Physician's Corner: Steven Mayer MD

Posted 4/4/2016 in Physician's Corner | 2225 view(s) | 0 comment(s)

Steven Mayer, MD

Northwestern Medicine

Sports Medicine

1. How and why did you decide to choose your specialization?

I practice and am currently board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as Sports Medicine. I chose this area medicine predominantly because I strongly believe in exercise as the best medicine. I believe most injuries we see in orthopedics can be both prevented and treated with exercise-based care. Additionally, the majority of medical ailments can also be prevented and treated this way such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. The trend in our medical culture is to treat problems once they exist. My particular medical specialty lends itself well to educating patient's on how they can prevent future injuries and recurrences, as well as treat their injuries many times without interventions.

2. What sets you/your group apart from others in your field?

I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm better than my competitor's and/or colleagues. What I do promise my patients that I believe is unique, or at least rare, is that I will give them the identical advice that I would give to my own family member. I care deeply that we determine the correct diagnosis, obtain the most ideal treatment, and do whatever we can to return t the patient to full functional status. Additionally, I make certain that my patients are educated on all of the options with a focus on conservative exercise-based care options. We certainly discuss interventions such as injections in surgical options, but I also make sure they are fully educated that these options are rarely needed.

3. In what ways do you vary your treatment for different segments of the population (endurance athletes, pediatric, dancers, general population)?

I wouldn't say that I necessarily vary my treatments for different segments of the population. All of my patients get an evaluation of their functional status, and we discuss lifestyle issues such as diet and exercise. With typically varies from patient to patient is the amount of time we spend on various aspects of education. For instance, an obese sedentary adult with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis will have a treatment plan focused on lifestyle modification education. In a typical endurance athlete with patellofemoral pain, we will have a more focused discussion on the diagnosis , and the weaknesses or asymmetries found on examination.

4. In your opinion, why is it important for patients to work with a physical therapist in conjunction with a physician?

This is something dear to my heart and something I discuss at all of my lectures, and it always seems to raise some eyebrows. I strongly believe that physical therapy is our most valuable resource in medicine. I personally cannot come up with any specific diagnosis that can't or shouldn't involve help from physical therapists at some point in their treatment. For the majority of the diagnoses we see, physical therapy is the first treatment of choice and the mainstay of treatment. Anything else we do as physicians, whether it's medication management, injections, or even surgical options will fail over the long-term without making sure that structurally everything around the problem is strong, symmetric and functional. Our patient's also need to have a thorough understanding of how to prevent injury recurrences, and this is best done one-on-one with the physical therapists.

5. Do you have a favorite or most challenging diagnosis/injury to treat?

Over the years I have become known as the physician to see for adolescent low back pain and this is something that I have enjoyed doing. At times it can certainly be challenging but I very much enjoy working with this age group. I also enjoy seeing endurance athletes of all ages. These are my most motivated patient's and they all do extremely well because of that mindset.

6. Any challenges with being an endurance athlete and physician? How does one influence the other?

Being an endurance athlete and a physician I believe gives me great perspective on where many of my patients are coming. Every day I see patients who are told by a physician to stop running, or to discontinue whatever athletic activity makes him or her happy. I consider it a personal challenge to help these patients return to the sport that they love because I know how I would feel if I were in the same position. I believe that endurance athletes greatly benefit from seeing medical professionals, whether it's a physical therapist, physician or dietitian, who truly gets exactly where they're coming from. I understand a heart ache of having to temporarily discontinue activities that you're passionate about. I spent a great amount of time with my patients laying out a long-term plan so they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. From the standpoint being an endurance athlete absolutely influences me on a daily basis when I treat our sports medicine population, and it also motivates me to educate my more sedentary patient population on the importance of lifestyle modification and its benefits. In all honesty, my biggest challenge with being both an endurance athlete and physician, is simply finding the time to do it all.

7. With spring approaching do you see a change or influx in any specific injuries?

In the endurance athlete population we certainly see in increase in injuries and spring time. Many athletes start dramatically increasing their training as it starts to warm up outside. Examples of these more common springtime injuries are planter fasciitis, Achilles tendinosis, patellofemoral knee pain, iliotibial band syndrome and low back pain. Many times these injuries can be treated very effectively with physical therapy to reverse weaknesses that are contributing to the pain, and also to plan out a slower and more reasonable increase in training activities.

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