Invisible Injuries and the Power of Holistic Healthcare

Irwin Altman Ph.D., Neuropsychologist and National Director of Outcomes for Collage Rehabilitation Partners, emphasizes the importance of psychological factors in rehabilitation of complex head injury patients.

Irwin Altman vividly recalls the moment he realized neuropsychology was a career he wanted to pursue. He had enrolled in a neuropsychology course as an undergraduate student at McGill University in Montreal. The passion and animation of his professor awakened his interest and inspired him to pursue a career in this discipline. 

“I remember just walking out of there and saying, that’s what I want to be when I grow up,” Altman recalled. After over 37 years in the world of neurorehabilitation, it’s clear that his passion is like that of his undergraduate professor. 

In this episode, Altman discusses the importance of neuropsychology in treating patients holistically, and how understanding a patient’s life history and personality can enhance outcomes of the physical medicine rehabilitation disciplines, such as physical therapy.

Invisible Injuries

When explaining what neuropsychology is, Altman describes how people don’t always understand the extent of brain injuries. 

“If someone has a brain injury and there’s a physical element, everyone notices that,” he said. But those who have brain injuries with no outward indications are often misunderstood. That is why Altman believes so strongly in understanding all the elements of who a patient is. 

“They’re the walking wounded because people don’t realize that despite their outward appearance of being back to what they were prior to the injury, they have all these other significant changes,” he said.

Altman tells a story of a patient’s inability to pick up on social cues in a conversation and the negative outcome that occurred because of it, an example of how brain injuries can impact a patient’s quality of life.

It’s important for neuropsychologists to work with physical therapists to bring in that psychological perspective, Altman believes, and to make treatment more than just completing a certain number of repetitions of various exercises or movements.

Holistic Treatment

New physical therapists that come in with a plethora of knowledge and enthusiasm can be laser focused on just the physical interventions or the newest techniques, Altman explains. It is important that a therapist is able to look at all the different aspects of a patient’s life.

“You’ve seen one case, you’ve seen one case,” Altman acknowledged. Every patient has their own history and family relationships, and being able to acknowledge that in the neurorehabilitation process and care plan is essential. 

He discusses his perspective that family dynamics are the greatest prediction of outcome for neurorehabilitation patients, and the importance of helping patients do for themselves, rather than to have things done for them. He says that being a supportive family member “is not defined by you doing everything for your loved one.”

While it may be easier, and feel more helpful to assist a family member with everything they need, in the long run it will be more beneficial to help them function on their own without relying on the help of others.

Meaningful Takeaways

Altman emphasizes how a therapist should never underestimate a patient, but continue to push them to the next level to see how far of a return they can achieve. That’s what’s most meaningful to him, Altman says, is being able to set and celebrate high goals for patients.

With so many years of experience in neurorehabilitation, Altman certainly has the opportunity to flex his expertise. However, when asked about something truly meaningful that he has learned about brain behavior, he reiterated the importance of humility in this profession. 

“We have to be humble enough as therapists to understand that we don’t know it all,” he said. “The reality is we are scratching the surface in really understanding how the brain and behavior are related.”

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One Family’s Experience with Physical Therapy and Recovery

Veteran healthcare industry attorney Bob Metry shares how a Physical Therapy program changed his life after undergoing open-heart surgery, and gave his late wife relief from debilitating chronic pain in her final years.

After years of working behind the scenes in the healthcare industry as an attorney, Bob Metry found his role flipped to patient. He had to undergo open-heart surgery, and that led him to a 13-week cardiac rehabilitation program as part of his recovery.

“I had physical therapists, I had sports physiologists, I had a nurse,”  he said. “And I was treated to a lot of attention and a lot of work to restore my full functionality.”

In this episode of Powering Health and Wellness with RPM Rehab, Metry discusses how this team of professionals transformed his life. He shares how Physical Therapy not only helped him recover from his surgery, but also gave his late wife, who suffered from debilitating chronic pain, some relief in her final years.

A New Normal

Despite his active and fit past as a U.S. Marine, it was Physical Therapy that brought Metry into the best shape of his life.

“Even though I thought I had been in pretty darn good physical condition when I was in the Marine Corps, I actually felt like that the rehab program left me in at least as good, if not better, overall physical condition than I had been in when I thought I was in my 21-year-old prime,” Metry said.

And, his open-heart surgery wasn’t the only time that Metry turned to Physical Therapy for help. Five years ago, a pinched sciatic nerve left him with debilitating pain. He tried steroids, epidurals, but Metry couldn’t find relief. That is – until he went back to therapy.

He did another two month stint of Physical Therapy that again radically improved his  functioning and quality of life.

