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Nonsurgical spinal decompression alleviates debilitating pain.

When Ernesto Galindo, 33, was a child, his father moved his family from Mexico to the United States in search of work. The family initially relocated to the West Coast, but as a migrant farmworker, Ernesto’s father took them across the country as he shadowed the crop harvests.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Ernesto Galindo

“We used to live in California when I was younger, but my Dad would follow the seasonal work,” Ernesto recalls. “We traveled to different states, and the last state we came to was Florida. We ended up staying here, and I’ve lived In Florida since 2001.”

For several years, Ernesto followed in his father’s footsteps and worked on farms in the Sunshine State. His work required a lot of bending to pick the various crops, including tomatoes and strawberries. All those years of bending and picking had a negative impact on Ernesto’s back, and he began to experience back pain.

“About six years ago, while I was farming, I started feeling symptoms of back pain,” Ernesto confirms. “At first, I essentially ignored it. I’d rest a little bit, then go right back to work.”

After three years of fighting those nagging back aches, Ernesto changed jobs and became an air conditioning technician. That job requires a lot of bending as well and plenty of twisting and turning, often in tight spaces. Like picking crops, the air conditioning work has also had a negative effect on Ernesto’s back.

“Three years ago, after I started as an AC technician, I began having terrible episodes of back pain two or three times a year,” Ernesto reports. “The most recent episode was in October. It was so painful that I couldn’t even walk. I couldn’t bend. I couldn’t do anything because I was in so much pain.

“It was a stabbing pain. It felt like my back was going to break. I could feel the pain when I bent a little bit, and it would throw me to the ground and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t walk straight; I walked sideways. The pain was so severe, I couldn’t work for three months.”

The pain in Ernesto’s back interfered with his family life as well.

“I like to play basketball with my kids when I get home from work,” he relates. “There’s a park in our community, and every day we would go there and play. But I couldn’t do that while I was in pain. I couldn’t go anywhere really. My family always went places without me, then I would get mad really easily. I was always grumpy because of the pain.”

Ernesto’s doctor performed an examination and ordered an MRI to determine the cause of his intense pain. It was discovered that Ernesto had two herniated discs and resulting pinched nerves.

Due to the severity of Ernesto’s pain, the doctor recommended spine surgery and even went so far as to schedule a procedure. But Ernesto wasn’t convinced that was the direction he wanted to go.

“I did a lot of research on spine surgery and talked to a lot of people who have back problems,” he states. “They were telling me not to have surgery, so I backed out of that surgery at the very last minute.

“Then I did some additional research and saw that Preferred Injury Physicians had very good reviews. So, I went to the office. As soon as I walked in, everybody there saw that I was in pain and quickly attended to me.”

Preferred Injury Physicians is a full-service chiropractic practice with nine locations in Florida including in Brandon, Tampa and Wesley Chapel. The practice is devoted to the nonsurgical treatment of neck and back disorders that can result in severe pain and disability. Travis Utter, DC, owner/operator of Preferred Injury Physicians, remembers Ernesto’s first visit.

“Ernesto came to us in December 2018,” the doctor notes. “He told me he had not been able to work for three months because of his back pain. There was not any accident, injury or single factor that initiated his pain. Rather, it was something that simply progressed over time, likely exacerbated by his occupation.

“Ernesto had gone for a surgical consultation, and it was looking like he might end up needing surgery. However, he did not have health insurance at the time, so that would have been an exorbitant cost for him. He was very interested in our nonsurgical treatment protocol for back pain.”

Sophisticated Solution

Preferred Injury Physicians’ treatment protocol for back and neck pain is a package of therapies that includes nonsurgical spinal decompression, spinal manipulations and physical therapy. Spinal decompression, however, is the cornerstone of the protocol.

“Spinal decompression is an excellent nonsurgical conservative option for dealing with various spinal conditions, the biggest being disc bulges, disc herniations, facet syndrome and even spinal stenosis,” Dr. Utter informs.

