Dr. Doug Spiel is an Interventional Pain Physician and Regenerative Medicine Specialist. He has extensive knowledge and training in stem cell therapy and regenerative treatments.
Many patients arrive at Stem Cell Center of NJ, his clinic in New Jersey, because they have struggled with illness or pain for years. They come to Dr. Spiel because his reputation precedes him. He has been practicing Interventional Pain for almost 20 years offering many patients relief.
Helping patients get rid of pain and be able to do the things they love is Dr. Spiel’s passion. Whether he’s helping an athlete with an injury or a patient with a chronic condition, his goal is always to restore quality of life using an innovative approach that gets results. He prioritizes the individuality of the patient, their lifestyle, and the condition to formulate a treatment plan that addresses the problem.
We asked Dr. Spiel what sets him apart from other doctors in the field of interventional pain and regenerative medicine, and he was quick to respond.
“I think one of the differences that you see with me is I don’t accept anatomical descriptions given by MRI and CT reports. I review all of my patient’s images,” he told us. Dr. Spiel feels that there’s a real problem in medicine where a doctor sees a new patient and accepts the conclusions of previous doctors without going to the source – the patient.
That’s why his approach is different. When a new patient comes to him, he goes back to the original scans: MRIs, ultrasounds, and other diagnostic tests. He reviews them himself – something he is qualified to do as a board certified radiologist.
While he will still take other doctors’ comments and observations into consideration, he makes a point of looking at each patient “de novo” – with fresh eyes as if it were the first time they’d been seen by a doctor. That way, he can avoid what he refers to as the “train wrecks” of other doctors. Those are the patients who see one faulty diagnosis follow them around – while doctor after doctor misses the clues that might point to the proper treatment.
He recalls one patient whose case illustrates the importance of his approach. “One patient, a number of years ago came in with MRIs describing herniation. I looked at her MRIs and realized that there was a pelvic mass not described in the report. This kind of stuff happens all too many times and all too frequently where we see things that aren’t related to the patient’s symptomatology that are essentially red herrings but significantly affect the patient’s life. The woman underwent a hysterectomy for a malignant mass but many years later she is still here with us.”
Dr. Spiel knows that his approach requires more work than simply reading old MRI and CT scans – but he also sees the difference his patient-focused method makes. By keeping his attention on relieving the patient’s pain, he ensures that he won’t get caught up in making assumptions that postpone relief.
The ability to communicate effectively with patients is another thing that Dr. Spiel prides himself on. Doctors are highly educated, but where he feels they sometimes fall short is in their ability to communicate clearly.
“I am basically a kid from Yonkers,” he says. He grew up in a blue collar family and he hasn’t lost the common touch despite his years of training. “Whenever possible, I use models to describe things and many times I will also utilize animations, some of which are on my website, to help patients visually see what I’m talking about as I am telling them.”
His down-to-earth approach helps patients grasp what he’s telling them and make informed decisions about their care. That’s important to him because he thinks that sometimes, patients are intimidated by their doctors and don’t ask questions as a result of it.
He’s seen some patients who accepted advice given by their doctors even when it felt wrong. That’s a hard thing for him to accept, but he understands where it comes from. People tend to give doctors the benefit of the doubt, even though – realistically speaking – doctors are just as fallible as anybody else. “Just like certain mechanics do a good job with your car and certain mechanics don’t, the same is true for physicians,” he notes.
The key to treating patients for Dr. Spiel is understanding what they want to do. He might see a young athlete sidelined by an injury one day, and a man frustrated by the effects of erectile dysfunction the next. His goal is to learn about the patient, make an accurate diagnosis, and then determine the ideal course of treatment.
Diagnosing pain isn’t just about reading scans, however. Not all pain can be seen in the body, with the primary example being nerve pain. Dr. Spiel sometimes finds that after reviewing old scans and ordering new ones, he still isn’t certain that he understands the cause of a patient’s pain.