“The Physical Therapists that I went to had me do two specific stretching exercises that eventually solved my problem,” Metry said. 

Those two simple exercises, repeated six times every day, finally brought him relief from his pain. He found the stretches so transformative that he will not start his day without doing them.

“Every morning in the last five years I have done those stretches,” he said. “And I have had no back pain at all. I haven’t even had a crick in the back.”

Navigating Debilitating Chronic Pain

Metry’s experience as a healthcare consumer doesn’t stop there. He also engaged with physical therapists in his search for help for his wife of 27 years, Alyssa, to find relief from debilitating chronic pain.

She suffered from degenerative disc disease in her cervical vertebrae. The disease led to multiple surgeries to try to repair the damage to her spine. 

“The more surgeries she had, the more pain she endured,” Bob said. “She went into active pain management in the late 90s, but, instead of getting better, it got progressively more painful.”

In 2010, she developed arachnoiditis – an inflammation of the spine that is virtually untreatable. 

“The way I characterize arachnoiditis is [it’s like] if you have a junction box with all of the electrical connections in your house, and you grab hold of that bunch of wires and squeeze them until they fuse and short circuit everything,” Metry said. “That’s what she went into.”

That unbearable pain eventually led Alyssa to an unintentional overdose with her pain medications. After being in intensive care and on a ventilator for three days, she had to have intensive therapy to walk and rebuild her strength.

“Every part of her body was in pain,” Metry said.

Finding Aquatic therapy

After that experience, Alyssa could no longer take opioid medications to manage the chronic pain. That left her hurting so badly that she would go into a fugue state that completely changed her personality.

One of the few things that brought her relief was warm water aquatic therapy. The Physical Therapist worked with Alyssa in the pool to relieve her pain and rebuild her strength and balance.

“At some point, the only thing that was really helping her was to be in the pool moving around,” Metry said. “The therapist literally permitted us to rent that pool by the hour two to three days a week.” 

Four years ago, Alyssa’s unbearable pain resulted in cardiac arrest. Metry said her final years were only helped by the time that she spent in Physical Therapy and in the pool. 

“Her life could have been a lot more miserable than it was – especially in the last couple years – without that warm water and the supervision of the Physical Therapist at that center” he said. “The most benefits she had in terms of quality of life were in that pool.”

To learn more about this show, follow this podcast wherever you listen to your audio content. And join in the conversation by visiting us online at

Improving Performance through Physical Therapy with Jim Jamieson

Former Marine, healthcare entrepreneur and triathlete, Jim Jamieson shares how he uses Physical Therapy to improve his performance in endurance events.

Jim Jamieson has been an athlete since high school. From quarterback to Marine to Iron Man triathlon competitor, he’s made it a priority to improve his physical health through every venture he tries. 

It wasn’t until a bicycle accident landed him in Physical Therapy, that Jim realized he could train better for the endurance events he had made a big part of his life.

“I was doing nothing but wearing myself out. And hurting every body part I had,” he said of his training prior to rehab. “I’ve got a really, really bad lower back on top of it. So I was compounding that issue.” 

In this episode of Powering Health and Wellness with RPM Rehab, the healthcare entrepreneur explains how Physical Therapy allowed him to unlock the full potential of his body’s movement capabilities and how it changed the longtime athlete’s outlook on health.

Starting from scratch

Jim doesn’t remember what caused his bicycle accident. He only remembers waking up with severe injuries – everything from a broken shoulder to a broken hand and a severe concussion. 

“The next thing I knew, I was waking up to a husband and wife picking me up off the ground. And I was just a hot mess. It was not a pretty situation,” he recalled.

His injuries landed him in Physical Therapy for the first time in his life. He had to relearn a lot of movements he had been doing over the course his entire life. Most importantly, his Physical Therapist taught him how to view his body holistically. 

“He taught me a lot of how to train and what body parts to train and what days of the week to train and how to recover,” Jim shared.

Prior to his injury, Jim wasn’t aware that Physical Therapists had the tools to help athletes train. Each session, Jim learned more about how each specific movement impacted a part of his body.

“When you get off that bike, when you’re exhausted, how do you properly take care of your body? And do it the right way?” he said. “I think PTs know the body so well, and they’re typically dealing with athletes often. The average everyday triathlete like myself, we’ve never learned that from anywhere.”

Jim’s Physical Therapist taught him how to optimize each one and build a better baseline for running, swimming and biking.

“What’s important for me is he gave me just two or three things to work on, that if you fix those, it will automatically address a lot of the other things in there,” Jim said. “And I work on them. I do them every day.”

Getting results

Since then, rehab has become an important part of how he trains and recovers from each race he enters.