Before treatment with spinal decompression, doctors first determine the major factors contributing to the patient’s pain and other symptoms. They do this by correlating the findings from a physical examination to the results of imaging tests such as x-ray or MRI.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Relieved of his back pain, Ernesto says he is “back to normal again.”

“When we examine all of this information, we are able to hone in on the specific level of the spine where the problem is occurring,” Dr. Utter explains. “At Preferred Injury Physicians, we use a very sophisticated spinal decompression table that allows us to isolate a specific level of the spine for treatment.

“Sometimes, there is more than one spinal level contributing to the pain. Our table also allows us to start working on one level, achieve some benefit, then move on to treat the next level.”

The spinal decompression treatment itself is rather simplistic, Dr. Utter asserts, especially in cases of disc herniation, which was Ernesto’s diagnosis. With a herniation, pain comes from compression of the spinal nerves by collapsed vertebrae or by the material from the center of the disc seeping out through the break, or herniation, in the disc.

“The bones of the spine, or vertebrae, along with the bulged or herniated disc can compress the nerves that exit the spine. Spinal decompression pulls those bones apart, but extremely gently,” Dr. Utter describes. “As it starts to separate the bones, it creates negative pressure inside the center of the disc. This negative pressure sucks in the disc material that has herniated onto the nerves.

“By pulling back that disc material, the amount of water and nutrients needed to start effectively controlling, containing and repairing the herniation is increased. Spinal decompression is typically administered in a series of treatments that effectively build upon each other. Over time, there is continued improvement until the patient is stable and can be discharged from care.”

“I Have Zero Pain”

“The spinal decompression treatment took the pressure off of my spine,” Ernesto shares. “I could feel the machine pull me, but it wasn’t painful at all. When I first went to Preferred Injury Physicians, they put electrical stimulation on my back, then a heating pad to loosen my muscles before I went for the decompression. It felt really nice.”

Ernesto completed Preferred Injury Physicians’ entire treatment protocol for his back pain, but he was most impressed by the effectiveness of the spinal decompression. He was especially pleased because decompression is nonsurgical, and he wanted to avoid a surgical procedure.

“As soon as I finished my first spinal decompression treatment, I could walk better,” Ernesto raves. “I was a little sore, but after three or four treatments, I started feeling even better. I could stretch more and my back felt good.

“I was amazed by how quickly I was able to go back to work, because after just two weeks of treatment every day, I went to Dr. Utter and asked him if I could go back to work because I felt that much better.

“I’m also back to playing basketball with my kids. Every day, we go out and play. And I’m a lot less grumpy with my family. I’m back to normal again.”

Ernesto says that before he underwent spinal decompression therapy, his back pain averaged a seven on a scale of one to ten. After two weeks of treatment, his pain level was down to two.
“Right now, I have zero pain,” he enthuses. “But if I overdo it, like if I work really late or work a lot, I might feel a little bit of pain coming on. But then I rest, and the pain goes back to zero again.”

To better accommodate his ongoing back condition, Ernesto has adjusted his work duties to ease the stress on his spine. He’s grateful to his employers for their cooperation, but he credits most of his pain relief to Dr. Utter and his treatment at Preferred Injury Physicians.

“I do a lot of service work now, more troubleshooting,” Ernesto describes. “That’s less heavy work and lifting than the installations I used to do. My company was good to move me to service. It’s a lot easier on my back.

“Going to Preferred Injury Physicians was the best thing I’ve done. They treated me very, very well, and I feel great now. I recommend Preferred Injury Physicians to anybody who has back pain.”

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    • Preferred Injury Physicians

      The time after an auto accident can be overwhelming. You may be facing a number of issues stemming from the accident, and it can be easy to let any injuries you suffered take a backseat. However, it’s important to begin treatment as soon as p... Read More

    • Travis Utter, DC

      Travis Utter, DC, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from the University of Central Florida in Orlando and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic. He received additional training in NCV/EMG from the... Read More