By Rose L. Thayer

Killeen Daily Herald

After two surgeries, former Marine Reservist Doug Burnett still suffered with back pain and needed his wife's help just to get out of bed in the morning.

"I had severe back problems from the typical military existence," said Burnett, who lives in Georgetown and had his first back surgery more than five years ago. "It got to a point where I'd have to give up my love."

His love was an active, family-oriented lifestyle, which included cycling and lifting weights. His physical frustrations also put his job as a civilian contractor at risk. "I was at the end of my rope," he said.

Pain affects an estimated 116 million Americans - that's more than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined, according to the American Academy of Pain Management. The incremental health care cost ranges from $560 billion to $635 billion a year in the U.S., which combines the medical costs of pain care and the economic costs related to disability days, lost wages and productivity.

Back pain, such as the kind Burnett suffered, is the most common form of suffering, and the academy reports that it is the leading cause of disability for Americans under age 45.

Now medically retired from the Marines, Burnett's military doctors in 2006 referred him to pain management specialist Dr. Vic Mahendru with the Pain Specialists of Austin, which also is located part-time on Clear Creek Road in Killeen.

"We started on physical therapy, the right medications and the right programs," said Burnett. " What he did kept me physically viable."

Mahendru worked with Burnett on a total pain management plan that focused on nutrition, exercise and physical therapy. Within months, he was off pain medications and was able to work in Afghanistan one final time last year.

"It was the most physical summer of my life," Burnett said. "I did it with no meds and no pills."

Now the 55-year-old is back on his bike, riding up to 120 miles a week, and even participates in charitable century rides around Central Texas. "Honestly, if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't get to have the life that I do. That's gospel," said Burnett.

Mahendru works in interventional pain management, looking to see specifically where pain is coming from and treat it at the source. "Once we find the pain, we try to go after it," said the doctor. "We try to eliminate the source if possible, so it's not long-term pain."

Most of all, said Mahendru, he does not want a patient's pain to become chronic, which means it lasts longer than six months.

Aside from managing pain, Mahendru also counsels patients on their lifestyle choices and how habits and diet can effect pain in the body. He encourages patients to quit smoking, lose excess weight, avoid processed foods and incorporate more lean meats and omega-3 fatty acids into their diet.

"Once they begin living a healthy lifestyle, they realize they should have been doing it before," said Mahendru. "They feel better."

But Burnett's condition was unique, Mahendru said, because the former Marine already was living a healthy, active life that was being taken over by pain.

"When you're in chronic pain, you can't sleep. You become depressed and anxious. A lot of these things can add up and play a role in pain," said Mahendru. "Now, I see him doing quite well. To see him doing simple things we take for granted is very, very gratifying. He's living a normal life."

Mahendru currently sees patients in Killeen once a week but hopes to expand the clinic to full time.

"You don't have to live another day with pain. We have the expertise, the knowledge and the skills to accurately diagnose and create a treatment plan," he said. "We can give your the opportunity to live a life pain-free."

Contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

Learn more

For more information about the Pain Specialists of Austin Killeen Clinic call 1-855-876-PAIN(7246).

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