It didn’t take long for Jim to begin to see remarkable results. After his Physical Therapist taught him how to properly shift his movement while running, he began to shave off up to 20 seconds each mile he ran. 

“My goal is I’m not trying to win these races, but I want to get better and at least maintain and not get worse. And as you get older, running, especially, can be hard on the body,” he said. 

Through Physical Therapy, Jim feels like he can keep his body young and able to do the things that make him happy. He said he wants to see more triathletes like him utilize rehab to prevent injury and improve performance.

“I just encourage people, as you get older, especially former Marines like myself, you’re always afraid to ask for help. You think you can do it yourself,” Jim shared. “Go talk to a nutritionist, talk to a PT, talk to a coach and you’re only gonna help yourself and do better. It’s going to make your life a lot easier.”

His years of participating in Iron Man triathlons have made him appreciate the importance of staying fit and taking care of his body. He’s been inspired by all the different people he’s seen – even in their late 70s – cross the finish line. 

But Jim knows that’s only possible through the support of people like Physical Therapists.

“You can’t do it yourself. You just can’t do it alone.”

To learn more about this show, follow this podcast wherever you listen to your audio content. And join in the conversation by visiting us online at

Transforming Lives through Neuro Rehab with Rosio Vargas-Negri PT; DPT

Yakima Physical Therapist Rosio Vargas-Negri shares her journey to the healthcare industry and how her practice in neuro rehab has the potential to change lives.

Born to parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, Rosio Vargas-Negri PT; DPT learned at a young age how hard work takes a toll on the body. She went to work in the orchard with her parents every day. She didn’t know how she could help others, until she was introduced to physical therapy in her final years of college.

“It’s not really as known as it should be,” Rosio said. “I think it’s even more so in the Hispanic community where there’s just not that knowledge of ‘Hey, I don’t have to be in pain. There is an option for me to try something.’”

In this episode, Rosio talks about how her passion for caregiving led her to a career in neuro rehab –  focusing on helping people recover from some of the toughest neurological injuries and conditions.

Connecting with patients

Once Rosio discovered physical therapy, she was immediately hooked. She loved the idea of getting to have more than the brief time a doctor gets to spend with any given patient. 

“I wanted something where I could get to know the patient. I could see the progress. I could work with them,” Rosio said. “I just love the connection and the rapport you can build with a patient.”

This devotion to helping change people’s lives led Rosio to focus on neuro rehab. Treating people with brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and spinal cord injuries can be challenging, but that’s exactly what attracted her to the practice.

“I was just fascinated by the connections of the spine, the brain, and how something in the brain on the left side controls the right side and that type of thing,” she said.

Since many of her patients suffer from cognitive issues, Rosio has to approach each patient differently and with patience. She is always keeping in mind how memory loss or distracted behavior can factor into a session.

“Some days go better than others,” she said. “I think I’ve gotten kind of better at trying to redirect them and reading the environment.”

Seeing an impact

Neuro rehab is hard work. But, the outcomes are transformative for the patients who give it a try.

For Rosio, one particular patient’s story sticks out. She began working with a gentleman who was recovering from a stroke and was depressed at his situation. But once he began walking with Rosio and completing his exercises, he had an entirely different outlook.

“He was doing all these things that he couldn’t do before,” she said. “And so he was able to complete his program and go home with his wife rather than go to a nursing home.”

At the final day of his treatment, the patient became overwhelmed with happiness at all the progress he had made. Usually not an emotional man, he began to cry as he told Rosio how much the experience meant to him. 

“He grabbed my hand and just looked at me and said ‘Thank you so much for taking the time to help me. And really just seeing me and being there and helping me through this process,’” she recalled.

Expanding its reach

Rosio hopes that more patients from different cultures can experience the same transformative life changes that physical therapy brings. 

She said she thinks more Hispanic communities could access physical therapy if there were more people with their cultural background in the field. By breaking down language barriers, she believes more people could benefit from the practice.

“If it came from someone who’s speaking their language, maybe they would respond better,” she said. “I’ve had that with a lot of patients that I see here, they’re like ‘Wow, I’ve had therapy before and it wasn’t quite like this and you explain things to me really well.”

Rosio believes progress is possible. She said outreach in historically Hispanic communities and the mentorship of Hispanic students in physical therapy are keys to growing the representation in healthcare.

She sees the new physical therapy school in Yakima as a great place to start.

“I was the only one in my class. So I think that having that school there is gonna be a big opportunity as well.”

To learn more about this show, follow this podcast wherever you listen to your audio content. And join in the conversation by visiting us online at

A Unified Body and Mind Approach for Trauma Recovery and Healing with Bryan Maynard

Sensorimotor Psychotherapist Bryan Maynard shares his personal journey to address his childhood trauma by listening to his body.

