Say No Thanks to Surgery

Pain-free decompression therapy relieves neck, lower back pain.

Since she married her husband more than 50 years ago, Amanda “Mandy” Dandy has had the pleasure of calling many places home, including Liberia, Belgium, Canada and a British merchant vessel called the London Citizen.

Amanada playing the piano

Amanda “Mandy” Dandy

“Yes, we’ve lived all over the place,” the 75-year-old native of Hampshire, England, says. “That’s because my husband worked as an engineer evaluating damaged ships for an offshoot of Lloyd’s of London. His work took us all over the world.

“When we lived onboard the merchant ship, that was just after we were married in 1966. We did that for about a year, then went to Liberia. When we finished there we actually lived on a sailboat for about a year while we sailed back and forth to England.”

They met while Mandy’s family was vacationing in her husband’s hometown of Cornwall, England. After years of touring the globe, they finally settled down in Florida in 1985 following Mandy’s retirement from her career as a teacher.

The couple came to Florida from New York, where Mandy also dabbled in real estate. Since their arrival, Mandy has devoted a good deal of time to chronicling her life of adventure for a self-published work intended mostly for family and friends.

The latest chapter of her memoir details some tales of woe related to an exasperating neck problem. Mandy has wrestled with the issue for several years, but this year it intensified to a point where it became downright debilitating.

“This terrible neck pain became so great that I couldn’t move my head to the right or left very easily,” Mandy explains. “And if I tried to do some work on the computer or even just play the piano, it would get worse.

“It hurt even if I tried to sing and caused me to get these terrible headaches. It interrupted my sleep as well. I’ve been to a number of doctors, but no matter who I went to, no one was able to help me. I’ve been getting treatment for a lower back problem from a chiropractor for about 30 years, and he actually stopped trying to treat my neck a couple of years ago because nothing he did made it any better. It was quite exhausting.”

Mandy wasn’t the only family member suffering. Her husband recently underwent back surgery that didn’t completely alleviate his pain. To get some relief, Mandy suggested he visit a practice she read about in Florida Health Care News.

That practice is St. Augustine Spine Center, where the most advanced nonsurgical, drug-free procedures are used to help patients with severe and chronic back pain, neck pain and peripheral neuropathy return to a pain-free, active lifestyle.

This past April, while visiting the practice with her husband, Mandy mentioned her neck pain to one of the doctors, Tyler Albrecht, DC. After examining Mandy’s MRI, Dr. Albrecht recommended she try a course of spinal decompression.

Time to Decompress

Spinal decompression is a pain-free, FDA-cleared treatment that helps restore herniated or bulging discs to a healthier state, thus relieving pain. The procedure reverses the pressure on the injured discs. That allows them to heal, which is better than simply masking the pain through injections or medications.

“Spinal decompression is performed while the patient lies on a specialized table that gently pulls on the two vertebrae on either side of the affected disc, producing a vacuum effect,” Dr. Albrecht informs. “This allows bulging material and nutrients to be drawn back into the disc over time, which lets it rehydrate and heal naturally.

“Advanced technology and computerized load sensors combine to create a gentle, pain-free treatment that avoids the muscle spasm or guarding reflex that is commonly triggered with traditional rudimentary traction or inversion devices.”

“I was thrilled at how well the treatment worked for me.” – Mandy

Patients in St. Augustine Spine Center’s spinal decompression program are typically treated three times a week for about seven weeks. Each decompression treatment lasts about 30 minutes.

For most patients, treatments are combined with other modalities, including manual therapy, rehabilitative exercise, chiropractic care, ice, electrical stimulation and laser therapy, all of which help to speed up the healing process.

Prior to beginning a course of spinal decompression, patients are evaluated thoroughly to determine if the therapy is right for them. In Mandy’s case, that evaluation included a detailed review of an existing MRI of her neck.

From the images, Dr. Albrecht concluded Mandy had been suffering from arthritis and a series of bulging discs in her neck that were causing stenosis, a narrowing of the spaces within the spine that can create pressure on the nerves.

