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NextLevel: an interview with Heidi Moyer, PT, DPT, GCS, CEEAA

How a specialization in geriatric care helped Heidi Moyer take her career and patient care to the Next Level.

As a young child, Heidi Moyer, PT, DPT, GCS, CEEAA, was often surrounded by older adults and grew up feeling very comfortable around people who were older than her. While completing an undergraduate degree in exercise science, she worked with an advisor who had an infectious passion for aging well and promoting physical activity across the lifespan. This helped continue to drive Moyer to seek out a career working with older adults.

Moyer now serves as Assistant Clinical Professor at Angelo State University in their Doctor of Physical Therapy Program in San Angelo, Texas and is the Program Director for the Geriatric Curriculum at Evidence in Motion. She says that having an idea of what could potentially happen to somebody in the future as they enter their older adult years is an extremely powerful viewpoint to have.

“Geriatric care and especially going through my board-certified clinician training, you aren’t necessarily just looking at 65 and later. You actually have to have an appreciation for what’s happening to somebody in childhood and adolescence, and young adulthood, middle adulthood to see what causes this, so to speak 'perfect storm' that can result in some of these negative aging consequences,” says Moyer.

She says that one of the biggest misnomers she hears from clinicians is that they claim not to be geriatric therapists. Moyer says that working with people who are middle aged requires knowledge of geriatric care because you’re working with people who could be at risk for issues in the future. “We are not just looking at what happens after that arbitrary age of 65,” she adds.

To learn more about Moyer’s experience with geriatric care and how it has enhanced her physical therapy career, watch the full interview here.


READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - June 12, 2024

NextLevel: an interview with Jennifer Stone, PT, DPT, OCS, PHC

How a specialization in pelvic health helped Jennifer Stone take her career and patient care to the Next Level.

As a graduate of Texas State University, Jennifer Stone, PT, DPT, OCS, PHC, began her physical therapy career in 2009, working at a typical outpatient orthopedic private practice. She had a particular interest in the spine, hips and pelvis and enjoyed working with patients with low back pain and pelvic girdle pain, including pregnant women.

Like many physical therapists, she didn’t have much exposure to pelvic health until she says she was “catapulted” into the world of pelvic pain and pelvic dysfunction after the birth of her first child. “It was a very intense introduction into that world,” Stone says, recounting a surgical procedure she was required to have and the fact that the closest pelvic health physical therapist to her was two hours away—which was not an option as a new mom with a full-time job.

This led her to enroll in a pelvic floor class. “I went to my first pelvic floor class and I don’t know if I was really planning to treat patients—I really went to learn how to help myself get better,” Stone says. She walked out of the class feeling excited and also very mad. “I was excited because I realized that this is an iteration of musculoskeletal care and it’s the missing piece that has been bugging me for so long,” she says.

Stone dove wholeheartedly into learning about pelvic health, incorporating it into her practice, which eventually became almost entirely pelvic health patients. She says when she began specializing in this area there was so much need that she had a waiting list of patients, some who would drive hours to see her and some who even got on a plane to come see her. “There is no lack of patients,” says Stone. “That’s not the problem. The problem is how do you take care of all the people who reach out with a need?”

To learn more about Stone’s experience with pelvic health and how it has enhanced her physical therapy practice, watch the full interview here.


READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - May 13, 2024

Relax, Reset, Restore. With SMARTROLLER®!

“The SMARTROLLER challenges the whole nervous system in a safer way than traditional foam rollers.”
- Dr. Carol M. Davis, PT, DPT, EdD, MS, FAPTA

By Stacy Barrows, PT, DPT, GCFP, NCPT

As physical therapists, we are always looking for innovative non-pharmacological approaches to pain management. We actively seek out therapeutic self-care tools that can help clients calm their nervous system; the right foam roller can be the ideal tool.

Although a great option for some uses, a traditional cylindrical-shaped foam roller may be too hard or far off the ground making them too intense for those that experience pain. That’s where the SMARTROLLER comes in. This unique ‘two-in-one’ foam roller features a rounder side that increases foam roller movement, and a flatter side that decreases movement. The shape was sculpted to support the biotensegrity of the human body and allow for innovative uses and applications.


The comfortable curve offered from both sides of the SMARTROLLER supports the structure of the back and allows users to rest on the foam roller longer, breathe with more freedom, and engage more deeply (without causing more pain).


The increased comfort of lying on the SMARTROLLER encourages users to tune into subtle interoceptive cues and find alternatives to painful, habitual movement patterns. Diminished signals from over-active pain responses can then clear the way for more efficient movement possibilities.


The unique shape of the SMARTROLLER also allows patients to explore self-soothing by gently rocking back-and-forth, much like rocking a baby in a cradle. Slow, rhythmic rocking can soften bound up tension, increase range of comfortable motion, and can help calm the nervous system.

The relax, reset, restore approach can help patients:

· Breathe more easily

· Rest comfortably for imagery-based learning

· Move with less restrictions by increasing skill, not will

· Prime their body and mind for a restful sleep

· Return to activities they enjoy

If you, like most physical therapists, are looking for a tool to help clients manage chronic pain, the SMARTROLLER can empower them by gently supporting embodied self-education and safer, open movement exploration, which is the gateway to acquiring higher functional skills—every therapist’s ideal outcome

“Just lying on the SMARTROLLER relaxes my body, in addition to helping my back, neck and jaw muscles to relax and stay pain free. I’ve had multiple injuries and chronic pain from a biking accident, and this is one of the best ways I reset each day.”
- Susan Dopart, MS, RD

Dr. Stacy Barrows, PT, DPT, GCFP, NCPT, developed the SMARTROLLER through the influences of her somatic education (Feldenkrais Method®), biotensegrity, motivational interviewing, and her physical therapy understanding of fascial and bioplastic sciences.

