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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


Watch this video to learn about the targeted compression offered by the Maternity Support Belt and 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

3 Self-massage Techniques to Decrease Pain, Depression and Anxiety

August is National Wellness Month. Make wellness a priority with self-massage techniques using a foam roller. For centuries, massage has been helping people feel good, and medical research confirms the health benefits of massage to enhance function, assist healing, and promote relaxation and wellbeing.
According to Angela Kneale OTD, MA, OTR/L, in her book PRO-ROLLER Massage Essentials, “One single massage decreases your stress hormones. Twice-weekly moderate pressure massages improve range of motion, decrease pain, reduce depression and anxiety, and enhance immune function.” These three foam roller techniques can help you experience the benefits of self-massage during National Wellness Month and beyond.
Forearm Massage
Release tightness in forearms while improving forearm and wrist mobility.
1.     Kneel on the floor with your hips flexed and place your forearms on the roller.
Foam Roller Forearm Massage 1
2.     Moving your body from your hip joints, gently press your forearms into the roller to move it away from you and draw it back. Roll with palms in, and then rotate palms up to roll outer forearms, and down to roll inner forearms.
Foam Roller Forearm Massage 2Foam Roller Forearm Massage 3
Low Back Massage
Release tension in the low back while increasing comfort and flexibility and improving posture.
1.     Place the roller crosswise beneath one side of your pelvis. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor in front of you, with your forearm on the floor behind the roller to support your upper body.
Foam Roller Low Back Exercise 1
2.     Reach your other arm to your knee, slightly rotating your torso. Gently roll the roller up and down next to your spine at your lower back. Repeat on the other side.
Foam Roller Low Back Exercise 2
Hamstrings Massage
Release leg tension while improving leg and lower back movement and comfort.
1.     Place the roller beneath the back of your thighs, with your hands on the floor behind you.
Foam Roller Hamstring Exercise
2.     Slowly roll down and up the back of your thighs, from your hips to your knees.
Foam Roller Hamstring Exercise 2
Find these and more self-massage foam roller exercises in PRO-ROLLER® Massage Essentials.

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - August 12, 2020

PROfiles: Deborah Riczo | Physical Therapy and Women’s Health

Empowerment Through Education

In 2016, Deborah Riczo retired from MetroHealth Medical Center, where she worked for 30 years, serving as a physical therapist, providing program development, and helping with administration duties. Yet, when she talks about her schedule it’s clear that she’s anything but retired. “I worked yesterday, I’m working today, and I’m getting materials ready for a one-day course on sacroiliac pain and pelvic girdle pain that’s being hosted by the Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy,” she says.

The work Deborah does is through Riczo Health Education, the organization she founded in 2011. In addition to speaking engagements, writing and continuing education courses, she serves as a volunteer physical therapist for Womankind—a Cleveland non-profit that provides medical care and social support to pregnant women who don’t have health insurance. She also sits on the board of directors for several organizations.

Deborah has dedicated her physical therapy career to empowering women through education, and it all started by empowering herself through education.

Deborah Riczo in 2020.

Following her passion

Deborah’s career started in marketing, working full-time to put her husband through law school. When she was offered a sales position (a role the company rarely offered to women at that time), Deborah turned it down knowing it wasn’t her passion and that she wanted to complete her undergraduate degree and do something related to science and healthcare. “I went to the library and researched different careers,” says Deborah. “Physical therapy is what spoke to me—the more I looked into it, the more I realized that that's what I wanted to do.”

When her husband John secured a job in law, Deborah was able to go back to school. She needed to take an entire year of prerequisites before she could even apply to the physical therapy program. After a year of taking the required classes, she was accepted into Cleveland State University, where she graduated with her physical therapy license in 1980.

Empowering women through prenatal and postpartum education

Deborah’s first job out of physical therapy school was at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. A therapist at the hospital took Deborah under her wing, asking if she and another therapist wanted to be involved with the postpartum program; Deborah said yes, and the three eventually launched a business called Contemporary Physical Therapy Services. With contracts at three area hospitals, Deborah and her colleagues led classes that included prenatal and postpartum exercises and education, including the importance of relaxation and deep breathing—putting conscious relaxation into practice.

“That’s where it all started,” says Deborah—with prenatal and postpartum education. Ever since then, women’s health has been what I’ve focused my entire career on.” For Deborah, that has meant being a source of knowledge and support for women during an extremely important time in their lives—while they’re dealing with the emotional and physical changes that happen during pregnancy and postpartum.