“Some of her symptoms were actually quite common for people we treat with neck pain,” Dr. Albrecht reports. “She said that her head sometimes felt like it was too heavy for her neck and that she felt like she had to hold it up with her hands to keep it from pushing down on her neck too hard.

“She was also having a hard time sleeping because of the pain. She was only getting three or four hours of sleep each night, so she was taking gabapentin to ease her pain, but even with the gabapentin, she was still waking up in pain five to seven times a night. So, I recommended the decompression treatments to try to help provide some relief.”

Prior to beginning spinal decompression treatments, Dr. Albrecht asks each patient to complete a survey detailing the ways their neck or back pain interferes with their daily lives. From that survey, he develops a pain and disability index; the higher the score the more the patient’s life is disrupted by pain.

When Mandy completed her initial survey, her pain and disability index was 35 percent. In addition, she rated her pain as going up to seven or eight on a scale of one to 10. Within a couple of weeks of beginning decompression treatment, however, Mandy began to feel better and her pain scores began to drop.

“Incredible” Results

“The treatments are actually very restful because you simply lie down on a table and the computer does all the work,” Mandy says. “The computer actually increases the pull on you as you go, but it’s done so subtly that you can’t even tell it’s happening.

“As for my response, it was almost immediate. I felt a loosening in my neck that gave me more mobility almost right away. I was still getting occasional headaches at first and my shoulders were still a bit stiff, but after about two weeks all that became much better.”

Dr. Albrecht repeats the pain and disability survey midway through the program and again at the end to ensure the patient is receiving the desired relief. In Mandy’s case, the scores dropped significantly throughout the course of treatment.

“By the time she was done, her pain and disability index was down to 6 percent,” Dr. Albrecht reports. “Not only that, but her pain level went down to zero.

“Her only remaining symptom was some occasional stiffness in the morning, but that usually went away after 10 or 15 minutes. Other than that, she was pain-free the rest of the day. And because the pain was no longer interrupting her sleep, she was able to stop taking the gabapentin, so she responded very well to the treatment.”

Mandy’s response was aided by some light neck and shoulder exercises and a stretching routine that Dr. Albrecht recommended. She said she continues to do those exercises to ensure she enjoys
long-lasting relief.

“They also treated me with an electrical stimulation machine that they placed on my back, neck and shoulder area, and that helped a lot, too,” she adds. “The bottom line is, I’m feeling much better now and sleeping much better.

“When I wake up in the morning now I feel very relaxed, which is incredible to me because I didn’t think there was anybody who could help me with this problem. I feel very fortunate that I was able to find Dr. Albrecht and St. Augustine Spine Center.”

Fixing a Hole

Mary at her desk reading

Mary Lurry

In the competition to draw students to its graduate programs, a small fine arts school such as the Maryland Institute College of Arts can get lost in the shuffle among better-known schools such as Yale, Cornell and Columbia.

That’s why the college turned to Mary Lurry for help.

Mary helps small and large universities build highly specialized graduate programs so they’re not only competitive within the marketplace, but also attractive to students seeking degrees in their specialties.

“Let’s say we have a school that wants to build a graduate program in computer science,” Mary explains. “There are a lot of universities with very highly ranked programs, but there may be something
that most of those programs are missing.

“It’s my job to explain how schools can fill that void. Either that, or we’ll explain that to succeed they need to build a program that includes courses like software development and artificial intelligence, because all good graduate programs have those now.”

One of the benefits of Mary’s job is that, thanks to advances in communication technology, it can be done remotely. That allows this 58-year-old Oklahoma resident to spend part of the year in Florida, where she and her husband have a vacation home.

It was earlier this year, during her most recent visit to the Sunshine State, that Mary decided yet again to look for help in alleviating an aggravating lower back problem that had been irritating her for
more than 20 years.

“I attribute the problem to years of having to carry around heavy boxes of marketing materials all the time,” she says. “I used to travel a lot for my job, both by car and plane, and I think all that sitting for long hours may have contributed to the problem.

