Do You Know Why Exercise is Medicine? Donna Does

Donna Russelburg was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1977 and has gone through various stages of paralysis, blindness and vertigo as a result.

Donna also has undergone multiple back surgeries, experiencing daily back pain since 1996.  “I have cages and screws in my back,” says Donna, “but the surgeries weren’t the hard part. The hard part was getting back to being functional.”

In addition to back pain, Donna began experiencing migraine headaches, neck pain and memory problems, so she sought further care from Cleveland Clinic neurologist Neil Cherian, M.D. Dr. Cherian uncovered several causes for these symptoms including herniated disks in the neck as well as inner ear damage. Medicinal infusions were used to minimize symptoms as needed several times per year.

How Donna Reached Her Goals: She Worked with an Athletic Trainer

Ultimately, however, because of the continual back pain and MS-related symptoms, Donna went in search of a way to relieve the pain, minimize daily pain medication and restore her quality of life. By working with Certified Athletic Trainer Karen Sims, she reached those goals in 2013.

“When I first started at the TriHealth Fitness & Health Pavilion in June of 2012” says Donna, “Michelle Brooker connected me with Karen Sims since I was a candidate for the Exercise is Medicine program.”

Donna started small, but has worked up to exercising with Karen two days a week. She now works out five days a week following Karen’s plan, a routine that includes weights, cardio and pool work to enhance balance, stability, flexibility and strength.”

“The great thing about Karen is that she understands the medical part of what is going on with me. For instance, she knows when to push, when to back off and exactly what to change to help me get the most benefit.”

MS Episodes: Exercise Improved Recovery Immensely

Donna has had four MS episodes this year, but because of her work with Karen, she has been able to regain the strength and flexibility she had before her episode - a significant improvement! Also as a result of her work with Karen, Donna did not need infusions in 2013.

Donna’s results have helped improve her self-esteem and bolstered her motivation to keep up with the program. “There is nothing but success for me,” says Donna.

In fact, at her annual check-up at the Cleveland Clinic this year, Dr. Cherian was thrilled to see measurable results that demonstrate increased strength, flexibility, balance and endurance including lowering her resting heart rate and blood pressure.

Dr. Cherian’s advice to Donna: “Don’t stop anything you are doing in the coming year. Exercise is always a benefit.”

“If my story could be used to help others,” says Donna, “I would say that, with Exercise is Medicine, individual plans are created and changed as the person improves. You’ll see results, but here’s the deal: This exercise is molded to meet your needs. It isn’t overly strenuous, irrelevant exercise. If you stick with it, you’ll see results.” 

For more information about the Exercise is Medicine program at the TriHealth Fitness & Health Pavilion, contact Karen Sims at 513 985 6722.

Tags: Wellness and Fitness

Last Updated: March 27, 2015