“I have a staff that helps me perform very elegant physical exams so that we can decipher how much of your problem is due to something anatomic, something which we can physically fix, a herniated disc, a bone spur, something which is fixable and delineate those patients from patients that have what we would call neuropathic pain, pain from an upregulated nervous system, where it doesn’t matter what the picture looks like.”
In such cases, the only solution is to find a way to change the nervous system using regenerative therapy or stem cell treatments, which is one of Dr. Spiel’s specialties. As a Diplomat of the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians – the first radiologist to earn that honor – he understands that choosing the proper therapy is the key to relieving pain. Relieving nerve pain sometimes requires a variety of treatments, including “certain nerve blocks as well as forms of electrical neuromodulation, spinal cord stim, dorsal root ganglion stimulation, peripheral nerve stimulation and the like.”
Of course, not every patient responds to the first course of treatment. Such cases can be frustrating, but persistence is the key. He and his staff use a treatment algorithm that allows them to choose the treatments that are most likely to help first, and then move down the line to alternatives if necessary.
We asked Dr. Spiel to tell us about why he does what he does. “The best part of my career is seeing the treatment successes and seeing the letters and thanks and smiles,” he says. The success stories of his patients are what keep him going. He shared one story with us.
One of his patients was a 20-year-old college student, a competitive swimmer. She had been diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in her foot subsequent to an injury, and the pain had kept her sidelined for over six months and told that she would likely be on crutches for the rest of her life.
When Dr. Spiel reviewed her films, he saw something that didn’t add up. “Some of the dye patterns were incorrect, some of the volumes injected were inappropriate, and some of the tonicities of the injectates were off,” he recalls. The patient’s mother brought her in and he suggested a course of treatment that involved some nerve blocks and the insertion of an Intellicath if she responded.
“A year later, she was still pain free and doing what she loves, swimming, again with her life back,” he says with pride. This patient, he says, is a good example of why he uses the approach he does. If he had simply accepted her earlier diagnosis, he might not have tried the treatment that ended up changing his patient’s life.
According to Dr. Spiel, the world is full of similar stories. Sometimes even the best of intentions can lead people astray, and the situation isn’t helped by the sort of structure health care offered by HMOs. Patients “can’t visit any practitioner they want,” he notes. That means they sometimes end up getting pushed along on a conveyor belt of ineffective treatments. He wants to change that.
Recently, Dr. Spiel completed the Hands On Training program with Boston BioLife. He spends much of his time studying, learning and teaching the newest information regarding stem cell therapy and the use of exosomes. He works hand in hand with some of the leading scientists in the field. He has developed a proprietary therapy known as Clever Cell. He has an thorough knowledge of all of the options available in regenerative therapy, resulting in a unique ability to integrate therapies to produce the best outcomes from joint pain to neurological disorders. His diverse knowledge across multiple specialties, allows for an understanding of all systems of the body which is most useful in treating chronic or unusual conditions.
Dr. Spiel has also been spending a great deal of time treating both men and women with chronic pelvic pain as well as men experiencing erectile dysfunction with the use of Cell Assisted technology. As he continues to expand this part of his practice. Many of the patients he sees come to him because they are unable to have normal sexual relations with their loved one, and – while that’s sometimes not the cause of physical pain, he wants to do his part in eradicating emotional pain, as well. The two often go hand in hand.
For Dr. Spiel, there’s no such thing as a typical patient because everybody he sees is unique.
The secret to good medical care is looking beyond the obvious. The scans he reviews only provide part of the picture. The rest has to come with what he likes to call “an elegant examination,” the kind of individualized attention that many doctors do not provide.
Dr. Spiel’s unique skills, comprehensive training, willingness to focus on his patients’ individual needs, and desire to learn as science and medicine expand, are what set him apart – and make him a pioneer.
Douglas J. Spiel, MD, is the founder of SpielMD, Cure Mens ED, and Stem Cell Center of NJ in New Jersey. He specializes in Interventional Pain, Radiology and Regenerative Therapy.