May 15, 2019

Non-Surgical Care of Musculoskeletal Pain Is Princeton Spine & Joint Center’s Specialty

COMPASSIONATE CARE: “Our focus is non-surgical orthopedics. and interventional pain management. The first step is the treatment of any problem is an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis. This begins with a full history of the problem, and extends to physical examination and sometimes imaging and other studies. An important point is that pain is not an inevitable bi-product of a chronic condition, injury, or aging.” Grant Cooper, MD, fourth from left, co-director of Princeton Spine & Joint Center, is shown with fellow physicians, from left, Marco Funiciello, DO; Jason Kirkbride, MD; Zinovy Meyler, DO; Ana Bracilovic, MD; Zachary Perlman, DO; and Scott Curtis, DO. In the background are the Center’s staff members.

By Jean Stratton

Oh, my aching back!”

As well as knees, shoulders, necks, hip, hands, and feet — and all those other parts that can hurt. Whether the result of injuries, over-exertion on the tennis or basketball court, soccer field, ski trails, or chronic conditions, pain, especially constant pain, can be disruptive to one’s daily life. In worst cases, it is all-consuming, interfering with attention to work, family, and overall lifestyle.

Alleviating musculoskeletal pain through non-surgical treatment is the specialty of Princeton Spine & Joint Center. Established in 2008 by Dr. Grant Cooper and his wife and colleague, Dr. Ana Bracilovic, the Center now has two offices, located at 601 Ewing Street and 256 Bunn Drive.

A summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, Dr. Cooper 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.

Honors Graduate

“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 be involved with caring for people.”

A dual degree honors graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Bracilovic is a board-certified physician, specializing in the non-operative care of spine, joint, muscle, and nerve pain. After medical school at UM-DNJ-Robert Wood Johnson, she completed her specialty training at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell. In addition to serving as co-director of Princeton Spine & Joint Center, she is director of Princeton Dance Medicine.

Dr. Bracilovic is a published author of medical texts, an active member of the International Association of Dance Medicine, a reviewer and contributor to medical journals, and the winner of numerous awards for research in dance medicine.

“Everyone is different,” she points out, “and the Center offers very individualized care. For some, dancing again, or getting back to the tennis court is the goal. Others have different hopes and ambitions. The most important thing for us is to help people get back to their active lives as fully as possible.”

Non-Surgical Treatment

Specializing in the non-surgical care of spine, joint, muscle, and nerve pain, the Center treats people of all ages, including children as young as 8, who have a variety of musculoskeletal problems.

In addition, the Center has specific programs in sports medicine, dance medicine, and regenerative medicine, with physicians specializing in each of these areas.

Using the most technologically-advanced methods and comprehensive examination, the seven doctors at Princeton Spine & Joint Center diagnose the causes of their patients’ pain, and then prescribe a treatment program. They report that over the past decade, increasing numbers of people have become aware of the effectiveness of non-surgical intervention.

“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. Cooper. “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. One of the most important roles we play is eliminating pain as a barrier to activity and exercise.”

“Our goal is to work with you to treat your pain, safely maximize your function, and improve your quality of life,” points out Dr. Bracilovic. “There are a myriad of non-surgical treatments available.”

“An exciting new treatment is regenerative medicine, says Dr. Zachary Perlman, co-director of the Regenerative Medicine Program. “This is an evolving sub-specialty that involves multiple specific treatments such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) image guided injections. It helps stimulate the body to heal itself.”

Regenerative medicine is especially helpful in restoring function to hips, knees, and tendons, especially those afflicted with arthritis. In addition to PRP injections, treatment and diagnostic options include specialized, directed diagnostic imagery, advanced electrodiagnostic testing (EMG/NCS), ultrasound guided injection delivery, and fluoroscopic guided injection delivery, among others, along with an integrated holistic approach.

“The most common problems we see involve back pain, neck pain, and shoulder, hip, and knee pain,” notes Dr. Marco Funiciello, co-director of Princeton Spine & Joint Center’s Interventional Spine Program. “But we have doctors who take care of every musculoskeletal ache and pain, including nerve pain. Most of our patients have focused issues where we can efficiently figure out their problem, fix the problems, and move on, but it can be a longer process if there is a chronic pain situation. When it is chronic, we can help break that cycle.”

Daily Activities

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. Zinovy Meyler, co-director of the Interventional Spine Program. “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!”

Treating each person as an individual is crucial, he points out, as everyone is different. “When you think you know everything about your field, you’ll learn from your patients that people don’t always fit the profile. You need to be ready to be flexible.

“It is also very important that our treatment is aligned with the patients’ expectations.”

Children (some with scoliosis), young athletes, and performing artists are also among the Center’s patients, who come from the Princeton area, and beyond, including New York and Philadelphia.

“We have patients who have been referred by current and former patients, others who have found us online, or who have read our books. Aside from our academic background and ongoing activity, one thing that frankly sets us apart is that we offer sameday appointments. Because if people are in pain, they don’t want to wait, and they shouldn’t have to wait,” emphasizes Dr. Cooper. “Also, we have state-of-the-art equipment in our offices that allows us to schedule patients right away for treatment.”

Patient Welfare

He adds that when it is appropriate, the doctors at the Center will reach out to other specialists, such as rheumatologists, surgeons, and neurologists, for additional collaboration. Always, the welfare of the patient is the most important priority.

“We take time to get to know our patients, who are from all backgrounds and professions,” Dr. Cooper says. “Our goal and commitment is never to deviate from our dedication to give each patient our full attention.

“A doctor I studied with told me something very important: ‘Just take care of one person at a time, and the rest will take care of itself.’ We always take care of that one person — always.”

Continuing education in non-surgical musculoskeletal treatment is crucial, and the physicians at the Center are foremost in their fields. As Dr. Cooper says, “The doctors in our practice are fellowship-trained and board-certified. They have written 18 books on orthopedics, and we constantly push ourselves to lead.

“In the last few years, we have added three doctors, and we interviewed more than 40 qualified physicians to find those three because we wanted to sure they would share our desire to continue to improve and lead in our field while always remaining true to the calling of raking care of the person sitting in front of you. We couldn’t be happier with our new colleagues.

Doctors Cooper and Bracilovic are also very proud of the staff at the Center, and point out, “Our staff has been with us for a very long time. We really think of ourselves as a little family. We want patients to feel that, too, and be comfortable and welcome, and to know that we treat them as a whole person. There are many factors that can be part of their condition.

“We think we are very fortunate to have a specialty that can be filled with instant gratification. We have the ability to treat patients who come in with pain, and then enable them to leave our office that day without pain. We can alleviate pain almost immediately. What can be more gratifying than that? This is our priority and our commitment.”

Princeton Spine & Joint Center accepts all major insurance plans, and appointments are available Monday through Friday. (609) 454-0760. Website: