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Bay Weekly Spotlight on Business: Maryland Disc Institute

Treating the whole person for ­overall wellbeing

Spinal decompression using the DRX 9000 has provided relief of chronic back pain to hundreds of Dr. Kathryn Hodges’ patients at Maryland Disc Institute.

By the time patients come to the Maryland Disc Institute, they are sick and tired of being in pain.
    “They’ve been to their primary care provider, a chiropractor or therapist and taken pain killers. Some have had injections without any lasting relief. They do everything else first, and then when that doesn’t stop the pain, they come to me,” says Dr. Kathryn Hodges.
    “I’m not a patient’s first stop,” Hodges says, “and most are trying to avoid surgery per their doctor’s recommendation. The body’s broken and rusting: It won’t get better on its own, nor will a pill fix the stuck and degenerating joints. I’m stabilizing the discs, slowing the progression of the arthritis in the spine and teaching patients to move properly.
    “Each person who walks through the door has a unique set of health issues in addition to the back pain. They bring a history of all the injuries and trauma that came before today. Every ankle strain affects the joints and muscles above it. When the ankle stops hurting, the imbalances remain and contribute to the complexity of why nothing else had worked.”
    Dr. Hodges understands the value in treating the whole person, using a multi-disciplinary approach. She employs various spine, nerve and muscle techniques, and works with massage therapy, acupuncture and nutrition to encourage patients to practice a healthier lifestyle, which in turn will contribute to overall wellbeing.
    Key among her treatments is spinal decompression. She’s been using the treatment for eight years and is a pioneer practitioner in the Annapolis area.
    “Spinal decompression has been one of the most important advancements in the non-surgical, noninvasive treatment of back pain in the past 10 years,” she says. “Spinal decompression has quite frankly revolutionized our practice. We now can help patients who would have had to live in pain for the rest of their lives.”
    Bay Weekly paid a visit to Maryland Disc Institute when a patient, who’d agreed to our presence, was having treatment. Here’s what we saw.
    The patient felt no pain while resting flat on the raised bed of an elaborate apparatus — the DRX 9000 — programmed for systematic stretching of his spine. This was no operating room, and the patient was fully clothed and conscious. Treatment was non-invasive, non-surgical — and invisible.
    “She’s been on the table nearly 20 minutes,” Dr. Hodges said. “The DRX 9000 gently decompresses the spine, creating a negative disc pressure within the pathological discs that allows the herniated material to re-center and relieve the nerve pressure that causes pain. It is so gentle that most patients fall asleep while undergoing treatment. There is no downtime, as opposed to invasive back surgery, which can require four to eight weeks lost time, lost income and potentially addicting pain killers.”
    Effective as spinal decompression can be, it’s not for everyone. The initial consultation is free of charge. After that examination, Dr. Hodges evaluates a patient’s prognosis and explains procedures, costs and insurance coverage.
    Many more progressive minded family practitioners are now taking an interest in this treatment.
    Dr. Hodges moved the Maryland Disc Institute in 2008, originally on the Eastern Shore, now in Annapolis. She earned her Doctorate from Cleveland Chiropractic College in Kansas City, Missouri, and has completed 27 years in practice. She lectures on exercising and living with back pain as a community service and often stops delivery people for a free one-on-one.
    Maryland Disc Institute has five stars on and four and a half stars on Facebook.
    “Patients come to us from Chesapeake Beach to White Marsh, from D.C. to OC,” she says. “You can’t put a price tag on health.”
    The majority of Dr. Hodges’ patients report improvement and report an average 75 to 90 percent relief from the pain over five years. Many of her patients have lived with chronic pain for years, not being able to sit, stand, drive, walk or join in normal functions with family and friends. Their quality of life was extremely poor; they often suffered from depression as a result.
    “I honestly never thought I’d walk again,” says N. Davis, a Disc Institute client. “Then a friend recommended Maryland Disc Institute. I’m so glad she did because I have my life back now.”

Maryland Disc Institute: 43 Old Solomons Island Rd., Annapolis; 410-266-3888;