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Spine Center

Back pain can change your life. It can limit your activity, cause you to miss work and restrict your mobility. But we can help – whether your pain is the result of an injury, a disease, or a cause yet to be identified.

The specialists at our MUSC Health Spine Center first perform a comprehensive evaluation, using the most advanced diagnostic equipment available. We then work with you to develop a treatment plan that eliminates or reduces your pain so you can return to an active lifestyle.

Request an Appointment

To request an appointment or ask for more information, please call 843-792-5000. You can also find a MUSC Health spine location near you.

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Spine Care at MUSC Health: Why Choose Us?

Our team of spine experts treats all types of back-related issues, from the routine to the most complex. We listen to your back pain history and tailor a personalized treatment plan to help relieve the condition bothering you.

At the MUSC Health Spine Center, we focus on the patient and recommend the best treatment option for you. We offer:

  • A highly skilled team of experts: Our center’s team brings together a range of disciplines and spine expertise. All of our doctors have passed rigorous, optional tests (board certification) in their specialty. Many have also completed additional years of sub-specialty training (fellowships). Medical centers from across the tri-state area and beyond trust us with their most complicated surgical cases.
  • Advanced options: As an academic medical center, we stay current with the latest treatments. We offer the most advanced surgical and non-surgical treatments available to help relieve your symptoms and return you to an active life. Our procedures include a number of minimally invasive options.
  • Tailored treatment: We can often relieve your pain with a variety of non-surgical spine treatments. If you need spine surgery, you can feel confident with the expertise of our neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons. We perform minimally invasive surgery (MIS) whenever appropriate, but are also highly skilled at open surgery.
  • Top imaging: We offer advanced imaging for both diagnostic and interventional spine services. MUSC Health Radiology uses the latest technology and equipment, with expert interpretation from nationally and internationally recognized radiologists. Each of our radiologists has subspecialty training and focuses on a specific area, with spine experts in musculoskeletal, neuroradiology, interventional, neuro-endovascular, ultrasound, and vascular radiology.
  • Leaders and innovators in the field: Through research and clinical trials, we have invented numerous techniques and devices to make complicated surgeries safer. In addition to teaching the next generation of spine specialists, we train veteran doctors from South Carolina and across the country who wish to learn new, advanced techniques.
  • Award-winning program: Several organizations have recognized our center for superior care and services:
    • Blue Cross Blue Shield has recognized MUSC Health as a Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery. This designation means that we provide high-quality specialty care for spine conditions.
    • Becker’s Hospital Review has named MUSC Health one of the top 100 Great Hospitals in America. The publication has also identified us as one of the top 100 Hospitals with a Great Neurosurgery and Spine Program.
    • The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) has awarded MUSC Health with Magnet Recognition, achieved by less than 10 percent of the nation’s hospitals. To earn this mark of excellence, hospitals must provide nursing care that’s compassionate, innovative, and backed by the best available evidence.

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Spine Conditions We Treat

We treat a wide range of spine conditions that can cause back and neck pain. Pain can occur in several regions: the lumbar (lower back), thoracic (middle back), and cervical (upper back and neck).

Spine conditions we treat include:

  • Degenerative disc disease, the wearing down of the natural shock absorbers between vertebrae
  • Disc herniation, when the softer center of a spinal disc pushes through its exterior
  • Fractures
  • Infections
  • Sciatica, pain that starts in the spine and shoots down the leg
  • Spinal deformities such as adult scoliosis, kyphosis, and spondylolisthesis
  • Stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal
  • Tumors

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The MUSC Health Spine Center team sees patients in downtown Charleston, West Ashley, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Murrells Inlet, and Orangeburg. Please see the list below to find a location near you.

Downtown Charleston, SC

Rutledge Tower
135 Rutledge Avenue
Charleston, SC 29425

Hollings Cancer Center
86 Jonathan Lucas Street
Charleston, SC 29425

Mount Pleasant, SC

East Cooper Medical Pavilion
1600 Midtown Avenue, 2nd floor
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464

Murrells Inlet, SC

Neurosurgery Murrells Inlet
4367 Riverwood Drive
Murrells Inlet, SC  29576

North Charleston, SC

North Charleston Medical Pavilion
8992 University Boulevard
North Charleston, SC 29406

West Ashley, SC

West Ashley Medical Pavilion
2125 Charlie Hall Boulevard
Charleston, SC 29414

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Spine Center Team Members

Our knowledgeable team members come from a range of disciplines and include:

  • Physiatrists (physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists)
  • Anesthesiologists/pain management specialists
  • Physical and occupational therapists
  • Behavioral health specialists
  • Spine surgeons: Orthopaedic and neurosurgery
  • Athletic trainers, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners
  • Neurologists
  • Neurointerventional radiologists.

Additional Care Team Members

Gayle Wadford, RN | Spine Center Program Manager

Our multidisciplinary team also includes providers from the following disciplines:

  • Advanced Practice Providers from Neurosurgery and Orthopaedics
  • Neurodiagnostic EMG
  • Physical Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Weight Management
  • Behavioral Health
  • Intraoperative Neuromonitoring

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Patient Education & Testimonials

Learn more about back health and spinal disorders. Take a quiz, read an article, watch a video, or listen to a podcast to learn more.

