Rehab Experiences & People That Have Helped Me The Most

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog titled Looking Back At My Spondylolisthesis Rehab Experiences.  In this post I discussed some of my many failed experiences at rehab over the years.

I received some positive feedback from several readers about this blog so I decided to write a follow up and discuss just the opposite.

Unfortunately, I am like many of those who suffer from spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis and will probably always have more failed experiences under my belt than successful ones.  But that does not mean that I haven’t run across a few experiences that really changed my outlook and ways of thinking.

The following are not just rehab experiences themselves, but also tidbits of knowledge, personal meetings, people or experiences that I have run across over the years that really helped me in my battle against my personal grade 1 spondylolisthesis.


1. Becoming certified in the FMS

The FMS or Functional Movement Screen is defined on their website as….

“A ranking and grading system that documents movement patterns that are key to normal function. By screening these patterns, the FMS readily identifies functional limitations and asymmetries. These are issues that can reduce the effects of functional training and physical conditioning and distort body awareness.

The FMS generates the Functional Movement Screen Score, which is used to target problems and track progress. This scoring system is directly linked to the most beneficial corrective exercises to restore mechanically sound movement patterns.

Exercise professionals monitor the FMS score to track progress and to identify those exercises that will be most effective to restore proper movement and build strength in each individual.”

When I was working full time as a strength and conditioning coach I had a great mentor who was always learning and looking for ways to improve the way we helped both athletes and everyday individuals.

After discussing this screening process we thought it would be a perfect fit for our program writing and individualization. From there, we decided this certification would well be worth the time and cost.

At the time, the FMS was a fairly new screening method that has since become more widespread.


During the certification process we performed screens on each other and I saw firsthand some of the movement flaws that I had. Since improving these movement flaws my spondy pain has reduced significantly.

This specific certification forced me to look at the human body differently. I was no longer thinking how this muscle does this and that muscle does that. I was now looking at human movement as a whole. Exactly the same way the body works every minute of every day.

From there, I was assessing individual’s movement and helping them to locate asymmetries and movement pattern flaws that may be affecting their quality of life currently or perhaps in the future.

This led me to explore other screening options, philosophies, readings and other resources that helped me not only with my own battle against spondylolisthesis but those who I was fortunate to work with as well.

I am very fortunate to have stumbled across this method at an early time in my career and I can thank much of the way I feel to what I learned during this certification process.


2. Working with Dr. Rob Scott

I met Dr. Scott through a mutual friend and we both had facilities in the same town.  I soon discovered Dr. Scott had many of the same philosophies and beliefs that I did.

Dr. Scott has a strong background and has worked with several professional and Olympic athletes. Often times we would provide our athletes and individuals with each other’s contact information if a situation presented itself that would be of help to the individuals we were working with.


I worked with several of Dr. Scotts patients helping them improve overall movement and strength while Dr. Scott also performed chiropractic work on these patients.

We had a great relationship and sharing the same philosophies really helped to provide a great platform for those who received care from us.

As time progressed I had a very bad spondylolisthesis flare up after a vacation I took.  On this vacation I was rather lazy (A week in Mexico can do this to you!) and the time off in combination with not performing my exercises and stretches caused a horrible setback.

I was struggling to get out of bed and was having problems controlling my pain. I gave Dr. Scott a call and we sat and talked about my condition and his approach to these situations.

I had a few bad experiences with chiropractors in the past, but I always new Dr. Scott was different. A few weeks of work in combination with an aggressive stretching, movement and exercise program and I was back to feeling great.

Not only did not Scott help how I felt, he explained everything in detail and increased my knowledge about my body and my condition. He also reiterated the importance of improving movement in combination with his adjustments.

Luckily, I have not had to go back to Dr. Scott due to my ability to keep my flare ups under control, but if a situation ever presents itself again, I know who to call.

To learn more about Dr. Scott and his facility you can visit his website here:


3. Working With Todd Bitzer 

One day out of the blue I was introduced to a new physical therapist at our rehab clinic and strength and conditioning facility.

