Spine Center

Navigating Back & Neck Pain Solutions

Back and neck pain can affect quality of life in every way, which is why LLUMC-M brings holistic and advanced spine care to our patients. Our physicians and staff love working with patients to provide lasting relief and solutions for anyone suffering from spinal injuries caused by damaged nerves, strained muscles, damaged joints and other causes. 

Patient Navigator

Navigating back and neck pain can be frustrating. In order to alleviate potential frustration, we provide a patient navigator to guide patients through each step of the process whether it is organizing past medical records or preparing to meet with a physician or surgical team.

Signs That A Back And/Or Neck Procedure Could Be Right For You

The back and neck are an interconnected network of spinal muscles, nerves, bones and discs. These interconnected parts can become injured over time from simple wear and tear, or become damaged suddenly during an accident. Any type of damage to the spinal region can cause a significant amount of pain and discomfort. There are several signs you might be a candidate for a spinal procedure

  • You suffer from chronic back, neck, arm, or leg pain or numbness that has been bothering you for a long time
  • Your pain increases when you cough or sneeze
  • You have pain that wakes you up while you’re sleeping
  • You have difficulty urinating or defecating, or you have lost control of urination or bowel movements
  • You have fractured or broken vertebrae  

While these symptoms could stem from a variety of things such as sudden trauma or wear and tear, it’s most likely indicative of a pinched nerve or spinal cord damage. Back pain is often caused by irritation of nerve roots, strained lower back muscles, damaged bones, ligaments or joints, or degenerating intervertebral discs. These injuries can come from present or past vehicle crashes, falls, participating in sports and everyday activities.

Non-Surgical Treatments and Classes

Our caring physical therapy staff can increase a patient’s mobility and help them perform day-to-day physical activities affected by back pain. They provide customized approaches to building strength and flexibility to alleviate and manage pain, which can relieve discomfort without a major surgical procedure.

Other non-surgical procedures include using fluoroscopic technology (a continuous live x-ray) to place medicine in exact locations to alleviate pain. For instance, Trigger Point Injections may be an option to treat painful areas of muscle that contain trigger points and knots of muscle that form when muscles do not relax. Epidural injections also using fluoroscopy place anti-inflammatory medicine into the epidural space to decrease inflammation of the nerve roots in an attempt to reduce the pain in the neck, shoulders and arms. Additionally, nerve blocks given with an anesthetic or anti-inflammatory injection can alleviate nerve pain by being targeted toward a certain nerve or nerve group.

All of these are minimally invasive outpatient procedures that have a very short recovery time. Many times patients will feel some tenderness at the injection site that lasts a day or two. Best of all, many patients feel fast non-surgical relief for pain that has been bothering them for a long period of time.

Types Of Spinal Procedures Offered

  • Motion-preserving total disc replacement/arthroplasty
  • Minimally invasive lumbar fusion
  • Outpatient treatment of spinal stenosis and herniated discs through a less than 1 inch incision
  • 3-dimensional x-ray guidance for placement of spinal implants
  • Surgical treatment of scoliosis, spine tumors, and spine fractures

Our Doctors

Vance Johnson, MD is a Physical Medicine Specialist who served as Chief Resident at Loma Linda University Medical Center where he trained in advanced Neurodiagnostics. He subspecialized in Interventional Spine Medicine, established a fellowship program in spine medicine and has taught thousands of doctors the latest advances in treating the spine via outpatient operations. Dr. Johnson has consulted in over 100,000 cases and performed over 20,000 procedures.

Kamal Woods, MD is a neurosurgeon specializing in neck and back pain, spinal tumors, spinal fusion, cervical arthroplasty, minimally invasive spinal surgeries, and degenerative diseases of the spine. Throughout his career, Dr. Woods has received recognition for his high level of compassion with patients. He received his Neurosurgical training at Loma Linda University Medical Center, and completed a combined Orthopedic and Neurosurgery enfolded Complex Spine Fellowship at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. A particular area of interest for Dr. Woods is the oblique lumbar interbody fusion (OLIF) procedure. He is currently the principal investigator of research project looking at the fusion rates and complication rates associated with the OLIF procedure.

Mark Spicer, PhD, MD is a Fellow of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. His specialties include back, neck and nerve pain, chronic pain, brain tumors, head and spinal trauma, hydrocephalus, carpal tunnel syndrome, spinal tumors and degenerative spinal disorders. Dr. Spicer received his medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven Connecticut. He later completed his residency in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California. Dr. Spicer maintains significant research interest in the advanced surgical treatment of neurological conditions especially through the use of virtual and image-guided techniques. He is deeply committed to helping patients regain their independence after suffering the effects of brain, pituitary or nerve disorders.


LLUMC - Murrieta uses state-of-the art equipment that complements our trained and talented staff. Our physicians engage with technology like the highly advanced Medtronic O-Arm® which not only improves surgical results and recovery times, but helps ensure the best care in the region. With imaging of the surgical site in real time, procedures become more precise and less invasive, but never compromise on the care, compassion, and patient-centeredness that define our organization.


Many of our patients return to their normal lives and the many physical activities they enjoyed prior to engaging with our physicians and support staff. Our goal is to make our patients as pain free as physically possible so they can live life to the fullest.


In addition to services like medicine and surgery, we believe in the power of support: dietary counseling, physical therapy and aquatic exercise to help you sustain positive results. Our specially trained team works together to integrate every aspect of your care.