Dr. Debbie Bright, DC, MS, is the owner and founder of iMotion Therapies in La Jolla, CA, a section of San Diego. Originally from Boonville, MO, she graduated in December 2012 with her doctor of chiropractic degree from Logan University in suburban St. Louis. Dr. Bright moved to San Diego a year later and first learned about HawkGrips in February 2014. Since founding iMotion Therapies in the summer of 2014, the Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization specialist now utilizes HawkGrips with every patient who walks through her door.
Did you move to San Diego for a career opportunity?
Yes, it was primarily to work alongside Dr. Michael Rintala. He’s a practitioner of Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization and I became his independent contractor. So although I was essentially starting my own practice at that time, it was within a physical therapy clinic working alongside a mentor to learn more about that technique.
What made you so interested in learning more about Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization?
It’s a form of patient rehabilitation that can be used on the average person all the way to Olympic-level and professional athletes. It originated in the Czech Republic and focuses on breathing, as well as putting patients in different developmental positions that we progress through infancy, which helps develop muscle function and core stability. The technique basically reintegrates neural mindset training in patients who have injuries or want to achieve elite sports performance. I believe it’s very much an art in addition to a science, and I first learned about it during my internship with Dr. Brett Winchester when I was at Logan. He had studied Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization with Dr. Rintala in Prague and they got certified together. So basically I was introduced to the technique by Dr. Winchester and went to California so I could continue to learn with Dr. Rintala.
How would you describe your private practice, iMotion Therapies?
I founded it in the summer of 2014 when I moved my practice to Revolution Fitness Center in La Jolla. I’ve also branched it off by building a home office at my condo in Pacific Beach. I tend to use the home office for patients living in downtown San Diego who prefer not to make the drive to La Jolla or who want privacy for treatment. Some of my patients who are secret service agents, police officers and athletes from Coronado were getting HawkGrips treatment in my living room so I ended up building out the home office, which is also where we shoot a lot of treatment videos for posting on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If patients need more of a specific gym setting, I can take them to the clinic in La Jolla. It really depends on patient preference and need.
When did you first become exposed to instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM)?
I actually took a course on Graston Technique during my last year at Logan. So that was my first exposure to IASTM and I’d utilize it with patients in the sports rehabilitation clinic there. Then shortly after I moved to San Diego in September 2013, my friend Nick mentioned that he’d have an exhibit booth at the American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting in Las Vegas. The conference was going to be held in February 2014, and Nick asked if I could help staff the booth to promote his new company. So I flew out there and HawkGrips just happened to have a booth close to ours. We started talking with [HawkGrips Founder] Frank Osborne and that’s how my connection with them started. I ended up getting an instrument set soon afterward and now I use HawkGrips all the time.
What percentage of your patient population do you treat with HawkGrips?
Literally 100 percent. I see a lot of issues like hamstring pain, shoulder pain, and even TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder. People might think this sounds crazy but I’ll actually use the tools inside of a patient’s ear canal and work on the TMJ pain from that standpoint. Of course since I’m a chiropractor, I also see typical neck and back pain. But I honestly don’t think there’s a fascial chain, muscle or joint area that I won’t treat with HawkGrips.
I have a Gold Set, so the various sizes and treatment edges all fit different areas of the body. And I definitely use more than one instrument for the same injury because I treat globally along the fascial chain. So for every patient who comes into the office, my initial treatment is passive where they lay down and I warm the tissue up. Then I treat them actively through ranges of motion, and from there I’ll load the tissue and get sport-specific. Most of my time is focused on fascial release and of course joint manipulation, and I really tie the instruments in with rehabilitating patients in the Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization positions. So I’ll treat muscles, fascia and joints that way. I see the most improvement in range of motion and decrease in pain when a patient is loaded in a sport-specific motion while being rehabilitated by the instruments.
So although there’s no official affiliation between them, HawkGrips and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization have proven to be a great treatment combination?
Absolutely. To be honest, if I walked into my office and the instruments were gone, I’d probably freak out on the spot and call HawkGrips to order a new set because they completely make my practice. I really wouldn’t know what to do without my tools.
Among your patient population, does there tend to be a typical age range or common activities?
I honestly get a whole range, although I don’t practice much with children. My patients include triathletes, professional athletes, football players, kettlebell instructors and tennis players, as well as all walks of life and weekend warriors. But I’d say mainly athletes. That tends to be a common trait among my patient population, especially living in San Diego.
What kind of feedback do you get from patients about HawkGrips?
Patients sometimes contact me because they know the term Graston Therapy and will ask for that. I respond that I’m Graston certified and also HawkGrips certified. It’s all IASTM but I utilize HawkGrips tools because they’re my favorite. So they seek me out because they have some idea of what instrument assisted fascial release is. If a patient comes in who knows that I treat pain but isn’t sure how, I’ll pull out the instruments and explain what fascial manipulation is. In terms of actually experiencing HawkGrips treatment, everyone loves it. Of course, it can be a “hurts so good” kind of feeling, so I make sure to let patients know about how their body could react. For example, they’re probably going to have redness, which is just their tissue responding to the treatment. There also could be petechiae, or tiny broken capillaries beneath the skin. And If it’s an older patient, I’ll mention they could experience a little bruising. What I’ve found is patients don’t have a problem with those potential reactions. Their perspective is basically, “That’s OK, I just want to get better.” There might be some people who are a little concerned at first, but once they realize it’s just tissue healing and nothing worrisome, they’re totally fine.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We post many treatment videos on social media and I typically hashtag them with #DrDebbie, #HawkGrips and #IASTM. I work a lot with one patient named John Parker, who owns StrengthAxis. He’s always eager to get treatment with HawkGrips, and we usually set up the GoPro camera to shoot videos when he comes in. So for anybody who follows us, keep an eye out for more videos coming your way. If you don’t follow us yet, please feel free to check out our Instagram accounts at @johnparker_ and @drdebbiebright. I’d also like to emphasize that patients don’t necessarily heal 100 percent from simply laying on my treatment table and having me do all the work. Rather, it’s important to treat their tissue while they’re doing the activity that’s causing them pain or the athletic movement they’d like to enhance. It’s treatment during active, loaded and proprioceptive range of motion that produces the greatest gains in pain reduction and strength due to neurological awakening of the tissue. Soft tissue manipulation should always be movement-based and sport-specific.
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