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Mike Force’s passion for photography has endured for more than two decades. But just because he loves what he does — capturing images all around the Isles — that doesn’t mean that the work is easy. Force is constantly on the move, often navigating bumpy terrain like Driftwood Beach for his shoots. So, being a master of his craft, capturing those incredible shots, also requires balance, strength and stability.

“It’s crouching or sometimes even laying down. You want to be on the same level as your subject,” he explained.

In the past few years, however, Force has faced some adversity. He experienced severe low back pain that likely stemmed from a variety of sources.

“I was a special agent with the U.S. Treasury Department for 30 years and then a certified instructor so I went to work at FLETC. That may have played a part in it. Of course, I was also a racquet ball fanatic. I played a lot ... jumping, running, bouncing of the walls. That may have had something to do with it too,” he said with a laugh.

He tried conventional medical treatments, visiting a spine surgeon, and eventually Force underwent multiple back surgeries. The surgeries did finally help in alleviating the pain, but unfortunately, caused other issues like neuropathy, nerve damage and even drop foot.

“You can’t lift your foot up, not all the way. So, it makes it really difficult. I would trip. I’ve fallen down stairs ... it just got to be a real issue,” he explained. “Once I fell at the beach and broke my camera lens. That was an expensive session.”

That’s when he decided that enough was enough. He had heard great things about Dr. Jen Heller, and her team at Heller Healthcare, in Brunswick, and decided it was time to give them a try.

Once Force met Heller, he knew he’d found something special.

“I had gone to chiropractors and had done some massage treatments,” he said. “But I had never been to one this good. She’s professional and very smart.”

“When Mike came into my office, one of his complaints was that there was nothing else that the doctors told him they could do. And, he didn’t want to undergo another surgery, as the last one failed,” Dr. Jen recalled. “He was frustrated, and rightly so, as the failed surgery had crushed his nerves, so he was now experiencing neuropathy, weakness, numbness, and his leg was even beginning to atrophy. He was also dealing with drop foot and could hardly walk without falling.”

“I’m really inspired by his passion for his craft and owning his own photography business. But to have to fight to be able to do something that you love… well, that’s just unacceptable in my book.” Heller stated, “He’s gone down the traditional medical route and what insurance is willing to pay for, but he’s not ready to give up on what he loves, so it was time to take action.”

Heller Healthcare has teamed up with Golden Isles Functional Medicine, combining talents to expand their medical programs. These programs include degenerative joint care treatments, an anti-arthritis program, holistic pain management options, hormone optimization, nutritional planning and specializes in both functional and regenerative medicine. Together, they develop a customized care plan for their patients to help each individual meet their health goals and get back to living their best life.

Heller and her team laid out all of the available options, and determined that Force was a very good candidate for regenerative medicine.

Force decided that, even though the regenerative medicine procedure wasn’t covered by his insurance, it was worth it.

“I have great insurance but most of them won’t cover it,” he said. “But I decided to do it. They did three shots in my back, one in each side, L4, L5 and one on the left side of S1, where the big nerve comes out and goes down the leg.”

He had the treatment roughly four weeks ago and started seeing improvements and changes within just a few days. For starters, due to his leg and foot weakness, he was unable to lift up onto his toes on his left leg. Now, however, it’s coming right along, and even regaining his balance.

“I couldn’t do this before,” he demonstrated, lifting onto his left toe. “Things started happening right away. I started noticing differences.”

“I’m thrilled with his improvements already and can’t wait to see what the next few months bring,” Heller said. “Photography is Mike’s passion and profession so it was really important that he can keep on doing what he loves.”

“Our office wants to help support anybody that’s willing to take on something new. So, if doctors have said there’s no hope or surgery is your only option, we are here to try to help. We not only focus on helping people with pain, but also neuropathy, balance, joint care and more. Our goal is to help people get back to living their best life to the fullest. We like the tough cases,” Heller smiled.

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