READ MORE Stacy Barrows, PT, DPT, GCFP, NCPT - May 8, 2024

NextLevel: an interview with Jen Uschold, PT, CFMT, FPS, NBC-HWC

How a specialization in lifestyle medicine helped Jen Uschold take her career and patient care to the Next Level.

Jen Uschold, PT, CFMT, FPS, NBC-HWC, developed a passion for health and wellness coaching in 2014. Not long after, she started to take a deep dive into pain science. After she completed a Fellowship in Pain Science with EIM, faculty members approached her about a new program they were developing called lifestyle medicine. “In all honesty, I had not heard of the term lifestyle medicine, but when I looked it up I thought, ‘this is a very good fit for me,’” Uschold says.

“Lifestyle medicine is not ‘anti-medicine’ or ‘anti-surgery.’ It is pro-appropriate use of those things and using what we have easy access to first, which doesn’t come with any side effects,” explains Uschold. Those easy access options include the six main elements of lifestyle medicine—exercise, nutrition, social connections, stress management, avoiding risky substances and sleep. Studies show that making positive changes in one or more of these areas can not only prevent, but also treat or even reverse, up to 80% of lifestyle related diseases including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity.

“So many of the strategies we have for pain science are quite similar to the strategies we have for lifestyle medicine,” Uschold says. “So, it’s a beautiful blend and I am really passionate about ‘helping people help themselves.’ That’s a phrase I’ve used since I was a new grad in 1991 and it continues to be true with both pain science and lifestyle medicine,” she adds.

Now an integral part of the EIM teaching team, Uschold serves as the program director for the Certification in Lifestyle Medicine at EIM, in addition to owning a small private physical therapy practice. Why does she feel advanced training in lifestyle medicine is important for healthcare providers? “We as allied professionals have got to take ownership for the entire human sitting in front of us. When we empower them with knowledge and strategies and tools, they are able to take ownership of their health and that creates a win for everyone,” she says.

To learn more about Uschold’s experience with lifestyle medicine and how it has enhanced her physical therapy practice, watch the full interview here.


READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - April 8, 2024

NextLevel: an interview with Teresa Schuemann, DPT, SCS, ATC, CSCS

How a specialization in sports physical therapy helped Teresa Schuemann take her career and patient care to the Next Level.

Teresa Schuemann, DPT, SCS, ATC, CSCS, is a Sports Physical Therapist and the Director of Residencies at Evidence in Motion (EIM). After she graduated with a physical therapy and certified athletic training degree, she jumped into acute care working as a physical therapy generalist at a hospital in St. Louis. At the time, she was uncertain about what area she wanted to specialize in so she paid attention to what she really loved to do in order to discover her passion. “I was always coming back to sport,” she says.

This led Schuemann to complete a residency program, which provided the experience, education, and mentorship that provided what she needed to work successfully as a Sports Physical Therapist. Schuemann takes her extensive experience into her work as an instructor at EIM. What can you expect from these courses? “When you come to a course with [EIM], we really want you to be able to go into your clinic on Monday morning and do the stuff that we practiced all weekend at the weekend intensive.”

“We format our courses so you have some pre-course work that provides the knowledge base and the start of clinical application and then on the weekend intensive we’re not going to be talking a whole lot, we’re going to be doing a whole lot. We do a lot of lab-based type things. You may watch the instructor give an example of what we’re talking about. Then you practice on each other.”

How does Schuemann sum up her role as a Sports Physical Therapist? “When you’re really involved in athletics at any level—middle school, high school, professional athletes—that participation in sports becomes a part of you. So when you have an injury, it can be pretty devastating and overall, the lesson is to understand that—and then to be very optimistic about ‘what is our plan to get you back?’” she says.

If you’re a physical therapist who is interested in taking your career to the Next Level, you don’t want to miss this interview with Schuemann. Watch the full interview here.


READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - March 19, 2024

NextLevel: an interview with Edo Zylstra, PT, DPT, OCS

How dry needling education helped Edo Zylstra take his career and patient care to the Next Level.

Edo Zylstra, PT, DPT, OCS, serves as a lead faculty member at Evidence in Motion (EIM) where he teaches dry needling courses. After graduating from physical therapy school in 2001, he worked at an integrative physical therapy clinic in Colorado that offered dry needling, exposing Zylstra to the techniques early on in his career. He was trained in dry needling at the clinic and eventually went on to do advanced training throughout the United States and Canada.

“I fell in love with [dry needling] because of how you interact with the patient and also the responses,” says Zylstra. “It’s taught me a lot about how to be a better clinician because it’s not just about a needle. It’s the ‘why’ behind it. Why are we utilizing it? What theoretical model do we utilize?” he added.

Zylstra describes dry needling as a tool to reset the neuromuscular system. “We’re impacting the nervous system more than anything else but we’re also seeing increases in blood flow and changes in tissue health,” he added. He says that dry needling provides a way to take away barriers of healing and reinforcing changes so that patients heal faster.

If you’re a physical therapist who is interested in taking your career to the Next Level, you don’t want to miss this interview with Zylstra. Watch the full interview here.


READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - March 1, 2024

The World’s First Lumbar Roll and how Robin McKenzie transformed back pain treatment

The late Robin McKenzie was a New Zealand physiotherapist who was frustrated by the lack of options doctors were giving to low back pain patients. These physicians all seemed to be prescribing heat, massage and ineffective exercises—which made patients feel better briefly but did not have a long-term effect.

A chance discovery

Then Robin made a chance discovery that led to a new method to treat back pain. He tested his theories on thousands of patients and documented the results, working out a system which later became the McKenzie Method® of Diagnosis and Therapy® (MDT).

Despite opposition from other medical professionals, including one who wanted to see Robin’s physiotherapy license taken away, he persisted in testing and sharing his new methodology. Years later when Robin’s theories were proven correct, medical providers admitted that they may have performed a great number of unnecessary spinal surgeries.