By the age of six, fighting had already become a way of life for.Bryan Maynard. Growing up in Appalachia, he was raised by an abusive father and surrounded by a cultural imperative to fight for honor. 

The trauma of that time became a distinct part of Bryan’s DNA. Anxiety filled his daily life and he began to repress the anger he felt toward the family life that hurt him deeply.

“When you are terrified of the people who you want to lay against their chest and should receive their comfort,” Maynard said. “There’s an energetic storm of wanting to reach for safety and shutting [that impulse] down that tornadoes inside your nervous system.” 

Maynard survived that trauma and moved away from home. But, it wasn’t until he listened to both his mind and his body that he was really able to address his past.  In this episode of Powering Health and Wellness with RPM Rehab, Maynard shares how he went from a patient of sensorimotor psychotherapy to a practitioner.

Addressing the trauma

For years, Maynard tried to adapt to his trauma by being task-oriented. He was driven to succeed as an athlete, then later in his career – but he wasn’t taking time to address all the residual anger he carried around.

The more he tried to ignore his trauma, the more the urge to be violent bubbled up in him.

“It’s just right under the surface. It’s right there,” he said. “I was anxious all the time. I was having headaches. I was having back pain…I had gastrointestinal issues. I had trouble sleeping because of the pain.”

He began going to counseling – where the mantra was ‘Change your thinking and your feelings will follow’. He tried it for more than two years including time as an in-patient. But, the symptoms of his trauma just kept coming back. 

“I got some bandaid with that counseling,” he said. “But I could not change those physiological reflexes by just changing my thinking.”

At the age of 40 – facing the possibility of divorce – he began to look for other solutions. As he was studying psychotherapy, he started to look for something that addresses the whole person.

That’s when he found what he was looking for: sensorimotor psychotherapy. He finally had answers for how the trauma affected his physical self, not just his emotional self. As he experienced sensorimotor psychotherapy himself, it validated everything he felt throughout his life.

“It was like…we had walked into some sacred room in my body that said ‘Let me tell you what it was really like’,” Maynard said. “But not with your brain – not your talking brain. Let your body talk.”

What is sensorimotor psychotherapy?

Sensorimotor psychotherapy is an approach to trauma treatment that takes the whole person into account. It takes the time to break down the physical impacts – not just emotional pain – that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can have on an individual. The approach is useful for victims of traumatic accidents and injuries as well as psychological trauma.

At the center of the practice is the connection of thoughts and physiological reactions.

“The observing part of the brain goes offline,” he said. “And you’re triggered, and now your body actually knows something while the other systems are not allowed to talk.”

In this body-oriented approach, the mind isn’t pitted against the body. Instead, a therapist is attuned to the physical reactions of the patient and shares those experiences. 

“In that shared state, [the pain] reorganizes somatically,” Maynard said. “At a level where it’s like ‘Oh, I kind of think I understand what it feels like for someone to take care of me.’ Which I had never had before.”

Some trauma is just too deep to be verbalized or understood by our thinking brains. But as a patient experiences a constriction in their throat or pain in their chest, it speaks for them.

Trauma in the body

When someone experiences trauma, it buries deep in their bodies. It’s in their neurons, in their subcortical thinking, in their muscles. 

And, trauma doesn’t look the same for everyone. A spectrum of experiences fits into that small word.

“You don’t have to have a story like mine to have your sub-thinking, your brain stem, hold shame,” he said. “We don’t work just with PTSD, we work with the daily stuff that happened.”

We all carry things that can have an impact on our bodies. It doesn’t have to look like Maynard’s story to merit treatment. Negative feelings around our identities pervade our culture.

“Shame is underestimated,” he said. “It’s not just ‘at my core identity, I don’t feel like enough.’ It’s visceral.”

To learn more about this show, follow this podcast wherever you listen to your audio content. And join in the conversation by visiting us online at

Spine Surgery, Patient Engagement and Collaboration with Rehabilitation Professionals with Neurosurgeon Dave Atteberry

Neurosurgeon Dr. David Atteberry discusses state-of-the-art spine surgery and shares how he engages with patients and collaborates with physical therapists to deliver compassionate care while achieving strong outcomes.

From the time he was in kindergarten, Dr. Dave Atteberry knew what he wanted to do with his life. Even as a young kid, he wanted to make a difference to correct the health disparities around him – and he thought he could do that by becoming a neurosurgeon. 

“I stuck to it,” Atteberry said. “I’ve been doing this now for 14 years, and my passion for learning new things remains as it was so many years ago.”

