New Neurosurgeon at San Juan Regional Spine Center


A neurologist’s treatments are pharmacological and behavioral. A neurosurgeon’s are invasive and require surgical procedures. Enter Dr. Christopher Payne, new neurosurgeon at San Juan Regional Spine Center in Farmington. By Donna K. Hewett. Sponsored by SunRay Park and Casino and Traegers Bar

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More than 600 neurological disorders, both short term and chronic health conditions, can affect the spine, brain, and nervous system. Common disorders include multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, epilepsy, and Parkinson's disease. But when the problem is structural, such as a spine or brain tumor, the patient turns from the neurologist to the neurosurgeon. Enter Dr. Christopher Payne, the newest neurosurgeon at San Juan Regional Spine Center in Farmington. You're watching the Local News Network brought to you by Traegers and Sunray Park and Casino. I'm Hannah Robertson. The saying, "It's not brain surgery," does not apply to Dr. Payne.

As a neurosurgeon, we work on brains and spines, but the vast majority of people have, you know, a spine problem versus, you know, if you talk to most people, you know, they're probably going to have a back pain issue or a neck pain issue before they have, you know, say a brain tumor. So by far the most common thing we treat are neck and back, low back issue, problems like that.

The examination for a possibly invasive neurologic procedure is exacting and laborious with investigation.

So our typical neurological exam, we start with the, what we call the cranial nerves. So the nerves that control the eye movements, the eyes, the face, in terms of the facial movements, the facial sensation, and then, you know, once we kind of go through all of that from the cranial nerve standpoint and kind of that direct communication to the brain, then we go towards like the peripheral nerves and those nerves that come off the spine. So starting with the cervical spine, so, you know, your deltoid strength, in terms of like lifting your arms up and down, your bicep strength, hand strength, looking for any muscular loss in the hands that could be a sign of a neurological issue that we could treat surgically, any abnormal reflexes, and then kind of carry that throughout, down to the legs, make sure, you know, the strength in the legs is working well, the sensation is normal, the reflexes are normal and whatnot, and kind of, from there, compile everything and have an idea of what is the actual problem that's going on. What's the pathology? Where should we look next in terms of, you know, am I going to get a brain MRI? Am I going to get a cervical MRI? An MRI of the lower back? Do I need a CT? Cause I'm worried about a fracture. Those are the kinds of things we kind of go through.

Dr. Payne says his ironic name is a good icebreaker with patients, especially since he specializes in pain management syndromes.

I do have focus in pain treatment. I think that that sounds really broad, but there are certain situations where, you know, someone has had lumbar back surgery and hasn't, has still had, you know, back pain, which is one of the very difficult things to treat surgically. In those situations, we can consider things like a spinal cord stimulator to place on the thoracic spinal cord, and that kind of can trick the spine, the spinal cord into thinking that it is not getting the same pain from the back as it has been before. So that's kind of one of the things. One of the other things that I like to treat is trigeminal neuralgia. So people with facial pain referred from, from one of the cranial nerves that we were talking about earlier, that is something that we can treat surgically through, you know, a small craniotomy on the back of the head to kind of make some room for that cranial nerve and stop the irritation that's happening with it.

Born in The Bahamas, Dr. Payne completed his undergraduate degree in Ontario, studied medicine at the University of Dublin and completed his seven-year residency in Pittsburgh. Now living in the four corners, his first job as a neurosurgeon is 3000 miles away from his home, but he's happy to be here, and part of the prestigious San Juan Regional Medical Center team.

I'm excited to join the community. I think that's one of the things that I really liked about the opportunity was to, to be kind of welcomed into a community where you can, can provide a service that that is needed and, and at a great place like San Juan Regional Spine Center. So I'm very happy to be joining here and, and giving my services to the community.

Though he grew up on the ocean, Dr. Payne has an infatuation with the desert. So his heart's here as well.

From the time I was a kid, I was, for some reason, fascinated with the west and the Southwest and of the US and it's, it's kind of strange. Cause you know, I grew up on the east beautiful beaches that everyone wants to go to and I'm like, I just want to go out west.

San Juan Regional Spine Center in Farmington located at 407 Schwartz Avenue offers a comprehensive spine, neck, and back program and minimally invasive surgeries. For more information, go to the neurosciences section at Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Hannah Robertson.


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