Michal Niedzielski, PT, PRC
Michal graduated with a Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy from the Academy of Physical Education in Warsaw, Poland in 1992. Prior to starting the Physical Therapy Center of Horseheads in 1996 with Joyce Wasserman, Michal worked as a physical therapist for the Arnot Ogden Medical Center. In 2007, Michal earned the designation of Postural Restoration Certified (PRC). He then returned to Poland to introduce concepts of Postural Restoration to hundreds of students and physiotherapists.
Can you give us a brief history of your background and how you became interested in the PRI?
In 1990 my best friend died in a car accident. While struggling with this loss I became involved with sports activities for the disabled. One of my colleagues created a fencing program for people in wheelchairs and invited me to collaborate in this effort. My engagement with this program provided me with the opportunity to become the director of a rehabilitation center for the disabled at the Academy of Physical Education in Warsaw where I received my MPT degree in 1992. The sports program for the disabled grew to eventually include 6 sports and a curriculum for all physical therapy enriched by active rehabilitation through ADLs.
While I did not know it at the time, my first experience with the theories associated with PRI occurred in my junior year of study in a Pathobiomechanics class taught by Professor Seyfried. In this class he assessed a woman with chronic right knee pain. After observing her gait he requested that she remove her right shoe and then asked an assistant to place tissue paper under her right metatarsal head. As a result the patient was immediately able to walk pain free. This experience was the first hint to me that there was more to physical therapy than what I knew at the time.
In 1994 I moved to the United States with the anticipation that I might find progressive physical therapy methodologies. I quickly realized that physical therapy in America centered on the conventional and conservative approach of treating symptoms which I now call the 2D (2-dimensional) approach. I began to ask myself: what is fundamental to human function? What are the principles associated with walking, standing, running, etc? What then are valid functional tests? And, ultimately, how do I define physical therapy? These questions invigorated me.
Finding the answers to these questions brought me to PRI.
You’ve attended several PRI courses. Can you tell us about your first course and your initial impression of the material?
In 1996, Joyce Wasserman and I opened the Physical Therapy Center in Horseheads, NY. While looking for a knee table for quad sets a representative from EMPI showed us Protonics and allowed us to test the device for ten days. We quickly realized the effectiveness of the Protonics device and inquired with Inverse Technology regarding the history and origin of this product. They invited me to a weekend seminar in Rome, NY where I met Ron Hruska. In meeting Ron, I found an individual who had been asking the same questions that I had been asking. But more importantly, I found somebody who had revolutionary answers. By the end of the weekend I was convinced that the PRI curriculum would provide me with the methodologies to practice the type of physical therapy that would take me to from 2D approaches to “integrated 3D (3-dimensional) therapies”.
Who have your mentors been over the years?
When I was in high school I was generally more interested in sports than academics. One of the topics that I was the least interested in was physics. A family friend, Mr. Chabik, who was a college physics teacher, took it upon himself to show me how physics impacts our lives every day. He taught me to look at problems in their entirety, to uncover what is important first, and to direct problem solving at the causal agents not at the symptoms. The seed that was planted by Mr. Chabik was cultivated during my time at the Academy of Physical Therapy in Warsaw with Professor Seyfried, this continued to grow during my years in the US and finally came to fruition after meeting Ron Hruska and my colleagues at PRI. Today, I consider integrated physics and more specifically “integrated 3D therapies” as the cornerstone of my physical therapy practice.
Which areas of patient care excite you most?
Like many of you, I am energized by making a difference in someone’s life. One of the truly unique benefits of the physical therapy occupation is the opportunity to make profound and lasting changes in your patient’s health and well-being. I consider this to be the reason that my work motivates me every day.
In 2007, you earned the designation of Postural Restoration Certification through the PRI. What made you decide to go through this process?
Both my initial and subsequent interactions with Ron opened my eyes to the possibility of teaching PRI methodologies. Certification was the key milestone in this endeavor. The curriculum also allowed me to deepen my knowledge related to biomechanics and osteopathy.
Has becoming certified presented any new opportunities you feel you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
Yes, first I would suggest that completing the PRI curriculum broadened my understanding of physical therapy implications to areas beyond what I believed to be the more typically accepted limits of our field. In addition, completing the PRI curriculum has given me the chance to teach Myokinematic Restoration in Poland this March.
In March you and Gregory Parfianowicz are scheduled to teach the Myokinematic Restoration course for the first time ever in Poland. How did this opportunity come about?
I introduced Gregory to PRI and he quickly developed a strong interest in the curriculum. Working with Ron, Gregory and I built a project plan with the objective of introducing PRI concepts to Poland. Our first step involved introducing PRI through a set of four seminars conducted in March 2008 in four different Polish cities. This March we will conduct the first module of our Polish PRI curriculum. Our hope is to follow up with annual offerings that will allow participants to become fully certified in PRI. Ultimately we hope to create a European center for PRI.
What do you ultimately hope to see as a result of all your work in Poland?
We see the potential for European universities to be early adopters of PRI studies and methodologies. As this occurs we would further anticipate the need for ongoing European research to study PRI concepts. The European adoption of PRI will build exposure through research publications and increased graduate representation in our field.
Do you have any professional plans for this year? Any big projects you plan to work on?
Right now Gregory and I are highly focused on the delivery of the Polish curriculum and the development of the European center. Our efforts after March 2009 will be focused on the March 2010 course offering.