The world’s first lumbar roll

Robin’s system of MDT puts control in the patients’ hands and reduces the need for medications and surgery. His methodology is documented in his first book, Treat Your Own Back, which was published in 1980. His discoveries also resulted in the world’s first lumbar roll—which was sewn by his wife, Joy, at their kitchen table.

One of the most well-known and highly regarded physiotherapists of all time, Robin McKenzie transformed how back pain is treated. In 1990 he was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and in 2000 he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order for his services to physiotherapy.

Learn more about his impressive story and momentous discovery

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - February 29, 2024

Choosing a Maternity Support Belt

Of all the life changes pregnant women go through, one of the most drastic is the changing of their bodies as they carry their child and prepare for birth. In some cases, this means pain and discomfort of the low back or pelvis, which can occur during pregnancy and/or postpartum. Many women turn to support belts for relief but with so many different maternity belts on the market, how does one decide which is best?

That’s where Diane Lee, BSR, FCAMPT, CGIMS, comes in. She is a physical therapist with more than 30 years of experience working with pregnant women. Throughout the years, Lee observed and listened to her patients who commonly dealt with the same issues—pain that changes location and maternity belts that don’t offer enough support. So she decided to do something about it.

She designed the Maternity Support Belt by Diane Lee. This support belt has three distinct features that other support belts are all lacking.

Double Compression

The Maternity Support Belt features a two-piece design which includes a non-elastic Belly Support that wraps around the low abdomen, resting just above the greater trochanters (the top of the thigh bone and widest part of the hip). The Pelvis Support is made of a high-compression elastic that wraps around the pelvis and attaches to the Belly Support, offering a firm “hug.”

Features of the Maternity Belt


In the above video, Diane Lee talks about the Maternity Support Belt’s two components that provide double compression.

Targeted compression to the front or back

To address a woman’s changing needs throughout pregnancy and postpartum, the Maternity Support Belt is the only belt that features patented elastic side straps that can be secured in the front, to add support for the public symphysis, or in the back, to add support for the sacroiliac joints.

How to Determine Where to Apply the Elastic Side Straps


Designed for comfort and movement

Unlike other maternity belts, the design of the Maternity Support Belt by Diane Lee features curved sides above the thighs for greater comfort and ease of movement, especially when sitting or squatting.

What to Look for in a Pelvic Support Belt


In this video, Diane Lee reiterates the three most important things to look for when choosing a maternity support belt.

After Diane Lee’s new support belt hit the market, she began getting very different feedback from her patients who were using it during pregnancy and/or postpartum. As one patient said, “The [Maternity Support Belt by Diane Lee] has been a lifesaver during my pregnancy. It provides much-needed support during daily necessities like household chores, walking the dog, and exercising: activities I had started to neglect due to back discomfort. I especially appreciate that it’s adjustable to where I need support.”

The rave reviews have continued to come in, solidifying the Maternity Support Belt by Diane Lee as one of the most effective and highest-quality maternity support belts on the market. To learn more and to purchase, click here.

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - February 22, 2024

NextLevel: an interview with Adriaan Louw, PT, PhD

How pain neuroscience education helped Dr. Adriaan Louw take his career and patient care to the Next Level.

Adriaan Louw, PT, PhD, serves as Senior Faculty, Pain Science Director and Vice President of Faculty Experience at Evidence in Motion and has co-authored more than 100 peer reviewed articles related to spinal disorders and pain science. He is also the author of the Why You Hurt system of patient books and clinical texts.

Through his books, clinical practice, presentations at conferences, and decades of lecturing and teaching, Dr. Louw has likely helped hundreds of thousands of patients who were struggling with chronic pain. He has become well known as one of the world’s leading experts on pain neuroscience. But it wasn’t always this way.

When asked what inspired him to get into the field of pain neuroscience, he says, “I was not trained to do this. When I encountered the challenges of treating people with persistent pain it was really hard in the clinic and I failed, I couldn’t help people. Fortunately, some very kind people, through my career, trained me, gave me information to read, and I started getting involved in this process and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life as a clinician—this awakening, if you will.”

Dr. Louw learned everything he could about using pain neuroscience to treat patients with persistent pain and it allowed him to take his career to the Next Level. With his new skills and knowledge, Dr. Louw says that therapy became more fun. He became excited about his ability to help persistent pain patients who he couldn’t help before and was encouraged by the positive results he was seeing.

Dr Louw’s story is just one example of how advanced education can help a clinician take their career—and their patient care—to the Next Level. Watch the full interview here.


READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - February 1, 2024

Happy National Foam Rolling Day

Celebrate with these myofascial release techniques, warmup exercises and full body workouts.

The foam roller was created by Moshé Feldenkrais, the inventor of the Feldenkrais Method—a method that shows how to use self-awareness to improve physical movement and flexibility. Originally used as a balance tool during standing exercises, people started using the foam roller as a tool for self-massage in the 1980s. Since then, foam rolling has become mainstream and foam rollers can now be found in fitness centers, Pilates and yoga studios, physical therapy offices, and in countless homes all over the world.

