After receiving a herniated disk diagnosis, Brett Miller, of Richfield, feared he would need spine surgery. But thanks to the comprehensive SpineCare team at the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Orthopaedic, Sports and Spine Center in Menomonee Falls, it never came into play.

“Fortunately, 80 to 85 percent of herniated disks can be treated without surgery,” said P. Andrew Nelson, MD, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and MCW faculty member. “Research shows there’s a range of successful nonsurgical options.”

Brett’s ordeal began innocently enough in March 2016 when he stood up after having a cup of coffee and experienced excruciating pain in his right thigh. “It was a nine on a scale of one to 10,” he said. “I couldn’t sit, lie down or sleep for days.”

An MRI revealed a herniated disk was compressing a nerve root, causing the thigh pain. “It’s not unusual for a spinal nerve impingement to be felt down the leg,” Dr. Nelson said.

Treatment began with a spinal steroid injection, administered by David deDianous, MD, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and MCW faculty member.

“The procedure takes about 10 minutes,” Dr. deDianous said. “A fluoroscope or video X-ray guides the needle to the disc herniation area, and a contrast material visible on X-rays confirms the steroid will flow around the herniation and nerve root involved.”

Within hours, Brett felt like a new man. “I felt so good I wrote a thank-you note telling them I felt alive again after two weeks of absolute misery,” he said.

The recovery concluded with physical therapy sessions led by Kalin Albrecht, DPT, and Christopher Wichert, DPT. “We assess how patients work, sleep or even how they play with their kids,” Albrecht said. “We dissect their daily activities to develop a personalized therapy program.”

An avid runner, swimmer and hiker, Brett faithfully followed his therapy regimen at home — a key to his quick recovery. His motivation? Two active teenage boys. “I have to stay in shape or they’ll kick my butt,” he said.

The seamless team approach at SpineCare impressed Brett. “Everyone knew what was going on and they genuinely cared about me,” he said.

SpineCare offers physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, injection specialists and spine surgeons. “We’re all in one suite and can communicate easily,” Dr. Nelson said. “We truly take a team approach to spine care.”

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