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Sports Medicine North Physician Spotlight on Dr. Erica Bial

Dr. Erica Bial

Get to know Dr. Erica J. Bial, interventional pain specialist, who joined Sports Medicine North in November 2022.

Why did you decide to join Sports Medicine North?

SMN is unique in this area in that it’s a one-stop-shop for patients. We can offer our patients the opportunity to get convenient and streamlined, focused, care. We treat our patients comprehensively by offering a broad range of necessary services such as physical therapy, and on-site imaging, while maintaining the ability to referring to our colleagues depending on each patient’s needs. The organization has so many specialties under one roof that all overlap with mine, making it a great fit for me as an interventional pain specialist. As a non-surgical physician, I work alongside my surgical colleagues to provide parallel evaluations for patients who are experiencing pain, especially in their back or joints.

How did you get interested in pain management?

When I was in medical school, pain management was brand new as an independent specialty. I was really excited and curious about the concept of treating the patient’s pain or loss of function, rather than my necessarily being focused on a single body system or patient population. This is a way of thinking that, practically, is unique to my field.

I like the creativity the discipline brings, as it encompasses so many other specialties such as neurosurgery, orthopedics and sports medicine. Being a pain management specialist allows me to take a broad look at a patient and offer individualized and specific care that is likely a lot less invasive than other treatment options. After all, pain is the number one reason adults visit the doctor (with back pain topping the complaint list), yet most patients don’t need surgery - so my field fills an incredibly important need in our population.

What is your practice philosophy?

I always try to go back to square one to give each patient a clean slate. Keeping an open mind gives me a distinct advantage when evaluating their pain. If a patient comes in already diagnosed with a disease, sometimes no one checks to make sure that’s still the problem even if the treatment isn’t working. I’ve learned to make a concerted effort to stay open minded and take steps in a logical way that is thoughtful and conservative – yet not slow. Doing things in a deductively reasoned way helps get my patients feeling and functioning better quickly and efficiently.

What trends are you seeing in pain medicine?

I’m very excited about neuromodulation such as spinal cord stimulation. Our devices are improving, and the science to support these procedures is getting ever more compelling. We can use these modalities in a broader ranging way to treat our patients. I know that many patients are looking for non-drug options. With better imaging and nerve stimulation, we can now be really focused and precise in our treatment as opposed to prescribing a highly non-selective drug that treats the whole body. This helps to reduce possible negative side effects.

What are your personal interests?

I love space and am very interested in astrophysics – I’m always following what NASA is doing. I think it’s fascinating to learn about a universe that’s so much larger than our own scope of awareness and experience. I'm a lifetime distance runner, and have recently picked up power yoga, which I enjoy. I am also a vegan chef and have training in teaching plant-based nutrition.