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Sept. 20 2006 12:00 AM

Wellness centers come in many forms and are started by many kinds of professionals. There is not one particular way to create or run a wellness center. It depends on who you are, who your clients are and what you are interested in doing. The main concern is that patients utilize your services to gain total wellness.

            A perfect example of a successfully created wellness center is Sports Spine & Industrial (SSI), a physical therapy and performance training center in Greer, South Carolina. SSI was started in 2002 by three physical therapists: Amanda Tieder Somers, Lance Owens and Darlene Pope, who have varying specialties and experiences.

            Somers brought experience from working with post-op orthopedic and trauma patients as well as sports rehab, orthopedics, industrial program development and medical management. Owens worked at a physical therapy practice and has extensive experience in general post-op orthopedic rehab, functional spine rehab, foot and ankle rehab, sports medicine and industrial rehab and has also worked as an athletic trainer. Pope created her own private practice and provided services in a variety of settings including an outpatient office, acute care hospitals, nursing homes and an orthopedist's office and later became a certified clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy. These three professionals came together to create a center that provides physical therapy services along additional wellness and training programs.

            The center strives to be a leader in musculoskeletal rehabilitation, performance enhancement and injury prevention; but they also provide performance training programs to patients of all ages and ability levels. Patients of SSI can receive physical therapy services ranging from general orthopedic physical therapy to sports rehab programs and preventative rehab. The sports aspect of the center offers golf body fitness, performance training, speed and agility training, youth strength program as well as a gym membership program and athletic training services. The industrial side focuses on the acute treatment of the injured employee including ergonomic/job site analysis, job modification recommendations, functional capacity evaluations, etc.

            Somers, Owens and Pope met while working together at Vaughn, Buchanan & Shelley Physical Therapy in South Carolina and decided to come together to create a new type of center. According to Owens, all three had observed physical therapy in many different arenas and from these experiences, they crafted the center they have today.

            The goal of creating a wellness center was not the first step for these three partners. First, they focused on offering their patients the services they knew best: physical therapy. And this worked very well, with proof in the addition of two other practices in South Carolina. However, success in physical therapy was not their only goal. According to Owens, adding a fitness and wellness component onto their primary business was an idea they had worked towards. "My partners and I have been developing this concept for several years," Owens says. "We had planned this expansion from the beginning."

            And so, several months ago, SSI opened a performance training center within the practice that offers wellness services, fitness and training. "Sports Spine & Industrial is dedicated to greater wellness and greater living in greater Greer," says Owens. "Because of this commitment, we have added a state-of-the-art Training and Wellness Center to complement our physical therapy roots. Our goal is to help the citizens of Greer and the surrounding area to live fuller, healthier lives."

            Members of SSI's performance training center can utilize many programs or amenities the center offers including the assistance of wellness coaches, exercise equipment, group classes, etc. They also offer special programs and services that members can get for an extra fee. These include physical therapy, massage therapy, nutrition and disease prevention classes, wellness and fitness assessments and personal training to name a few.

            SSI's wellness programs can focus on anything the patient wants, which is usually general fitness, weight loss, group classes, nutritional education, personal training and many others. To help get desired results, SSI created a new facility to support these new goals and patients. The new center includes a full Technogym Wellness System, two pools (one for therapy and one for water aerobic classes and an Endless-Pool swim jet system), an indoor walking track, a free weight room, a plyometrics room, an aerobics room and an outdoor training field. 

            And to complete the variety of services SSI provides, the center also offers performance training for athletes of all speeds, ages, goals and agility. "Performance training means different things to different people and SSI caters to all," Owens says. "Our staff will instruct you in a program that meets your needs."


Who Uses SSI?

            Physical therapy and wellness services are not geared towards one specific type of person at SSI they treat patients of all kinds. "We have a good mix of young, high school age athletes as well as middle age and older adults," Owens states.

            Owens says that currently most patients show interest in wellness programs but only about 10% to 15% actually follow through and join. However, those that do join are finding a new way of life. "We have several members who have never exercised before, who are very positive about changing their lives," Owens says. "Many of the older members are seeing an improvement in the quality of their lives, especially those who participate in the aquatics programs."


Wellness Program

            Since the wellness program started, it has gained a great following by patients. SSI has five wellness coaches who lead the various programs the center offers. The wellness coaches have a variety of backgrounds in health, fitness and wellness, but all of them have a minimum of a bachelor's of science degree and are certified by a national organization in wellness coaching. "Each coach has a good base knowledge of general conditioning, but they each have a specialty that we highlight," Owens says.

            The wellness coaches offer a wide variety of services and programs involving fitness and health. They also help by talking about other issues concerning a patients' health. SSI's wellness coaching staff is qualified to help patients with body fat reduction, low back strengthening/back pain, injury rehabilitation, strength and endurance, sport specific training, flexibility, cardiovascular condition and stress management.

            According to SSI's Wellness Director Jarod Gauy, patients meet with a wellness coach to customize an exercise regimen that helps patients accomplish health and wellness goals depending on lifestyle, availability and personal needs.  "Your wellness coach will implement a fitness program to help make your time at SSI as productive as possible," he says. "Our staff is qualified to coach you towards your specific goals."And patients seem to be enjoying their training with the wellness coaches.  "Patients reactions to the new wellness center have been very positive," Gauy says. "Everyone feels comfortable using the equipment, regardless of their experience or workout history."


What the Future Holds for SSI

            Owens believes that SSI is only getting better as time goes on. SSI currently has a wellness center at only one of its branches but that will be changing, too. Physical therapy is the foundation of the centers and right now programs but wellness is a strong player which Owens and his partners hope to continue. "We would like to eventually expand to include more wellness programs for weight loss, senior fitness and performance training," he says.


            For more info on SSI, visit


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