How To Locate A Rehab Professional For Your Spondy

Spondylolisthesis

As many of the readers of this website already know, we are BIG believers in Physical Therapy methods that take into account the entire body and how your current state of movement — or lack thereof — can affect your spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis.

Unfortunately, many therapy clinics use outdated and typically unsuccessful methods when it comes to an approach for helping those diagnosed with either a spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis.

Throwing general core “strengthening” exercises or hamstring stretches at every spondy patient that walks in the door has a small chance of providing long-term improvement for those suffering from a spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis.  And unfortunately, this is the method of treatment a large number of clinics still use today.

As a spondy patient, we strongly believe your best chance of finding lasting improvement through non-surgical procedures is to have your entire body’s movement addressed to help the professional determine what “adaptations” your body has made that may be affecting both your spondy and how you feel as a whole.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there just are not enough physical therapy practices or chiropractic offices out there that use a whole body approach to find the source of your problem.

To be clear…Your spondy is not THE problem, it is the result of your body making adjustments and compensations to how you move (unless you were diagnosed with a congenital spondy).  A tight hip also is not the problem.  Nor is a weak core.  To get to the source you need to ask “why”.  Why did the hip get tight?  Why does the core provide stability this way?  Why did the vertebra get stressed?

To get to those answers you need a professional to assess the whole body (not just your back).  But those professionals can be hard to find, which is one of the many reasons why so many spondy patients have not had their “movement system” fully addressed. The reasons for so few clinics using this method are beyond the realm of this article, but to be short and sweet, let’s just say it is not the easiest or most time efficient method to examine patients.

To adequately assess what the real problem is AND begin to provide a solution, the therapist or chiropractor will need so spend some one-on-one time with you (more than just a couple minutes).  This process is involved, requires specialized knowledge and the willingness to keep an open mind as to the variety of potential factors, and means your needs may be very different than another spondy sufferer’s needs.  It is the complete opposite approach to the classic one-size-fits-all method of treating back pain.

With that being said, it is not easy to locate someone who is versed in examining the entire body.  As of this date, most learning institutions are still too focused on teaching an isolated view that pain is the result of needing either more flexibility or more strength or both.  So therapists and chiropractors are required to seek out independent learning in order to successfully use a whole body approach.

Specialized coursework and training requires time out of the clinic and money out of their pocket (or their employer’s).  And remember, finding the real cause to your problem requires more of their time!  So it is no wonder that many clinics (aka, “businesses”) choose to use a “blanket” program of simple, basic stretches and exercises that can be quickly and more easily provided to a higher volume of patients, as opposed to whole body individualized assessment and treatment that require more time and attention to each patient (resulting in fewer patients coming through the clinic per therapist).

This is one of many reasons why not enough therapists or chiropractors follow a whole body approach to examining, evaluating and tracking their patient’s progress.

So what does all of this mean for you, the spondy patient?

It means you will often go to one or two rehab professionals and experience a very basic, “old school” approach for your spondy treatment. You may do a few stretches (I’d bet the bank on hamstrings and hip flexors!), a couple core exercises, and will probably spend time set up on electrical stimulation “for the pain”.

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Focusing ONLY on core exercises and stretching is a very basic approach to treating spondy’s.

All of this often means short-term improvement followed up with more pain and more frustration.

It also leads to spondy patients developing the mind set that therapy does not work and that all therapy is the same.

I can tell you from experience, not all therapy is the same.

I personally have visited multiple therapy clinics that used the old school methods and I never found improvement, only more pain and frustration. It wasn’t until I considered my entire body that I began seeing and feeling improvement.

So how do you find a therapist that will examine your entire body?

The key is to look for certain certifications.

Please keep in mind there are multiple certifications that take the entire body into consideration.  And many of them can help you move and feel better. The ones listed below are by no means the only ones that work, they are simply the ones that both Todd and I have found to personally give the Spondy patient a great chance of improving how one moves and feels.

