Skip to Content

Gary Farr: Still Living an Active Lifestyle After Years of Chronic Back Pain 

Image of Gary Farr

For most of his 78 years, Gary Farr has played hard and worked hard — a lifestyle that left him with injuries and a deteriorating spine. Despite multiple surgeries over the course of decades, he still suffered debilitating pain and numbness in his back and legs. Determined to remain active and avoid more surgery, he turned to a pain management specialist at UPMC Cole.

The Challenge: Years of Chronic Back Pain and Surgery

Gary Farr has always been active. After a brief stint in the Navy, he spent the next 40 years working a physical job as a certified welder and master machinist for a major manufacturing company. He also enjoyed racing “anything on wheels — plus snowmobiles.”

Injuries were common. But the most serious was a collision with a tree branch while riding a snowmobile that flipped him backwards, smashing him into the ground. “My whole body went numb. The feeling eventually came back, and everything seemed to be working,” says Gary. “But it got progressively worse.”

The Eldred, Pa., resident eventually had surgeries to repair herniated discs in his back. As his spine continued to deteriorate, he was diagnosed with arthritis and spinal stenosis. Over the next two decades, he endured six surgeries on his neck and back, including a spinal fusion and surgery to relieve pressure on spinal nerves.

Despite his chronic pain, Gary continued to enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle, including fishing, caring for his land, plowing, growing vegetables, and chopping and stacking wood to heat his rural home. Then at age 72, “everything started going haywire,” says Gary.

“My legs felt like jelly, I could barely walk 40 feet to my mailbox, and I couldn’t do my daily chores,” he says. “I had pain up my back, in my groin, and in my legs. I had to do something.”

The Solution: Nonsurgical Intervention

Gary mentioned the increasing pain and numbness during his 2017 annual wellness visit with Amy Sorg, CRNP, a nurse practitioner specializing in family medicine and pain management, at UPMC’s Eldred Health Center.

A follow-up MRI showed his back “was a mess,” says Gary. “But I was determined not to have any more surgery. That was not happening.”

Amy referred Gary to Phong Nguyen, DO, a specialist in interventional pain management and anesthesia, at UPMC Cole in Coudersport.

After a thorough evaluation, Dr. Nguyen recommended treating Gary using x-ray guidance and a nonsurgical epidural procedure to inject a long-lasting and potent anti-inflammatory medicine directly into his spine.

“After that first shot, I got dressed, walked out to the parking lot with my wife, and by the time I got into the car, I already felt better,” says Gary. “That injection got me back on my feet and back to normal.”

The Results: Pain Relief and an Active Lifestyle

According to Gary, that first injection lasted about a year. Since then, he has gladly made the hour-long drive to Coudersport for additional injections — each lasting about six months to a year.

The injections have allowed him to continue his active lifestyle. “I’m an outdoor person and I love cutting wood, doing chores, and fishing,” says Gary.

“I can’t thank Amy enough for referring me to Dr. Nguyen,” he adds. “I’d be one hurting son of a gun without the injections. Now everything is working better, and I feel like a million bucks.”