Sanford Spine Center
Sanford Spine Center


Spine Center FAQs

What is the Spine Center?

The Sanford Spine Center is a program developed to improve access to state-of-the-art spine care. Our patients and their referring physicians are led through a process of assessment and treatment ranging from specialized physical therapy to aggressive non-surgical management, and if necessary delicate spine surgery, tailored to the patient’s unique condition. Our multidisciplinary approach means patients receive the most appropriate treatment from the right specialty physician based on scientific research and proven treatment methods. 

How is the Spine Center different?

Many physicians struggle with how to help patients with back or neck pain, specifically those who have sought treatment from various sources. Many of these cases become chronic pain problems where real progress toward decreasing pain and improving function is slow and unsatisfactory. The Sanford Spine Center has been developed implementing the latest in spine care technology, research, and outcome measurement. This care is available in one location where the physicians can work together to identify the best course for a patient to follow. Each patient is assigned to a nurse case manager whose primary role is to help the patient navigate through the care process, provide education, and promote communication between the spine center’s physicians and surgeons and the patient’s personal physician. There quite simply is nothing else like it in the region. 

The Sanford Spine Center offers programs with the latest technology and services, including but not limited to:

  • Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (Physiatry)
  • Specialized Physical Therapy 
  • Pain Management
  • Spine Surgery
  • X-Rays, CAT Scans, and MRI
  • Nerve and Muscle testing
  • Acupuncture
  • Spinal injections
  • Neurology
What options are available?

The Spine Center physicians and surgeons collaborate to ensure you receive the appropriate treatment strategy that gives you the best opportunity for success. Many people benefit from a combination of simple medications and specialized physical therapy. Common medication regimens include pain control and muscle relaxers, or possibly a combination of the two. Once you become a patient in the Spine Center, our physicians will prescribe these medications and follow you on their use. Our physical therapy services are focused specifically toward Postural Restoration, an innovative approach that includes simple exercises patients can do in their own home, as well as the treatment by a physical therapist directed at preserving a healthy spine. In some cases, patients may benefit from an epidural steroid injection, a small dose of steroid directed at the specific area of the spine affected by the injury and causing pain. These injections are performed under “fluoroscopy” or a live x-ray to ensure they reach the intended site. Patients who receive injections are usually in and out of the clinic within an hour, and have a simple bandage over the injection site. For safety purposes, patients are asked to arrange for a ride home. 

Who provides spine care?

Our current affiliated physicians include:

Sanford Clinic Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

  • Susan Assam, MD
  • Thomas Boetel, DO, Spine Center Medical Director
  • Christopher Janssen, MD
  • Peter Johnson, MD

Sanford Clinic Neurosurgery and Spine

  • Wilson T. Asfora, MD
  • Troy Gust, MD
  • Charles Miller, MD 
  • Bryan Wellman, MD

Sanford Clinic Pain Management

  • John Hansen, MD 

Sanford Clinic Neurology

  • Sharique Ansari, MD
  • Jerome Freeman, MD
  • Zeenat Jaisani, MD
  • Fanny Jacquez, MD
  • Eugenio Matos, MD 
  • Bassel Salem, MD
  • Jitendra Sharma, MD  
How is personalized care provided?

Each patient is assigned to a personal Nurse Case Manager. This person works to keep the lines of communication open between Spine Center staff, the patient, and his or her referring physician. The Nurse Case Manager guides the patient through their prescribed treatment plan, providing education and support to the patient and family at every stage of the process. It’s the nurse’s responsibility to ensure the patient understands the diagnosis, treatment options, and potential outcomes. 

What if surgery is needed?

When it is determined that surgery is the patient’s best option, the surgeon will recommend the most “minimally invasive” procedure. This means the patient will receive only the level of surgery required to meet the treatment goals while minimizing the risks and complications that are present in every operation. Recent advances in spinal surgery now allow surgeons to use special instruments for visualization and access to the spine through a very small incision. These minimally invasive surgical techniques produce the least amount of muscle, ligament, and bone damage. Patients experience less pain and scarring, as well as reduced health care costs. Recovery times are dramatically shortened; in some cases patients may even go home the same day or after a short overnight stay. Even in cases where minimally invasive procedures are not indicated, the surgeons at the Sanford Spine Center are experienced in the most complex spine procedures. 

How does this approach benefit the patient?

Patients benefit by receiving the most appropriate care based on their individual needs and conditions. Complex cases are discussed by all the different specialists involved in spine care. Outcomes are measured to ensure that quality continues to be a hallmark of everything we do at Sanford.

Why am I not given an appointment when I first contact the Spine Center?

We seek to ensure that a patient’s time is respected. We do this by spending the time prior to the first appointment listening to your perspective and understanding how you experience symptoms. Each patient will receive a complete review of their symptoms and any previous pertinent films and reports by a spine center physician. Once we receive all of these elements this review is typically done within 24 hours. The reviewing physician then makes a recommendation as to which doctor would be the best person to see the patient and that clinic will contact them with an appointment time, and share all of his or her recommendations at that time. This prevents unnecessary trips to the office or reserving time for both the patient and physician only to learn you may benefit from seeing someone else.

Back Pain Information from SpineUniverse