This new individual was Todd Bitzer.

At this clinic we operated as a team. Strength and conditioning coaches often continued work with athletes and everyday people that had completed therapy work to get them back to the field or everyday activities. Once therapy was over, we would design and implement strength and conditioning programs to further along their progress and improve their chances of success.

For this to be successful it required a ton of communication, understanding and constant updating from both sides. I quickly realized Todd had very similar philosophies, beliefs and theories that I did. He was extremely easy to work with and most importantly he would do anything to help a client.

As years past we developed a close working relationship. Todd eventually started his own private therapy clinic in Buffalo Grove, IL called Modern Athlete PT.  I quickly followed him and was happy to work out of his clinic.

Modern Athlete PT

It was in this clinic that we came up with the idea to create a home exercise program to help those with spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis better understand their condition and have a solid path to follow. Our goal was simple, inform and educate while providing basic exercises, stretches and movement techniques to improve how people moved and felt.

Although my family relocated to another city I stay in constant contact with Todd. Always talking about the field and what we can do to better clients.

Todd taught me many things that I am grateful for.  Most importantly he emphasized the importance of treating each client as an individual.  He was a firm believer of full body movement screens and introduced me to several screening techniques and practices that I would normally have never come across.

With my own personal spondy battle Todd took time out of his busy days more than once to show me hands on some of my movement issues and ways to go about improving them.  I not only learned how to improve myself, I learned how to apply these techniques to those that I was working with.  Over the years Todd taught me more about the body than any class I ever took in college and I am truly thankful for that.

Todd has played a huge and positive impact on my spondy and I encourage anyone who is lost and searching for answers to give Todd a call at Modern Athlete Physical Therapy, you will be happy you did.

To learn more about Todd and his facility visit his website here:


4. Working with Mike Gattone

I owe 90% of what I have learned in the field of strength and conditioning to Mike Gattone. Mike first hired me to work at his private strength and conditioning and physical therapy clinic after my time working with the Chicago Bulls as a strength and conditioning intern.

I was excited to work with both athletes and everyday individuals especially those coming back from injuries. I was also excited to learn from someone with such a brilliant mind and strong background.

Mike was someone who had seen it all in the field of strength and conditioning. He worked on the high school, collegiate, and professional levels, and was even the private coach of an Olympic Gold Medalist in Weightlifting.

I could not have wished for a better situation.

As the years passed I learned not only how great of a person Mike was, but I learned a ton about the body, movement and training. Mike provided me with access to articles, his personal experiences, program writing, and much, much, more.

Mike was similar to Todd in the way that they both believed each client was an individual. Nothing should be taken for granted when working with someone. We screened every person before we trained them looking for individual weaknesses, imbalances and issues.  This taught me the importance of looking at the human body as a whole.

Without this lesson I do not think I would ever have been able to accomplish improving how I moved or felt and I certainly would not have been able to help others improve how they moved or felt.

I am truly grateful for getting to know and work with Mike Gattone. He is a great person and coach and anyone who gets to work with him is very fortunate.

Well there you have it.

A few of my personal experiences and individuals that have truly made a positive impact on my life and spondy.

If you ever have the chance to meet these people I highly suggest you do, it will be well worth your time.

Do you have anyone or experience that has significantly helped you or your spondy? Tell me and others about them below. The more positive people we can talk about, the better chance others have to meet them and improve how they move and feel!

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  1. Jennifer Koch
    4 years ago

