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Spine Wellness Center ‘Flips the Pyramid’ Toward Holistic Treatment

December 08, 2020

In a system he called “kind of upside down,” Dr. Khalid Abbed wanted to create a holistic approach to treating spine and back pain, one in which surgery is a possibility but not the first or only consideration.

The neurosurgeon came to Hartford HealthCare (HHC) to give this vision life. Now medical director of the Spine Wellness Center at 300 Post Road West in Westport, part of HHC’s Ayer Neuroscience Institute, he said he’s working to “flip the pyramid” to treat back pain’s causes while addressing issues altering patients’ quality of life.

Back pain, one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor, affects about 80 percent of Americans at some point in their lives, Dr. Abbed noted. Depending on its location and severity, pain can affect one’s ability to work and quality of life. For some, surgery is not an option due to other health issues.

“A lot of people would just give up on life,” he said. “There was no place to send them and no way to help them. I tell them ‘We’re here to deal with it with you.’”

Pain affects physical abilities but also the mind and spirit, so the Spine Wellness Center draws together a wide range of services to help. Some are designed to improve the person’s physical fitness level to relieve back pain. Others are aimed at easing any depression or poor sleep or dietary habits that can worsen pain and quality of life.

“These are people who will be back for surgery if they don’t address all of those things,” he said of the holistic approach to spine wellness. “When you ignore the mind, you’re missing so much. We delve into aspects of consciousness, mentality and spirituality. Physical is only one aspect.”

Services are tailored to patient needs. Some may be referred for yoga or meditation classes, lessons with a nutritionist in the teaching kitchen or supervised workouts in the gym to help with weight loss or core strengthening.

“We put it all under one roof,” Dr. Abbed said. The goal is to avoid surgery whenever possible. “So many people will be saved from unnecessary surgery. I hope this will become the standard of care – to get people to care about their health.”

The Spine Wellness Center’s breadth of offerings is unique and more inclusive than typical practices. All the wellness, health and lifestyle options are integrated and seamlessly connected with the clinical expertise brought by Ayer neurologists, neurosurgeons, pain specialists, health psychologists and physical therapists in one location.

“For a surgeon to be the advocate for this type of approach is unheard of,” Dr. Abbed said of himself. “My experience makes me feel the system is failing people. Our investment is in the community and its people. We hope to gain the trust of the entire community and help them to live and feel better.”

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If you live with chronic neck or back pain and have ever been told you need surgery, you want the best outcome possible. Our expert team can help you decide what is right for you with the goal of helping you live pain free.

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