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About Kenai Spine

Big city spine care expertise for Alaska’s Central Peninsula

At age 48, Dr. Craig Humphreys, a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon, left a busy spine practice in Tennessee to return home to where he grew up — Alaska. He and his family are back in Kenai and he is eager to use his skills in spine care to help the Kenai community.

Dr. Humphreys’ goal is to provide the most advanced spine care for Alaska residents, particularly those in the Kenai region of the Central Peninsula. Traditionally, those people living with back pain or neck pain in places like Soldotna, Kenai, Anchor Point and Homer, often faced a three hour drive to Anchorage. Our goal is to provide a more convenient option with the expertise of a fellowship-trained, board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon who has done more than 5,000 successful spine surgeries over his career.

Dr. Humphreys also hopes to be viewed as a resource for all those physicians who already care for back and neck problems in the Central Peninsula. Dr. Humphreys is on staff at Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna. In that regard, in late 2010, Dr. Humphreys surveyed the medical community to determine the needs of the community. This opened a dialogue between him and primary care physicians in the region. The concern with spine is that too many patients can have unnecessary or aggressive spine surgery. The philosophy of Kenai Spine is consistent with that concern, says Dr. Humphreys.

“Over the last 20 years of my career as a spine surgeon in a regional referral center, I’ve seen the most complex spine cases, including failed back surgery patients who were often the result of aggressive spine surgery by other physicians,” Dr. Humphreys says. spine center alaska, dr craig humphreys treatment for back pain neck pain kenai alaska“It’s always been my treatment philosophy to hold spine surgery as the last treatment option to explore before spine surgery is considered. I’ve seen thousands of patients can gain symptom relief from spine-specialized therapy, special injections which can reduce inflammation around the nerve root or stretches, exercises and movements that enable the body to get moving and repair itself.”

In 2010, after a very successful career as a spine surgeon in the South, the Humphreys family began exploring a relocation back to Alaska to enable Dr. Humphreys to finish his spine surgery career where he grew up in the Kenai Peninsula. At the same time, Ryan Smith, the CEO of Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna, Alaska, noted that there was a community need for an experienced spine surgeon serving the Kenai Peninsula region. Those discussions served as the foundation of Kenai Spine, a spine practice focused on the treatment of back pain and neck pain, serving the residents of Soldotna, Kenai, Homer, Seward and other towns in the Kenai region.

Dr. Humphreys’ practice philosophy is to explore and exhaust all non-surgical options in advance of the patient considering spine surgery. This includes the use of spine-specialized therapy and injections that can relieve pain symptoms. Kenai Spine is a work in progress, as he hopes to develop spine-specialized therapy for the region to complement and augment his spine surgery expertise. He looks forward to being a part of the Alaska medical community, and welcomes other physicians to contact him directly for referral of spine patients, or questions about his spine cases that may have in their practice.

spine center alaska, dr craig humphreys treatment for back pain neck pain kenai alaskaA nonsurgical approach to back and neck pain

Kenai Spine is located at 240 Hospital Place, Suite 103, in Soldotna, Alaska. The spine center includes non surgical spine care including physical therapy in addition to a fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon. Over the past two years, Kenai Spine has become a referral center for those with back and neck pain with patients coming from as far away as Anchorage, Fairbanks and Seward. Click here for driving directions.

The Kenai Spine office includes diagnostics for back and neck pain, along with spine specialized physical therapy, and if spine surgery is necessary after non surgical care is exhausted, a fellowship-trained spine surgeon with experience in minimally invasive techniques. The patient benefits by having a very specialized orthopedic team, all without having to drive three hours to Anchorage. While in the summer, this can be a beautiful drive through Alaska, the winter time can make the drive from the peninsula to Anchorage an unpleasant and time consuming experience in snow.”

When spine surgery is necessary

If your back or neck problem requires surgery, Kenai Spine is able to handle the most complex surgical cases. These cases include herniated discs, spinal fractures and spinal tumor.

Dr. Humphreys uses some of the most advanced instrumentation and minimally invasive spine surgery techniques. Because of the minimally invasive techniques used, many patients are able to have their spine surgery in the morning and then return home the same day to recover in the comfort of their own home.

Pain relief through a focus on function

Pain is a signal from the body to the brain that something is wrong. Either the back is too weak, too inflexible, something lifted was too heavy or the wrong body mechanics were used. And, unfortunately, those doctors who focus exclusively on pain symptoms often recommend a course of treatment that is the exact opposite of what the individual needs to recover from the back problem.

Years ago, for example, doctors treated back pain with bed rest and heavy drugs to mask the discomfort. It was found, however, that this type of treatment was actually damaging to the back, because it caused muscles in the back to get weaker, in turn, causing more strain and pain. Patients became more dependent on drugs and grew more inactive and disabled.

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In fact, pain relief actually can come through movement. Low-impact activites, like walking and swimming, can help the back feel better and stronger.

Kenai Spine uses written clinical protocols to improve care and reduce treatment variation — the essence of true quality management. This enables us to make sure the right thing is done at the right time, every time. This also makes sure that every nonsurgical option has been explored — such as therapy and injections — before spine surgery is considered.

While others talk about quality, we measure outcomes with patient severity data at intake and functional status post treatment. Lastly, we audit patient satisfaction so we can continually improve, because that's what quality is all about.Most people at some time in their lives will have an attack of back pain or neck pain. That’s the bad news. The good news is that 80% of the time, these back pain or neck pain symptoms will go away on their own with time, some anti-inflammatory medicine and some movement.

It’s the other 20% of those with back and neck symptoms that can over time become complex problems. Many of these back pain sufferers are doomed to endless visits to the back doctor. That's because once you have your first back pain attack, you are four times more likely to have a recurrence.

If you have back or neck pain, we are now in a position to help.

Patient Success Stories
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Surgery repairs damaged disc and returns outdoorsman to activity.

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Paramedic gets back to life with Kenai Spine.

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Healthcare CEO back on the job after pain relieving spine surgery.

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School administrator recovers from back pain without surgery.

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Dog sled champion back on the trails after non-surgical treatment.