OPTP offers a wide array of durable, high-quality foam rollers in various sizes and densities—from super soft to firm. Whether you’re new to foam rolling or an experienced pro, the following videos show a wide variety of ways to incorporate foam rolling into your wellness routine with myofascial release techniques, warmup exercises, and full body workouts. So grab your foam roller and try a new technique, or two, or three, or four…

Hamstring Release with the Black AXIS® Foam Roller


Lower-Body Mobilization with the OPTP® PRO-ROLLER® Soft


Full-Body Mobilization with the OPTP® PRO-ROLLER® Soft


Foam Rolling Techniques for Ankle Mobility with the OPTP® PRO-ROLLER® Super Soft


OPTP® PRO-ROLLER® Complete Pre-Cardio Warmup


Exercise Warmup Sequence with the Silver AXIS® Foam Roller


Black AXIS® Foam Roller Full Body Workout


Full Core Workout with Silver AXIS® Foam Roller


READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - May 11, 2023

How to Deepen Motor Learning and Body Awareness with SMARTROLLER®

If you are interested in somatic education, or if you are a practitioner seeking ways to help your patients and clients, you won’t want to miss the following videos that feature Stacy Barrows, PT, DPT, GCFP, NCPT, demonstrating how small, simple movements can be used to deepen motor learning and body awareness. 
Stacy is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner, a nationally certified Pilates teacher, and a registered physical therapist. She developed the SMARTROLLER® line of products to help clients at her Los Angeles-based physical therapy clinic to explore movement in a way that’s fun and meaningful, encouraging them to connect awareness with movement. 
Find out how you, too, can integrate mindfulness and movement using SMARTROLLER® products in the following videos. 

Video 1: Live Q&A with SMARTROLLER® inventor Stacy Barrows
Stacy answers some of the most common questions she gets about her SMARTROLLER® line of products.

Video 2: SMARTROLLER® Somatic Education
In this video, Stacy talks about how to deepen motor learning and body awareness using somatic education.

Video 3: SMARTROLLER Links: A Playground for Sensory Motor Learning
Stacy demonstrates various movements using the SMARTROLLER® Links to address hypermobility and work on proprioception and functional strengthening.

Video 4: Kinesthetic Learning and Posture with the SMARTROLLER® Sits
In this video, Stacy describes how the SMARTROLLER® Sits can be used as kinesthetic tools to better organize pelvic support and alignment to improve dynamic sitting posture.

To learn about Stacy Barrow’s book SMARTROLLER® Guide to Optimal Movement and shop for the full line of SMARTROLLER® products click here.

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - November 7, 2022

OPTP Exhibiting at PMA 2022

OPTP exhibiting at PMA 2022 
The Pilates Method Alliance International Conference is just around the corner and OPTP is excited to be exhibiting at the event! We hope to see you October 19-22 in Las Vegas. If you’re attending, visit us at booth #306 where you can experience and shop our wide selection of Pilates, fitness and therapy tools. 
Dr. Kristine Bragg workshop 
While at PMA, don’t miss Dr. Kristine Bragg’s workshop: Building a Better Balance Training Program. A postdoctoral scholar specializing in program evaluation, research and teaching, Dr. Bragg will help you revolutionize how you approach balance programming. Learn more about Dr. Bragg by following her on Instagram @mat.pilates and learn more about her must-see PMA workshop in the video below. 

We look forward to seeing those of you attending PMA. Whether you plan to attend or not, check out OPTP’s wide selection of Pilates products for studio or home use. 
Shop Pilates products 

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - October 12, 2022

Five Techniques for Better Posture and Better Health

Sitting and standing with a healthy, upright posture not only looks good, but can also help you avoid common neck and back problems. The following 30-second posture tips demonstrated by Dr. Yoav Suprun, DPT, OCS, Dip. MDT, CSCS, will help you practice healthy posture while completing common, everyday tasks.
Healthy posture while standing at a mirror to shave or apply makeup

Healthy posture while using your phone

Healthy posture while emptying the garbage and cleaning the trash can

Healthy posture while using a computer

Mid-back extension exercise for healthy posture

More posture tips from Dr. Yoav 
Find more posture tips in Dr. Yoav’s new book Aging Without Aching: Relieve pain, improve your posture, move better and stop kvetchingWritten for people who want to age better, with less pain and more vitality, this book includes functional fitness exercises, body mechanics strategies, and secrets to aging with perfect posture.

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - July 19, 2022

Pain Neuroscience Education: An Essential Part of the Solution to the Pain Epidemic

The grim statistics surrounding the chronic pain crisis and the opioid epidemic are causing healthcare practitioners worldwide to ask: what can we do? Pain neuroscience education (PNE) is a safe, simple, and effective method that practitioners can use to help their patients without prescribing more drugs. 
If you’re a healthcare practitioner who wants to be part of the solution to this growing problem, it’s likely that your next question is, “how do I get started?” The answer is simple. Pain neuroscience expert Adriaan Louw, PT, PhD, has created a comprehensive resource for all things PNE. It’s called WhyYouHurt.com.
It is currently reported that 25.3 million adults in the United States are suffering from daily chronic pain and one in six children and adolescents experience persistent pain. Find more statistics and learn why PNE is a viable addition to your clinical practice on the WHY page

Adriaan Louw explains why PNE is essential to helping patients in pain.

PNE is based around the 3-3-1 principle, a simple foundation for understanding and tackling the complexity of the human pain experience. Learn about the 3-3-1 principle and get guidance on books, courses, fellowships and more on the LEARN page. The more you understand PNE, the easier it will be to teach to your patients.  
“You think my pain is in my head,” is a common statement made by frustrated patients. Visit the TEACH page to view sample sessions showing how to respond to this statement and how to deal with other common patient questions and concerns. While you’re there, access downloadable patient homework, educational anecdotes, and simple ways you can teach your patients about pain.

Adriaan Louw explains how stories can be used to teach patients about pain.

Have a question related to PNE? Submit it on the ASK ADRIAAN page. Select questions will be answered in a video blog and posted to the page. 
Adriaan Louw has been at the heart of the chronic pain crisis for decades—researching, studying, and finding solutions. The knowledge and resources he’s gathered are now at your fingertips. Visit WhyYouHurt.com and find out how you can be a part of the solution to the chronic pain crisis and the opioid epidemic. For more information on PNE, books and resources are available at OPTP.com.