    Great post. I could relate to so much of it! My daughter was diagnosed with grade I spondylolisthesis at age 12. At the time she played softball, basketball and soccer—but soccer was her biggest passion. It was physically debilitating–she spent large amounts of her day just lying on the ground flat on her back to manage her pain. And it was emotionally devastating—all of her childhood activities-basically her entire social life– were taken from her in an instant, along with all the friends she had made. She ended up being placed in a hard back brace that she had to wear 23 hours a day for 4 months. After coming out of the brace she was in physical therapy for another 5 months, 3 times a week–about 6 hours a week. Quite a bit for a 12 year old to endure! Most shocking was the response of her former teammates and their parents as she began her return to sport. She focused only on soccer and decided to start off by playing for a less competitive team. She literally lost friends over that decision. We received nasty phone calls from parents. It was all too much for such a young girl and she ended up being treated for clinical depression. Fortunately, her new team was a group of highly supportive young ladies with a coach who was a wonderful mentor and friend to my daughter. And-it was actually one of the parents of one of her new teammates that resulted in the first of her life-changing experiences. He was a chiropractor. He quietly watched on the sidelines as she tried to build up the minutes she could participate, only to be struck back by horrible muscle spasms in her back. Her physical therapist could treat the spasms and get them to stop temporarily and was working with her to increase strength, but everytime she exerted herself the spasms returned. They called it a “guarding” response. We were very uneasy about chiropractors—had heard many horror stories. But this particular Dr. used a very gentle “activator” that looked like a miniature little jack hammer. I made him do it on me before I would allow him to treat her. Her pain was reduced in the first treatment! Within a few weeks, her spasms were gone. Even her PT was impressed by her progress with the addition of this treatment. She continues to go to him (6 years later) every month or so just to make sure everything is in line.
    Unfortunately, her comeback was plagued with numerous injuries. Ankle sprains, groin pulls, and a season ending fracture of her big toe. The toe fracture was initally mis-diagnosed as a minor bone chip and after 6 weeks walking on a stiff board, she was released to play. Almost immediately, all of her back pain, muscle spasms and all, returned. Chiropractic treatment provided only temporary relief. Her toe still hurt. After visiting 2 more doctors, we found a podiatrist who completely understood the importance of proper movement and the influence it can have on the spine-her second life-changing health care provider (Functional movement!). He sent her for an MRI which showed 3 fractures in her foot, one severe enough that he got her into surgery the next day. He knew the best thing for her back was for her to be able to properly walk on her foot as quickly as possible. Through this experience, she also began to understand how her body is all inter-related and how something as seemingly distant as a toe can influence and aggravate–her spondy.
    After this 6 month ordeal -from injury through misdiagnoses to surgery and rehab–my daughter again wanted to return to soccer. She was doing quite well–by this time she had started high school and was thrilled to have made the varsity soccer team. A few games into the season she developed intense hip pain. A trip to the orthopedist resulted in a diagnosis of a fractured growth plate in her hip-again prematurely ending her season. After weeks of Dr ordered rest (during which her pain only intensified), she was sent to physical therapy again. Weeks of PT were going nowhere to the point that the therapist recommended we get a second opinion—suspecting her back was involved in her hip pain. We took her to an orthopedic back specialist. He asked where her pain was and when she pointed to her hip he told her, “you’re at the wrong place, you need to go see a hip specialist, I only treat backs.” Evidently, in medical school this particular Dr. was not taught that the hip and back are attached by quite a few major muscles, ligaments & tendons! Onto third opinion Dr. who sent her for an MRI after the supposed growth plate fracture didn’t show up on an X-ray (it didn’t for Dr number 1 either, he diagnosed it based on the point of her pain). The MRI showed absolutely no signs of any hip fracture or any problems whatsoever in her hip. The only abnormality was that her L5 vertebrae, the site of her spondy, was twisted–causing the muscles attached to the hip to be in spasm, pulling hard against the hip. I was relieved to finally have a clue as to what was causing her pain, but the Dr. didn’t really know what to do about it and sent us to PT again. The PT wasn’t really sure what to do about it either. So we went back to our chiropractor and regular visits were helping reduce the pain, but she was experiencing only very minor and slow improvement. She began to doubt she would ever play soccer again. It was at this time that we took her to a physical therapist who was certified in both Functional Movement Screening and Muscle Activation Therapy. These treatments have been by far, the most effective in managing her spondy–in conjunction with continued chiropractic care. After about 6 weeks of regular treatment, she was able to play in a competitive soccer showcase tournament. She’s continued to have a few bumps in the road–such as a severe ankle sprain that was unrelated to her spondy–and is probably for another blog–but her 4th life changing health care provider was a Dr who helped her avoid ankle surgery using prolotherapy. Anyway, I’m happy to say, she is now a senior in high school and has committed to play soccer for a division I college. Yes, it makes me nervous to be sending her away from the wonderful people who have helped her not only recover, but learn to manage her spondy. But–I believe at this point, she has learned enough that she will largely be able to manage her condition–and knows what to look for in the therapists, chiropractors and trainers who will be at her school. After all that she has been through—I’ve been amazed that she refused to ever, ever give up her love of soccer and dream of someday playing in college and God willing, I look forward to watching her live her dream over the next few years. I hope this was both informational (find the right chiropractor and look for FMS and MAT certified PTs!) and inspirational for anyone who may come across it. I know that in some of my daughter’s darkest hours through her battle with spondy, she would have benefitted from hearing a success story of another athlete dealing with spondy.