Dr. Atteberry’s passion for patient-centered care drives him to keep learning and diving into the many mysteries of neuroscience. In this episode of Powering Health and Wellness with RPM Rehab, Dr. Atteberry discusses how he views healthcare as a collaboration of individuals – all working toward one goal.

Patient collaboration

At the heart of Dr. Atteberry’s work are his interactions with patients. Around the office, he’s known for spending so much time talking and listening with his patients that he’s often late for his next meeting. That’s because he believes that healthcare should revolve around the patient and their goals. 

“You want a person to be an active participant in their healthcare,” Dr. Atteberry said.  “If it were up to me, I’d make everyone their own healthcare ambassador. You are in charge of your own healthcare.”

The most important thing is to ask the goals of the patient. From there, Dr. Atteberry listens to what treatments and approaches they’ve tried before. Understanding what has and hasn’t worked for patients in the past should guide your care plan.

For Dr. Atteberry, that often means guiding patients away from surgery – despite being a surgeon. He views surgery as the last option, after more conservative measures fail. 

“My best patients are the ones that have tried everything else first,” Atteberry said. “I have more patients that I’ve probably helped from giving them advice away from surgery than I have from operating on them.”

Dr. Atteberry understands how ironic that may sound coming from a surgeon. But, it’s because most of the people who come into his office are just looking for someone to carefully listen and give advice.  Those that can do that – he believes – are the most successful physicians.

“We only have so much time in our day. We only have so many patients that we will be able to see. Try and maximize the opportunities for the individuals you get to see and give them the best chance of getting good advice.”

Working with Physical Therapists

But patient collaboration is just one element of Dr. Atteberry’s job. As a surgeon, he also  works with Physical Therapists to help his patients after their operations.

In his more than a decade of experience, he’s found that this collaboration makes all the difference in reaching optimal patient outcomes.

“I’ve found that through working with good therapists, that they will push people. They will get them better results than I can get them by myself,” Dr. Atteberry said. “It’s a synergy that takes place when you have good surgical technique and good rehab technique.”

In a perfect world, Dr. Atteberry would like to see Physical Therapy implemented from beginning to end of the process. That would include a pre-hab session that would help doctors understand the baseline for the recovery plan.

“On the first visit, let’s see what your range of motion is. Let’s see what you can do. Let’s see how you stand and posture. Let’s see what your gait is like,’” he said. 

From there, a better rehabilitation plan can be created. And, oftentimes, Physical Therapists are able to identify the small things that could make all the difference in recovery. By being good observers, they set a better path forward for patients. 

“You have to be focused on the little details, because the little details make you the big outcomes.”

Changing lives

Many times the patients who find themselves in Dr. Atteberry’s office are frustrated. They’re in pain, struggling to function and have oftentimes hit dead end after dead end in their recovery process. 

But, those same people are the ones who are most grateful for the surgical and therapist collaboration that restores normalcy to their lives. 

“I’ve had dozens of patients tell me ‘You’ve changed my life,” Dr. Atteberry said. “That’s a wonderful feeling.”

That moment – when you see a patient go from struggling each day back to functioning how they were meant to be – is what keeps Dr. Atteberry coming back to neurosurgery. It makes him forget any of the other less exciting parts of his job. 

“It’s a very special role that you get to play in people’s lives,” he said.

To learn more about this show, follow this podcast wherever you listen to your audio content. And join in the conversation by visiting us online at

Applying Lessons from Ultramarathons and Embracing Adaptability in Rehabilitation with Lisa Bliss MD

Ultramarathon athlete, Physiatrist and rehabilitation medicine specialist Lisa Bliss MD explains how physicians adapt individual care plans to fit their patient needs.

Nothing gives Lisa Bliss MD the same joy as seeing a patient overcome an obstacle and adapt to their situation. As a physiatrist and rehabilitation medicine specialist of twenty years, she’s always looking to how she can help her patients reach their own personal goal – no matter how big or small that goal may be.

“That’s what I love about rehabilitation medicine,” Bliss said. “It’s not just fixing the actual injury or illness. It’s getting that person back to a full restoration of function.”

She works with each individual patient to find what they define as restoration. In this episode of Powering Health and Wellness with RPM Rehab, Bliss shares how to use a diverse set of tools to maintain a patient-centered practice.

Making a personal plan

Bliss defines success as more than just helping a patient to heal from whatever ailment they entered her office with. It’s about connecting with her patients on what they want to be able to achieve.

“Listening is the most important thing,” Bliss said. “Because when somebody says their goal is to lift their grandbaby after a shoulder surgery, I want to hear that.”