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - July 6, 2022

Spice Up Your Pilates Toe Taps

Toe Taps: 5 Variations to Try Today 

In honor of Pilates month, we’ve got 5 ways to spice up your toe taps, as demonstrated in the video above by Nicole Gregory, AFAA Certified Fitness Professional and STOTT Pilates Instructor at Pilates Detroit.
1.     Lie supine on the OPTP® PRO-ROLLER® with your head positioned on the PRO-ROLLER® Arch™ for a neutral position. Bring legs to a tabletop and, with arms spread wide at your sides for more stability or closer to you for more challenge, alternate from your left to right leg as you perform toe taps, activating your core.
2.      Lie on your back and with the OPTP® PRO-ROLLER® Super Soft on your knees, lift your legs into tabletop position, hip-distance apart. Push both hands into the foam roller as you alternate from your left to right leg, performing toe taps while keeping the foam roller stable against your legs.
3.     Lie on your back, lift your legs into tabletop position, and place the OPTP® PRO Soft Release Ball under one knee. Squeeze into the ball, using it as a tactile point as you engage your hamstring, while you perform toe taps for 10-20 seconds on one side before switching to the other side.
4.     Lie on your back, placing the Franklin Smooth Ball™ Set under your sit bones. Lift your legs up to tabletop, arms at your sides. Keeping legs parallel to one another, perform toe taps for 20-30 seconds as you challenge deep core engagement.
5.      Sit on the Pelvic Rocker™ Core Trainer with your arms on the ground at your sides. Pull your legs up to tabletop and alternating from your left to right leg, perform toe taps. To intensify the exercise, reach the leg forward, as if you’re riding a bicycle.
Celebrate Pilates month and strengthen your core with these 5 variations to spice up your Pilates Toe Taps.

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - May 2, 2022

5 Ways to Train Balance Featuring the Dynamic Duo

Fun, Balance-Boosting Exercises

Balance is a key aspect of fitness and can help improve coordination, joint stability and body awareness. Improving balance can help with day-to-day functioning, as well as sports performance. Plus, it’s an important part of long-term health, as it can help prevent falls that could lead to injury. In the videos below, Derek Mikulski, BS, CSCS, CPT, and Alexa @lowimpactfit demonstrate fun, balance-boosting exercises that can help you improve coordination, joint stability and body awareness. 

Build lower body strength and core strength while improving balance with pistol squats. 

Strengthen the glutes and hamstrings while improving balance with single leg hip extensions. 

Strengthen the upper body and the core while improving balance with these simple exercises you can do anywhere. 

Strengthen the upper body and lower body with this full balance-boosting workout. 

Start moving toward better balance with these fun, balance-boosting exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere.

Featured balance products

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - September 17, 2021

PROfiles: Donna Gambino, PT, Certified Pilates Instructor

‘Aha’ moments lead to a life of helping people heal

As a high school student with an interest in health care, Donna Gambino was invited to tag along for a series of physical therapy appointments with a family friend who was recovering from a knee replacement. “That was probably the first time in my life that I had an ‘aha’ moment, says Donna. “I walked into the physical therapy gym and immediately felt like, ‘Okay, this is where I belong,’” she adds.

During the following weeks and months, Donna observed as her mother’s friend gained strength, and other patients at the clinic continued to improve, as well. “I think it was the fact that these people were coming in so broken, and the therapists were able to develop a close working relationship with them, to even become friends with them. The therapists would get to meet with these patients frequently, to see their progress, and then to witness them walk out of the clinic stronger than when they came in,” she says. The experience solidified the fact that Donna wanted to become a physical therapist herself.

Finding what she really loves to do

After earning a Bachelor of Applied Science in Physical Therapy from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, Donna married her husband, Chris, and they moved to Cleveland, Ohio. She landed a job as a PT at an acute care hospital, an experience she describes as the utopia of her career. “My managers were open to trying out new ideas and any crazy idea I had, they would give me a chance to try it for six weeks and see how it went.” At the clinic, Donna worked in cardiac rehab and orthopedic rehab, providing both in-patient and out-patient care. “I got my feet wet in many different areas until I could find what I really, really loved to do and what I excelled at,” Donna says.

Donna working with a client.

Discovering a love for teaching

While working in cardiac rehab, Donna worked on a team with a nurse and a doctor, providing rehabilitation care for individuals recovering from heart attacks and bypass surgery. The role required educating patients on fitness and lifestyle changes. “This was another pivotal moment,” says Donna. “I realized that it can’t just be about the body. I’m not just treating a shoulder or a knee,” she says. “It’s the whole thing. I realized that the mind plays a really big part in a person’s wellness, and that’s been a huge part of my journey,” she adds. The role also helped her to discover that she loves teaching. “It’s not my job to do anything for people. It’s my job to show people how to do it themselves,” she says.

In 1993 Donna and her husband moved to Michigan where she started a job at a local clinic providing outpatient therapy services. With 80% of orthopedic patients struggling with back pain, Donna began reading more and more research on the positive effects Pilates had on back pain patients. She realized that her PT knowledge and experience made her the perfect candidate to teach Pilates. “I thought, this is a tool I need to have,” she says.

In 2000 she enrolled in a Pilates certification program at the Professional Health and Fitness Institute—a Pilates school specifically for PTs. She embraced Pilates as a way to teach people how to safely start exercising after injury or illness, without re-injuring themselves. The results? “It benefits everyone who does it,” says Donna. “I have not had one person that I’ve ever trained in Pilates who hasn’t learned something new about their bodies or how to make it work more efficiently.”

Donna educates viewers on her YouTube channel: Infinity Health Pilates.

