Staffers with Fyzical Therapy and Balance Center have their clients hanging in the balance — literally — and that’s a good thing.
Formerly Sequim Physical Therapy Center, the business joined with FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Centers, a national company whose member clinics focus on treatment of balance and dizziness issues.
About a year ago, the Sequim company added three unique pieces of balance equipment that owner Dr. Jason Wilwert says is significantly changing the way physical therapists can address major and minor balance issues.
The “old” system, Wilwert notes, is basically a set of balance bars that clients would lean on while getting treatment.
The problem with that, Wilwert said, is that therapists need to be up close with the patient in case of a potential fall.
“I can’t step away from them if they are trying to advance their leg,” he says. The new equipment “allows us to back away from the patient.”
Dr. Marsha Melnick, a physical therapist who treats most neurological issues as well as gait or balance issues one day per week at Fyzical, adds, “If I need to help move the leg, we don’t have much room.”
The three new pieces of equipment, looking much like bungee cords anchored in the ceiling, help address what Wilwert calls the biggest problem for people with balance issues: the fear of falling.
“With this system, they can do things that feel risky to them (such as a longer step),” he says.
Two balance harnesses are anchored in a static position in the ceiling while a third is on a 10-foot sliding track, allowing for walking activities.
“(Patients) would not let go,” Melnick says of the previous system. “They are much more prepared for the real world.
“This also makes things safer for the therapist.”
Wilwert, a doctor of physical therapy and a board-certified clinical specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy, says he’s starting to get referrals from other physical therapists who don’t have this resource; it’s one of few in the state, he says.
Wilwert likens the new equipment to the concept of lifting weights: Someone who can lift a 50-pound weight won’t grow by lifting a 5-pound weight.
“This gives them a lot of options,” he says.
“Now we can be that aggressive without the downside.”
One static harness is anchored above a treadmill, the other above a balance platform.
“I’ve gotten people to do things they’ve never done,” assistant Claire Beukes says.
Melnick says she’s already seen benefits after helping a client with Parkinson’s disease who once used two walking sticks now walking on his own.
“To see the smile on his face was sweet,” Melnick says. “I have patients who could not aspire to walk at home. Now they’re walking 70 feet.”
Medicare and most private insurances provide coverage for this kind of therapy, Wilwert says.
In years past, Wilwert says, west Jefferson County folks, asking if was worth their while to come all the way out here, were hesitant before. Not now.
“It’s worth your while to come down and see us,” he says.
The former Sequim Physical Therapy Center moved into the building on Fifth Avenue in October 2011.
With about 4,500 square feet, the business also has four treatment rooms, a main strengthening room with weights and pulley tree, auxiliary gym and offices.
The staff includes physical therapists Britt Moss, Vonnie Voris, Dale Rudd and Peggy Scheidler.
Wilwert says the company is looking at adding a program of exercise circuit training during non-standard business hours — not just for patients, but the community as a whole — that would help people with issues such as osteoporosis.
Melnick says it could work with multiple sclerosis sufferers as well.
See www.sequimphysicaltherapy.com for more information.