Say No To Surgery For Back And Neck Pain

Noninvasive spinal decompression relieves herniated or bulging discs.

The unexpected guest wandered onto the deck of Lisa Nettles’ boat in the middle of the night. As it climbed aboard, the guest’s significant weight caused the boat to dip deep into the water. That’s what woke Lisa and her husband from their slumber.

Lisa Nettles

Lisa Nettles

Suspicious, Lisa got out of bed, left her cabin and peeked out from the short flight of stairs leading up to the deck. There, much to her delight, was a 400-pound sea lion lounging on a cushion beneath a blanket of stars above the Galapagos Islands.

“All the animals in the Galapagos Islands are very friendly and not afraid of humans at all, so it was not unusual for sea lions and warm water penguins to just come onto our boat and make themselves at home there,” Lisa explains.

“They’d lounge on the cushions, which was really fun, except that they usually left us with a parting gift that we had to clean up afterward. But, hey, not too many people can say they’ve experienced something like that, so I’m not complaining.”

Lisa and her husband enjoyed that experience in the winter of 2020, when they sailed their 45-foot catamaran from Panama to the Galapagos Islands, about 850 miles to the southwest, and stayed for three weeks before making another stop in French Polynesia on their way to Hawaii.

The latter was the final stop in a long excursion that was launched from their home in St. Augustine in 2019. From there they sailed to the Turks and Caicos Islands, St. Thomas, Grenada and Aruba before crossing the Panama Canal and venturing into the South Pacific.

“We’ve seen and done a lot,” says Lisa, a 48-year-old adventurer who has been sailing the seven seas since she retired from her job in pharmaceutical testing four years ago. 

Unfortunately, not all of those trips have been pleasurable.

Last summer, after she and her husband boated down to the Keys for lobster season, Lisa began to experience back pain the likes of which she’d never felt before. As the trip dragged on, Lisa’s pain grew worse.

“The pain came out of nowhere,” Lisa details. “I didn’t suffer an injury or do anything to trigger it, but it was awful. At its worst, I could not get up out of bed in the morning and put my feet on the floor because it hurt so bad.

“I started every day by taking about 800 milligrams of ibuprofen because that was the only way I could get to the point where I was able to function and do anything. Even then, I was still in a great deal of pain, and it hurt to do almost anything normal.

“I couldn’t even bend over to shave my legs. After a while, sitting became uncomfortable, so going out to dinner wasn’t much fun. And sleeping was very uncomfortable. I couldn’t get comfortable no matter what I did, and I tried everything.”

Lisa’s search for medical help began immediately after she returned from the Keys. That search quickly led her to St. Augustine Spine Center, where she met with Tyler Albrecht, DC, who began his care by ordering an MRI.

The MRI showed that two herniated lumbar discs were the cause of Lisa’s pain. After making that discovery, Dr. Albrecht explained all the treatment options he had for the problem. From the start, one stood above the rest to Lisa.

“I was looking for a nonsurgical option, but I don’t like to take pills and I don’t like needles, so I wasn’t interested in taking pain meds, getting steroid injections or having a discectomy,” Lisa relates. “The best option for me was 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 the 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.”

And it works. As reported in Anesthesiology News, a follow-up of patients receiving spinal decompression for lumbar pain showed that 91 percent were performing “normal daily activities” four years after the treatment.

The study showed that 87 percent were still working or had retired for reasons unrelated to their back pain, and the treatment provided lasting relief from their pain, not temporary relief.

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 to determine whether the therapy is right for them. Through a review of Lisa’s MRI, Dr. Albrecht determined she was a good candidate.

Rapid Results

“We had another trip planned, so I started the treatment in mid-October,” Lisa remembers. “Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to experience positive results. After a couple of treatments, I was already beginning to feel relief.

“I was actually a little surprised by how quickly I began to feel relief, but I was very happy about it. It was so nice to get up in the morning and be able to walk around without pain and to finally get off the ibuprofen.”

As recommended, Lisa completed the full course of treatments. She then moved into a maintenance phase of the program, which includes home exercises, stretching and occasional visits to St. Augustine Spine Center.

“I was going to St. Augustine Spine Center once a month for treatment, and I was glad to do it because I felt so much better,” Lisa exudes. “My back pain has gone away and not come back, so I could not be more pleased with the results.”

Lisa says she is equally pleased with Dr. Albrecht and the caring staff at St. Augustine Spine Center. It’s a group she has already recommended to a few friends who are struggling with back pain and other issues.

