For years, Angie Ruskin’s life has consisted of adventures in beautiful places and breathtaking views. An avid hiker and runner, Ruskin loved to travel to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.
“It’s all about walking and exploring. We’ve been to Montana, Oregon, and most recently we went to upstate New York,” she said. “We went for our anniversary. We always travel for our anniversary…somewhere we haven’t been before.”
But in the fall of 2020, everything stopped.
“I had gone for a walk, nothing crazy, just like two kilometers, and then I did stretching. I heard and felt this internal popping in my lower back,” she recalled. “It was like a ‘pop’…but it didn’t really hurt. I was like, ‘hmmm, that was weird.
In the days that followed, she began to realize that the strange sensation was troubling, and her back pain became debilitating.
“It got progressively worse until I could barely walk,” Rustin said. Even a simple drive to see his family in central Georgia turned out to be a monumental task.
Fortunately, she knew who to call: her chiropractor, Dr. Jennifer Heller. Heller operates a practice located at 208 Scranton Connector Suite 120, Brunswick, where she incorporates a number of modalities to help her patients. After extensive examination, Heller discovered that Ruskin had ruptured a disc in her lower back. The news was devastating, and Ruskin feared losing the active life he loved so much.
“There were some dark days…I thought it was okay that all these things that I love are gone,” Ruskin said.
But Heller wouldn’t even hear about it. Instead, he offered Ruskin a path of hope, presenting a number of options, none of which was surgical.
“Being active and traveling is what Angie is. This is part of her identity and there is no way they are going to take it away from her,” Heller said. “We always want to start with conservative treatments if possible and with Angie being so young, the word ‘surgery’ was off the table in our minds if possible.”
Rustin and Heller first embarked on a course of conservative therapy. They worked on Rustin’s spinal adjustment, decompression, gentle stretching, and massage to reduce inflammation. But there was little progress.
“The key to lower back injuries like this is to decrease the inflammation enough that the disc becomes gelatinous and the spine realigns and pressure is released from the nerves. If any of these do not happen, the patient will not achieve long-term success. It’s a matter of inflammation and alignment. That’s the recipe for low back pain,” Heller said.
The initial course of treatment simply wasn’t enough and didn’t produce the desired results, so the two started talking about regenerative medicine.
Heller Healthcare is in a unique position as it has a sister practice, Golden Isles Functional Medicine. The two practices join forces to offer an integrative approach to medicine. Their combined staff includes two physicians, two nurse practitioners, and Dr. Heller, a chiropractor, in command. This broad range of experience allows the staff to provide a comprehensive course of care that includes advanced testing, hormone optimization, arthritis programs, degenerative joint care treatments, chiropractic care, medical massage, nutritional planning, and regenerative medicine. The latter encompasses the cutting-edge treatment: stem cell therapy.
Ruskin decided that regenerative medicine was his best option and received treatment in the spring of 2021. Within days, he was able to see a huge difference.
“It didn’t take long at all,” he said. “I was thinking… ‘Is my brain playing tricks on me?’ But it wasn’t long before she wasn’t even taking Tylenol at night.”
“Yeah, I think it was day three when you told me your pain had improved significantly,” Heller said, smiling.
Little by little, he returned to his active lifestyle. He started going back to the gym, added new trips and adventures to his list and was even able to run again.
During a recent visit to New York, he experienced a minor setback. “I had an unrelated leg injury,” she said with a shudder. “I know if I hadn’t had the treatment…I would have been in worse shape with my back trying to compensate for my leg being in a boot for three months.”
With the help of Dr. Jen and chiropractic care during that minor setback, she has now fully returned to herself and her life once again, exploring the world without pain. And Ruskin is incredibly grateful to be able to live her life to the fullest.
“It’s freedom,” he said with a smile. “I remember our first big trip after my treatment. I was able to fly to Montana, to Yellowstone. I had my husband take a picture and I made a post, saying that a year ago he was afraid that he could never go back and do that.”
Now, two years after treatment, Angie continues to thrive.
“Angie’s story is excellent and shows that patients with terrible lower back injuries and arthritis can get back to their lifestyle and stay healthy years after our treatments,” Heller said. “I’m so proud of how dedicated she is to her health and I love seeing her enjoy her life of her travels and her adventures.”