    • Spondy
      4 years ago


      I am so grateful and thankful that you decided to take time out of your day to post that story. I am sure it will not only touch, but motivate others who are in similar situations. Your story sounds so similar to mine growing up. Multiple doctor visits, multiple therapists, no answers and only confusion and pain.

      Now that I am older I realize what toll this probably had on my parents. I can’t imagine how frustrating it might have been for them (and for you in your situation). Your post does a great job of showing how hard it can be to find great care. It is unfortunate, but it is the way it is. With determination, perseverance and the willingness to learn you can find improvements and answers. I can tell you from experience that your daughters experiences will only make her a stronger person down the road. She knows more about her body and condition than many “professionals” out there. And all of that knowledge will help her in the future.

      I wish you and your daughter the best of luck. What a great story with a great ending. Continued success and thanks again for sharing!

  2. Elena
    3 years ago

    I am curious about your bad experiences with chiropractors. I saw a chiropractor for the first time since I fractured my spine about a week ago. He told me I was horribly misaligned. The manipulations were very aggressive and I was scared I would be in terrible pain. To my surprise immediately after I felt better. However, the next day and now a week later I have been non stop hurting. Can this be a normal reaction to my body trying to get adjusted to being back in place or did this .cause a flare up. Can you please tell me more about your experiences with chiropractor.
    Thank you!

    • Spondy
      3 years ago

      Hi Elena. Sorry to hear about your flare up. It may or may not be a result of your recent chiropractic experience. One way to find out is to open and honest with your chiropractor. I would make sure to contact him/her and immediately discuss how you have been feeling. Then discuss why you may feel this way and how you can improve. I have seen some chiropractors that I thought made my condition worse and I have also seen one that I thought helped my condition greatly. One thing you have to do is to make sure you tell the chiropractor you have a spondy and make sure they have worked with someone who has had this condition before. I have actually heard a story of a chiropractor that did not want to work on someone with a spondy because they were unsure of the condition (which is better than just guessing). Also, make sure to discuss the long-term plan. Is there more to improving than just a few adjustments? Is the chiropractor thinking 5 trips, 10 trips, 20 trips? Is there more that should be done than just adjustments? For example the chiropractor that helped me the most was open, knowledgeable, and honest with me. He told me that this would take around 3-5 visits but I would need to keep coming back if I did not work on my own using exercises and movement work to further improve my situation. He explained that “re-aligning” was only half the battle and their was a reason this realignment was happening. And to keep it from coming back a combination of chiropractic work, exercise and movement training along with other forms of rehab may be necessary. He then began the session with a look at my whole body both with x-ray and a simple full body movement test. On the other hand, some of my bad experiences included simply telling me to keep coming back and we will continue to “pop” or adjust as you need it. The chiropractors in this case seemed to provide little answers and refer to a solution that only included re-adjustments, but they never explained why I got them, how to improve them outside of their office. If you feel uncomfortable and not confident in your current chiropractor I would def advise seeking additional help either in the form of a another chiropractor, or other form of rehab specialist. I hope that helps!

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