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This pickleball athlete found the truth about her knee after 16 years of pain

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She still feels 25, most of the time. But Deb Haltom, our October Athlete of the Month, really has lived a nice little life


Among her accomplishments so far— 

  • 33 years teaching, coaching and counseling at schools across Attica and Goddard,
  • Carrying the Olympic torch on its relay-run journey to OKC,
  • Nailing a local triathlon,
  • Becoming one of the most proficient pickleball players we’ve ever met… Then being asked to represent the sport as an ambassador for the west YMCA,
  • And of course, hitting (literally)countless music venues to hear the dulcet croons of her favorite country artist.


“I love George Strait,” Deb told us, “and can’t count the number of concerts I’ve been to.”


That’s a heck of a resumé, if you ask us.



Deb’s stayed busy. But, it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Alva, OK native has “always loved being active,” she said, participating in sports since she was young. 


Even after she graduated from NWOSU with a bachelors in elementary education, she found a way to stay active, coaching several sports when she wasn’t in the classroom or the office. 

After all, her advice to others, above all else, is this:

“Find something you love, and do it.”

Nowadays, you can often find Deb at the YMCA, tennis center, or park— lifting weights, exercising on the machines, swimming… and playing a few rounds of her favorite racket sport.

“While I enjoy many sports, right now I'm addicted to Pickleball,” she said. “It is so fun to play!”

By the time Deb came into our clinic early this year, though, exercise had been causing her pain for years. And it was slowly getting worse. 


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16 years ago, Deb was told she needed a knee replacement.

“Thank goodness friends encouraged me to go for a second opinion,” she said. THAT doc said her knee was safe… for now. 

“I was told I did not need a knee replacement now, but most likely later in life.”

She instead received cortisone shots, which helped… temporarily. But they weren’t really fixing things. 

The pain always came back. 

“Fast forward to about a year ago,” Deb said. “My knee was to the point that it was miserable. I would power through the pain as much as I could.”

She’s always been good at persevering, it seems.

It takes a pretty strong runner to carry the literal Olympic torch through a quarter-mile of muddy, windy Oklahoma panhandle

So Deb kept persevering. Searching for answers. Searching for a way to keep playing the sport she loves.

She went to a chiropractor for help, but didn’t find any relief there, either. 


“I was very discouraged as I love to play pickleball, but couldn’t play with so much pain.”


In early 2023, a friend put her in touch with Clayton Dir

Together, finally, they found answers. 


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After an initial discovery visit, Deb and Clayton determined that

it wasn’t, in fact, her knee joint that had been causing pain

for over a decade and a half. 


It was her muscles. 


She’d been steered in one direction by doctors for so long, told her pain was just a natural consequence of aging, or the wear and tear of sports. 

Deb was given countless shots. 

Narrowly dodged a needless knee replacement. 

And was rarely listened to by her providers.

But she kept pushing to understand her pain, so she could fix it. 



When she finally made the decision to come through our clinic doors, after 16 years of pain, she was determined to get her mobility back and improve enough to enter a pickleball tournament. 

Clayton found answers for her quickly. Treating the muscle, NOT the knee, Deb worked through a quick, 6-week treatment plan of exercises, dry needling, and e-stim.

“I came to Dr Dir with shoulder and hip/knee pain,” she said. “Between the exercises and dry needling I'm able to use my arm/shoulder with no pain, as well as my hip.”

Which means, of course, she’s back to swinging paddles on the pickleball court.


We were glad she came in.

And sad that she’d spent so many years in pain because MANY healthcare professionals failed to recognize the root cause of her symptoms. 


But mostly, we’re proud of her resilience and determination to put her health first. Deb works hard, exercises harder, and doesn’t take “Can’t” for an answer. 


Because — as we, Deb & Mr. Strait all know — there’s a difference in Living and Living Well.



Team Natural Wellness
Post by Team Natural Wellness
October 27, 2023