Doctor’s Note

Doctor: Dr. Clay Haldeman
Specialty: Neurosurgery

Hospitalized following a car accident in college, this Indiana native admired the doctors helping his recovery. Changing course to pursue medical school, he became fascinated with the mechanics of the spine. As a Roper St. Francis Healthcare neurosurgeon, Dr. Clay Haldeman loves the technical work involved with his field. He adopts a conservative approach to spinal surgery, preferring to guide his patients through nonsurgical treatments and lifestyle adjustments before turning to the operating room.

I wish my patients knew that:
“Many spine complications can be prevented with exercise and lifestyle interventions. Spine disease is degenerative. If you keep a healthy diet, exercise, don’t develop diabetes and don’t smoke, you’re 95 percent ahead of the game.”

To boost spine health:
“Don’t let your weight get wildly out of control. Carrying an extra 30 pounds on your belly is detrimental to your back. It’s also important to maintain strength in your core, those deep muscles of the abdomen and spine, especially as you age. Weight-resistance training, Pilates and yoga are excellent options.”

Please know that:
“You may not need surgery. People often come in with lower back disc herniations. The condition is extremely painful initially, but 85 percent of patients get better on their own or with conservative care, such as medication and physical therapy. Give it a month, and there’s a good chance symptoms will resolve without surgery.”

I often recommend:
“The YouTube channel Bob & Brad, which features two knowledgeable physical therapists who walk viewers through nearly every type of ache and pain. If you search ‘back pain,’ for instance, you’ll find helpful exercise videos and educational clips.”

As for core exercises:
“Many believe that sit-ups are good for your core, but putting the spine into flexion like that isn’t the best for it. Planks are a better choice.”

Photograph (Dr. Haldeman) by Mic Smith