Taking Pilates to the next level

While seeing the positive results Pilates had on clients, Donna began taking notes for the book she hoped to write, someday when she had more time. That opportunity came sooner than she expected when a company came in and bought the clinic where she was working—requiring all the employees to sign a contract that included stipulations Donna was not in agreement with. “It was another ‘aha’ moment for me,” says Donna. “I knew I wasn’t going to sign the contract. I realized this is my time to go now and I quit that day—it was really freeing. I got in the car and called my husband and said, ‘I just quit my job. I’m going to take this Pilates thing to the next level and I’m going to write a book.’”

Donna’s first book, On a Roll @ Home: Home Exercises for Core Strength and Massage on the Foam Roller was published in 2006. She purchased Pilates equipment, built a studio in her home, and started getting referrals from therapy friends, massage therapists and chiropractors in the area. Her business, which is now called Infinity Health Therapeutic Pilates, began to grow. All of her business has been word of mouth and Donna believes her success has been her ability to help people heal and start doing activities they never thought they could do. “My tagline is Fitness Solutions for Postural Improvement. I truly believe that if your body is aligned properly, then movement is free and effortless. I can help people do that using the combination of my rehabilitation and fitness knowledge,” says Donna.

Donna helping Pilates clients master the magic circle.

Helping people through difficult challenges

In 2007, she published her second book, Age Perfected Pilates: Mat Exercises Designed to Improve Posture, Strength & Movement and in 2014 she published On a Roll @ Home: Home Exercises for Stretch and Massage on the Foam Roller. Donna and her husband recently moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she continues to educate through her books, private Pilates sessions, and her YouTube channel: Infinity Health Pilates. She says she is continually motivated by the opportunity to help people heal. “People can persevere and rise above even the most difficult challenges you can imagine,” she says.

Donna then relays the story of a PT client who she started working with when the girl was only 16. She had been born with a significant leg length discrepancy which caused her to walk with a limp. After a surgical procedure that involved cutting the bone and adding external scaffolding and screws, Donna worked with the girl during her difficult high school years as she worked to recover—including when she finally had the external device removed and was able to walk without it. “We’re still friends today,” says Donna, her voice cracking. “I was there when she walked down the aisle at her wedding—I cried the whole time. That’s why I decided to do this work in the first place.”

Donna Gambino, PT, Certified Pilates Instructor, is the owner of Infinity Health Therapeutic Pilates, LLC. She is the author of three books: On a Roll @ Home: Home Exercises for Core Strength and Massage on the Foam Roller; Age Perfected Pilates: Mat Exercises Designed to Improve Posture, Strength & Movement, published by OPTP; and On a Roll @ Home: Home Exercises for Stretch and Massage on the Foam Roller. View Donna’s Pilates videos on her YouTube channel: Infinity Health Pilates. Learn more about Donna and sign up for in person (Dayton, Ohio), or virtual Pilates classes at infinityhealth.org.

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - July 5, 2021

PROfiles: Joe Tatta, PT, DPT, CNS | Integrative Pain Care

Reinventing Pain Care

As a physical therapist and the founder of the Integrative Pain Science Institute, Joe Tatta, PT, DPT, CNS, is on a mission to help individuals experiencing pain by treating the body, mind and spirit. A New York native who describes himself as “someone who values innovation and change, and is always asking how we can improve the delivery of healthcare,” Dr. Tatta knows there’s a better way to treat pain. His approach has been informed and inspired by a variety of people and experiences, but a defining example was the one set by his mom, a retired nurse who worked at an adolescent cancer care center for many years.

As a young boy, Dr. Tatta witnessed his mom take control of her health, and her life, by changing her eating habits, taking up an exercise program, learning to manage stress and anxiety, and making a career change. Without the use of medication, she took control of her health, and her life, and it made a deep and lasting impression.

Moving toward a medical profession with a health and wellness component

As a young boy, Dr. Tatta read the medical journals that were sent to their home. He was fascinated by the information, yet fully aware that wearing a white lab coat and writing prescriptions was not going to be his path. He had always had in interest in the physical body, how it performs, and how to optimize it. A natural athlete, he started gymnastics at the age of three, and although he played other sports through the years, gymnastics was his mainstay. “Gymnastics was a big influence on me as far as pursuing physical therapy, and there’s actually a little bit of mindfulness built into the sport, too,” he says. It eventually became clear that physical therapy was ideal—a medical profession with a health and wellness component.

After graduating from the physical therapy program at the State University of New York, Health Science Center in Brooklyn, Dr. Tatta worked for two years in an inpatient adult rehabilitation clinic where he saw patients with a variety of conditions including spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, neurological conditions and amputations. He then accepted a position at a physical therapy clinic in New York City that specialized in the performing arts, where he worked with dancers.

Seeking a new model of care

His early work experiences provided Dr. Tatta with a vision for a model of care that he wanted to deliver, which inspired him to collaborate with two other physical therapists and open their own clinic, Premier Physical Therapy and Wellness. “There was an older kind of physical therapy model out there, and we were interested in pursuing newer, more modern models of treatment and interventions for care,” says Dr. Tatta. With an interest in systems and a desire to affect change, he and his business partners opened over a dozen locations in 15 years.

Moving toward integrative pain care

During this time, Dr. Tatta was recognizing the high number of patients who were struggling with chronic pain, while learning how to run a group of successful clinics, but some of the most formative lessons were ones taught outside the clinic doors. After getting hooked on yoga classes, Dr. Tatta became a self-described yogi, learning meditation in the process. This led to mindfulness classes, and eventually he was introduced to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a science-backed approach to treating physical and psychological pain through mindfulness, meditation and other non-pharmaceutical practices.

He also studied nutrition and other alternative and complementary forms of care, as well as Pilates. “The thing about Pilates that interested me was how you can use the equipment to help facilitate movement and to help people who have challenges moving,” he says. “In fact, some of Joseph Pilates’ early work was on people who were in hospital beds. It’s really an ideal method for rehabilitation,” Joe says.

