Pioneering Pain Medicine: St. Luke’s Spine & Pain Associates

By M. Minti Ray

Agonizing pain was D. Scott Cooney’s reality for over a decade after a screw pierced a nerve in his back during a surgery for treating advanced spinal degeneration. From 2001 to 2011, he experienced chronic pain so unbearable that he could not sleep for more than a few hours a night, let alone spend time with his cherished family. He visited multiple physicians for consultations and tests, but received no answers beyond increasing dosages of potent prescription medication which provided minimal relief and a suggestion to learn to live with his pain. “My life was a nightmare. I had no hope left,” he explains. Desperate to regain his life, Mr. Cooney sought treatment at St. Luke’s Spine and Pain Associates.

Affecting over 1.5 billion people across the world, chronic pain is one of the most prevalent and costly health issues in modern society. St. Luke’s Spine and Pain Associates specializes in pain medicine – an interdisciplinary field aimed at reducing pain, improving function, and enhancing quality of life. The practice was established in 2007 by Dr. Scott J. Loev, who completed a pain medicine fellowship during which he was named a Pfizer Scholar in Pain Management, along with St. Luke’s University Health Network. He, along with fellowship-trained colleagues Dr. Berger and Dr. Qureshi, provides cutting edge medical treatments and surgical procedures to mitigate pain from a wide range of sources including spinal cord problems, cancer, injury, and other chronic conditions. The team practices at the Quakertown Bone and Joint Institute, St. Luke’s Bethlehem Campus, and St. Luke’s Anderson Campus and is planning to open an additional office in the near future.

Upon being referred to Dr. Loev or one of his colleagues, patients undergo an initial consultation including a thorough physical examination and history taking. The physician will then determine the next course of action which is typically further studies for diagnosis, a procedure, or medication. However, the practice is primarily procedure oriented. As Dr. Loev explains, “there are many difficulties that come with treating pain with medication including overprescribing, underprescribing, and addiction. Treating a patient without medication is certainly preferred.”

Mr. Cooney was relieved when Dr. Loev shared this philosophy with him during his initial visit. “Up until then, every conversation was about taking pills. For once, I felt heard,” he describes. Dr. Loev’s first course of action was a nerve block, a local anesthetic with steroids to help diagnose and treat the pain. However, the effects only lasted a few days. Then, he suggested an innovative procedure called spinal cord stimulation in which a small device, similar to a cardiac pacemaker, is implanted within the body in order to block the feelings of pain through low voltage electrical stimulation of the spinal nerves. In September 2011, Dr. Loev implanted the device for a trial period, and Mr. Cooney’s pain finally came to an end. He later underwent an additional surgery to permanently implant the device. December 5, 2011 was the last time he ever took pain medication. Today, Mr. Cooney remains pain free and is able to once again enjoy the simple pleasures of spending time with his wife of 30 years and playing with his grandchildren.

Given his experience and success with spinal cord and peripheral nerve stimulation, Dr. Loev and his colleagues are currently participating in a study examining long term patient outcomes of this procedure. They are also pioneering the use of other novel treatments such as minimally invasive lumbar decompression, an image guided approach to alleviating spinal stenosis pain. Dr. Loev credits his ability to do such work to being part of the St. Luke’s University Health Network. “I have access to so many invaluable resources including other physicians for consultations, hospital-based procedure rooms, and support for research and community outreach,” he explains. As part of the university network, the practice physicians also contribute to the training and education of the next generation of doctors.

As a result of strides in research, quality of care, and community education, Dr. Loev and the practice received the Purdue Partners Against Pain Award which salutes those who have made great strides in the field of pain research, management, or improving the quality of life for peopling living with acute and/or chronic pain. But for Dr. Loev, the greatest reward is transforming the lives of his patients. And as stated by Mr. Cooney, that is precisely what he has done. “I cannot say enough about Dr. Loev and his team. He has literally changed my life. I am a happy, blessed man because of him.”


In late 2009, acclaimed contemporary painter Bradley Hendershot began experiencing severe pain after undergoing back surgery to treat a herniated disk. Debilitated by the excruciating pain, he was no longer able to create his inspiring watercolors of rural Pennsylvania and coastal Maine. “I couldn’t even sit or stand for very long. The normal, daily activities we take for granted became impossible,” he explains. Mr. Hendershot sought treatment from Dr. Scott Loev, Director of St. Luke’s Spine and Pain Associates. Upon completing a detailed diagnosis, Dr. Loev suggested a series of epidural injections which prevent nerve root inflammation in order to reduce pain and improve function. Just a few days after the third injection, Mr. Hendershot was shocked by the complete absence of pain. Two and half years later, he remains pain free and is currently preparing for a series of upcoming solo exhibitions.


The Impact of Pain (Sidebar #1)
1 – Institute of Medicine Report from the Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care, and Education: Relieving Pain in America. A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research. The National Academies Press, 2011.

2 – 2006 Voices of Chronic Pain Survey

3 – Peter D. Hart Research Associates. Americans in Pain.

(Study conducted on behalf of Research! America)

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