Spondyinfo.com Co-Creator Todd Bitzer has found the most success with assessment and treatments based on his training with SFMA and PRI (I will discuss these more below).  However, when treating a patient with Spondylolisthesis and Spondylolysis he draws from his training in other methods of treatment as well.

The SFMA and FMS methods personally helped open my eyes to how I approach my grade 1, Isthmic Spondylolisthesis.  Without learning about these methods I am afraid I would still be stuck in bed on a monthly basis suffering from pain and frustration.

This article will not discuss in detail the differences between the various methods we have mentioned (SFMA, FMS, PRI) and those we do not mention.  We encourage you to ask your rehab professional or those who you are considering what methods of assessment and treatment they use and why.  Then do a little extra research for yourself so you can better understand if it is the right fit for you.  To get you started, here are some helpful links:

Learn more about the SFMA by clicking here. 

Learn more about PRI by clicking here. 

Screening For Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis

If you are interested, here are two ways that you can find a therapist or chiropractor who uses either the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) and/or the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI).

Method #1: Use The Website Links

You can find a rehab professional who uses SMFA or PRI methods by going directly to the website of the treatment method.

Both the SFMA and PRI have a “find a professional” page that allows you to enter your zip-code and locate the nearest certified professional.  Please keep in mind that these only list “certified” professionals.

Here is the link for the SFMA “find a professional” page. When using this link make sure you select the “SFMA” option in the drop down menu.

Here is the link for the PRI  “find a provider” page.

All you have to do is enter your zip and locate the professional nearest to you who is the best fit.

We also have more information and additional links on our Spondy Toolbox page.

I would recommend doing this for both the SFMA and PRI.

Once you have a list of the closest facilities, jot down the following for future reference on a piece of paper:

  • Clinic name.
  • Professional names (therapist who is certified).
  • Location (distance from you).
  • Contact numbers/information.

Method #2: Google search

For various reasons, not all professionals who are heavily influenced by these methods will have their information entered into the website’s database, so it never hurts to do a simple Google search to locate a professional near you.  This is actually my preferred method as I tend to get more “hits” this way.

To do this, go to your internet browser and type:

SFMA “Your City, State” Physical Therapist…or… PRI  “Your City, State” Physical Therapist.

For example, let’s say you live in Grayslake, Illinois, and you want to locate a therapist who is certified in the SFMA.

You would enter “SFMA Grayslake IL Physical Therapist” into Google (or any combination of the words).

After your results pop up you need to filter through them and search for the clinics nearest you who have a therapist advertising the fact that they use SFMA methods.

Your results should look like this:

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You may need to invest a little time looking and digging around the websites, but it should not take too long.

Again, once you have a list of the closest facilities, jot down the following for future reference:

  • Clinic name.
  • Professional names (therapist who is certified).
  • Location (distance from you).
  • Contact numbers/information.

As you can see, one of the clinics that popped up was Modern Athlete Physical Therapy (Todd Bitzer’s clinic).

From here I would want to click on the link, visit the website and jot down the information I was looking for.

In the previous example I would click on the name of Todd’s clinic – Modern Athlete Physical Therapy – visit his contact page and jot down his information.

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I would continue to do this for 3-5 clinics within a reasonable driving distance.

I would also recommend experimenting with your search words. For example SFMA “Your City, State” Physical Therapist” could be changed to SFMA Physical Therapy “Your City, State” or “Your City, State” SFMA Physical Therapy. Slightly changing the words you enter into the search engine can create different results.

Take Action

Once you have a collection of names and information from the Methods 1 and 2, it is time to get to work.

I would recommend visiting each website (if one is provided) and just take a look at their experience of the certified individual. Get a feel for their beliefs and methods.

Keep some notes along the way of each clinic and the information you learn about each professional. At the end you can compare information and make an informative decision.

Next, call each one and get a feel for who they are. It is like an interview process for the most part.

