Michael Derr, DO

Dr. Michael Derr, a rehabilitation physician, came to Tanner Clinic in 2012, following a fellowship in interventional pain medicine at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served at the renowned Mayo Clinic as a staff physician in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

At Tanner Clinic, the specialist in pain intervention works with patients suffering with pain, often chronic, in their back, neck, shoulder or limbs. He believes that the impact of an illness — the ability to move, care for oneself and work — is as important at the illness itself.

Dr. Derr, a native of Sandy, Utah, graduated from Brigham Young University. He received his medical degree from A.T. Still University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Mo.

Following medical school, Dr. Derr completed an internship in internal medicine at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio. He remained nearby while active-duty Air Force for four years as a staff physician in an outpatient clinic at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Dr. Derr followed his tenure in the Air Force by entering a residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He then stayed on as a staff physician in the PM&R department for one year. Dr. Derr then completed an ACGME fellowship in pain medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.

Dr. Derr is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and pain medicine. He specializes in fluoroscopic and ultrasound-guided procedures, a subject on which he’s spoken at numerous national meetings.

Dr. Derr lives with his wife and daughter in Kaysville. He is an avid aficionado of movies and when not before a screen, you’ll find him hiking and spending time with family and friends.

For New Patients
  • To best help Dr. Derr, please download and fill out this form, which will help Dr. Derr understand your symptoms and pain sources.
What patients are saying about Dr. Derr

“Dr. Derr and his assistant Becky are so incredibly awesome, kind, efficient and friendly. Coming here is a pleasure! Dr. Derr has made my back problems so much improved” – In-house comment card, October 9th, 2015

“Dr. Derr is awesome! He truly takes the time to understand what you are going through. I am happy to recommend him.”   — Carol on Facebook, April 6, 2014

“Ijust love Dr Derr! As a matter of fact, it is time to go and see him again. I would recommend him to anyone.”   —  Marilyn on Facebook, April 4, 2014

“Dr. Derr is a caring, professional physician. I would recommend him to anyone!”   —  Nancy on Facebook, April 3, 2014

“Such a great doctor and a great man! Thank you, Dr. Derr, for all the good you do.”   —  Gale on Facebook, Jan. 4, 2014

Selected Publications
Rehab Doctor Offers Pain Busters for Chronic Sufferers

Dr. Michael Derr has steady hands.

That’s evidenced by the thousands of injections he’s performed to stop pain in the back or neck, pain in the joints, as well as pains in the rear.

As a physician specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Dr. Derr doesn’t treat pain as much as he intervenes to alleviate pain. His patients are those individuals who grab their backs when they bend or wince as they lift their arms to comb hair.

His patients are often fighting arthritis, laid low by a sports mishap, or still aching from a hernia repair.

As a physiatrist, Dr. Derr is a nerve, muscle and bone expert who treats injuries or illnesses that affect how we move. His goal, he explains, is improving an individual’s function. “We want to get people back doing the things they want to do,” he said.

“Some people,” he adds, “tend to focus more on the pain — but the goal is function. If we can cut the pain down and improve function — as far as satisfaction and lifestyle — that’s what we’re looking for.”

No chronic narcotic use, however; Dr. Derr primarily uses injections, nerve blocks, physical therapy and other non-surgical ways to prevent pain.

Finding the pain generators

First, however, Dr. Derr targets “pain generators”. In the spine area alone, these can include the discs, the nerves, the facet joints between each vertebra, as well as the sacroiliac joint and piriformis muscle, all common culprits in back pain.

Among his methods are: joint injections of anesthetic agents, spinal injections, nerve blocks, epidurals and denervation (disabling) of misbehaving nerves.

A typical patient of Dr. Derr’s “has low back pain, followed by neck pain,” he said. “They may have what’s called stenosis (narrowing) in the spine, or a herniated disc, or other causes of back pain.” He also sees patients with shoulder, knee and hip pain, as well as arthritis in various joints.

