

Excellent care begins with highly trained specialists who stay at the forefront of medical advances with a commitment to the gold standard of care. “Even if all doctors were created equal—and I don’t think they are—we have built an approach to care around our physicians’ skills, and that approach is what differentiates us,” he explains.

Seeing a specialist quickly

Summit’s approach to care begins with patient access. “When someone calls for an appointment, we don’t want them to wait for six weeks to see us,” states Dr. Wills. “That means six more weeks of pain for the patient—pain depletes you and makes everything worse. That patient is going to be sleep deprived and unhappy and depressed. We want to get that patient in as soon as possible. If we can relieve acute pain sooner, it is less likely to become a chronic problem.

Starting with non-surgical solutions

“If access is our first priority, having the right care at the right time is our second priority,” he continues. “Because most spine pain is successfully treated without surgery, we offer a depth of expertise in nonoperative modalities to get patients better. Our nonoperative spine physicians outnumber our spine surgeons. Unless someone presents with symptoms that require immediate surgery to prevent lasting nerve damage, we’ll begin with conservative treatments to relieve pain. Most patients recover without needing surgery. In other cases, nonsurgical treatments can calm pain symptoms until we are certain that surgery is appropriate.”

Manage spine pain for surgery patients

In cases requiring surgery, Summit’s anesthesiologist, Dr. Doug Dubbink, has created intraoperative protocols that employ an array of non-opioid medications to manage spine pain and keep patients as comfortable as possible. “We are using a multimodal approach to pain management,” says Dr. Wills. “These include a variety of non-opioid options like numbing medicine, IV Tylenol—that you won’t find in a hospital setting, and Celebrex to calm the initial pain so that it never spikes.”

Outcomes show success

The success of Summit’s pain management approach is reflected in patient outcome scores. “According to the Oswestry Disability Index, which is the gold standard for pain measurement, a spine surgery is deemed successful if patient pain decreases by a delta of 13 points,” says Dr. Wills. Then he grins. “Our delta is 30 to 40 points; that is a significant rate of pain resolution. We like being overachievers. But really, it is our patients who are overachieving. We believe that if we see people in a timely manner and take care of them properly and thoughtfully while working to decrease their pain medicine intake and their pain overall, we can deliver better outcomes. That’s the beauty of our practice: we’ve spent hours devising strategies and protocols and a comprehensive approach that is designed to get people better faster.”

Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise

Summit Orthopedics’ Spine Care program is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for the comprehensive expertise of our patient-centered care. Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action.

Start your journey to a healthy spine. Find your spine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a spine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

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  • Nicholas Wills MD

    Nicholas Wills, M.D.

    “I understand the concern of athletes to get back to their sport and working in combination with our therapists helps them there.”

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  • Douglas Dubbink MD

    Douglas A. Dubbink, M.D.

    “My goal is to improve my patient’s surgical experience. I strive to provide calm gentle reassurance for patients who are anxious about anesthesia and ensure that every patient is skillfully cared for throughout their entire procedure. When a patient awakens after surgery and openly wonders why they were so nervous previously, I know I’ve done my job.”

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