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San Juan Regional Spine Center offers specialized spine care locally

San Juan Regional Spine Center
Left to right: Dominic Cannella, MD, Christopher Payne, MD and Paul Davis, MD.

When people think of neurosurgery, they often think of brain surgery. But neurosurgeons focus on much more than the brain. They have highly specialized training that enables them to focus on the structural side of the entire central nervous system, which includes the brain and the spinal cord, from a person’s neck all the way to the base of their spine, as well as the peripheral nervous system.

“We take care of the complete spectrum of spinal problems, including the neck, the middle back and the low back. We are experts at that,” said Dr. Dominic Canella, Neurosurgeon at San Juan Regional Spine Center. “We also take care of peripheral nerve problems such as carpal tunnel symptoms or ulnar nerve problems at the elbow.” 

The most common issues neurosurgeons see patients for are neck pain, back pain or a combination of the two.

“Your neck and back are always in motion, they are always doing things and taking the load of your body, so those tend to be areas that wear out quickly,” said Dr. Christopher Payne, Neurosurgeon at San Juan Regional Spine Center.

San Juan Regional Spine Center offers a comprehensive spine, neck and back program - total spine care - guided by skilled neurosurgeons, interventional pain specialists and highly trained physical therapists. The providers work together to offer patients a range of options that may include physical therapy, injections, and when necessary, surgery.

“What we want to do first is exhaust every option before we get to surgery,” Dr. Payne said.

Minimally invasive spine surgery

San Juan Regional Spine Center specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery. Dr. Payne and fellow neurosurgeon Dr. Paul Davis are the only neurosurgeons in the area offering this treatment.

“Minimally invasive spine surgery is an attempt to reduce the amount of collateral damage or injury to the tissues that have to be moved to get to where the problem is. It generally results in less blood loss, less post-operative pain and a faster ability to recover,” said Dr. Davis.

“These procedures involve a much smaller incision,” Dr. Payne added. “Usually, a lot of the work is done with x-ray machines to show us where we are going instead of opening up the whole area to view.”

Many surgeries can be done with a minimally invasive approach, including disc herniations or bone spurs, synovial cysts and chronic lower back pain caused by the sacroiliac (SI) joint. SI joint pain can occur in patients who have had spinal fusions in the past, those with repetitive trauma to the SI joint, such as longtime runners, and mothers who have experienced multiple pregnancies. Dr. Payne is the only neurosurgeon in the region offering minimally invasive treatment for SI joint pain.

“This is something I am very excited to bring to the area and the community here as another alternative to the treatment of low back pain,” Dr. Payne said.

Neurosurgeons with experience and expertise, right at home

Since surgery is a major decision, the neurosurgeons at San Juan Regional Spine Center encourage patients to ask questions and do their research.

“One of the things that I would say is important is knowing the experience level of the surgeon. My colleagues and I here at San Juan Regional Spine Center perform complex spinal surgery and spinal decompressive surgery that is as advanced as it can be done anywhere in the country. There’s no reason for anyone to go anywhere else when that type of surgery can be performed right here,” Dr. Davis said.

Patients in Southern Colorado don’t even have to drive to Farmington for an evaluation. Dr. Davis and Dr. Cannella also see patients in Durango at San Juan Health Partners Specialty Services, located on Florida Road.

“It’s important for families to be together during the period of the operation and the recovery. They don’t have to travel to a strange environment, and I think people have a tendency to make a better recovery if they are close to home and under familiar circumstances,” said Dr. Cannella.

To make an appointment with the neurosurgeons at San Juan Regional Spine Center’s Farmington location or in Durango, call the clinic’s main number at 505.609.6595. For more information, visit

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