Military members living with neck and back pain can now get affordable treatment with their military medical insurance. Tampa-based Physician Partners of America Minimally Invasive Spine Group accepts Tricare, including Tricare Prime, for laser spine procedures. This includes treatment for active duty, reserves and retired military.
Dr. James St. Louis, director of the spine group and a U.S. Army veteran, has been treating fellow service members for 30 years. St. Louis is the surgical founder of Laser Spine Institute and has been with PPOA since January 2018.
“Laser surgery allows patients to return to their activities within days or weeks instead of months, as is the case with open back surgery – and that is in their best interest,” says Dr. St. Louis.
Causes of military back injury
The physical stresses of combat and the rigors of training – carrying weapons and heavy packs, running, jumping, marching and parachuting – can cause neck, back and musculoskeletal pain. Trips and falls are other common culprits. Left untreated, these and other spinal problems can lead to limited civilian job prospects and disability.
According to vetsnational.com, common back injuries associated with military service include:
Bulging and herniated discs
Intervertebral disc syndrome
Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
Cervical spine fracture
Physician Partners of America can evaluate military patients for all of these conditions.
“I see a lot of herniated discs and compressed nerves in military patients,” says Dr. St. Louis. “Because they’re generally young and healthy, we can help them, in selected cases, without the need for spinal fusion.”
It also eliminates the need for opioid painkillers because it targets on the treatment area specifically without the side effects of oral medications.
What is laser spine surgery?
Minimally invasive laser spine procedures treat severe spine-related pain on an outpatient basis: no overnights in the hospital or weeks in bed recuperating. A small incision (less than one inch) and muscle-sparing surgical techniques are the key. Dilation tubes, about as wide as a magic marker, gently spread muscles instead of the cutting and tearing common with traditional open back surgery. The laser is used for ablations and removing tissue that presses on nerves.
Common procedures include laser facet ablation, laser discectomy, laminotomy and foraminotomy. These allow for decompression of nerves that exit the spinal canal. The methods used allow for a fast recovery.
Most patients are able to walk out of the surgery center the same day and resume activities in days or weeks, as opposed to months with traditional surgery. That – and the affordability that Tricare insurance offers – are a plus for military members.
“Military patients are the best patients,” says Dr. St. Louis. “They are motivated to get back to work. They’re generally healthy, have a good work ethic, and want to get back to a productive life.”
Physician Partners of America has 13 locations in Florida and nine in Dallas-Fort Worth. Dr. St. Louis offers free MRI reviews and consultations in his office at 4726 N. Habana Ave., Suite 202, Tampa, FL 33614. Interested patients, military or civilian, can call 855-25-LASER for information or an appointment.