She and her colleagues successfully ran Contemporary Physical Therapy Services from 1983-1993. During that time, Deborah returned to Cleveland State University, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Education and had two children of her own; a daughter named Alexa, and a son named Christopher. When one of her colleagues decided to move out of state in 1993, the women closed the business and Deborah ramped up her hours at the hospital.

Deborah presenting to a community exercise class in Cleveland in 2003.

More than 30 years of serving as an advocate for women’s health

Deborah worked at MetroHealth Medical Center for more than 30 years. As an advocate for women’s health, she helped shape a rehabilitation program for women recovering from breast cancer and worked with women struggling to recover after childbirth. “Many women have their direction in life change after they have a child because they may have problems with their lower back and their pelvic girdle—and that affects how they’re functioning, their self-esteem, and their body image,” says Deborah. “They may struggle to get their weight down, have abdominals that are weak, and it can affect their relationship with their husband, or even with their children, if they aren’t able to be as active as they used to. So, I feel like if I can intervene with some simple education and techniques it can be extremely beneficial.”

Deborah working as a clinician and coordinator of the Industrial Rehabilitation Program at MetroHealth Medical Center in 2013.

Using a patient-centered approach

Deborah says her focus has always been to help her patients meet their goals using a patient-centered approach. “If a patient comes in I instruct them on how to get changes in their body themselves. Sometimes I would do hands-on therapy, but then I would show them how to do that for themselves at home.”

Her passion for women’s health and the reputation she had gained as an expert on women’s health issues provided Deborah with the opportunity to present at national conferences, including the APTA National Conference for the Section on Women’s Health, which has recently been renamed the Academy of Pelvic Health. When she returned to school once again, working on her doctorate in physical therapy at Marymount University in 2007, her capstone project focused on an exercise approach she was using successfully at the clinic, which she later named the Pelvic Girdle Musculoskeletal Method, or PGM Method.

Deborah presenting a 2-day lecture/lab course to physical therapists at Ohio State University for the Women’s Health Section in 2016.

Expanding her reach through Riczo Health Education

Deborah graduated with her doctorate in 2009 and founded Riczo Health Education in 2011. Her goals with the company are to provide consumer health education on sacroiliac pain, pregnancy and postpartum, breast cancer, and health and wellness. She also provides continuing education courses to health professionals, presentations to consumer groups, and consulting services to healthcare organizations.

Deborah presenting a morning lecture as part of the Women’s Leadership Conversation Series at Cleveland State Alumni Association in 2018.

Reaching a wider audience through books

Deborah published her first book in 2018, Sacroiliac Pain: Understanding the Pelvic Girdle Musculoskeletal Method, and her second book in 2020, Back & Pelvic Girdle Pain in Pregnancy & Postpartum. Her desire to continue educating women and to reach the most people with a non-pharmaceutical, non-surgical approach was the inspiration for the books because, as she says, and as her long and successful career proves, “I’m a true believer in the power of education and empowering the individual to take back control of his/her health, to make healthy choices and lead a healthy lifestyle.”

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - July 22, 2020

PROfiles: Brian Mulligan | Manual Therapy

A prepared mind leads to a life filled with chance discoveries

“Chance only favors the prepared mind.” These words were spoken by Louis Pasteur, the French biologist known for his scientific discoveries. It’s not surprising that the quote is a favorite of Brian Mulligan, a legend in the physiotherapy world who has made his own important discoveries—including manual therapy techniques that have made a profound impact on the field.
Brian says the Pasteur quote applies to almost every aspect of his life, including his introduction to the field of physiotherapy and his achievements throughout his career that’s spanned more than 60 years. He attributes it all to chance and a prepared mind.

A prepared mind and a false start

Growing up in New Zealand during World War II, Brian’s greatest aspiration was to join the army; he took all the subjects necessary to be accepted into officer training and was devastated when he failed the eyesight test. His dreams dashed, Brian joined a large chemical company where he was encouraged to take classes toward a commerce degree. Working at a desk all day, while studying subjects like bookkeeping and company law at night, Brian says he was an “unhappy chap.”  

A prepared mind leads to the discovery of a new career

A chance work-related phone call changed Brian’s life. The brief conversation was with an employee at another company who happened to live nearby and was leaving his job at the end of the day to attend school for physiotherapy. It was a field Brian had never heard of. If he wanted to learn more about this new and exciting career, the young man on the phone suggested that Brian visit Oliver Olson—a physiotherapist with a practice in Wellington.
“I went to see this guy, and I saw his practice,” says Brian. “He had all this fascinating equipment and was very successful and confident. He was treating all these different patients and I thought, gosh, this is far more exciting than sitting at a desk all day!” Brian applied and was accepted into the New Zealand School of Physiotherapy, where he began classes the following year. “That chance discovery was just wonderful,” he says.

