WOODBURY, Minn. — When Dr. Pawan Patel developed debilitating lower back pain, he braced himself for surgery.

But a specialist intervened: he could actually receive an injection in the muscle.

Days later, he was walking again.

“Sometimes you need an expert,” Patel said.

The specialist, Dr. Svetlana Zaydman, is the medical director at Valley Medical and Wellness in Woodbury, which opened this fall. Zaydman said her clinic differentiates itself by focusing on both addiction and pain in its approach.

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Valley Medical and Wellness first opened in Burnsville five years ago, and has a second office in Minneapolis.

Over the years, the majority of the clinic’s patients had previously been prescribed pain medication, often opioids, by a general practitioner, and then dropped after developing an addiction or problem because of the medication, said Dr. Aswhin George.

“Our goal is to prescribe opioids in a safer way,” he said. “We are also trying to see if they really need surgery, because a lot of times they don't need surgery. A lot of times the pain actually gets worse and they end up on opioids.”

The majority of the clinic’s referrals come from primary physicians, said Jerald Mackey, clinic manager.

“The scary thing for a physician to prescribe opioids, if it’s not their specialty … they risk losing their medical license,” he said. “Because we’re a specialty, we’re able to put certain controls in place, like consistent drug testing and close monitoring.”

In addition, the clinic receives referrals from other specialists, especially when surgery is a consideration.

“(Zaydman) would be the first stop I’d go to to avoid surgery,” said Kathy Hill, a spine consultant who works with orthopedic and neuro-spine surgeons at True North Medical.

Clinics like Valley Medical and Wellness give patients a holistic approach to treatment, she said.

“It’s a balancing act. If you’re addicted to pain medication, you’re still in pain. You need a physician who can handle that pain and addiction,” she said.

Rather than forcing patients to seek help elsewhere, Valley Medical and Wellness provides addiction treatment at the clinic, including counseling with medication, Zaydman said.

“That’s basically the gold standard of treatment. We’re trying to contain these people and not kick them out,” she said.

The clinic still prescribes opioids in necessary situations, George said, but maintains a focus on long-term patient functionality.

“There’s a safer prescription of pain medications, that’s one goal, and the second goal is to make sure the patients are functioning,” he said.