Health Library Articles:

Neck and back wellness

Back pain treatment

Patient Education Videos:

Lumbar Disk Disease

Lumbar Disk Disease video

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal Stenosis video

Cervical Disk Rupture

Cervical Disk Rupture video

Exercises for a Healthy Back

Exercises for a Healthy Back video


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Take a Quiz:


Patient Videos: MUSC's  Spine Center is Changing Lives 

Nancy's Story

Nancy Lamb is energized to overcome a debilitating paralysis caused by a rare disease called Cauda Equina Syndrome. Once a very active woman who enjoyed weekly cookouts and socializing with friends in the neighborhood, she became paralyzed from the waist down. “I had worked and been independent for so many years,” Nancy said. “I was devastated when I just woke up one day and couldn’t walk. When I met with Dr. Varma at MUSC Health, I knew I had a shot at getting better and that I was in great hands.” 

Nancy underwent multiple surgeries at MUSC under the care of Dr. Abhay Varma. “Mrs. Lamb had severely pinched nerves in her lower back that significantly affected her legs, bladder, and bowel function,” he said. “She was not able to walk independently and take care of herself. The disease was so extensive that she had to undergo more than one surgery, but eventually she significantly benefited from the treatment and is now able to walk on her own. The pain and numbness in her legs has also significantly improved.” 

Nancy felt very at ease with Dr. Varma and all of her providers at MUSC Health. “Dr. Varma was very compassionate. He never approached my surgery negatively and always made sure I understood everything. He got me walking again! I am so thankful to him and his physician assistant, Patricia Mathias, for always responding so quickly to my questions, and all of the MUSC Health providers who made the process as well as the procedures so comforting to me.”  

Steve's Story

Last year, Steve Dye thought he might lose the ability to walk after a thoracic disk ruptured, putting extreme pressure on his spinal cord. Dye was using a cane to get around when a doctor told him he needed specialized surgery. Dye chose the MUSC Spine Center. 

Steve Dye

Five months later, he was able to rejoin his softball team for a game that had an ending that could have come straight from a movie. “I find myself standing in the softball field all by myself,” Dye wrote in a testimonial to the doctors at the MUSC Health Spine Center. “My team was with me seconds ago, but they have all run off the field.”

Then he heard clapping. It was his fellow softball players. They knew he’d gone from being afraid that he’d end up paralyzed to being able to walk normally again.

“As I fight back tears, I realize the applause is for me,” Dye wrote. “I must pass it on to the doctors, nurses, friends, and family who made it possible for me to be standing on that field.”

Dye’s surgeon, Stephen Kalhorn, M.D., said that’s the kind of story that makes him love coming to work each morning. “It reaffirms our cause,” the complex spine surgeon said. “We take on the most challenging of cases, the most advanced spinal issues that come from across South Carolina and the Southeast United States. The reward for this is seeing your patients doing well.”

Dye, whose thoracic spine surgery turned him into a “walking medical miracle,” as his friends call him, wants other people with spine problems to know that there is hope. 

It’s often not a one-stop fix. Dye struggled with back problems for years and is still not able to do everything he’d like to do. “Although I have now ‘mastered’ walking, I still have a goal to be able to run again,” he writes. “Would somebody please tell me I can't do it! It will motivate me to make it happen. I will run again!”

Kalhorn said he should be able to. “I think Mr. Dye is doing great.”

Mandy's Story

Working out daily in the gym, playing tennis and beach walking put Mandy McKenzie in an enviable place at 49. “I was feeling healthy and in great shape,” she enthuses.
Mandy McKenzie, spine center patientFew in mid-life can boast her vitality, but it all came to a halt suddenly. Working out at the gym, she felt an acute pull. By evening, a sharp pain was coursing down her leg and her lower back throbbed. A few days in, the pain was debilitating.
Mandy surrendered and booked an appointment with her primary care doctor, who referred her to Charles Reitman, MD, co-director of MUSC’s Spine Center. Preferring to avoid surgery if possible, Dr. Reitman referred her to Dr. Emily Darr, MD, a pain management specialist.
Mandy and Dr. Darr agreed to try injections. “I was grateful Dr. Reitman didn’t push surgery on me,” she recalls. Two days post-injection, she was “blown away” when the surgeon called to check on her. “From a customer service standpoint, that meant a lot,” she says. It also gave her a chance to let him know the pain was still intense.
After discussing her options, together they decided to schedule Mandy for a minimally invasive procedure just two days later. In surgery for just over an hour, Mandy’s pain was 80 percent improved immediately. Within six weeks, she was back in the gym.
She credits Dr. Reitman and MUSC for understanding her needs, and responding swiftly. Meanwhile, Dr. Reitman says Mandy was a star patient: “She was motivated, and wanted to return to activity as soon as possible. Once it became clear that surgery was her best option, a minimally invasive procedure allowed her to achieve her goals.”

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Quality Recognition

Beckers Named MUSC as one of the top 100 hospitals in neurosurgery and spine care.

Designated BlueDistinction Center©

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Blue Distinction Centers (BDC) met overall quality measures for patient safety and outcomes, developed with input from the medical community. A Local Blue Plan may require additional criteria for facilities located in its own service area; for details, contact your Local Blue Plan. Blue Distinction Centers+ (BDC+) also met cost measures that address consumers' need for affordable healthcare. Each facility's cost of care is evaluated using data from its Local Blue Plan.

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