Ask them if they have any experience working with spondy’s. If so did they improve?

Ask them about cost, plan of attack, etc.

Most importantly share your story with them and tell them exactly where you are coming from. Let them know you are very interested in learning about your body’s movement and if it is playing a role in your spondy pain.

A short phone conversation will give you a good feel for them and if they are a match for you. You can then make your decision after you have analyzed all of your data.

This may seem like a time consuming process, but your health is worth it.

Unfortunately, there is no other way and it is why people get stuck finding help. Many people also do not realize that they can make a choice in their rehab.

Most people go with a doctor’s suggestion without doing research on their own. This is no knock on the doctor’s suggestion, but often times this has to do about doctor/therapist relationships and not so much the therapist’s experience or success working with specific conditions such as a spondy.

This should provide you with a great start if you are interested in finding a physical therapy professional that is educated in assessing the entire body.

If you have a spondylolisthesis or spondylolyis and are wanting to take a non-surgical approach to improving how you move and feel, I would highly recommend seeking out a professional who values the power that assessing the whole body can have on your condition.

If you would like to learn more about what steps you can take to put yourself in the best position to improve how you move and feel make sure to check out our Step-By-Step Spondy Improvement Path.

Spondylolisthesis Improvement path

What if there are no professionals near you?

As I mentioned before, there are not a ton of professionals who are certified in the two methods we have mentioned or who openly advertise that they assess the whole body to find the source of their patient’s issues.  Though the numbers are increasing, they are currently limited to larger cities and more populated areas.

If you cannot locate anyone near you, you have a few choices:

1. Call the closest and discuss options.

Even if the nearest professional is far out of town, it may benefit you to call and discuss your story.  You may find a professional who routinely deals with patients who are not local, and they can discuss your options to getting the most effective care.  If the assessment is on target, you can still make great progress by following their suggestions for home exercise and greatly reduce how often you need to make follow up visits.

If you are capable, it is perfectly reasonable to make a drive of an hour (or several hours) in order to get access to the “right” professional for your needs and learn how you can get started feeling better.  You can then return at a later date (often a month or two) and have your movement re-evaluated to see if there is improvement.

For example, it is not uncommon for Todd to have patients travel over an hour to his clinic (and some who require plane flights!).  Put simply, you might have to make a sacrifice or two, such as traveling a bit, to find the most effective solution for your issues so you can finally move and feel better.

2. Give our Spondy Home Exercise Program a try.

We created this program specifically for Spondy patients who are in this situation.

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It is not only a great compliment to your current therapy program, but can also be a stand alone exercise program for those who are in situations where therapy is not an option.

Keep in mind our home Spondy Exercise Program is just that – a exercise program. It is not meant to replace or be a substitute for physical therapy or medical care.

A proper live, hands on physical therapy approach is your best chance of improvement, but we understand there are certain situations where this is not feasible.  These situations are exactly why we created this program.

I hope this article helps you locate a Physical Therapy or Chiropractic professional near you that can assess your entire body’s movement. Using this approach allows the professional to take everything into consideration and design a program that is specific to you and your needs.

Having your entire “movement system” assessed is by no means guaranteed to having you feeling better tomorrow, but it is a step that is often overlooked and skipped by thousands of Spondylolisthesis and Spondylolysis patients. It simply helps to put you in the best position possible to move and feel better.

As always, please leave any comments, feedback or suggestions in the comment section below. I will do my best to get back to you with answers in a timely manner.

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Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)


  1. Rachel Roth
    4 months ago

    I wanted to share a great Physical Therapist in New york City for anyone with Spondy his name is Martijn and he is at Centurian Physical Therapy. http://www.centurionpt.com/about-us/martijn-van-berkel. He is a cut above knowing exactly what you should and should not do for Spondy a gifted therapist


    • SpondyInfo
      4 months ago

      Thank you so much Rachel for sharing!

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