Typically, she finds her patients’ goals don’t necessarily seem as big and ambitious as running a marathon, until the obstacles to be overcome are fully understood. Rather, she asks her patients to think about what physical skills they want in order to fulfill their emotional needs.

“I look at what is that person’s goal, what makes them feel healthy and how do we achieve it in a helpful way,” she said. “We really need that hands-on approach.”

In her own practice, Bliss ensures that she’s doing everything she can to engage her patients and make them feel heard. It starts with making eye contact and actively listening to their concerns, and then progresses to physically putting her hands on their body to identify functional issues.

“That’s one of the big benefits of rehabilitation medicine, that we put our hands on our patients,” Bliss said. “We work with them…we watch them, and we’re really interested in always keeping in mind what their goal for recovery is.”

Embracing a diverse set of solutions

Once a patient sets a goal, there’s not just one way to meet it. In fact, Bliss encourages her patients to be adaptable and embrace a wide swath of tools for healing.

Typically, Bliss finds that people are more likely to achieve long-term functionality when they diversify their recovery tools.

“When we have all our goals in one basket, and then someone takes the basket away or something happens, we tend to get stuck,” Bliss said. “So, cross-training and looking at our options is really important.”

For a patient that enjoys running, Bliss would encourage them to feed that passion, but to also add some other activities into their routine. She reminds clients that repetitive use is a very real threat to our bodies – especially as we age.

“The older we get, the more important it is to do ‘prehab,’” she said. 

This translates into really focusing on strengthening the muscles we use on a daily basis in order to prevent injury. Strength training can oftentimes be the key to sustainable functionality.

“Sometimes physical therapy will get us back to our level of function,” Bliss explained. “But sometimes we need to add something more like strength training to prevent the loss of muscle mass which is a normal part of aging.”

Building endurance

In her personal life, Bliss is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. She’s an ultra-marathon runner and endurance sports fanatic.

But, it took support from her friends to realize that she could achieve such amazing feats. They gave her the courage to try.

“It was the people that believed in me that pushed me into the possibility that I can go beyond what I think I can do,” Bliss said.

It wasn’t easy at first. At the beginning, she often felt like an imposter or she was out of place. But, when she was finally able to cross the finish line, she looked back and felt proud of how much she grew.

At the heart of her success is the ability to adapt. She encourages her patients to put the same belief in their capacity to overcome difficult situations that she does in herself.

“It’s using that adversity and switching it around to make it your friend,” Bliss said. “Whatever your desire or whatever your goal is, if you can adapt to your environment then you can succeed.”

To learn more about this show, follow this podcast wherever you listen to your audio content. And join in the conversation by visiting us online at

Mind Science, Happiness and Rehabilitation with Cindy Shaw

Speech pathologist and student of mind science Cindy Shaw reveals how mental awareness can help you improve your happiness and take control of your life.

After twenty years as a speech pathologist in neuro-rehab, Cindy Shaw saw what some others couldn’t see, the connection between emotions and cognition. She understood that the mind is an important personal health asset.

“When I looked at my own mind, I could see I had what’s called a ‘monkey mind’. Our thoughts jump around rather uncontrollably. Our emotions can be up one minute and down another,” said Shaw. “There’s so much randomness going on in the mind. I was feeling like my mind had control over me and I wanted to have a method to get control over my mind.”

This realization led Shaw to training and studying ‘mind science’ with Tibetan teachers. In this episode of Powering Health and Wellness with RPM Rehab, Shaw shares some of what  she has learned from her studies on the infinite potential of the mind.

What is mind science?

While the words ‘mind science’ may conjure up images of a new age, experimental discipline, Shaw shares that this evidence-based practice is quite the opposite. For over 3,000 years, the Tibetan people have been mastering introspection of the mind.

“What’s happened is that in pairing with neuro-scientists and physicists, they are starting to do rigorous investigation to see that these subjective ways of examining the mind are being verified through current research,” explained Shaw.

At its core, mind science is about examining our awareness or consciousness. Through various techniques, the practice takes a look at how our minds shape our daily lives.

“It’s about specifically being aware of our feelings or what we perceive through our senses: what we see, what we hear, what we taste and so on,” Shaw said.

Tibetan experts in the discipline study for 20 years after high school to get their Ph.D.. They look at science from various directions and the potential of the mind – like memorizing over 100 pages of information.

“The more that we open our mind to taking a more curious outlook on things, rather than thinking my way or the highway or having an immediate judgment about things, the more that we keep our mind open,” said Shaw. “The more we can tap into this really infinite potential of the mind.”

Training the emotional mind

What mind science teaches us is that we can control our mental states and emotions. When we investigate the source behind our negative mental states — jealousy, anger — we find we are our own enemies.

