ProMedica spine clinics enhance access to care for patients with back or neck problems

Written by Healthy Living News. Posted in Our Community

Melissa Vaughan, CNP

Pain in the back or neck can adversely impact virtually all aspects of a person’s life, especially if the pain is chronic and severe. Furthermore, when a back or neck injury occurs, it can be extremely challenging for people to determine where to turn for relief.


Recognizing a significant need in our community for better access to spine-related care and resources, ProMedica Spine Care has launched spine clinics in two convenient locations, one in Toledo at the ProMedica Neuroscience Center and the other in Perrysburg at Levis Commons.

Staffed by specially-trained nurse practitioners Emily McKarns, FNP-C, and Melissa Vaughan, CNP, the spine clinics provide prompt, comprehensive evaluations and expert diagnoses for patients’ back or neck problems, as well as referrals to specialists for treatment as needed. “Through a thorough assessment, lengthy intake process, and comprehensive physical exam, we can develop an appropriate treatment plan and determine whether the patient needs additional diagnostic studies, aquatic or physical therapy, or other services,” McKarns says. “We’re also connected with a group of four neurosurgeons and an orthopedic spine surgeon who can see our patients if necessary, and there’s a behavioral component to our program that addresses factors such as anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping, memory problems, and other behavioral issues that often accompany chronic pain.”

Mckarns explains that no provider referral is needed and no prior workup or testing is necessary in order to attend the clinics. Patients are accepted even if they have had prior surgery or are currently being treated elsewhere and would like another opinion. “Our goal is to provide convenient, timely access to care, and we strive to see each patient within one to three days of calling for an appointment,” she states.

The spine clinic team sees the full gamut of back and neck problems, from simple lumbar strains to more significant issues such as chronic back pain related to degenerative arthritis, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and compression fractures. Trained in family practice, McKarns can also see and provide treatment to adolescent patients requiring conservative treatment for minor back or neck issues. Treatment plans are individualized to the patient and might include options such as medications, aquatic/physical therapy, pain management and physical medicine, and lastly a referral for surgical evaluation.

McKarns also hopes that getting the word out about the new spine clinics will help discourage people from seeking treatment for back/neck pain or other spine issues in emergency rooms or urgent care centers. “We want to serve as an additional resource these providers can utilize for their patients to help eliminate the use of emergency services for chronic conditions like back pain,” she adds.

Spine Care opened in September of 2018 and was piloted with several family practices for one year before opening system-wide to the community in October of 2019. Building on the success of the Toledo and Perrysburg clinics, ProMedica Spine Care will soon be hiring a third nurse practitioner and is working on opening a spine clinic in Monroe, Michigan—another location where a significant need for services has been identified.

McKarns emphasizes that back or neck pain is not something people just have to live with. “A lot of people think there’s nothing else that can be done for their pain, but the primary goal of our program is to offer easy access to comprehensive care. If a patient isn’t a good candidate for surgery, there are still plenty of alternatives at our disposal. No one should be left to suffer with chronic, debilitating pain,” she states.

For more information or to schedule an appointment at one of the ProMedica Spine Care spine clinics, please call 419-578-7141. ❦