A prepared mind leads to a new way to treat patients

After qualifying to practice in 1954, Brian began making connections with other young, enthusiastic physiotherapists, including Stanley Paris and Robin McKenzie (who had also been a childhood schoolmate). The three connected with Freddy Kaltenborn, a physiotherapist who was learning manual therapy techniques and teaching them to other up-and-coming therapists in Europe and, later, on trips to New Zealand.
This led Brian to Helsinki, Finland, in 1970, where he attended Freddy’s classes—later returning to New Zealand to teach everything he had learned to his eager colleagues. “I had never taught anything in my life and that was my introduction to teaching,” says Brian.
Manual therapy became Brian’s area of expertise, and to this day, he credits the late Freddy Kaltenborn for his excellent handling skills. “To bring about change using my hands was really special to me and Freddy was an excellent teacher—he certainly made an impact on me. He gave me all my handling skills and I would never be where I am today if it wasn’t for my ability to deal with joints as Freddy taught me,” says Brian.

A prepared mind leads to a new technique

Brian Mulligan in the 1980s 
Brian in the 1980s. 
These hands-on treatments led to another chance discovery that was made while treating a young basketball player who came to Brian sometime in the mid 80s with a grossly swollen, injured finger that she couldn’t bend. After treating it with ultrasonics, Brian tried a manual technique to see if he could get it to move. “I tractioned and I did anterior and posterior translations and I was getting nowhere,” says Brian. “Then I remember grabbing her finger and just translating the distal surface medially, which she said was painful. When I translated the surface laterally she said it did not hurt. While sustaining this, I asked if she could bend her finger. I was amazed! Her finger started to bend straight away.”  
Brian went home and thought about how the technique had worked—even dreaming about it that night. “When the techniques I was initially using didn’t work and then something did work—I certainly had a prepared mind,” says Brian. “I thought, good heavens, why did that happen? I’ve got to find out why… and I found out why.”
When he was able to make sense of it, he began treating other injuries using this method. With a prepared mind, he started to reposition joint surfaces in pain-free directions and sustain the repositioning to see if he could get results. He says the results were amazing. Almost every day he would do something that he had never done before, and after some months was able to try this new approach right through the entire body.  

A prepared mind leads to more new treatment techniques  

Brian teaching one of his mobilisation techniques
Brian teaching one of his mobilisation techniques.

Chance and a prepared mind had led to a new way to apply manual therapy techniques: Mobilization with Movements (MWMs). “There is no other manual therapy approach being taught in the field of musculoskeletal medicine, that when indicated gives an instant pain-free result,” says Brian. In the ensuing years, this approach helped Brian make more discoveries, including the Pain Release Phenomenon (PRP), the Squeeze technique and a special hip muscle technique.
Already teaching conventional manual therapy, Brian felt strongly that any new technique that could help patients be active, functional, and pain free should be taught and made available to the public. This led to the formation of the Mulligan Concept Teachers Association (MCTA) in 1995. The organization helped meet the huge demand from therapists wanting to learn his techniques, while ensuring high teaching standards. Currently, there are MCTA colleagues teaching in over 30 countries and last year there were over 5,000 course participants in Europe and the UK alone.

A prepared mind, an exciting career, and a happy retirement

Brian accepting the Geoffrey Maitland Award in 2016
Brian accepting the Geoffrey Maitland Award in 2016. 

After more than 60 years in the field of physiotherapy, Brian says he’s most proud of receiving the Geoffrey Maitland Award, which he was honored with in 2016. He’s also extremely proud of his teachers who are teaching all over the world in 30 different languages. “They’ve found things that I haven’t found, and they’ve improved my concepts,” says Brian.
Last year Brian traveled to Africa, Spain, Mexico and Taiwan to teach, but after turning 87 he decided to stop and let his teachers carry on his work. Although he still has his license to practice and sees patients every now and again, Brian says he’s mostly retired. His time is spent golfing, gardening, reading, playing the piano every day, and spending time with his wife and family, including great-grandchildren.
“It’s been a privileged life,” says Brian. “I have doctor friends who had to give up medicine when they were in their 60s. And here’s this old so-and-so still traveling the world, teaching and enjoying life. Looking back, I could not have had a more exciting career.”
Brian has developed a variety of mobilisation tools for use in physical therapy. He is also the author of several books including The Mulligan Concept of Manual Therapy and NAGS, SNAGS, MWMS, etc. 

