High Tech Therapy

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), May 14, 2012 | Go to article overview

High Tech Therapy


Byline: Randi Bjornstad The Register-Guard

Looks can be deceiving, but not at Tensegrity Physical Therapy, where high tech has taken much of the mystery out of traditional physical therapy.

Consider, for instance, the elite soccer player who once contacted Tensegrity owner Sean Roach and PT coach Marc Lyda for a consultation after undergoing treatment for a leg injury.

"If you just looked at her and examined her visually as she jumped off a stool and landed flat on both feet, she looked absolutely perfect," Lyda said. "But then we had her jump off the block onto a force plate connected to a computer, which showed what was actually happening with the muscles in both legs, and we could see she was compensating for the injury by landing with all of her force on her other leg."

That meant the athlete not only hadn't resolved the initial problem but also could have sustained even worse injuries later. It also meant that a targeted exercise regimen could be developed, showing her how to activate the muscles in her weaker leg while also protecting the over-compensating limb from trauma.

"I've been in coaching for over 30 years, and I've never seen anything like what this approach can offer," Lyda said. "With electromyography we can break down every movement and show the client what needs to be changed, whether for better general health or improving athletic performance."

The name of the downtown Eugene business, Tensegrity, comes from the term "tensional integrity," based on the idea that the body's skeletal and muscular systems are an integrally interconnected whole, and that a dysfunction in one area can affect parts of the body that may seem completely unrelated.

Tensegrity uses electromyography - the recording of electrical activity in muscle tissue - to diagram body movement and pinpoint muscle involvement, showing what actually happens as a person walks, runs, squats, kicks, throws or rides a bicycle. Using the technology, therapists not only can design exercises to treat straightforward joint and muscle ailments, they also can figure out if something else is actually causing the problem.

The business has a dual purpose of running a client practice as well as a nonprofit research organization to further the scientific application of electromyography, Roach said.

"We're starting a study working with 70 high school runners this summer at South Eugene High School," he said. "We will evaluate each runner at the beginning and follow them through the running season. We will catalog injuries and other data, and then we will look for relationships between injuries and biomechanical functions. Eventually, we would like grants to do this with all of the high schools in the area, to be able to predict - and prevent - injury."

Roach came to Eugene seven years ago. He has dual doctorates in physical therapy and orthopedics and sports medicine, plus extensive post-doc training in joint and soft tissue manipulation, gait analysis and strength and conditioning exercise. His wife and Tensegrity co-owner, Rachel Roach, has a master's degree in physical therapy. The staff includes seven other physical therapists and researchers.

The necessary equipment for a fully functional electromyography clinic includes a specially made treadmill, wind trainer, force plates in the floor and wireless electrodes to send signals from patients to computers - those alone cost $26,000, Sean Roach said - so the cost is prohibitive for many nonresearch clinics. …

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