Dr. Jen Heller, left, and Angela Sherzer sit in a treatment room at Heller Healthcare in Brunswick. The two musicians bonded over their shared love of the flute.

Angela Sherzer is one of a kind. The St. Simons Island resident is a flutist with the Coastal Symphony of Georgia, as well as a licensed pilot. And for extra kicks, she’s a cat show judge.

“I do a lot of unusual things,” she conceded with a laugh.

While her interests are clearly broad and varied, one commonality they share — Sherzer has to be able to use her hands. For many years, that proved to be no problem. She was able to flourish and grow as she pursued her passions.

Sherzer began to notice symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, especially when she picked up her instrument.

“My fingers would start going numb when I was playing,” Sherzer recalled.

Understandably, as a musician, this was deeply concerning. She decided to share that information with a fellow symphony flutist, who immediately offered a solution. “She said, ‘oh you have to go see Dr. Jen.’”

Sherzer didn’t hesitate and began seeing Dr. Jen for chiropractic care. “Before then, I’d never been to a chiropractor in my life,” she added.

Dr. Jen, of course, Dr. Jen Heller who operates Heller Healthcare and Golden Isles Functional Medicine. Heller, a chiropractor, has built a holistic practice and team that specialize in holistic treatments that Heller herself would want to treat her own family with. The Heller Healthcare side offers chiropractic care and medical massage. While the functional medicine piece offers an anti-arthritis program, degenerative joint care treatments, holistic pain management options, hormone optimization, nutritional planning and specializes in regenerative medicine.

When Sherzer first met with Heller, the two formed a fast bond over a shared love.

“She plays the flute too,” Sherzer said, pointing to Heller.

Heller nodded.

“I was a flute player as well,” Heller said. “I played in undergrad — flute and piccolo.”

Being a musician herself, Heller understood how important it was to get Sherzer’s hand in order so she could continue playing. The two opted for a conservative care path.

“We did a variety of treatments, chiropractic treatments, and some physical therapy and occupational therapy,” Sherzer said. “I had some exercises I could do and that was improving.”

But recently, arthritis in her hands flared up. Sherzer’s knuckles begin to swell and eventually grew so large that she could no longer see them. The daily pain and stiffness began to not only make it difficult for her to enjoy the things she loved to do, but also interfered with normal daily activities. The situation was further complicated because her body was resistant to the typical medications often prescribed for arthritis.

“I just can’t tolerate them. They just tore up my stomach. So, I thought, you know, let’s talk to Dr. Jen and see what she says about any possible treatments for the arthritis,” she said.

“When we started Angela’s care plan about a year and a half ago, we wanted to go easy and conservative, so we started with chiropractic care and maintenance” Heller said. “It wasn’t until recently that we decided that we got as far as we could, and it was time to be a bit more aggressive.”

It turns out, Heller’s team did have a recommendation — and felt Sherzer was a great candidate for regenerative medicine (i.e. stem cell therapy). And while Sherzer was a bit skeptical at first, she decided it was worth trying.

“I was afraid to hold a plate to put it away because I was afraid I would drop it. I couldn’t put on a necklace. It was getting hard to blow dry my hair ... just doing things in daily life had become difficult and painful,” she said. “So I decided to give it a shot.”

That was quite literal — Sherzer had the stem cell therapy injections in her hand about six week ago. While results vary in terms of when improvement is seen and how much function is regained, she saw a change immediately.

“I started feeling better the next day. So, I was really optimistic,” she said. “My carpal tunnel has also resolved.”

She has good reason to be. The new cells will double every 28 hours, and sustain at that rate for about 4 months. After that the original cells start to die off, but further healing and regeneration typically occurs for up to 18 months.

And while there will likely be continued improvement, Sherzer is already back to living her best life.

“I’m back to playing. My next concert with the orchestra is in February,” she said. “ ... and on day 3 post stem cells I could even put on my necklaces again.”

While she sees countless similar results, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience for Heller.

“As a flutist myself, I knew we had to get her back playing,” she said. “I’m just so proud of her.”

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