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South Hills Orthopedic Surgery Associates Welcomes Justin J. Petrolla, M.D.
By Nancy Kennedy

Justin J. Petrolla, M.D.As the newest physician member of South Hills Orthopedic Surgery Associates (SHOSA), one of the region's busiest and most progressive orthopedic surgery practices, Justin J. Petrolla, M.D., is focused on preventing his patients from needing to undergo surgery. It may sound like a contradiction, but Dr. Petrolla says it makes perfect sense for SHOSA to have him in the group. Like his colleagues, he treats people with acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions, but unlike them, he is not a surgeon. He practices what is sometimes called "non-surgical orthopedics" and he is eminently qualified to do so; he is board-certified in three clinical specialties: physical medicine and rehabilitation; pain medicine; and sports medicine. It's a rare combination of credentials and it makes Dr. Petrolla exceptionally effective at helping people with arthritic joints, painful backs and other orthopedic conditions to feel better and to function as well as possible, without surgery.

"I'm the first non-surgeon in the SHOSA group," he explains. "The majority of patients will see me first. I treat mostly neck and back pain, due to spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, disc problems and radiculopathy; I also treat patients with problems of the hip, knee, shoulder and wrist, as well as chronic or migraine headache." Non-surgical treatment for these patients means diagnosing the causes of pain and providing medical management with surgery as a last resort. Treatment might include exercise; physical therapy; steroid injections; anti-inflammatory medication; orthotics and injections.

Joint replacement surgery can be life changing for those who need it, Dr. Petrolla says, but he warns that an artificial joint will never be as good as the original.  "Artificial joints have limits, and if you get one in your 40's or 50's, it will wear out eventually. People should try to keep their own joints as long as they possibly can." To help make that possible, he encourages his patients to be physically active. "Most people take better care of their cars than their bodies," he says. "Everyone needs to exercise three or four times a week, doing something. This means that you set aside an actual designated time for exercise. You carve out time in your day for exercise, and you stick to it. Make it a priority. No matter how busy you are, you can find time to take care of your health.

"People are living longer now. We have to plan for our 80's and 90's. That means cutting out the harmful things in your life that will lead to illness, chronic disease and disability. It isn't just a matter of your genes – you should do your best to control the things that you can control. The choice is to be an active, vibrant 80 year old who took good care of herself, or a frail sick person with a limited life."

Dr. Petrolla himself leads a full and active life. A former high school football coach, he practices martial arts and works out regularly in a space he set aside in his garage. Despite his demanding days as a physician, he gets plenty of exercise with his family: his wife, Diana Baca, M.D., an OB-GYN, their children, ages six and three, and three dogs. He lives in Edgewood, where he serves as a Councilman. Petrolla is originally from Youngstown and grew up in a medical family. Both of his parents are podiatrists, and his sister is also a physician.

Petrolla attended medical school as part of an innovative accelerated program, a joint program of Youngstown State University and Northeastern Ohio College of Medicine, which enabled select students to get a Bachelor of Science degree and medical doctorate in a single, condensed three year program. Dr. Petrolla completed a residency in physical medicine and rehab at UPMC, where he served as chief resident. He also completed a fellowship in pain medicine in York, PA and practiced in Denver before relocating to Pittsburgh.

Carmen Petraglia, M.D., is a spine surgeon with SHOSA and he recruited Dr. Petrolla to the group. "Justin is a great addition for us," says Dr. Petraglia. "With his expertise in treating pain, he brings a dynamic that we have never had before. We're developing a Comprehensive Spine Center and he is a huge contributor to that; we'll be partners in an in-house center where patients with neck and back problems will be able to get everything they need in one setting, including physical therapy. It will mean "one-stop shopping' for patients, providing them with great convenience and clinical continuity.

"Justin is uniquely qualified and he's an excellent physician. He's hard working, professional and has a great personality. We are all looking forward to collaborating with him for the benefit of our patients. With him on board, we are your complete orthopedic team."

Dr. Petrolla is equally pleased to be with the group. "SHOSA has a great reputation and is very busy.  My old patients are finding me, and I'm looking forward to meeting new patients and helping people improve their health, mobility and quality of life."

To make an appointment with Dr.Petrolla, contact South Hills Orthopedic Surgery Associates at (412) 283-0270. The office is located at 2000 Oxford Drive, Suite 211, near South Hills Village.

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