I know this is going to seem like a shocker, but I don’t know everything.
Some of you need to stop laughing so hard. It is no secret that I am not an expert. I may be a “professional patient,” but this is definitely a journey, and I ain’t arrived yet. I do, however, have the best Sherpa in the world kicking my butt up the mountain, and she is an expert. I thought it was about time you got to know her.
Jennifer Kyritsis Balducci, PT, MSPT, Cert. MDT is 41 years old, has been married for five years, and lives with her husband and her cats outside of Annapolis, MD. She has been in practice for 17 years, and if you must know, is a diehard Red Sox fan (sorry, hon). I met Jennifer when she was working for another practice, but this past year, she broke out on her own and started One. Physical Therapy Fitness & Wellness.
I caught her in-between patients to get the skinny on her…she never stops moving, so this is harder to do than it might seem.
MM: What made you want to become a Physical Therapist?
Jen: When I was 16 I tore my ACL. I had to do physical therapy, and I thought to myself “You get paid to do this? Best job ever!” I’ve known ever since that this was my calling.
MM: What is the best thing about your job?
Jen: Every day people thank me for helping them get better, feel less pain, or get stronger, just for doing my job. There is no better feeling in the world.
MM: You opened your own practice this year, which was a big move for you. Tell me about the One. philosophy.
Jen: This is one place for everything. We wanted to create a bridge between traditional PT, and a place people could go when they’ve completed traditional PT to stay healthy, and continue to meet health and wellness goals in a safe environment. Often people feel intimidated to go to traditional gyms, or they just aren’t physically ready yet, and they injure themselves and cause setbacks in their recovery. Or, there are people like you who have chronic issues, and struggle to avoid injury in a traditional gym. Our classes are run by PTs and people with years of experience.
MM: I love coming to One. I feel very safe here. What message are you most passionate about getting out to people?
Jen: That people do have control over their body, and what they eat and the choices they make directly translates to their health outcomes. Genetics are the gun, but the life choices that we make are the bullets that load the gun.
MM: You see a lot of connective tissue disorders, and are an expert in hypermobility: how do you recognize it?
Jen: Yes, I have worked with people with hypermobility for 17 years, and have made it a point in my practice to recognize and treat this unique condition. If a person has a history of chronic subluxations, or dislocations, this is the most obvious sign, but not everyone experiences that. You didn’t, and you’re on the severe end of the spectrum, so it’s not always the most telling sign. I can tell by looking at someone’s posture, like watching someone standing hanging out on their joints, their hip sticking out, knee locked, flat feet, etc. If they curl up in a ball when in a chair, or by seeing their chin jut forward because their neck is too weak to hold their head up. And then of course, there is a history of frequent headaches, whiplash, and neck trigger points that accompany that. It is a complicated syndrome: often there is a loss of movement, or range of motion, due to chronic injury of the hypermobile joints.
MM: Yes, I was very inflexible when you found me, and now, all of that hyperflexibility is coming out. I am so grateful that you recognized what I was, after years of falling through everyone’s cracks. You very discreetly approached me at a party. I don’t know what I would have done had we not had that connection. So, what do you most want people to know about managing their hypermobility?
Jen: The number one key to preventing pain is correcting their posture. We do this by using orthotics, lumbar support, trigger point therapy, and other methods as needed. Then slowly, steadily strengthening their body by using particular core stabilizing techniques like Pilates and avoiding injuring themselves by doing inappropriate activity, like Yoga.
MM: Wait, can you explain the Yoga thing a little more? I know there are going to be some disappointed people who read this and think “but Yoga is so good for me, and I love doing it! And I can’t live without it! It is a way of Life – a spiritual practice!” Why give the blanket statement that hypermobile people should avoid Yoga?
Jen: As I explained, many hypermobile people are inflexible and weak. They may seek Yoga out to increase their flexibility and core strength, but as they become more flexible, they are, in fact, increasing their risk for subluxation, injury and weakness. Yoga is wonderful for many “collagen normal” people, and there are those on the hypermobile spectrum who may be able to consistently stay within the safe range of movement during their practice. However, in my experience, it causes more harm than good, especially in newly diagnosed people who have not addressed their underlying movement dysfunction with a physical therapist before. What is a safer form of exercise for these people is Pilates, which keeps the spine neutral and supported while they are developing core stability.
MM: I totally get that. Yoga made me feel better for a few years, and then I started to have mysterious sharp pains whenever I would do it as I got better at it. I now know I was subluxing joints. It was very hard for me to give it up, but I wanted to get strong, and I promised myself when I started rehab with you that I would be very coachable and do what I was told. Last question: what’s your favorite thing about me? (Ha ha)
Jen: That you do what you’re told! (Ha ha) Seriously, though, you are one of the most dedicated patients I have ever had. I love your brutal honesty, and how you always stand up for what you believe in, your intelligence, your integrity, and your love for your family. You are a great Mom, and now you are sharing all of your knowledge, so that everyone can benefit from all of your hard work.
MM: *blush!* Our knowledge.Thank you so much for your time.
Jen: Thank you!