“If we really examine our minds during these negative mind states, we can see that the central actor is ‘me.’ There’s this extreme focus on self, on ‘mine’, and ‘I’” said Shaw. “Basically, we’re sitting on our pity pot.”

In order to overcome these negative emotions that narrow our mind, we need to recognize that we can change our perception. Shaw learned you can’t have two opposing states of mind at the same time. 

“If we’re angry, then we’re not feeling love. If we’re feeling love, we’re not feeling anger,” Shaw said. “This gives us an antidote for the negative mind state by changing our perception, changing the way that we’re thinking to a positive mind state. Looking at it from an aspect of love rather than looking at it from an aspect of anger.”

But, adjusting your mindset takes time, determination and effort. Shaw has found that a good place to start is to interrogate the sources of suffering and question how to uproot those causes.

By deliberately seeking out positive mind states and challenging negative ones, we can begin to have control over our mind.

“Because humans have self awareness, it allows us to reflect and observe when something like anger or jealousy or anxiety arises. And we can oppose that” said Shaw. “We can take a look at those things and make a judgment that ‘Oh that’s not beneficial’.”

Pairing mind and body

Overall, having control of your mind and your happiness can help alleviate physical pain. When we look at pain as the fear of suffering, we see that the mind plays an integral role in our ability to heal.

“The real suffering is the fear of the pain,” said Shaw. “What really helps with that is to recognize it and start to work with it.”

Once we begin to look at our happiness as a personal health asset, it becomes more and more important to train our minds. We need to begin to take our mental health as seriously as we do our physical function.

“Our culture is geared towards the external world and looking at the causes and conditions externally,” Shaw explained. “But, how much of the time do we take a look at our mind, which is with us 24/7, and evaluate how we are doing? What are the causes of love? What are the causes of compassion? Those are the things that could help us in the long run to be happier.”

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The Value of Patient-Centered Therapy with Michele Jacobs DPT

Physical Therapist Michele Jacobs DPT puts patients first when treating complex pain — resulting in transformative healing.

When Michele Jacobs was a child, she saw the importance of health care professionals by watching her mother, a nurse, attentively tend to patients. 

Now, after practicing as a Physical Therapist for over a decade, Jacobs aims to replicate this patient-centered care with her own clients. Many of the patients Michele treats face complex pain conditions, which require listening, compassion, and, most of all, patience.

“People that have these multi-layers and years of disease, it’s not going to change in just 6 to 8 visits,” said Jacobs. “It takes months or years. We need to take the time to do it, but the healthcare system is not set up to do that.”

In this episode of Powering Health and Wellness with RPM Rehab, Jacobs discusses the importance of providing out-of-the-box care for patients suffering from complex pain. She shares how centering patients’ needs with every decision can lead to recovery.

Customized care

Many times, Physical Therapists stick to the same script when delivering care. But, Jacobs says not every patient fits into a neat box for treatment. 

That’s why Jacobs makes sure her treatment plans are specifically tailored to each patient. 

“Some therapy is, for a lack of a better phrase, what I like to call a ‘people mill’, where patients go in and do a circuit of uncustomized exercises,” said Jacobs. “With every single patient that comes in to see me, it’s all customized. I make sure it’s individualized to their impairments because everyone is different.”

In order to individualize treatment options, physical therapists need to learn to listen to patients’ wants and needs. Jacobs starts each session by asking her patients what they want to achieve.

“You can read their chart, but really involve the patient. Always ask the question: what’s your goal? What would you like to be able to do easier in your everyday life,” Jacobs said. 

Once you’ve identified the goals of your patient, it’s important to stick with them. Recognizing that patients might regress in the process is vital. But, physical therapists should dedicate time and effort into seeing those goals through.

“I love spending time with my patients,” said Jacobs. “You build such a rapport with them. They know that you care about them. I think we are just able to provide so much education and training because we get to spend so much quality time together.”

The power of manual therapy

Once Jacobs has connected with her patients, the next step is providing treatment. She uses her hands to make transformative changes.

Through manual therapy, Jacobs touches patients directly in order to find and work to heal dysfunctional areas. 

“People do better when you put their hands on them. Whether a doctor puts a hand on your shoulder and says ‘I’m listening’ or if a physical therapist puts a hand on the pain,” said Jacobs. “I’ve had patients who have had pain and issues for years, and they’ll say ‘You’re the first person who has ever touched my pain.’ That seems like that’s something that needs to change.”

With over a decade of experience in Physical Therapy, Jacobs has learned to be able to sense and detect problem areas through touch. Before patients guide her, she is able to identify painful areas.

“Dysfunctional tissue sticks out like a sore thumb. Whether it’s connective tissue, whether it’s nerve, skin, joint, it will stick out like a sore thumb,” Jacobs said. 

