Oliver worked with both the general population of Waitsfield and surrounding areas, as well as the student athletes at the academy. Working in this setting, Oliver treated a wide variety of injuries from chronic back pain to post surgical ACL rehabilitation. In December of 2005, Oliver’s interest in biomechanics and movement patterns led him to become one of the first twelve therapists in the country to be certified in Postural Restoration. He has presented to physicians, rehab specialists and ski coaches on this approach. Oliver has an extensive background in alpine skiing which includes: attending ski academies in Switzerland and Norway, racing for the British National Ski Team (representing them at the 1996 World Championships) and racing for the University of Vermont Ski Team. After his racing career, he coached at the Green Mountain Valley School and provided injury care and rehabilitation for the student athletes. He has treated skiers of all ages and abilities from novices to national team athletes. In April 2007, Oliver opened Inspire Physical Therapy. He lives in Essex with his wife Jessica and daughters Anna and Sarah. He enjoys skiing, biking and most other sports.
Can you give us a brief history of your background and how you became interested in the Postural Restoration Institute?
I first came to the US in 1998 to study PT and alpine ski race at the University of Vermont (I’m originally from England). After graduation I continued to combine these 2 passions by working at the Green Mountain Valley School ski academy in Waitsfield where I was able to split my time between coaching and working in the on-site PT clinic. After my first year, the PT clinic changed hands and was taken over by Jen Poulin who introduced me to PRI.
You’ve attended several PRI courses. Can you tell us about your first course and your initial impression of the material?
The first course I took was the back-to-back Myokinematic Restoration and Postural Respiration in 2003. Some of my co-workers had helped me start using PRI a few months earlier and I was very encouraged with the initial outcomes, but I had a LOT of questions. I remember being challenged with the concept of tri-planar positioning and movement. When Ron was talking about an anteriorly tilted pelvis on the left my uniplanar mentality said that this should improve hip extension not limit it. I asked the question and Ron explained that the restriction was a result of the pelvis being anteriorly tilted on the left as well as oriented to the right that caused the left hip to be positioned in relative external rotation putting tension on the left ilio-femoral ligament. This was the first time that material was presented that pulled the entire body and its multiple systems together rather than being an assortment of joints that were all supposed to co-exist independently of one another. I came back from these courses (and all subsequent courses) very excited about the new information and how it would impact my patient care. I read the manuals over and over trying to get my head around what Ron had taught.
Has PRI changed the way you practice, if so how?
Absolutely! After the first courses I took there was a period when I would treat any non-surgical patient with PRI techniques and any surgical patients with traditional stretching and strengthening. I soon found that the surgical patients would often develop “new” problems that needed to be corrected with PRI methods. Now EVERYONE gets PRI exercises. By using PRI philosophy and techniques I have enjoyed being able to give patient’s more independence in their own care. In my first year out of school I worked in a clinic that would see patient’s 2-3x/week to perform the same stretches and manual techniques over and over with very little patient participation. Now I typically see patients every 1-2 weeks and feel that I have a system in place to give them exercises that will make positive changes, re-evaluate them a week or two later and then have a clearly defined progression in place that I want to work along as goals are met. Compliance with HEP’s has also improved significantly since using PRI. If you can explain to a patient what an exercise is for and then show them objectively the changes that it makes they will do the exercise (in most cases). This was even the case with the ski academy students, most of who were living away from home.
Who have your mentors been over the years?
After the initial few courses, my commute to work with Vance Schug (who had just taken the same courses) became a time to go over PRI material. We would go over patient cases, try to reason through our understanding of the manuals/courses and apply PRI thinking to skiing. Since certification Ron, Janie and Bobbie have been my go to people whenever I have questions. I’m very appreciative of the time and advice they give.
Which areas of patient care excite you most?
I enjoy working with back/neck pain patients and with sports injuries (particularly from skiing). Within this pretty broad spectrum of injuries I get particularly excited about working with people whose injuries have become chronic and have tried many other therapies without success.
In 2005, you earned the designation of Postural Restoration Certification through the Postural Restoration Institute. What made you decide to go through this process?
After looking at the select list of the first therapists to become certified I felt pretty intimidated to even apply for certification. Then two of my co-workers Jen Poulin and Maura Guyer said that they were going to try to get certified and asked if I would be interested too. That was all the encouragement I needed. Certification made sense for a number of reasons: PRI is something that I am passionate about. I wanted to support the Institute and try to adhere to a set of standards that they have set. Having the PRI certification made sense for adding weight to anything I do to promote PRI in Vermont.
Has becoming certified presented any new opportunities you feel you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
It has given me more opportunities to present to others within the medical fields and has also brought in patients from further afield. Having the PRC updates are also wonderful for keeping up to date.
You opened up your own practice a couple years ago, tell us a little bit about your practice. What types of patients do you most often see? Who is your primary referral source? Are people familiar with Postural Restoration in your area?
I opened Inspire Physical Therapy 2 years ago. The majority of patients have either back/neck problems or sports injuries. Only a small group of patients have heard of Postural Restoration prior to beginning treatment. Our referring physicians however are starting to write Postural Restoration on their referral slips. There is even one doctor in town who warns his patient’s that I will give them exercises that look like they are out of a circus show, but to do them anyway because they work.
Do you have any other professional plans for this year? Any big projects you plan to work on?
I want to make it out to the Interdisciplinary Integration course and the PRC meeting this year. Other plans would include working to make skiing a safer sport.