Regenerative Injection Therapy Gives Patient Back Pain Relief
For nine years, Shelly Berry was sidelined from life by debilitating back pain. Unable to do much more than work and sleep, she knew she was missing out on experiences with her family. Today, she celebrates the opportunity to have been on the actual sidelines for her younger son’s last few years of high school, thanks to treatments she received at the Riordan Clinic in Hays.
Shelly, 52, of Scott City, Kansas, began having back pain in 2010. She was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease throughout her spine, spinal stenosis, and bulging discs in her thoracic spine. Her pain eventually became so bad that she said she would sleep as long as she could before she went to work and come home at lunchtime and sleep instead of eating because she was so exhausted from the pain. After work, she would sleep, wake up for about an hour each night to be with her family, and return to bed.
“That was my life for about three years,” she said.
Shelly went to three neurosurgeons who refused to operate on the thoracic region because of the risk of paralysis. She tried six rounds of epidural steroid injections, which didn’t alleviate her pain, and took high doses of pain medicine, including Fentanyl, Norco, Lyrica, and Tramadol, from 2010 until 2019.
“Being on all that medicine really messed my body up,” she said. Migraines were among Shelly’s new symptoms, for which she was prescribed Topamax. She said she got 41 of the known side effects from the drug, including systemic lupus symptoms.
One neurosurgeon said her best option was a spinal cord stimulator, an implanted device that sends low levels of electricity into the spinal cord to relieve pain. That was not an option that Shelly wanted to pursue.
Meanwhile, Shelly was also seeing a chiropractor in Scott City to help address her pain. Dr. Bronson Baber, DC, MS, with Western Kansas Chiropractic, wanted to find alternatives to the spinal stimulator surgery for his patient and began to research options. He found the Riordan Clinic in Hays, which Shelly said neither one of them had heard of, and suggested she make an appointment. She was reluctant at first, and it took her a year to finally agree.
“He had been begging me to go see someone at the Riordan Clinic and telling me how it would help me. I was convinced it wasn’t going to help because nothing had helped. It took me facing the fact that my options were a spinal cord stimulator and a pain pump,” she said.
In the end, Dr. Baber said she really had nothing to lose. If the Riordan Clinic treatments didn’t work, she could still have a stimulator implanted. She also got a push forward from her husband, Darrel.
“My husband was with me at that chiropractic appointment, and he kind of browbeat me into saying yes. And we went,” she said.
Shelly’s first visit to the Riordan Clinic was in November of 2019. Dr. Dustin Moffitt, ND, reviewed her medical records and offered to start her on pain relief treatments the same day. She began receiving prolozone, a therapy that involves injecting ozone to increase blood supply to ligaments. The effect was nearly immediate.
“It started working. My pain lessened,” she said.
Before treatment at the Riordan Clinic, Shelly said the only way she could travel was to lie on an air mattress in the back of the family’s SUV because it hurt her too much to sit upright for long periods of time.
“After that first appointment with Dr. Moffitt, I was able to sit up in the front seat and ride to Kansas City with my husband,” she said.
A month later, Shelly returned for another prolozone treatment. Eventually, she and Dr. Moffitt decided to switch to Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy, which uses multiple injections of a concentration of a patient’s own platelets to help with healing. She would receive about 100 injections in a single 30-minute session, which she said her husband loved to count.
“It hurts, but it is worth it. It doesn’t hurt for very long after the injections,” she said.
As the treatments at Riordan Clinic began to work, Dr. Moffitt said she could start weaning herself off the pain medications she had taken for so long. That, however, was a decision she had already made for herself.
“He didn’t know it, but I started weaning myself off of the pain medications already. About six months in, I was off all of them. About three months in, I told him, and he was like, ‘What?’ He was shocked,” she said.
Her conventional medical doctor was also shocked, and Shelly said that she was upset that she wasn’t told there were other options available to her due to the conventional medical field in general not supporting the naturopathic field. It was her chiropractor’s research – and persistence – that led her to treatments that changed her life.
“I was very grateful that my chiropractor cared enough about me to research it and find Dr. Moffitt,” she said.
Gradually, Shelly’s visits to the Riordan Clinic were less frequent as her pain reduced over time. She said that she initially went monthly, which changed to every two months, then three, then six. Now, she and Dr. Moffitt are waiting to see how long she can go without needing another treatment.
“I’m pain-free. I don’t even take Tylenol or ibuprofen, and I haven’t been (to the Riordan Clinic for back pain) in about 6 months,” she said.
She still goes to the Riordan Clinic for other health issues, including thyroid and benign hematuria.
