Updated: Wed, 05/29/2013 - 00:03

Physical therapists find growing number of clients

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Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News Anthony Glenn, director of rehabilitation, works with Joan Kornblatt during a session at Spine & Sport on Whitemarsh Island.  Savannah Morning News
Savannah Morning News
Richard Burkhart/Savannah Morning News Anthony Glenn, director of rehabilitation, works with Joan Kornblatt during a session at Spine & Sport on Whitemarsh Island.
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Wearing a red Spine & Sport T-shirt, black pants and running shoes, Joan Kornblatt lay on a black table and stretched. Ten minutes later, she climbed aboard a machine called the MedX, strapped herself in and, under the watchful eye of director of rehabilitation Anthony Glenn, set the tension at 113 pounds of resistance.

She grimaced as she moved the arms of the machine back and forth. But the machine strengthens her back, she said.

Three years ago, she was facing back surgery for a curve in her spine.

“The pain was getting worse and worse,” she said. “I couldn’t stand in the kitchen at the sink. It hurt too much to bend over … I wanted to be able to roll over in bed and not have it hurt. It hurt all the time.”

She decided to try physical therapy at Spine & Sport. And to her surprise, it worked.

“For the first time in years and years, I was pretty much pain free,” she said.

To stay that way, she comes to the clinic at least two days a week.

Spine & Sport is one of the busiest physical therapy practices in the Savannah area. Seeking more mobility and relief from pain, some 200 patients a day flock to six clinics in downtown Savannah, Whitemarsh Island, Rincon, Richmond Hill, Hinesville and one that opened in Pooler on Feb. 18.

“We are the movement specialists,” said physical therapist Jacques Beauchamp, president and co-owner with Eric Bull of Spine & Sport. “If it ain’t working, we can help. ... We want to provide rehabilitation services to our clients in a manner that’s beyond compare.”

In 2006, Beauchamp started Spine & Sport in a 14-by-10-foot room in the back of a Rincon gym. Now, the company boasts 104 staffers, 21 of them physical therapists and licensed physical therapy assistants. From 2009 to 2012, the business has been listed by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing private firms in the U.S.

But then physical therapy in Savannah is a growth industry in and of itself. The region boasts more than 15 practices, some owned by doctors or hospitals, others owned by physical therapists.

Why the increase?

“Our population is aging,” said Joyce Parrish, director of The Rehabilitation Institute at Memorial Health University Medical Center, “And there’s a trend in health care to shift from inpatient to outpatient.”

Added Jason Hux, director of physical therapy at Chatham Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy: “The baby boomers are getting older, and they are starting to have health problems.”

Angela Thomas, director of physical and occupational therapy at St. Joseph’s/Candler, said more doctors are being trained to use services such as physical therapy.

“And consumers are more knowledgeable,” Thomas said. “They’ll Google up ‘spine’ on the computer.”

St. Joseph’s/Candler treats about 120 outpatients a day at its two Savannah hospitals and at clinics in Bluffton, Rincon and Garden City. Eighteen kinds of outpatient physical therapy are offered, including pediatric, ergonomics, wound care, hand therapy, aquatic and more.

Memorial Health offers many outpatient physical therapy services, too, including industrial and brain injury rehabilitation. And its aquatic therapy program is high tech.

It has an indoor rehabilitation pool equipped with “an underwater aqua gym and underwater treadmill,” Parrish said. “And an underwater camera system evaluates movements and exercise.”

Memorial has opened a physical therapy practice in Pooler, “and we’re investigating other locations,” Parrish said.

One physical therapy practice is going in a new direction — house calls. In April, Spine & Sport launched the program in Whitemarsh, Wilmington and Tybee islands, Ardsley Park and the Landings.

“Some people like to have physical therapy in their home,” said Beauchamp. “And Medicare pays for it.”

Physical therapists say there is tremendous satisfaction in watching their patients get well.

“I love the profession. Going to work, I pinch myself every day that I’m doing this,” said Martin Healy, owner of Coastal Therapy. He’s been in business for himself for more than 12 years and has two clinics in Savannah and one in Richmond Hill.

“Demand is high, and I think it will continue to grow,” said the physical therapist and athletic trainer who estimates his clinics see 60 to 100 patients a day.

“Our motto is ‘Back to work. Back to sport. Back to life,’” he said. “People want to get back to work as quickly as they can. People want to lift their grandchildren.”

In working with one client, Healy was massaging crane operator Dane Raffield’s right shoulder.

“These are techniques to take pressure off the nerves. We want to open up that space between the discs where the nerves are being pinched,” Healy said.

Raffield said he had pain, numbing and tingling that starts in his shoulder and goes down his arm. On his sixth therapy session out of a prescribed nine, Raffield was hoping the therapy would help him avoid surgery.

“I’m not sure if this is going to be the answer,” he said. “But I’ll try. Anything to avoid the knife.”

COASTAL THERAPY

• 1 Jackson Blvd. Suite 201

Savannah, GA 31405

912-351-2382

• 911 E. 70th St.

Savannah, GA 31405

912-355-0123

• 60 Exchange St. B-4

Richmond Hill, GA 31324

912-459-1270

www.coastaltherapy.com

MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER

• The Rehabilitation Institute

4700 Waters Avenue

Savannah, GA 31404

912-350-7128

• The Rehabilitation Institute

130 Canal Street

Building 400

Pooler, GA 31322

912-330-0125

www.memorialhealth.com/rehab

SPINE & SPORT

• Effingham

135 Goshen Road Ext., Suite 206

Rincon, GA 31326

912-826-3797

• Islands

119 Charlotte Road, Suite G

Savannah, GA 31410

912-898-7714

• Richmond Hill

2451 Highway 17, Suite B

Richmond Hill, GA 31324

912-459-2230

• Downtown

22 West Oglethorpe Ave.

Savannah, G A 31401

912-443-1400

• Hinesville

40 General Stewart Way, Suite 109

Hinesville, GA 31313

912-368-1078

• Pooler

123 Canal Street, Suite 203

Pooler, GA 31322

912-988-1283

www.spinesport.org

ST. JOSEPH’S/CANDLER OUTPATIENT REHABILITATION

• Candler Outpatient Center

5353 Reynolds Street

Savannah, GA 31405

912-819-6176

• Garden City Outpatient Center

4704 Augusta Road

Garden City, GA 31408

912-964-0007

• Rincon Outpatient Rehabilitation Center

423 S. Columbia Avenue

Rincon, GA 31326

912-826-8863

• St. Joseph’s Outpatient Center

11702 Mercy Boulevard, Plaza B

Suite 2C

Savannah, GA 31419

912-819-2446

800-878-5637

• Bluffton Outpatient Center

10 Oak Forest Drive, Suite D

Bluffton, SC 29910

843-815-2611

• Outpatient Vestibular/Balance Rehabilitation

11705 Mercy Boulevard

Savannah, GA 31419

912-819-2479

www.sjchs.org/outpatientrehab

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