June 2016

Lowcountry Spine & Sport: A Partner in Your Pain

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: John Brackett

Great partnerships often result in excellent outcomes, and Dr. John P. Batson, MD, FACSM, owner of Lowcountry Spine & Sport, LLC, makes a practice of that mantra every day. “I like being in the room with patients, talking with patients; diagnosing something and finding treatment that is often not surgery,” he said.

In the practice of spine and pain care, and sports medicine, Batson seeks a collaborative environment, which often begins with a bit of reeducation and encouraging a practice of patience for people with non-acute (think non-emergency) pain or injuries. “It’s the society we live in,” Batson said. “You want an answer; you go to Google and think you have the answer real quick, and you want that treatment real quick.”

Dr. Batson estimates less than 10 percent of the issues presented by his patients are best treated by surgery, and many never require some of the formerly traditional go-to treatments such as cortisone injections. “We do a lot of physical therapy; we do a lot of basic medication management, and do not necessarily go straight to an injection in the spine or an injection in the knee or hip. I think that’s where our approach stands out—discussing what they haven’t tried, and determining what we need to try.” The only physician in South Carolina with dual fellowships in Sports Medicine and Spinal Pain Medicine, Batson is uniquely qualified to treat the patient from head-to-toe, combining history, examinations, and cutting-edge procedures.

“Sometimes it’s not an easy process,” Batson said. “People come to me with back problems, and in many cases, it did not happen overnight. It’s been a six-month, maybe six-year process of not really working out the core muscles, and all of a sudden, now there’s a painful problem that has been in the making for many, many months or years. Something changed with your job and you’re not moving around as much; you took a desk job verses being up and about. Often, if you really look back, there’s something that initiated a change in people’s mobility. Suddenly you have an acute painful problem. It’s a long way to get back when something has been in the making for a long time.”

Batson does not shy away from the more difficult conversations about lifestyle choices like body weight, nutrition and smoking that could significantly impact outcomes for his patients. “I think it would be pretty rare for someone to see me and not get that message in some sort of fashion,” he said. “There is a point where we can make improvements with weight loss to help with things like knee pain. We know that if you lose one pound up top, it’s like taking four pounds of pressure off your knees. Smoking is an issue that impairs healing; we want to promote blood flow, and smoking restricts blood flow. Nutrition is important too. There’s a lot of evidence supporting dietary changes to help reduce inflammation in the body; antioxidants, tart cherry juice, heavy fruit and vegetable diets, high fiber diets, are all going to reduce inflammation in the body. Injections will address acute problems for a time, but without making necessary lifestyle changes, the problems will likely return.”

Chronic pain differs greatly from acute pain. It’s almost a disease itself, like high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. “Gentle exercise such as yoga or water-based activities every day; a good nutrition plan with lots of antioxidants; in two months when you see me you may not be any better, but in two years you’re going to say, I’m glad you told me to do those things,” Batson said.

Of course, some patients experience an acute injury needing urgent care, and Batson is qualified and experienced at distinguishing what can be treated and what problems should be referred out. Lowcountry Spine & Sport offers urgent care (same day) appointments to treat back injuries, knee and ankle sprains, and basic fractures. “If you’re in the pain world or the sports world, that’s when things happen,” he said. There are circumstances when immediate attention is most certainly in the best interest of the patient.

With the regulatory pressures of running a medical practice today, and the steady stream of medical advances to keep up on, Batson maintains his enthusiasm for his practice and his patients, refreshing his passion for his work by volunteering for more work! As a volunteer physician for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team and a volunteer game-day physician for several high school teams, Batson takes his expertise to the field of play, whether traveling to Italy for the 2015 Freeskiing Junior Worlds or under the Friday night lights somewhere in the Lowcountry.

“I got into sports medicine being an avid athlete,” Batson said. “It’s fun to be around that community, because whether you are working with elite level athletes in Italy, or you are with Bluffton High School Bobcats on their sideline, a concussion is a concussion, and we treat it the same. It is nice to be at that level and see how hard people train. I respect that, and it gives me ideas on how to motivate patients when I get home. It gives me personal motivation. It’s one thing to be in the safe haven of our setting here where I have all my staff and X-rays and MRIs; it’s totally different to be going around on skis with a backpack of your gear and wondering what’s going to happen. I think it all works together.”

Working together is a big component of Batson’s practice, where he encourages a collaborative doctor-patient relationship to reduce the pain, writing a caring prescription for getting back to the playing field of life. 

Lowcountry Spine & Sport, LLC offers services at two locations: 300 New River Parkway, Suite 37, Hardeeville and The Medical Pavilion, 39 Hospital Center Boulevard, Suite 307, Hilton Head Island. For more information or to make an appointment, please call (843) 208-2420 or visit spineandsportmd.com.

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