“I’m actually semi-retired now, and I thought that once I got off the road I’d start to feel better. Instead, my back problems just got worse, to the point where it was affecting the way I walked, the way I exercised, even the way I slept.

“The pain was so bad that it would wake me up at night, so I started taking nighttime medication about five years ago. I was taking that along with a sleeping aid, which probably wasn’t smart, but it was the only way I could get a few hours of sleep.”

Eager to break that pattern and frustrated that neither standard chiropractic care, steroid injections nor acupuncture had eased her pain, she went in search of a new remedy.

She found what she was looking for at St. Augustine Spine Center.

“I read a bunch of testimonials and watched a video they have about spinal decompression,” Mary says. “I thought to myself, This looks like something more than what I’ve pursued before, so I decided to give it a try.”

Life-Changing Results

Mary soon found herself under the care of Dr. Albrecht, who recommended Mary obtain an MRI of her back to determine the cause of her pain.

“The MRI showed that Mary had several bulging discs and arthritis in her lower back that caused spinal stenosis,” Dr. Albrecht reports. “That put pressure on the nerves, which was the reason for her pain and discomfort. Because she had already tried several other treatments that hadn’t worked for her, we recommended our spinal decompression program.”

Just as Mandy did, Mary went through a typical course of spinal decompression treatments, meaning she was treated three times a week for seven weeks. She describes those treatments as life-altering.

“When I first went to St. Augustine Spine Center, my pain level was probably an eight or nine on a scale of one to 10,” Mary says. “And I have a high tolerance for pain. It hurt so bad that I couldn’t even lift my leg to put on a pair of pants.

“Spinal decompression changed my life” – Mary

“But by the time I was done with my treatments, my pain level was hovering around a two, and that was only because of an unrelated hip muscle problem I’ve had for ages. Other than that, I felt great. And I still do.

“They measure your pain at the beginning of the treatments and then again in the middle and at the end, and my pain steadily decreased as I went through the program, which changed my life. That’s what I tell people because spinal decompression has allowed me to get more rest and feel more relaxed.

“I don’t take any medication for my pain at night anymore, and I’m very happy about that. And I’m happy that I can exercise again. I have a Pilates reformer that I had to give up for a while, but I’m slowly getting back to that.

“I can walk and bend like normal again, and I can’t tell you how nice that feels. It seems like a simple thing, but when you can’t do little things like that without feeling pain you gain a greater appreciation for them. That’s what’s happened with me.

“Spinal decompression changed my life, so I really could not be happier with the care I received from Dr. Albrecht and the staff at St. Augustine Spine Center. I definitely recommend them to anyone struggling with back pain the way I was.”

Mandy’s praise for Dr. Albrecht, his staff and the positive effect spinal decompression made in her life is on a par with Mary’s. She says she doubts she’d be enjoying life as much as she is now had she not discovered St. Augustine Spine Center.

“Dr. Albrecht and his team are just wonderful to work with,” Mandy raves. “One of the things that sets them apart from everyone else is the detail they go into when they first evaluate you.

“You can measure someone’s pain on a scale of one to 10, but what they do is more scientific. It’s really amazing, and I was thrilled at how well the treatment worked for me, which is why I’ve already recommended them to several of my friends.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photos by Jordan Pysz. Spine graphic courtesy of St. Augustine Spine Center. js
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    • St. Augustine Spine Center

      St. Augustine Spine Center's goal is to offer relief to patients whose previous options were to simply suffer with pain, take endless prescription painkillers, or undergo injections or invasive surgeries. Typical patients find spinal decomp... Read More

    • Tyler Albrecht, DC

      Tyler Albrecht, DC, attended Palmer College of Chiropractic in Port Orange, FL, where he graduated summa cum laude and was honored as a presidential scholar. He attended Western Michigan University for his undergraduate studies. In 2011 He comp... Read More

    • Erin Bailey, DC

      Erin Bailey, DC, earned her undergraduate degree in exercise physiology from Harding University. She earned her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida. She is an active member of the Florida Chiropractic Association.... Read More