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Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon Christopher Martin, MD, helps spine patients regain their mobility

Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon Chris Martin, MD, treats patients for osteoarthritis, spondylosis and other spinal conditions at the University of Minnesota Health Clinics and Surgery Center.
“I treat each patient like they’re a member of my own family.” Orthopedic Spine Surgeon Chris Martin, MD, has a unique, patient-centered approach to spinal care.

For Orthopedic Spine Surgeon Christopher Martin, MD, practicing medicine means treating each patient like a member of his own family.

“I know ‘patient-centered care’ is a buzzword phrase in my profession, but I really mean it,” Martin said, “To me, that means spending time listening to your patients, hearing their concerns and being 100-percent available to them.”

Martin, who recently joined University of Minnesota Health, employs his patient-centered care approach to treat a variety of spinal conditions, particularly degenerative arthritis of the spine.

We talked with Martin about his interest in spinal surgery, his work with patients and his efforts to improve the patient recovery process.

How did you get interested in becoming a spinal surgeon?

I always had a strong interest in the anatomy and mechanics of the spine in medical school, and enjoyed my general surgery training. While I was going through my orthopaedics residency, I discovered that I missed working in the general surgery field. Spinal surgery gives me the best of both worlds. Orthopaedic spine specialists operate on many parts of the body. It’s really a varied anatomy, and in order to do it well, you need to understand multiple organ systems and have a strong multi-disciplinary background. I enjoy the whole breadth of spinal care, but if I had to choose an area that was most interesting to me, I would say it’s employing less-invasive treatment options for degenerative conditions of the cervical and lumbar spine.

Learn more about University of Minnesota Health orthopaedic care.

Why are you passionate about treating these conditions?

Many, many patients with arthritic spinal conditions see a substantial improvement in their quality of life following medical intervention. The fact that there’s such a good chance of improvement is one of the things that I find most rewarding about this area.

How do you approach treatment for these conditions?

Arthritis in the spine can lead to nerves or the spinal cord becoming pinched. As a result, patients might experience symptoms including pain, numbness, tingling or weakness—or in severe cases even paralysis. We can often correct these changes through surgery. Depending on the severity of the spinal changes we can perform a fusion or a motion-preserving surgery. However, most patients with back pain or spinal arthritis do not need surgery. To accommodate those patients, our clinic offers a full range of non-operative care including therapy, oral medications, and injections."

Erick went from a wheelchair to walking after surgery for his spinal condition. Read his story.

Can you explain the difference between these approaches?

Motion-preserving procedures take pressure off the nerves while still preserving the function and motion of the spine. Other patients may have advanced spinal arthritis and must undergo a fusion, which involves the placing screws and rods in the spine. When we need to perform a spinal fusion, I try to take the least invasive approach in order to preserve the soft tissue and muscle around the spine. This allows people to get up and moving as soon as possible after the surgery.

Tell me about your unique approach to patient care?

I spend a lot of time ensuring that my patients are fully informed, understand their options, and know the pros and cons of various treatments. Before and after surgery, I am 100-percent available to the patient and their family, and will help answer or resolve any questions or concerns that might arise. I treat each patient like they’re a member of my own family. I make a sincere and strong commitment to them.

How does your medical research improve your clinical care?

I’m helping develop what’s called an Early Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) process for spinal surgery patients. It’s a multi-disciplinary effort that involves nurses, surgeons and administrators. Our goal is to find ways to reduce pain, speed up recovery and help patients get back to their daily routine faster after surgery. This is really important to me and it’s really important for our patients.