By Susan Christensen
Special to the Sun
Back pain may not be as certain as death and taxes, but few people manage to escape it.
“Everybody essentially experiences it at some time in their life,” said Dr. Edwin Dodd, an interventional pain management physician who is board certified in both pain management and anesthesiology. “It’s the second most common reason for physician visits, only surpassed by the common cold.”
Those seeking help often suffer from conditions such as sciatica, due to a bulging or ruptured disc. The pain comes from nerve roots being compressed, irritated or inflamed, which many believe only surgery can resolve.
But Dodd said there is a less invasive option that even spine surgeons endorse—epidural steroid injections.
“Now, they are part of the algorithm for many surgeons,” he said. “The reason is we keep almost two out of three people from having back surgery, and that is an impressive number.”
The injections deliver a small amount of local anesthetic and steroid to irritated nerve roots. This can resolve pain, as well as relieve numbness and tingling in many cases.
Like many interventional pain management specialists, Dodd first pursued a career in anesthesiology. “It’s a natural offshoot because we are the people trained to do spinal injections,” he said.
Dodd said he was initially drawn to anesthesia because “it’s physiology and pharmacology and you see instantly what the medications can do.”
But putting people to sleep didn’t fulfill his desire to be interactive with patients.
“I actually enjoy talking to people,” he said. So after working on the pain management service during his residency training, he decided that sub-specialty was a great fit.
“I was really impressed by the impact you can have on people’s daily lives,” he said. “The ability to reduce pain and help people avoid surgery led me to pursue a fellowship in pain management.”
Today, delivering pain-relieving injections is the centerpiece of what he does at Jackson Pain Center.
Dodd said many patients come to him after being referred by another physician. Typically, they’ve tried a lot of remedies that didn’t work and are desperate for some relief.
“Pain can affect every aspect of a person’s life, their ability to work and do most activities of daily living. It’s all about quality of life,” he said.
Cindy Shell of Madison can testify to how disruptive neck and back pain can be.
A nagging pain under her left shoulder blade affected her sleep, her ability to exercise and her work as a registered nurse. “I was hurting, and it was hard to do my job,” she said. “It was constantly there.”
She turned to Dr. Dodd for help, thinking she’d pulled a muscle or developed a trigger point. But he suspected the problem was stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that can cause nerve-related pain.
An MRI scan validated the diagnosis, making Shell a good candidate for an epidural steroid injection, targeting her area of stenosis.
“Dr. Dodd said: ‘I can put a steroid in there and calm it down and you won’t have to do anything else,’” she said. “That was so refreshing. I thought I might have to deal with the pain in my shoulder blade forever or have surgery.”
Three years later, Shell said she’s still reaping the benefits of the intervention. In January, she joined Orange Theory, where she regularly does workouts incorporating treadmill training, rowing and floor exercises. And she recently finished a virtual version of the 10K Magnolia Meltdown race.
Shell said her husband, Tony, took note of her recovery and decided his back pain might also benefit from Dr. Dodd’s help. “He played football in college, and he is beat up,” she said. But one day after his first injection, he was feeling encouraged. “He said, ‘This is so good,” Shell said. “Before, he couldn’t even roll over in bed without waking. Now, he is so much better.”
Beverly Hatchcock of Durant, also a registered nurse, is another who has benefited from Dr. Dodd’s expertise.
She’s had sciatica since a 2014 surgery to repair ruptured discs. In July, it got much worse. “I was on vacation and was doing a lot of bending, stooping and gardening and it got so bad I couldn’t walk because of excruciating pain,” Hatchcock said.
Hatchcock works with Durant family physician Dr. Fletcher Schrock, and she knew he often referred patients to Dr. Dodd. She made an appointment for herself, and said she’s been pleased with the results.
“The last time I was there, I told him how much I appreciated him,” she said. “I told him the relief you give is amazing.”
Dodd recommends patients seek his care if they have persistent back or neck and leg pain that does not respond to conservative treatments such as taking Aleve, Tylenol or using heat and ice or stretching exercises. “We can evaluate you further to help determine the cause of the pain,” he said.
If an interventional pain injection is recommended, Dodd said there are not many barriers to treatment. “The only people we have to handle differently are people taking blood thinners. We just ask their physician to suspend their medicine before they have the injection.”
Patients today can feel confident that injections are more precise than ever. “Now, all procedures are done under fluoroscopic guidance or live X-ray which allows us to place the medication within millimeters of the target,” Dodd said.
When it comes to acute back pain, “we get a lot of people well,” Dodd said. Those with chronic pain often require more management, but even they can be helped in many cases without surgery or a reliance on pain medication.
For chronic low back pain caused by degenerative facet changes, Dodd provides facet injections, as well as radiofrequency denervation—the burning or heating of painful nerves. “It provides longer lasting pain relief in select patients,” he said.
He also sees patients with back pain secondary to sacroiliac (commonly called SI) joint dysfunction, many of which benefit from targeted injections.
Dr. Edwin Dodd received his medical degree from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. He completed a residency in Anesthesiology and a fellowship in Pain Management at Wake Forest University. His fellowship included training at University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and Flinders Medical Center of the University of South Australia. His primary professional interests are spine-related low back and neck pain, and he is board certified in Pain Management and Anesthesiology. He is the Medical Director of the Jackson Pain Center. He is actively involved as a principal investigator in clinical drug studies for the treatment of pain.
Dr. Dodd is a member of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, American Academy of Pain Medicine, International Spine Injection Society, American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine and the International Association for the Study of Pain.
Dr. Dodd has been awarded the prestigious Patient’s Choice Award in multiple years since 2012 and the Compassionate Doctor Recognition by Vitals.com. He has also been chosen as one of America’s Top Physicians by the Consumers Research Council of America and was selected as a 2014 Mississippi Healthcare Hero by the Mississippi Business Journal. From 2014 through 2021, he has been recognized annually by Castle Connolly, publisher of America’s Top Doctors, as a Top Doctor in Pain Management.
Dr. Edwin Dodd