Sharing a new approach to treating pain

When he and his colleagues decided to exit the business and move on to other endeavors, Dr. Tatta decided to focus on writing a book that he had been contemplating. The result was the publication of Heal Your Pain Now, a book that shows how to take an integrative approach to treating pain using exercise, nutrition and the mind. He received a great deal of positive feedback from readers, including other practitioners who wanted to know more about implementing an integrative approach to pain.

These conversations set off a strong desire to address some of the major challenges in the physical therapy world, including how to train professionals about psychologically informed care and how to integrate pain care and other aspects of care like nutrition, supplements and mindfulness and acceptance-based interventions into physical therapy treatment. The result was the Integrative Pain Science Institute, which Dr. Tatta founded in 2016 in order to teach new biopsychosocial pain treatment methods to other practitioners.

Helping people take meaningful, purposeful action

In 2020 Dr. Tatta published his second book, Radical Relief: A Guide to Overcome Chronic Pain. The book introduces readers to ACT and mindfulness, and includes more than 40 cognitive exercises, along with metaphors and colorful imagery to help readers take purposeful action toward a more meaningful life—providing a safe and effective alternative to common pain treatments.

In addition to his books, Dr. Tatta has a podcast that focuses on many healthcare topics, including pain care. “We’re reading the research, but practices aren’t changing as rapidly as we need,” says Dr. Tatta. “So, I look at my platform, including the Integrative Pain Science Institute and my podcast, as a public service announcement for people with pain, as well as practitioners. I’m saying, ‘here’s what we know. Let’s share the information and then let’s start to take action on it so we reinvent how we deliver pain care.’”

Joe Tatta, PT, DPT, CNS, is the Founder of the Integrative Pain Science Institute, a cutting-edge health company reinventing pain care through evidence-based treatment, research, and professional development. He is the author of two books: Heal Your Pain Now and Radical Relief: A Guide to Overcome Chronic Pain.

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - April 19, 2021

Uneven Surface vs. Unstable Surface Balance Training

Functional Balance Training: Uneven and Unstable Surfaces

Whether you are a physical therapist, chiropractor, athletic trainer, Pilates instructor, or other type of fitness professional, it is likely that you work with clients and/or patients who need to improve their balance.

The evolution of balance training

Over the last three decades, balance training has evolved dramatically. Through the 90s and into the early 2000s, health and fitness professionals began to look more closely at the “functionality” of the exercises they were prescribing; that is, how exercises translate to movement outside of the clinic, studio or gym.

It was realized that balance training in a predictable, static environment would yield sub-par results. Because most individuals need to have sound balance while moving, people need to combine traditional static balance exercises with mobile, multiplanar and unpredictable dynamic exercises across variable surfaces.

This realization caused health and fitness professionals to do two things differently:

1.) They began incorporating more dynamic, functional movement into their programming.
2.) They began utilizing functional new forms of equipment to help their patients and clients achieve their goals.

Balance tools for functional training

Since the shift towards more functional forms of balance training, innovators have created an abundance of balance training tools. Most of these tools offer some sort of variable surface to conduct exercises on and/or across. The basic logic behind these products is simple: exercising on a variable surface will introduce unpredictable balance demands to the patient or client, helping them build a stronger neurological connection between the brain, feet, and everything in between.

Most balance training tools fall into one of two main categories: unstable surfaces and uneven surfaces.

Unstable surface balance tools

Unstable surfaces can be thought of as any surface that moves as the patient or client is standing on top of it. With this variability in movement, the body’s main sensory systems that govern balance (the vestibular and proprioceptive systems) are turned on to a greater degree. Over time, this enhanced sensory and muscle activation can build better balance, helping the individual develop a better intuitive understanding of their body’s position in space.

While a vast number of exercises can be conducted on top of a balance tool that offers an unstable surface, mobile exercises (such as walking or lunging) can be challenging since the surface area of these tools can be quite small.

Examples of balance tools that offer an unstable surface include wobble boards, balance pads, balance discs, and instability platforms. These tools each offer their own unique form of instability.

Wobble Boards

Wobble boards come in many shapes and sizes, but the concept is similar across all variations. The tools feature a solid surface on top of a curved base that moves in either one plane of motion (easier) or in all directions (harder). Wobble boards are great for all patient and client types. If you are in the market for a wobble board, the Wobblesmart by OPTP is a great option. It can be adjusted across 6 degrees of difficulty to accommodate a range of balance abilities, making it very versatile.

Balance Pads

Balance pads also come in many shapes and sizes. These balance tools are commonly made from pliable air-filled foam, which collapses as a user stands on top. Balance pads are most commonly used with older adults, since they offer a lesser degree of instability and are low to the ground, minimizing the risk of a fall. For a great balance pad option, check out the OPTP Pro Balance Pad.

Balance Discs

Balance discs are similar to both wobble boards and balance pads in that they can be made of collapsible foam or offer a solid platform on top of a curved base. They can also be completely air-filled. These tools are circular in shape and are commonly used in unilateral (single leg) exercises. For an exciting and unique balance disc option, check out the OPTP Dynamic Duo™ Balance & Stability Trainers.

Instability Platforms

Instability platforms include a broad range of dome-shaped balance tools. These products are most commonly made from a durable rubber material that is balloon-like, being filled with air. This rubber air filled “balloon” can serve as the balance tool itself or can be affixed to a solid platform that the user stands on top of. For one of the newest innovations in instability platforms, check out the OPTP PRO-PODS™.

Uneven surface balance tools

As mentioned, one major consideration in today’s balance training program development is the functionality of exercises. That is, how does, “balance exercise x” help prepare the patient or client for doing, “activity x” in their day-to-day life?

Because most people spend a fair amount of time standing, walking, hiking, jogging, or running on surfaces that are not unstable, innovators recently began creating products that offer uneven surfaces. Balance tools with an uneven surface offer variability that is more similar to what people might encounter in their daily lives including hills, uneven grass or playing fields, rocky walkways, old sidewalks, and hiking trails.