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - June 26, 2020

Benefits of using a stretching strap

There are so many great benefits of partner-assisted stretching, but what do you do if you don’t have a partner to stretch with, or you don’t want to pay the expense of visiting a stretching studio? That’s where a stretching strap comes in. Stretching straps are made of durable nylon and have multiple loops that permit deep, gradual stretching of major muscle groups, providing the benefits of partner-assisted stretching, without the partner.

Benefits of using a stretching strap include:

  • More control – The strap features various loops to hold onto; the tension in the strap allows for controlled movement of your limbs.
  • Go deeper into the stretch – The additional length provided by the strap allows you to move gradually into a deeper, more effective stretch.
  • Better posture while stretching – Reach into poses without tensing or rounding your upper body.
  • More stretching options – The control provided by the stretching strap allows you to reach into poses you otherwise would not be able to.
  • Perform contract-relax stretching – Tense the muscle group you want to stretch while pressing into the strap, relax for a moment, and then slowly and gradually stretch. This type of stretching has been shown to improve both flexibility and strength.

Here are 3 simple stretches you can do with a stretching strap:

Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring Stretch

Start: Place the center of the Stretch Out Strap beneath your left foot and reach the left leg straight out. Sit tall with neutral spine and bend the right leg to place your right foot against your left inner thigh. Hold loops of the Stretch Out Strap with both hands. With neutral spine, hinge forward from your hips.

Stretch Out: Press the back of your left leg into the floor, tensing the hamstrings. Relax for a moment, and then lean your upper body further forward. Continue contracting, relaxing, and stretching your hamstrings 2 to 3 times, and then hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds.

Quadriceps Stretch

Quadripceps Stretch

Start: Hook one Stretch Out Strap end loop around the middle of each foot. Lie face down, bend both knees and hold the center of the Stretch Out Strap behind your head.

Stretch Out: Try to straighten both knees, tensing quadriceps muscles, while resisting with the Stretch Out Strap. Relax for a moment, and then bend your knees further, as if reaching your feet toward the middle of your back. Continue contracting, relaxing, and stretching your quadriceps 2 to 3 times, and then hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds.

Chest & Biceps Stretch

Chest and Biceps Stretch

Start: Stand tall with the Stretch Out Strap behind your back. Each hand holds the first or second loop from the center, with palms facing forward. With your arms straight, reach back as far as comfortable.

Stretch Out: Tense the chest and biceps muscles as if pressing the Stretch Out Strap forward, without moving the strap. Relax for a moment, and then reach your arms further back behind you. Continue contracting, relaxing, and stretching your chest and biceps muscles 2 to 3 times, and then hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds.

Find these stretches and more in a free stretching guide that comes with the purchase of The Original Stretch Out Strap from OPTP.

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - June 10, 2020

3 Foam Rolling Exercises for Relaxation & Resilience

The simplest actions often make the greatest positive differences. Playfully rolling on a foam roller can help your body feel more relaxed, aligned and resilient as you release soft tissue and encourage tight areas to soften and lengthen. Read on for three foam roller exercises to help release stress and tension, recommended by Occupational Therapist and Certified Pilates Instructor Angela Kneale.
Middle Back Massage
Release tension between your shoulder blades while improving posture and flexibility.
1.     Sit on the floor with the roller behind you, and lean back onto the roller at the lower edge of your shoulder blades. Hands behind your head for support, reach your elbows toward the ceiling.

2.     Lift your pelvis, and slowly roll up and down your middle back from the top of the shoulder blades toward the bottom of your ribcage. Experience the support of your core muscles during movements.

Hip Rotator Massage
Release hip tension, increase hip mobility and improve posture.
1.     Sit on the roller crosswise, knees bent, and arm supporting on the floor behind the roller. Lean to one side and place that ankle on the opposite knee, rotate your hip outward as much as is comfortable and angle your knee down toward the floor.

2.     Slowly roll from top of your pelvis down toward the top of your thigh, relaxing and releasing deep hip rotator muscles. Repeat on the other side.

Low Back Release
Release lower back tension and promote segmental spinal mobility while improving posture.
1.     Stand tall and place the roller crosswise behind your low back. Hold the roller with your arms, palms facing forward.

2.     Gently press your arms forward and arch your back over the roller, adjusting roller placement for comfort. Maintain position for a few slow, deep breaths.

Find these and more relaxation exercises in PRO-ROLLER® Massage Essentials by Angela Kneale, OTD, MA, OTR/L, NBC-HWC.

READ MORE Amy Bowman, OPTP Staff Writer - May 11, 2020

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