Ahwatukee Foothills resident Michelle Forbes radiates strength, health and confidence as she walks into a room. The 51-year-old RN coordinator at Barrow Neurological Institute enjoys water aerobics, weight training and healthy eating, and can’t wait for the weather to cool off so she can get back on her mountain bike.

Rewind to Christmas of 2011 — Forbes could barely walk.

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Living in Alexandria, Va., she hobbled around with a cane, slept in a chair, and took prescription pain pills and muscle relaxers daily. She had lost sensation in her legs and battled spinal injuries that disabled her quality of life leaving her exhausted, inactive, unmotivated and depressed.

Boston surgeons told her the solution was a complete laminectomy with fusion from T2-S1 — nearly her entire spine.

“Rods, screws, pins and plates,” Forbes explained. “I had also developed scoliosis from walking with the cane, but when they told me about the fusion I said that’s the surgery I’m not going to have.”

Forbes was sick of feeling unhealthy, and as a retired Army Nurse Corps Officer and a 9-11 veteran, nothing was going to stop her from getting her life back on track.

“I had a big decision to make,” Forbes said.

“My kids were grown, and I really felt that if I stayed there my quality of life would steadily decline. I wouldn’t be Michele. I might even be dead.”

A new life

In March, Forbes submitted her resignation to Georgetown University Hospital’s Department of Neurology, where she worked as a nurse manager. Two months later she was on the road to Phoenix. Already having been through multiple cervical spine surgeries while serving in the military, Forbes was determined to get healthy without going under the knife.

Forbes said one of the biggest things that brought her back to Ahwatukee, where she had lived from 2008 to 2010, was her church, Friendship Community Church. And it was her pastor, Randy Cook, who referred her to Ahwatukee chiropractor Dr. Aaron Kovac DC, ART, MUA, FMT at Back in Line Spine and Wellness.

“I never thought about going to a chiropractor,” Forbes said.

“I did see one in 2005 after my first neck surgery and he wouldn’t touch me after seeing my X-rays. I thought there was nothing a chiropractor could do for me.”

However, after hearing how Kovac had helped Cook and his daughter, Forbes decided to give chiropractic one more chance.

“When I saw Michele’s X-rays, MRI results, past medical reports and treatment plans I could see why surgery was suggested to her,” Kovac said. “I told her that I can’t fix her problems, but I can help her by reducing her symptoms.”

Forbes told Kovac that she knew he couldn’t undo what had been done, but she just wanted to increase mobility and decrease pain.

Forbes’ treatment plan at Back in Line began with only a computerized decompression machine alongside a stretching and core strengthening plan. After about six weeks of care, Kovac began using Active Release Technique to break up scar tissue and further increase range of motion in her spine.

“I just started being able to get adjusted,” Forbes said. “But after one month of care I was already decreasing the pain meds and muscle relaxers.”

Outside of chiropractic care, Kovac designed a team of providers to help Forbes get on the fast track to feeling better. This team included a nationally certified massage therapist, who treated Forbes bi-weekly with deep tissue massage and trigger point therapy, as well as NASM certified fitness coach Nolan Hyland at Scott’s Training Systems in Chandler.

“Michele is ex-military and you can still see the drive and determination in her,” Hyland said. “With a little direction from myself and Dr. Kovac, we were able to put her on a program that would strengthen her body while losing weight, without compromising her injuries and limitations.”

Forbes was treated by Kovac three times per week, trained at STS with Hyland twice a week, and also followed a meal plan outlined for her.

Today, Forbes finds herself at a place in her life she only dreamed about just earlier this year. She no longer walks with a cane, she feels sensation in her legs again, she has lost weight, is healthy, active and motivated.

“When I came here I was tired, slept a lot, and was not motivated to do much,” Forbes said. “I was caged and depressed, but now I have a lot more energy. I feel a lot younger than my chronological age, but I have to be careful.”

Kovac can be contacted at Back in Line Spine and Wellness, 15215 S. 48th St., Suite 156, or by calling (480) 704-8818. For more information, visit www.backinlinespine.com or info@backinlinechiropracticaz.com.

Scott’s Training Systems is located 6100 W. Gila Springs Place, Suite 23 in Chandler. Contact them at (480) 820-0835 or info@scottstrainingsystems.com.

• Ahwatukee resident Corinne Frayer, LMT, NCBTMB, CA, FMT, is a freelance writer.

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