grow old with me

Physical therapy with heart and soul: Part 2

A conversation with Aaron Robles


Manual Physical Therapy is outside the box of the traditional physical therapy so many of us have experienced in our lifetime. As I have mentioned, when I needed a physical therapist to strengthen me for the hip replacement surgery I am facing, I knew from past experience that I wanted a manual physical therapist. The practice and the therapist I found was John Goetz Physical Therapy in Jacksonville Beach, a franchise owned by Certified Functional Manual Therapist, Aaron Robles.

The initial evaluation was long and detailed. It involved filling out a questionnaire, and a hands-on process of Aaron determining the condition of my 77 year old body.

Sheila: “Why is the initial visit so lengthy?”

Aaron: “It’s because we want to get as complete a picture of the patient as we can in order to make a plan of care. Giving patients time to let us know the background of their injury or, say, the onset of arthritis and how it affects their life and what their goals are. Sometimes the patient’s goals and mine aren’t the same, being that the treatment can hurt or make them sore. But I emphasize that it’s necessary for their ability to move. We do some treatment on the first visit so they can begin to get out of the cycle of pain and dysfunction they’ve had to deal with.”

Sheila: “There are so many physical therapists in Jacksonville. What makes John Goetz in Jacksonville Beach different?”

Aaron:“The profession of Physical Therapy is geared to rehabilitation - getting people back to their previous function. In the past it used a lot of modalities - hot packs, ultrasound, electric stimulation, and some exercise. More recently we realized that our hands are some of our best tools, and that manual therapy promotes better function and alignment of the body for optimal performance. That’s what we dedicate ourselves to in my practice. The hands on approach to rehabilitation finds what segment of the body, whether joint or myofascial or neural dysfunction, needs help moving better. What better way to find solutions rather than just giving exercises to strengthen? I don’t think you can really understand what’s going on in a patient’s body without putting your hands on them.”

Sheila:“Do you require MRIs or X-rays before you work on someone?”

Aaron:“Patients come with them but often nothing correlates to what they are feeling. With hands on I can find the true dysfunction that’s causing their pain. I try to correlate how the patient moves, the special tests we do, and what I feel is wrong with what they say their problem is. Typically all those avenues lead to the root of the problem, and then we can help get rid of their pain and dysfunction. So often someone will bring in x-rays or scans that indicate that they couldn’t possibly have walked in. But their body says, “I can do this, no matter what the x-ray shows.”

Sheila:“How many employees do you have?”

Aaron:“I have 3 full time physical therapists, including me. One part time physical therapist, and one part time physical therapy assistant. We have weekly training clinics and I train the therapists. I also host the courses the Institute of Physical Art provides and have my therapists attend those. The IPA was founded in 1978 and promotes the use of manual therapy and education. It took me 10 years before I was certified and I am still the only Certified Functional Manual Therapist in Jacksonville. “

Sheila:“The physical setting for your practice is attractive, with those large glass windows looking out on greenery. Did you choose that purposely?”

Aaron:“Yes. It’s part of my whole philosophy of treating the patient as a complete person and not just a diagnosis. The physical facility, the aesthetics, cleanliness, tidiness are all conducive to the patient’s comfort. If things aren’t clean or are out of place, it can be distracting. If we can pay attention to folding towels, how much more will we pay attention to patients? We want all our patients to have a positive and complete experience of well being.”

Sheila:“Your receptionist is always so kind and obliging. How important is the front desk to your practice?”

Aaron:“Our receptionist is an essential part of that complete experience I want to provide for patients - not only the look of our facility, but everyone patients deal with, from the receptionist to each and every therapist. It’s a conscious effort on my part to hire someone in any position who has my philosophy about how to treat patients. Physical therapy is a whole experience - from making the appointment to working with the therapist.“

Sheila:“Is a doctor’s referral always necessary?”

Aaron: “Florida law says a doctor’s prescription is not necessary for the first 21 days. After that, a doctor’s prescription is necessary. We are governed by Insurance companies and also Medicare and their limits.”

Sheila:“Do you see people of all ages?”

Aaron: “Absolutely. We have kids as young as 5 to patients over 90. The advantage of our techniques is that they are so individualized. We create a course of treatment for their particular issues and adjust them as needed.”

Sheila:“Hands on body work with a trusted therapist, even if it’s uncomfortable, can be more than just physical therapy but a healing experience. Often patients feel they have benefited just from being touched… from having someone who knows their problems actually lay hands on.”

Aaron:“That’s one of the primary reasons I continue to do what I do. Initially I found that I had a skill and wanted to develop it. But when I heard from a patient: ‘This is the first time someone has touched my pain,’ I knew that I was doing something more than just manual therapy. I’ve come to know that putting your hands on the actual issue can be more of a confirming experience for the patient psychologically. It helps them connect with the therapist and continue to build trust. Physical problems affect their lives and not just their function. So a natural bond develops between the therapist and the patient. I’ve had some patients for many years and they will ask my advice before they buy a chair for their comfort. We have built a bond of trust.”

Sheila:“What would you like people to know about John Goetz Physical Therapy, Jacksonville Beach when they are trying to make a decision about where to go?”

Aaron:“That I will do everything in my ability to help them back to their full function and goals. I also know my limitations and we have a network of other providers to help them accomplish what they are seeking, if they need to go further. We refer to personal trainers, acupuncturists, massage therapists and doctors for pain management as well. We know the practitioners who can better address their issues if we cannot.”

Sheila: “How do most people find out about you?”

Aaron:“Mostly, referrals from physicians and word of mouth. Good news travels fast. One of my patients told me that three people who didn’t know each other recommended me. We really try to promote good will in the community with the services we provide.”

Sheila:“Is there anything else you want to add?”

Aaron:“Just that we treat everyone like family and we never forget that the injured body part is connected to a person with a mind, body and soul.”