Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 7
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

TEAM WORK: “Our guiding principle is that we treat people, not X-rays. We look at the whole picture and the patient’s history. An MRI is just part of the puzzle. Everyone is different.” The physicians at the Princeton Spine and Joint Center help patients alleviate pain and return to an active life-style. From left to right are Dr. Zinovy Meyler, Dr. Grant Cooper, Dr. Ana Bracilovic, and Dr. Marco Funiciello.

Non-surgical Care of Musculoskeletal Pain Is Focus of Princeton Spine & Joint Center

Back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis — and all the other “itises”! Just about every adult has had a bout with one of these painful problems. For most, dealing with it includes a trip to the doctor, whether for pills, injections, physical therapy, or in worst case scenarios, surgery.

The Princeton Spine and Joint Center in Princeton Professional Park at 601 Ewing Street offers specific help to those suffering from these conditions. Specializing in the non-surgical care of spine, joint, muscle, and nerve pain, the center treats people of all ages who have a variety of musculoskeletal problems.

“As non-surgical orthopedic rehabilitation specialists, we emphasize a wide host of treatments, from nutrition and exercise to physical therapy, and when necessary, targeted image-guided injections,” explains Dr. Grant Cooper, co-director and co-founder of the center. “There are many things people can do to help minimize the impact of wear and tear on their bodies and remain pain-free, healthy, and active. For a whole host of reasons, joints aren’t just capable of movement, they require movement in order to stay healthy.”

He points out that non-impact exercises, such as swimming, yoga, and using an elliptical machine are easiest on the joints, but he adds, “The best exercise is one that you will actually do. While exercises that involve impact, such as running and tennis, may be be a little harder on the joints, it is much better to do these activities than none at all.”

Art and Science

Dr. Cooper opened the Princeton Spine and Joint Center in 2008 with his wife and colleague, Dr. Ana Bracilovic. A summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, he attended UMDNJ, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and completed his residency in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital, The University Hospital of Columbia, and Cornell in New York. He completed a Fellowship in Spine and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Medicine at the Spine Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

“From the time I was in college, I wanted to be a doctor,” says Dr. Cooper, who is also a published author. “I liked interacting with people and to have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. And, it’s both the art of medicine and the science of medicine. Medicine allows me to keep a foot in academia, but also to interact with people.”

Using the most technologically advanced methods and comprehensive examinations, the four doctors at Princeton Spine and Joint Center diagnose what is causing the patient’s pain, and then prescribe a treatment program.

“Our goal is to work with you to eliminate your pain, safely maximize your function, and improve your quality of life,” explains Dr. Bracilovic, who often works with patients who are dancers. “There are a myriad of non-surgical treatments available.”

Window of Opportunity

If the pain is severe, specialized injections may be prescribed. “Injections open up a window of opportunity,” adds Dr. Cooper. “When the pain is less, patients are able to use that time to increase stretching, strengthening, and getting their posture right. Then, they get to physical therapy, and we work in collaboration with the physical therapist. Physical therapy is very important, and it is vital to learn a set of exercises that fits into the patient’s life.”

The doctors at Princeton Spine & Joint Center see patients of all ages, with a variety of ailments. Some are “Weekend Warriors” who overdo it on the tennis or basketball courts or soccer fields. Others may be suffering from long-term chronic pain.

“Back pain is the number one thing we see, then neck, shoulder, and knee pain,” reports Dr. Cooper. “Most of our patients are short term, but it can be longer if it’s a chronic pain situation. When it’s chronic, we can help break that cycle.”

Nerve pain, such as sciatica, is another condition the doctors treat. They want to help people, whatever their ages, get back to activities they enjoy. “While it is true that as people age, they may become predisposed to aches and pains, we strongly reject the notion that pain is a natural part of aging,” says Dr. Cooper. “In fact, we have several 85-year-old and older patients, who, after treatment, have been able to play sports, and participate in their usual daily activities without pain. Our goal is to enable people to maximize the quality of their lives at every age. Getting older doesn’t have to hurt!”

Many Factors

Also, everyone is different, with different goals, explains Dr. Bracilovic. For some, getting back to the tennis court is the goal, or perhaps dancing. Others have different hopes and ambitions. “The most important thing for us is to let people know that pain does not have to be part of their lives.”

Dr. Cooper and the other physicians are very happy with the way the practice has grown. Referrals come from current and former patients, and eventually, they look forward to opening another office in Monroe. “Of course, we want to make sure that as we grow as a practice, we are always able to help people as soon as possible,” says Dr. Cooper. “We are like a family here, and I want patients to feel that and be comfortable and welcome, and know that we treat them as a whole person. There are many factors that can be part of their condition.

“A doctor I studied with told me something important: ‘Just take care of one person at a time, and the rest will fall into place.’ We take care of the person. We keep our priorities right. With good health, all things are possible.”

Princeton Spine and Joint Center accepts all major insurance plans, and current hours are Monday through Wednesday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 10 to 7, Friday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Hours will be expanded in the future. (609) 454-0760. Website: PrincetonSJC. com.

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