BOZEMAN, Mont. - Connie Mannix has suffered 30 years of back pain.
"I couldn't even pick up my dogs to love and care for them," says Mannix.
She even taught her dog to pick up its own food bowl.
"It was to the point where I couldn't get dressed in the morning, couldn't take care of my dogs, I was getting horribly depressed," says Mannix.
She says her pain was only getting worse, so she agreed to give physical therapy a try and her life began to change.
"You're actually, like walking on the moon," says Mannix.
Ever since her first day of therapy, she's been stepping into neoprene shorts and onto the Alter G treadmill. It's a state of the art piece of equipment that allows Mannix to exercise at near weightlessness, relieving the stress on her joints while building strength.
"You're floating in that thing and that's how we started and then, every month, we drop it down a little bit...Right now, I can do anything I want to in that and it doesn't hurt," explains Mannix.
Once you're zipped in, the chamber inflates. From there your body weight can be adjusted in one percent increments, all the way down to 20 percent of your body weight.
"I was in so much pain, it was starting to have a regular impact on my life. Just simple, functional activities were becoming a great challenge for me," says athlete Paul Herberger.
Herberger had dislocated his left hip. A year later he had surgery and began the 12-week recovery process. It wasn't long before he was training on the Alter G.
"Recovering from a surgery and you're having physical therapy. A lot of times, you're not your normal, active self, so to be able to do something like that is inspiring...and it's all because of that treadmill," explains Herberger.
Now Herberger says his pain is gone. He's switching gears and will soon be using the Alter G to train for the upcoming triathlon season.
"I'm thrilled. I can't wait to compete this season because the last two seasons I've been competing in a great deal of pain. You know, before the surgery, I was just running through the pain," says Herberger.
Mannix isn't pain-free yet, but she says she's getting there.
"I just had another litter of puppies that I was actually able to bend over and get into the pen, pick them up, play with them," says Mannix.
She says she doesn't have to look far for the reason why.
"That little treadmill that I was on pretty much is my life-send right there," Mannix says. Without it, she said, "I'd still be crawling on my hands and knees and in tears and upset and not being able to put my shoes and socks on."
Mannix says she believes, one day, she won't hurt at all.
The Alter G is at Clearwater Therapeutics in Bozeman, and you may soon be able to book a workout with the treadmill on Schedulicity.
NASA first developed the technology to combat loss of bone mass when astronauts are out in space for long periods. Researchers added weight to astronauts so they could exercise in zero-gravity conditions. The Alter G, of course, reduces body weight.
For more information visit Clearwater's Facebook page.