Back Talk Doc

Back Talk Doc

Sanjiv Lakhia - Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates

Millions of Americans suffer from back pain every day. Chances are you, or someone you love is suffering or will suffer from back pain at some point. You do not have to suffer in silence. Help is here. Back Talk Doc is a podcast brought to you by Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, where providing personalized, highly-skilled, and compassionate spine care to the Charlotte, NC area has been our specialty for over 75 years. And now, it’s time to understand the cause of back pain and learn about options to get you back on track! On Back Talk Doc, Dr. Sanjiv Lakhia will help you find answers to some of the most common questions about back pain and spine health. As a Physiatrist at Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, Dr. Lakhia is an expert in finding non-surgical treatment options for back and spine problems. The podcast features interviews with neurosurgeons and spine specialists along with episodes where Dr. Lakhia covers an array of different issues such as back pain, neck pain, spine surgery, spine injections, and concussion testing. If you would like to know more about Dr. Lakhia and treatment options for back issues, go to To make an appointment, contact Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine at 1-800-344-6716 or visit

Categories: Health

Listen to the last episode:

Even with their in-depth medical training, doctors can brush off accidents and deny the possibility of a lumbar issue. It’s not until the pain persists or worsens that they come to terms with the possibility of having a longer-term injury. 

Doctors can even experience a sense of shame about having a spine problem while being a spine expert. 

On this episode of Back Talk Doc, Dr. Sanjiv Lakhia invites his colleague and friend Dr. Joseph Cheatle, a neurosurgeon at Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates, to discuss the personal challenges that he has faced with low back pain. 

Dr. Cheatle’s injury occurred following a skiing accident where they were hit by another skier. Initially, he brushed off the incident, but over time, he began experiencing increasing discomfort in his back and buttocks. As the pain worsened, he realized the challenge of diagnosing his own condition.

Even after finally seeking professional help with his injury, which included physical therapy and an MRI, Dr. Cheatle was still not entirely upfront with his own family. But they noticed changes in his behavior, including staying in his car longer after arriving home from work because it hurt to get up, and having to excuse himself to go lay down. 

Ultimately it was conservative therapies, including spinal injections, that helped Dr. Cheatle reduce his pain and begin to recover. It was at this point that he was able to reintegrate exercise into his life with the help of physical therapy. 

The experience has made him a better doctor, allowing him to provide more meaningful support and encouragement to patients during the healing process. He emphasizes that the emotional aspect of recovery is often as challenging as the physical.

💡 Featured Expert 💡

Name: Joseph Cheatle, MD

What he does: As a board-certified neurosurgeon at Carolina NeuroSurgery & Spine Associates, Dr. Cheatle, provides adult neurosurgical care. His clinical special interests include treating brain tumors, degenerative spinal disorders, transsphenoidal surgery, and spinal cord stimulation.

Company: Carolina NeuroSurgery & Spine Associates

Words of wisdom: “I'm a better doctor, for sure. And what I mean by that is that I can sympathize and not empathize.”

Connect: Website 

⚓ Anchor Points ⚓

Top takeaways from this Back Talk Doc episode 

  • You should be a patient, not a doctor for yourself. After realizing the severity of his situation, Dr. Cheatle sought professional help from the physical therapy department. He completed a thorough examination and underwent an MRI. 
  • Don’t immediately jump to surgery as a solution. A discectomy would likely have provided quick relief. But even as a surgeon, Dr. Cheatle recognized the importance of trying other therapies first. He opted to explore more conservative treatment options before considering more invasive measures.
  • Distinguishing between sympathy and empathy. Dr. Cheatle says that he is a better doctor after his injury. It allowed him to connect with patients on a deeper emotional level. By sharing his patients own struggles and triumphs, he can better relate to patients undergoing difficult situations. 

⚕️ Episode Insights ⚕️

[04:28] Brushing off an injury: Dr. Cheatle shares how he was involved in a skiing accident that he originally brushed off — before realizing it could be something more serious. 

[08:45] Discovering new humility: Dealing with an injury of his own made Dr. Cheatle more compassionate towards his patients, as he could more directly relate to the pain they were feeling.

[10:14] Asking for help: After attempting to deal with the injury on his own, Dr. Cheatle sought our professional assistance for his recovery including physical therapy and an MRI. 

[11:16] Phenomenal physical therapists: For those looking to learn more about physical therapy and neck pain, Dr. Lakhia mentions additional podcast episodes on Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and neck pain

[12:51] Did you get a piercing?: Dr. Cheatle and Dr. Lakhia discuss battlefield acupuncture, which uses small needles that can resemble ear studs. You can learn more in Episode 65 of Back Talk Doc on Battlefield Acupuncture for Pain with John Howard.

[15:03] Practice what you preach: The doctors discuss why non-operative care can be the right choice for people and why in his case, Dr. Cheatle decided to opt for conservative therapies first. 

[18:07] Finding relief: A series of spinal injections administered by Dr. Lakhia did end up providing some relief. Dr. Cheatle shares his experience being on the patient side of the procedure for the first time. 

[23:58] Building strength through pain: Reintegrating exercise into your routine is an important part of recovery from an injury. A healthy way to do so is discussed in more detail in another episode on Back Pain and the Sacroiliac Joint with Tanner Holden, PT.

[28:27] Addressing the questions: Dr. Cheatle and Dr. Lakhia address questions from the audience, including what can be done to address severe pain, how to treat recurrent pain after surgery, and why pain can flare up in the morning. 

Subscribe & Contact

👉 If you enjoyed this episode of Back Talk Doc, check out our recent episode Empathy and Compassion: The Journey from Spine Patient to Provider with Physician Assistant Lindsay Howard

👉Enroll in Dr. Lakhia’s 6 week course to lower inflammation. 

👉Apply for an Integrative Medicine consult with Dr. Lakhia (NC/SC residents only). 

🔎 For more information on Dr. Sanjiv Lakhia and the podcast visit

👀Check us out on the 15 Best Back Pain Podcasts list!

🎧 Subscribe in your favorite podcast app.

Back Talk Doc is brought to you by Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, with offices in North and South Carolina. To learn more about Dr. Lakhia and treatment options for back and spine issues, go to To schedule an appointment with Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, you can call us at 1-800-344-6716 or visit our website at

Previous episodes

  • 75 - We Feel Your Back Pain with Dr. Joe Cheatle 
    Mon, 13 Nov 2023 - 0h
  • 74 - Empathy and Compassion: The Journey from Spine Patient to Provider with Physician Assistant Lindsay Howard 
    Mon, 30 Oct 2023 - 0h
  • 73 - Talking Artificial Disc and Facet Replacement Surgery with Dr. Vince Rossi 
    Tue, 10 Oct 2023 - 0h
  • 72 - An integrative approach to low back pain with Dr. Elizabeth Yurth 
    Mon, 28 Aug 2023
  • 71 - Food Elimination and Pain with Heather Wolcott 
    Wed, 09 Aug 2023 - 0h
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