Image of Bihn Pham, his wife and doctor. Bihn was treated at the Center for Spine Health at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center.

Bihn Pham, a 69-year-old Lake Forest resident, stands at the edge of the pool preparing to leap into the crisp water. An avid swimmer, he explores new techniques as he gets in his daily exercise. Though, in recent years, his active swim routine became challenging to maintain due to increasing pain in both his neck and back – pain that is all too familiar.

Bihn had back surgery years ago. The surgery was successful, however, over time, the symptoms returned. A determined man, Bihn was quick to respond to his recent encounter with the pain and sought treatment. He scheduled a meeting with his primary care doctor, who recommended he see a specialist.

Life is too short to live with pain, and I wanted to avoid any long-term damage.

says Bihn

Fortunately, Bihn discovered an effective treatment option at Saddleback Medical Center. It was here where Bihn met Bryce Johnson M.D., orthopedic surgeon and medical director of the Center for Spine Health at Saddleback Medical Center.

It’s patients like Bihn who inspired the Center for Spine Health at Saddleback Medical Center. Dedicated to treating individuals suffering from neck and back pain, the program offers a multidisciplinary team who provides non-operative and surgical treatment options for patients. The team includes physicians, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, patient care assistants and a spine program navigator who works closely to achieve excellence in spine care with the goal of providing expert evaluation, diagnosis and treatment for spine problems.

A Medley of Care

Dr. Johnson initially treated Bihn using a conservative approach, including physical therapy.

Non-surgical options often begin with exercise, diet management and core body strengthening. Combined with an examination by a physical therapist, the source of the problem can sometimes be identified.

"Sometimes, it may be as simple as improving your posture, and how you move or lift things," says Susie Roof, director of rehabilitation services at Saddleback Medical Center and spine patient navigator. "And if surgery is needed, our patients receive nationally recognized care from world-class surgeons like Dr. Johnson.”

Over time, Bihn’s pain worsened. He had exhausted every option of non-surgical treatment for his neck and radiating arm pain. At this point, it was important to consider surgical treatments.

Diving Deeper

Dr. Johnson ordered an MRI, revealing Bihn had stenosis, a condition in which the spinal canal begins to narrow, causing pain and other spine problems. It was then determined that surgery was a viable option.

“Improving patient care is what we strive for. We work with patients who elect spine surgery, exploring all options prior to surgery. For Bihn, we agreed this was the right choice for him,” states Dr. Johnson."

Dr. Johnson performed the successful procedure putting Bihn’s mind and body at ease. Shortly after the operation, Bihn realized he was on his way back to the pool.

The day following his surgery, Bihn was discharged from Saddleback Medical Center. He continues to go to physical therapy nearly two months post-operation and is thankful for being able to maintain his mobility. Bihn is back to doing what he loves – swimming daily.

Saddleback Medical Center has a long-standing reputation for clinical excellence and was named one of America’s 50 Best Hospitals by Healthgrades for two consecutive years. Only 1 percent of the nation’s hospitals receive this prestigious honor, which is awarded to hospitals that provide consistent, year-over-year superior clinical performance and excellent patient outcomes.