Oftentimes, Jacobs begins treatment by looking at patients’ sacroiliac, or pelvis joint. She says, by starting near the bottom of the body, she is able to realign the body back to a normal, more supportive place — relieving chronic pain.

“When I put my hands on the patients and I feel that dysfunction and I use a lot of muscle energy technique, mobilization with movement, and I help put that rib back down. Then I care for that soft tissue that has just been brutalized for however long,” said Jacobs. “And you massage it, you work all those joints around it to where you get back to more of a normal.”

Looking at the whole body

When Jacobs begins treatment, she looks at more than just the localized area of pain. 

Physical Therapists need to consider joints, muscles, nerves, and mental health of the patient in order to get a fuller look at how function and mobility can be improved.

“We’re master compensators. Our body wants to try to heal itself or fix the problem. But the longer you let one problem go, you compensate, compensate and compensate until you’re out of compensators,” she said.

One thing that Jacobs always looks at is the diet of a patient. She says what you eat can play a huge role in pain control and body functions.

“I think you are doing a disservice and/or incomplete treatment to your patient if you’re not trying to address the whole body.”

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Helping Athletes Overcome Injury With Keith Embray

Former NFL Defensive Lineman and current assistant athletics director at the University of Pennsylvania State Keith Embray shares his journey to the football field and the physical therapists that helped along the way.

When you’re one of over 300,000 people trying out for a job that only 3,000 people in the world get, it can be difficult to persevere. But, even after early rejection, Keith Embray kept going until he landed a spot on an NFL roster. 

Embray brings this perseverance to every situation — including the multiple times on the football field when he got injured. He persisted through ligament tears, fractures and concussions until one injury ended his football career.

“My career ended on a practice field,” Embray shared, “doing something I had done a thousand times before, on a pass-rush drill.”

Embray now oversees the student athlete welfare and development program at the Pennsylvania State University, where he encourages college athletes to not only value their bodies, but to view themselves as more than just athletes.

In this episode of Powering Health and Wellness with RPM Rehab, Embray takes us on his personal journey to becoming a professional football player and the role physical therapists and mentors played in getting him there.

The connection between athletes and physical therapists

In a sport as physical as football, NFL athletes often cross paths with physical therapists. Embray was no exception — and he was grateful for every single one he encountered during his career.

In high school and college, Embray was lucky enough to not sustain any  injuries serious enough to keep him off the field. But once he entered into the world of professional football that all changed.

“One of the things that hurt the most was when I fractured one of my fingers,” said Embray. “I’ve torn my quad, my hamstring, my pec. Stuff that just hurt but you could play with it.” 

He was able to keep playing thanks to physical therapists and trainers, like Bill Bean,who coached him through injury and led him through recovery. After countless times spent with a physical therapist, Embray understands the impact they can have on an athlete’s life.

“People would say ‘Man, how do you keep getting cut and keep coming back?’” he recalled. “I had to learn mentally how to deal with that. These folks, these athletic trainers, these physical therapists, people just don’t realize the impact they have on these young people’s lives who are athletes.”

Embray was the persevering player he was thanks, in part, to all of the physical therapists that helped him to be confident enough to step back on the field following injuries. He encourages all of his student athletes to forge tight-knit relationships with their physical therapists and trainers. 

“They don’t need anything from you, but you need everything from them,” Embray explained. “People that go into athletic training or physical therapy, it’s because they want people to feel good not only physically, but mentally about themselves. There’s so much of that confidence thing to build into athletes.”

More than an athlete

In Embray’s new role guiding young athletes, he makes one message very clear: you are more than just an athlete. 

While physical capabilities and athletic talent is important, young athletes need to value themselves beyond how much they achieve on the playing field. That way, when inevitable injuries do come their way, they realize their self-worth goes way beyond their sport.

“You can do something that many people can’t do, but you can also do something that everyone can do: be a human being,” he said. “You’re a human being first.”

As a young athlete, Embray himself was no stranger to the pressure to succeed as an athlete. He invested everything in his identity as an athlete — which only made rejection harder.

“There’s this feeling of ‘Wow. Did I wrongly invest all of my energy and efforts into something?’ Then you have this feeling that you are “less than” because you’re not this or that,” Embray remembered.

Physical Therapists helped him not only cope with the physical pain that came with football injuries, but the mental pain of being rejected. It’s the role of a physical therapist to help athletes feel their best, both physically and mentally.

“It took folks with expertise mentally and physically to help me exist in that world as long as I did,” said Embray. “If it wasn’t for so many of the professionals that enter into this fields to help people feel better about themselves, then I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

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