These surfaces have fixed and unfixed obstacles that people must navigate on, over and across safely. Moving on and across an uneven surface offers the same benefits that unstable surfaces offer, with the added benefit of increased functionality. To train on any uneven surface, people would normally have to venture outside to the nearest park, trail, hill, field, or mountain; until now.

CobbleFoam: A highly effective approach to improving balance

OPTP recently released an innovative new balance training product called CobbleFoam. Each CobbleFoam board is 16” x 16” and features foam blocks of varying heights that create uneven terrain to stand on or traverse across. The CobbleFoam board/s simulate the uneven surfaces we encounter in everyday life and can be used safely and comfortably in the clinic, studio, gym or home.

Conducting any balance exercise on an uneven surface like CobbleFoam immediately increases the benefits of the movement. Due to the variability of the uneven surface, the brain and muscles will be engaged at a deeper level to keep the body upright and balanced. In addition, the deep intrinsic stability system of the foot-ankle-knee complex will be activated to a much greater degree, building strength and joint integrity.

To make balance exercises even more functional and life-like, combining an uneven surface like the CobbleFoam board/s with other fitness tools like weights, steps, balance pads and hurdles to develop an “obstacle course” is a highly effective approach to developing and improving functional balance.

The key to the most profound overall benefits

The use of both unstable and uneven balance training products offers incredibly beneficial outcomes for patients and clients. When combined with functional movement that is most similar to activities of daily life, patients and clients will realize the most profound overall benefits.

To explore all of OPTP’s 40+ balance training products, visit optp.com.

READ MORE Derek Mikulski, BS, CSCS, CPT - February 9, 2021

Using Mindfulness and Acceptance to Mentally Cope with Chronic Pain

Using Mindfulness and Acceptance to Mentally Cope with Chronic Pain

By Joe Tatta, PT, DPT, CNS

Over the last century, a belief has developed that people living with chronic pain are broken, they need to be fixed, and pain must be completely eliminated in order to achieve a sense of freedom and vitality.

Things that are broken require fixing. When you view pain as a problem, it will naturally require a solution that promises to fix it. But what if the ways you’ve tried to mend or fix your pain are actually making things worse? Consider that possibility for a moment. Struggling to control pain can place a tremendous amount of strain on your body and your life. Each failed fix or promise of a solution to stop, control, or eliminate pain takes a toll. It lets you down, shattering your expectations into a thousand pieces, leaving you spent and drained of energy.

An Alternate Path: Mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

A modern exploration of human suffering suggests chronic pain isn’t the enemy and that it doesn’t need to be stopped, eliminated or controlled to live a rich, meaningful and active life. Rather than focusing on changing physical or psychological pain directly, approaches such as mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy seek to change the function of those events and the individual’s relationship to them.

The following metaphor will help you recognize how ineffective the struggle with pain control really is. It also shows you a surprising alternate path out of the struggle—a path that can help you return to an active life.

Activity: Letting Go of the Rope

Fighting to control or eliminate pain is like being in a tug-of-war with a huge pain monster. In between you and this big, ugly monster is a deep, bottomless pit. Losing this tug-of-war means falling into the pit, where you’ll be trapped forever.

Imagine grasping the rope tightly with both hands and beginning to pull. The harder you pull, the harder the pain monster pulls back. You tighten your grip further until your knuckles are white. Your elbows contract and your shoulders rise with tension. Your back braces as you dig your heels into the ground and begin to pull.

As the struggle continues you become more and more exhausted and begin to feel the pain in your body. Your arms are tired, your face is red and you’re sweating as you continue in this fight for your life. As the struggle continues, you edge closer and closer to the pit. The pain monster is winning.

Finally, you are pulled to the very edge of the pit where you stare into the depths of darkness. Your mind searches for solutions—telling you to pull harder and not to give in until you’ve won the struggle. Yet, there is an option you probably haven’t considered; You don’t need to win this tug-of-war.

What if you decide to let go of the rope and give up the fight?

Imagine yourself dropping the rope right now.

Notice how your body feels as you drop the rope.
Does the tension in your body increase or decrease? Does your energy level go up or down? You’re now free to use your hands, feet, your entire body, and your mind for something other than fighting pain. The pain monster hasn’t gone away just because you stopped tugging. He may still be holding one end hoping that you grab hold for another round. There may be times when you re-engage in this battle simply out of habit, even without the pain monster taunting you.

Focus on the Important Things You Care About
Dropping the rope will allow you to save your energy to focus on the important things you care about—relationships and activities that are waiting to be discovered or rediscovered. Goals and dreams that you have put on hold because you were busy in the battle with the pain monster. Take a moment and think about all the people and activities that have been waiting while you’ve been involved in the tug-of-war. What projects have you put on hold? What vacations have you canceled or put off planning? Is there a friend you no longer see or a child who needs your support? Start a list or simply visualize the people and places that make you feel excited about life again. How would dropping the rope give you more time, energy, and space to connect with who and what is important to you?
Letting go creates space for something new to take its place, or for something you once cherished to return. When you shift your focus from trying to control pain, worrying about when pain will return, or whether or not activities will cause more pain, you create space and energy to move toward the full and active life you desire. You are free to create the life you want.

This is an excerpt from the book Radical Relief: A Guide to Overcome Chronic Pain by Joe Tatta, PT, DPT, CNS. This workbook and guide is for people experiencing chronic pain and the professionals who treat them. Using metaphors, colorful imagery and more than 40 mindfulness activities, Radical Relief helps readers identify the blocks that may be keeping them stuck and offers tools for taking meaningful, purposeful action toward a more fulfilling life.

READ MORE Joe Tatta, PT, DPT, CNS - February 4, 2021

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