“I’m a new person,” High-tech procedure offers hope to those with back, neck injuries

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Back or neck pain can be a debilitating problem.

In fact, research shows Americans spend more than $50 billion-a-year on healthcare related to these specific issues.

But there's a treatment offering hope to sufferers without major surgery.

This treatment can be done in about an hour and the patient can then walk out of the clinic that very day, in most cases, pain-free.

Joe Berry has spent much of his life helping others in Yukon and the surrounding areas.

In recent years, neck pain left the former firefighter and current EMT in constant pain, barely able to move. He said he was dealing with constant headaches.

"I ate Excedrin like it was candy for a long time,"said Berry.

He often would lose feeling in one arm, making it hard for him to lift patients.

However, the pain didn't just affect him at work.

"I have a Harley. I'm an active guy. I like to hunt. I like to fish. I couldn't even do those things," he said.

He refused pain killers because he needed to be alert for his job.

After minor surgery, steroid shots and other conventional treatments, he was out of options.

"It was getting progressively worse. I knew I had to do something. My doctor said I had to do something," Berry said.

A major surgery was the next option, but it would leave him off work for a year.

He says doctors couldn't guarantee he would feel any better after surgery.

"I thought, 'Oh, I'm going to live with this for the rest of my life," he said.

That's when he began researching options and found something promising in Texas.

The Accurascope Procedure is performed by doctors in Dallas at North American Spine.

"I look at this procedure when people have done all those other conservative steps, but are still having symptoms and are not ready or are not a candidate for surgery," he said.

The procedure is done in about an hour using a tiny laser.

"It's not like Star Wars. It doesn't shoot out across the room or anything like that," said Dr. Kelly Will, M.D.

The laser is actually smaller than the tip of a mechanical pencil and only works on the tissue that it touches.

In Joe's case, doctors made a small incision on the front of his neck.

By using a small camera along with the laser, they directly targeted bulging or protruding tissue.

"When you touch those disc bulges and protrusions and then turn on the laser, it looks kind of like putting a blow dryer on shrink-wrap. It shrinks that tissue down, seals the tear," said Dr. Will.

For Joe, the relief was immediate.

"I think I slept better that night than I had in a long time," he said.

Joe is now able to move without any pain. He's been able to ride his Harley, play golf with his son and wrestle with his grandchildren.

"My kids and even my wife have told me it's nice to have the old Joe back," he said.

It's given him renewed energy to continue working and the ability to once again enjoy life.

"I'm a new person," he said.

There are some clinics in Oklahoma offering similar procedures; however, Joe's insurance would not cover the cost at those places.

Joe did take about eight weeks off of work, but doctors say that's because of the type of work he does.

Most patients are able to return to work after about a week.

Doctors say this treatment is best for those with tissue related issues, not those with bone problems.

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