By Suzy Gardner
I was diagnosed with stage 4 osteoarthritis in both knees 9 years ago. I was given all the conventional treatments— drugs, physical therapy, and even a scope to “clean out” my worse knee— but, I still needed a walker outside the house. I could no longer go on walks with my daughters, or shopping at the mall, or to any event where I was not guaranteed a seat. Exercise that required me to be on my feet for more than 5 minutes was out of the question.
When a routine check-up showed that the arthritis drugs had rocketed my once low blood pressure through the roof, I was handed a prescription for blood pressure meds—along with a list of side effects. I didn’t want to start down that slippery slope of medication. I wanted to find alternatives. I started taking non-prescription supplements such as glucosamine, MSM, and turmeric. These helped somewhat, but it wasn’t until I changed my diet from ovo-lacto vegetarian to vegan in January 2011 that I saw more drastic improvement.
In December 2015, my daughter persuaded me to take yoga classes with her. I had done yoga before (pre-arthritis), but was unaware of the many different forms. I gravitated towards Yin and Restorative yoga. I found the stretching greatly helped my legs, but the cost of classes was prohibitive. I was determined not to let this new-found therapy slip away, so I found a reasonably priced online source for yoga videos.
In early 2016, I found an integrated pain relief clinic and was put on a regimen of physical therapy, stretching, Hyalgan injections, chiropractic, and massage. I continued to improve and was able to be on my feet for longer periods of time. By September 2016, my knees had improved with a vegan diet, yoga, integrated care, and supplements to the point where I could manage more vigorous exercise. I joined the HealthyWage weight loss challenge and as the weight came off, my knees felt better—allowing me to work out longer and more often, leading to more weight loss. Now I am off ALL prescription meds, I walk with barely any limping, have lost 35 pounds, and am able to work out on the arc trainer for 35 minutes at a time!
Suzy Gardner is a former veterinary technician turned statistical programmer for the QuintilesIMS BIOS department. She is a Reiki Master, animal transport volunteer, ordained minister, doting grandma, suicide prevention advocate, and is completely owned by a cantankerous 110-lb. potbellied pig. She can be contacted at Suzy.Gardner@QuintilesIMS.com.