'MILD Procedure' helps patients with lower back pain

An example of one of the MILD procedures.
An example of one of the MILD procedures.

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - James Salter said he had problems standing up. He has to bend over when he walks and always depends on a walker or a cane - all because of a protruding disc and a compressed nerve, but that's not the case any more.

"I've cut down on my pain medications and that's pretty big, and so I'm more erect in my posture. I was pretty bent over when I walked and when I stood up especially", said Salter.

Dr. Jim Thacker did the procedure.

"On July 3rd, James, you scored a 88% disability. Okay, after our procedure now, he's now scoring at a 36%. So, that is a significant change in his condition."

Carolyn Woodyard's story is similar. She has arthritis and a bulging disc in her lower back. She said she couldn't shop without leaning on a shopping cart - her situation has also changed.

"I can walk, without leaning on the cart. I feel so good I almost overdo sometimes, because there's things I want to do," she said.

Her disability rating scores were cut in half, according to Dr. Thacker.  "Both patients were in severe pain and both felt like they were basically out of options. That's when they came to Huntsville Pain Management," said Thacker.

That's where both patients met pain management Physician, Dr. Jim Thacker. He said he's the first doctor in North Alabama to do the "mild procedure;" both procedures were done at Parkway Medical Center.

"What makes this procedure different is this is just the next step in the algorithm of treatment. When people have pain, there's multiple levels of things that cause pain," said Thacker.

And just like these patients, more than a million people have some sort of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis, or LSS.

The "mild procedure" is a minimally invasive approach to reduce pain and improve mobility, and takes about an hour.

The patient is under local anesthesia and light sedation. Under a scope, tiny tools go into the spinal canal and literally scoop out ligament and other tissue which tighten and thicken as we age. A canal is opened up and shown clearly with the contrast dye under the scope.

"When you get the increased flow through that area, that relieves the pain because you've decompressed the tightness of the lumbar Stenosis," added Thacker.

And just like James and Carolyn, other patients have a little more spring to their pain free steps.

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