Back pain a big motivator

Dr. Derr often performs joint and peripheral nerve injections with the help of an ultrasound to guide the needle. Ultrasound adds an extra measure of safety, he said, “because I can see the muscle and nerve, as well as the blood vessels.”

Osteoarthritis of the spinal joints can be debilitating. And that’s what brings many people to Dr. Derr. With these cases and other back pain, Dr. Derr takes a comprehensive and conservative approach. “We evaluate the patient and make sure there’s no red flags,” he said. “We may look at doing physical therapy or different injections, depending on where the pain is. Many times we’ll get an MRI to help us for diagnostics. And if there’s any indication the patient needs to see a surgeon, we refer them.”

Breaking the pain cycle

Many of his patients find complete pain relief, and some may get 50 percent relief. There are also those patients who get no relief. That can actually be helpful because it helps him target the pain. “If we do an epidural steroid injection for nerve and disc issues, and if the patient doesn’t get any benefit, then we think, ‘What else is going on?’ It helps us guide and pinpoint the area the main pain generator is coming from.”

Many times, his patients arrive with stiffness that has come on because they’ve been compensating in some way to relieve chronic pain that’s can be helped by “breaking the pain cycle,” said Dr. Derr.

The other thing that helps is staying active. “The worst thing to do for back or neck pain in general is to sit and do nothing,” he said. “The best thing to do is to stay active — doing regular chores around the home, getting into a pool, or walking. That’s the key.”

Here’s the big question: Do those needles hurt?

Depending on the injection, Dr. Derr will use local anesthetics like lidocaine to numb the skin. “Most of the nerve endings are in the skin,” he said, “so that tends to be the worst part.” Most injections, he adds, feel like a bee sting. When you anesthetize the skin, he adds, “it makes it more comfortable for deeper injections.”

Pain Injections More than Just a Shot in the Arm

pain-management-landing-01Throughout his career, Dr. Michael Derr, an interventional pain specialist at Tanner Clinic, has performed thousands of injections to relieve pain.

But such injections are not without risk, says Dr. Derr. That’s why it’s important to seek out board-certified physicians who are fellowship-trained in using injections for pain intervention. That’s a description fitting both Dr. Derr and fellow interventional pain specialist Dr. Ben Humpherys.

Here’s a sampling of the procedures performed by Dr. Derr:

Epidural steroid injection
This injection is in the epidural space area around the spinal cord. It is designed to relieve pain caused by inflamed nerves in the neck and back.

Facet joint injections
The small facet joints that separate vertebrae are often damaged by arthritis, but could also be sources of pain because of a back injury or mechanical stress. Generally, local anesthetic and a steroid are injected to block the pain.

Medial branch block
Medial branch nerves are tiny nerves that carry pain from the facet joints to the brain. The results of this injection are temporary. Following the injection and while still numb, patients fill out pain logs. “If they get significant benefit from the medial branch block, that would qualify them to have the more long-term procedure called radio-frequency ablation,” Dr. Derr said.

Radio-frequency denervation
(or ablation)

This procedure targets back pain caused by creaky facet joints by heating each nerve until it is deactivated. Radio-frequency denervation can provide many months of pain relief.

Trigger point injections
Trigger points are what we’d commonly call muscle knots. This injection of local anesthetic and steroids can treat many muscle groups, especially those in the neck and mid and lower back.

Trochanteric bursa injection
Hip bursitis causes a burning pain on the outer hip rather than the hip joint. Injections deliver steroids and numbing agents.

Intra-articular knee and hip injections
Corticosteroid injections treat pain caused by an arthritic knee or hip.

Ilioinguinal and hypogastric
nerve block

An injection to help those who have significant pain in their groin or lower abdomen, such as that resulting from complications after a surgery. These nerve blocks generally use steroids or local anesthetics.

Many other shoulder, abdomen, hip and neck injections and procedures.

— Tanner Clinic staff