Addressing Chronic Neck Pain | Ascension

Addressing Chronic Neck Pain

After living with chronic neck pain for 10 years, Mercedes Betancourt turned to Ascension St. Vincent’s Southside for answers.

After living with chronic neck pain for 10 years, Mercedes Betancourt realized that losing her independence was almost as traumatic as the pain itself.

“I was unable to do basic tasks without help,” said Betancourt, 50. “You don’t know how important those things are until you can’t do them on your own. I knew I couldn’t give up; I had to find a way to live again.”

Betancourt turned to neurosurgeon Dr. Ali Chahlavi at Ascension St. Vincent’s Southside for answers. She learned that a damaged disc in her neck was putting pressure on a nerve, causing a range of symptoms that had progressed over time. She had tried physical therapy and pain management, but nothing could relieve her pain or restore her function.

“The pain would come and go,” Betancourt explained. “It started as headaches, then neck and shoulder pain. Five years ago, it went from bad to worse. I couldn’t use my right hand or walk without dragging my feet.”

In May, Betancourt underwent a procedure to remove the damaged disc and fuse together the bones in her neck. One month after her surgery, the progress has been night and day, she said.

“I have the utmost gratitude for all the wonderful care, treatment and attention I was given from everyone,” she said. “St. Vincent’s set an expectation of excellence when I walked through their doors and it continued across all areas, from pre-registration, COVID testing, lab technician, all were prompt and attentive.”

Most importantly, she said: “They helped restore my hope of living a normal life. Each day I’m getting stronger. I’m so grateful for this second chance.”

Her family has noticed a difference, too. “My son said that for the first time in many years my smile has come back,” she said.

For more information on Ascension Medical Group St. Vincent's Spine & Brain Neurosurgery – Southside, visit