A urologist had wanted to put her on a low-dose antibiotic “indefinitely” because of recurrent kidney infections. Dr. Moffitt is helping her manage the condition with supplements and a naturopathic antibiotic instead. Shelly said the naturopathic antibiotic attaches proteins to sugars instead of the wall of the bladder, which causes bacteria, which in turn causes infection.
Shelly said she still sees her conventional doctor for other things, but she wants to transition completely to naturopathic care. She said that in addition to not being told about alternatives, the side effects of her conventional treatments led to negative impacts on her health, including severe weight loss, pancreatitis, and an abrupt stop to Abilify caused a bi-polar reaction Shelly described as “horrendous” and took six months to control. All of which she said the Riordan Clinic’s care helped her to correct.
“I’m just trying to stay away from medications. I’m the side effect girl,” she said.
Coming Back from the Sidelines
When life sidelined Shelly and pain kept her in bed, she knew she was missing out on living life with her family.
Today, she works as a secretary and office manager at First Baptist Church in Scott City, although her job title doesn’t adequately describe her tasks. She can go from desk work to hanging banners, to mentoring, and more over the course of a day. She describes the core of her job as helping others. Before her treatments at the Riordan Clinic, she said she wouldn’t have been able to put a case of water bottles into a refrigerator, which was one part of her job duties.
“I can do whatever I want. I can go for a walk. I can go on trips. I can work with no pain. Before, I was depressed all the time, and now I’m not depressed. Before, it was all about health issues and pain management, and now I can live a life without lying down,” she said.
Shelly credits Dr. Moffitt for the change in her ability to be present in her life and appreciates the co-learner relationship to work through health issues as they arise.
“My life has done a complete 360 because of the care I got from Dr. Moffitt. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned to listen to my body. If something doesn’t seem right with my body, he is willing to work through it with me, and he usually has a solution.”
Another lesson Shelly said she learned is that naturopathic care isn’t necessarily more expensive than conventional care covered by insurance. Although naturopathic care isn’t typically covered by insurance, her copayments for a single prescription under her traditional insurance plan were $1,500.
“I’ve learned that naturopathic care is worth the fact that insurance doesn’t pay for it. I actually find myself paying less than I did for all of the medical treatments and all of the medications,” she said.
In addition to Dr. Moffitt, Shelly said she and her husband, Darrel, enjoyed the clinic staff. While Shelly had treatments, Darrel enjoyed joking with the staff, especially Office Manager Betty Brungardt and Debbie Augustine, LPN, who she said both could “give it right back.”
“All of them work so well together. You don’t see that everywhere,” she said.
As Shelly began to control her pain and the side effects of medications, she had the opportunity to be more involved with her sons, Prather Barnes, 22, and Justus Barnes, 19.
“I couldn’t play the roles I needed to play as a wife and a mom. Now I can. My husband had to take over for about a three year period when it was so bad. He worked full-time just like I did, but he had to do everything,” she said.
Justus was still living at home when Shelly’s pain was at its worst. She said he had to pitch in and didn’t see her much because she was so often in bed.
Both her Darrel and Justus were concerned about her health enough that they missed out on a lot,” she said.
After she could manage the pain, she said her opportunities to share experiences with her family increased, especially in Justus’ final years in high school. Instead of spending evenings in bed, she was attending his football and basketball games and quiz bowl competitions. And she was able to fly to Boise, Idaho, to visit her older son, Prather, where he was going to college. She wouldn’t have been able to travel before.
“It changed my life for the better. Dr. Moffitt is very skilled. Everyone who works there is very skilled in what they do. I wouldn’t be standing here today if it weren’t for them. I would still be in a ton of pain and have no hope. I want to try to go the naturopathic way in all of the things that I need help with regarding my health care,” she said.
Paying It Forward
Shelly and Darrel have been so impressed with their experience at the Riordan Clinic that they have recommended it to friends, family, and sometimes people they have just met.
“I keep cards in my wallet, and my husband does, too. We have a picture of Dr. Moffitt’s card on our phones, so that in case we run out, we can forward it to somebody by text. We have told many, many people to go,” she said.
She said that one of the things that impressed her about Riordan Clinic was the synergy between the three clinics in Hays, Wichita, and Overland Park. A good friend of Darrel’s, who lives in Wichita, had back surgery and was facing neck surgery. They encouraged him to go to the Riordan Clinic, and he made an appointment in Wichita. The clinic staff referred him to Dr. Moffitt in Hays, based on Dr. Moffitt’s specialty in pain management.
“I thought that was amazing. They work well together even from facility to facility,” she said, adding that after a year, their friend had returned to full-time work with almost no pain.