“Everyone there is so wonderful and patient,” she concludes. “And I love that they are always willing to answer any questions you might have about anything. In fact, they ask me every time I go there how I’m feeling and if I’ve experienced any pain since my last visit.

“It’s never a matter of, OK, time to get you started on your treatment, and that’s it. They really care about how you’re feeling and what impact the treatment is having on you. And they always want to know if anything else is bothering you that they can help with.

“They’re very kind and extremely thorough. They do a great job of monitoring your progress and they’re always up to date on everything from one visit to the next. Being treated by the folks at St. Augustine Spine Center was a great experience.”

Fore-Tunate Son 

Most recreational golfers rarely post an 18-hole score lower than 100 and therefore strive to play what is known as bogey golf, a level of play in which shooting one shot over par per hole is considered an achievement, not a failure.

Jeff McCubbin

Jeff McCubbin

“That’s why my buddies and I always say that bogeys are our friends,” says Jeff McCubbin, who typically shoots in the 90s. “Double bogeys and triple bogeys not so much, but we’re usually pretty happy with a bogey.”

Jeff, 51, was a late arrival to the golf scene. He didn’t pick up the game until about 12 years ago after his friends urged him to give it a try. They told him he’d quickly fall in love with the game, and they were right.

“Once you hit that first good shot where the ball actually does what you want, it almost becomes addicting,” Jeff explains. “It’s a lot of fun, and I have a few different friends that I play with now on what is pretty much a weekly basis.”

Not long ago, Jeff’s ability to make the ball do what he wanted became greatly compromised by stiffness and soreness in his back. Before long, those issues intensified to where they forced Jeff to alter his work schedule.

“I work for a moving and storage company, and I used to do a combination of things, working in the office and also on the trucks when the guys needed help moving things,” Jeff relates. “The moving part is what led to my back issues.

“I’ve been working at this company for 30 years, and everything we move is very large. We’re always moving these big pieces up and down stairs and things like that, so we get stuck in a lot of awkward situations where you end up putting a lot of strain on your back.”

About a year ago, Jeff’s back pain became so severe that he was forced to stop helping the movers and relegated almost exclusively to office work. He then began to experience neck and shoulder pain and weakness in his left hand.

“My left hand became so weak I couldn’t even clip my fingernails,” Jeff elaborates. “I could still move my fingers and that sort of thing, but there was no feeling or strength in my left hand whatsoever.”

Jeff fought through the back, neck and shoulder pain and weakness in his hand for a few months but eventually sought advice from his primary care physician, who ordered an MRI and was somewhat stunned by the results.

“Based on how I was feeling I knew there was something serious going on, but after the doctor looked at the MRI, he sat me down and said, You need to get treatment for this and you need to get it immediately,” Jeff remembers.

“They told me my neck was worse than my lower back and that I had herniated and degenerative discs. They said that was the reason I was experiencing so much pain and why my hand was going numb and feeling so weak.”

Jeff’s physician recommended a chiropractor in Gainesville. However, Jeff’s wife, based on reports from friends, suggested he go to St. Augustine Spine Center. Jeff followed his wife’s advice and is glad he did.

Time Heals 

“During my very first visit there, Dr. Albrecht looked at my MRI and told me he thought I was a good candidate for spinal decompression,” Jeff recalls. “He actually got me started on the treatment that day, and the results have been great.”

Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

Those results didn’t come automatically. Jeff says that once he began the seven-week program, it took several weeks before he began to notice a change in his condition. Little by little, though, he began to feel better.

“With my left hand, the first thing I started to feel was some tingling, which was a sign the feeling was coming back,” Jeff reports. “After that, I noticed more improvement every couple of weeks, and the ability to use my hand again kept getting better and better.

“Now my hand is almost back to normal, and my back and neck are feeling a lot better. The pain in my neck is all but gone. I can play golf without pain and even go to the gym and work out, which is great.

“I will say, though, that I’m a little more cautious about what I do at work and the gym and how I do it. I’m not moving furniture and big heavy things at work anymore, and I exercise with light weights to be safe.”

Jeff’s physical fitness routine includes a series of light neck and shoulder exercises and a stretching regimen recommended by Dr. Albrecht. The exercises and stretches are part of a home maintenance routine Jeff is following to remain pain-free.

“I’m feeling so much better now than I did before, and I don’t want to lose what I’ve gained,” Jeff concludes. “The difference is like night and day, and I can’t thank everyone at St. Augustine Spine Center enough for that.

“Everyone there is absolutely fantastic. They were all wonderful through the entire process, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to get these results without having to take pain medications, get injections or go through surgery. I’m absolutely thrilled with that.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photos by Jordan Pysz. 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

    • 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