Taking a Holistic Approach to Treating Spine Injuries

Dr. Mitchell Supler, pioneer in neurosurgery specializing in minimally invasive spine surgery and sports spine medicine, is an advocate for providing patients who suffered a spinal injury with a holistic treatment plan focused on prevention, wellness, fitness, treatment, and full recovery.

At the Masson Spine Institute, where he works alongside Dr. Robert Masson, internationally recognized sports spine neurosurgeon, he ensures injured patients get back to doing what they love without risk of repeat injury.

After being properly treated for spinal injuries, his patients come out on the other side ready to get back to an active, pain-free life, doing what they enjoy – whether that means getting back on the golf course, running a marathon, or walking Walt Disney World.

For the Love of Neurosurgery and Golf

While attending the University of Florida School of Medicine, Dr. Supler learned he loved neuroscience. “I was just absolutely enamored with nervous systems, the brain, the spinal cord, and I just thought this was the coolest thing, and from that point on, I knew I had to do something in the neurological field, and with neurosurgery, I felt I was making a difference in people’s lives,” says Dr.Supler.

A true Floridian, Dr. Supler is a fan of the sunshine and when not in the office or operating room, his diet is largely filled with greens – the green on the golf course that is. He was just 10-years-old when he picked up his first golf club.

“My dad came into the living room and said ‘son, would you like to learn how to play golf’, and as a 10-year-old, the first thing I said was ‘no,’” says Dr. Supler with a chuckle. “He asked me again, and I thought, I guess I gave the wrong answer, and I said ‘yes,’ and I’m so glad I did.”

He continued to enjoy the game and played on his high school team. Once he got to college and medical school, he didn’t have too much time for it, but later he was able to re-dedicate himself to it.

“There is just something about the game. It’s not a group sport. You’re playing against yourself. Always trying to improve yourself, which is also a good metaphor for how I live my life,” says Dr. Supler.

It wasn’t until in about his 40s that he realized he could combine his passion for golf with his profession.

“Today, I am able to incorporate my love for golf with my passion for neurosurgery and really helping people, while living in Florida where the weather is fantastic and golf is enjoyed by many,” says Dr. Supler.

A Holistic Approach to Recovery

While a properly executed golf swing may not appear particularly stressful, it requires proper hip movement to not cause injury. Because the hip joint is a ball –and-socket joint, the hip has a lot of range of motion. This large range of motion is a key component of a proper golf swing.

The spine was never meant to rotate. It can bend and extend, but it was not designed to turn. So, if you’re trying to swing a golf club, and if your hips don’t move properly, you can start to make your lumbar spine rotate. As a result, you can become injured.

“As a surgeon if you just treat the spine and send a patient to go back playing golf without identifying why and how they got injured in the first place and making a plan to correct that, you’re just setting them up for injury again,” says Dr. Supler.

That’s why Dr. Supler looks at the whole person, how they’re moving, and whether they have other issues such as their hip movement that would need to be improved, or if they need their thoracic spine (the middle section of the back) to be more mobile.

“It’s really a holistic approach for me to help people who want to play any rotary sport, but particularly golf. To be able to succeed at what they want to do and enjoy out of life, we have to look at everything,” Dr.Supler says.

Making a Difference, One Case at a Time

For 25 years, Dr. Supler has been caring for patients and providing his expertise as a pioneer in spine surgery. While he excels in the treatment of recreational and professional golfers with spinal disorders, he also treats other conditions that affect the spine.

“My main goal is to get you back to doing what you love – whatever that means to you. If you have pain when you play pickle ball, let’s get you back on the court. If you want to be able to roam Walt Disney World, let’s get you back out there,” says Dr. Supler.

Dr. Supler’s first priority is to understand the nature of the problem, its consequences, the goals of the patient, the pattern of aggravation, the mechanics of the problem and its compensation pattern, and ultimately how these all play into the role of surgery and the type of surgery that can be offered.

“What I do for a living is extremely rewarding. I had a patient who had instability in her lower back/ lumbar spine. She had previously received a lot of different treatments that just didn’t work. I identified the problem and treated it with a minimally invasive surgery. This patient had a dramatic recovery. She walked the Disney Princess Half Marathon shortly after treatment. She came back to my office and gave me her medal. It now hangs proudly in my office,” says Dr. Supler.

He successfully performed a cervical disc replacement on Dr. Masson who, within 8 months, summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. Dr. Masson was also able to compete in the grueling Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona without a concern for his neck impeding his driving.

Dr. Supler’s knowledge, training and experience make him an asset to the Masson Spine Institute. He is dedicated to using the latest, proven technology and applying it to each individual patient.

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Written by Staff Writer

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