Oakwood offers new 'MILD' treatment for chronic back pain

A new procedure in place at Oakwood Healthcare System offers a ‘mild’er treatment for chronic lower back pain.

Called MILD—Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression—it is an alternative to open or endoscopic surgery that had been the norm when methods such as anti-inflammatory drugs or steroid injections have failed.

“The patient gets discharged the same day,” said Dr. Nilesh Patel, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and medical director of the Oakwood Spine Program.
The new treatment is particularly effective in easing Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (LSS), a degenerative, age-related narrowing of the lower spinal canal that causes pressure on the nerves and leads to pain and immobility. The condition affects as many as 1.2 million Americans every year, said Patel.

“What happens is, over time, the ligaments will thicken, the joints will enlarge or you’ll get bone spurs and the discs can bulge. The combination of these things leads to a narrowing of the space for the nerves,” he said. “We see this problem in people who are thin, people who are heavy, people who are sedentary as well as people who are very active. It occurs in all portions of the population.”

The condition causes numbness, weakness and pain in the legs and cramping that gradually gets worse when walking or standing, but can be temporarily alleviated by sitting down or leaning forward. Traditionally, the condition was treated through anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy or steroid injections. If those didn’t work, patients had the choice of a laminotomy—a partial removal of the lamina, a plate of bone in the vertebra—a laminectomy—the removal of an entire lamina and the ligaments attached to it—or a spinal fusion.

The MILD procedure allows doctors to operate through a tube inserted through a half-inch incision in the spine that allows them to remove small pieces of bone or tissue.

“We can thin-down the ligament and create more space, alleviating the cause of the condition—not just the symptoms of it,” said Dr. Dr. Razmig Haladjian, a pain management specialist with the Oakwood Healthcare System (OHS) who has offices in Brownstown and Dearborn. “Many patients report immediate relief.”

Ed Wing is one of those. The retired Monroe resident said he had trouble walking before the procedure—his gait was awkward and he had to stop frequently because he became overly tired. It was at the point, he said, where he didn’t want to go out and do anything. He had the procedure in March and is pain-free today.

“It’s made me a lot more active,” said Wing. “Before I just didn’t want to do anything. It’s very stimulating to be able to go out and do what you used to be able to do.”