How We Started And Why We Keep Going

By Gail Braun, PT

My name is Gail Braun and I am one of the owners of Grand River Physical Therapy Specialists. This is my first time putting my thoughts out there on a blog, so please bear with me.

The year was 2000, and circumstances were setting me up to make the choice to seek a new job, or go out on a limb and start my own private practice with a close friend from physical therapy school. This was definitely Not on my bucket list, but after weeks of talking and praying Karen and I decided that the opportunity of continuing to practice therapy in my hometown was to important to both of us to not push forward. We knew how we wanted to treat patients, but needed to find the where to fit our needs. My husband kept saying, “why don’t you look at the old racquetball club”, but for some reason I continued looking everywhere but there. I had to admit a couple weeks later that he was absolutely right. We spoke with the owner, initiated the lease, started cleaning the building (sat empty for a few years), and pretty much on my 40th birthday we opened our doors! The first few years kept us extremely busy, between setting up insurances, treating patients, designing forms and more forms, fixing a leaking roof, fixing freezing pipes, and shoveling icy sidewalks. We had two therapists, a front office person, and a PT technician out in the gym. We sometimes were flying by the seat of our pants, but had a passion for helping people that seemed to keep us going. The UPS driver that delivered to us those first 3 years informed us on the day of his retirement that he thought day one we would never survive. (80% of start up businesses fail) He decided that when we were still going strong year 3, he knew that we were here for the long haul!

Fast-forward 16 years! We now have seven therapists, 2 front office people, four PT technicians, and an athletic trainer. Wow. We are responsible for 12 other people and their families. This can be scary, and also exciting at the same time. We never actually advertised to fill these positions, but somehow the right people kept showing up at the exact time that we needed them. I like to think this is something that Karen and I caused to happen, but we truly feel there was a higher power involved in putting together this team! We are therapists and support staff who come from a variety of settings, from different backgrounds, and with different strengths and gifts, but have the common goal of working with patients to achieve their maximal potential and mobility to resume life as they envision!

People often ask what is the worst part of this job, and for me that answer is definitely the paperwork. I did not go to school to write notes 50% of my day, but I went to learn evaluation and treatment techniques to assist patients along their journey to wellness. People also ask what I like most about my job. I get to spend each day helping empower people to be the best they can be, and return them to their activities of daily living. I help promote a culture of positivity and happiness which seems to be infectious. We use hands on techniques, education, and plain old kind words to motivate and inspire people.

I am sure that we have made many mistakes along this journey, but we have made decisions from our heart, and I think that keeps us along the right path. We want to make each day better for our patients, our staff, and our community. We promise to persevere and keep evolving to meet the needs of you, our “neighbors.”


The 3 R’s

by Lisa Jonker, PT

It is that time of year again! The kids are headed back to school and learning all about the 3 R’s – Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. As a Physical Therapist, I also teach about the 3 R’s, however, mine are a bit different – Recliners, Riders and Rest. My husband has a passion for my 3 R’s. He desperately wants all of them, but I have held my ground and our home only has one. Which one is it? Here is my view.


Recliners, ever the chosen seat in the living room. The comfortable lounge for relaxing, watching TV, sleeping, and hanging out with our phones, tablets and other tech devices. The valued chair of many that I do not have and here is why.

forward headMost recliners are large and overstuffed causing your head to be in front of your shoulders. To be in correct posture your ear should be right over the tip of your shoulder, if it is not, the strain to your upper back increases by 10-20 pounds and can result in neck and upper back pain.


While sitting you should have a small inward curve to your low back. A common sign of poor lumbar (low back) posture is pain in the low back or hips after sitting > 30 minutes. Sitting sitting postureincreases the pressure in the low back area and if you are unable to maintain that inward curvature the result is even more pressure. Check your chairs. Is your head over your shoulders and do you have an inward curve? If so, you are fine, but if you have pain when coming to stand or if you have pain down your leg after sitting for awhile, then you are not in the proper alignment. Rule of thumb for all sitting: Do not sit for more than 30 minutes at a time without getting up to move around for a couple of minutes.

My husband thinks he wants a Recliner. If you saw his posture while sleeping on the couch, you would probably go out an buy him one yourself. Fortunately he is married to a Physical Therapist who gives him “gentle advice” on postural improvement! I am not advocating to dump the Recliners you do own, but maybe you need to place a small pillow or rolled up towel behind your low back to give you a better sitting position. Your back will thank you!


What is better after a long day of work with many demands than sitting by yourself in the great outdoors on your beloved Riding lawn mower? Nobody will bother you, it’s riding lawn mowerrelaxing and satisfying. Big lawns offer ample opportunity to escape from the regular daily grind, however, large lawns require a lot of sitting and usually take more than 30 minutes to cut. Like the Recliner, the 30 minute limit to sitting applies to mowing. You need to watch the lumbar spine and take frequent breaks. Often the seats on Riders are short and have very little support to the back. Can you maintain the inward curve of your lower back while mowing? The vibration of a riding lawn mower also fatigues the back muscles which can lead to slouching. Your pain may not appear while you are using the Rider, but if you have pain a couple hours after spending an extended period of time on your mower, then you can be pretty sure your mowing posture was not good.

People complain that they don’t have the money or the time to join a gym or they cannot fit a 30-45 minute walk into their day. Our lawn takes us 45 minutes to mow using our self-propelled mower. What a great opportunity for my husband (and me) to exercise once or twice a week!


At this point, I know what you are all saying, “Wow, she does not like people to sit and relax inside in their Recliners for more than 30 minutes. She is not even happy when restpeople are outside and sitting on their Riders. She makes her husband go without the 2 most important R’s there are! When does she allow Rest?” Well I do recommend Rest. Rest is the one “R” that we do have in our home. Everyday we need to Rest. We need to have consistent sleep of 6-8 hours every night. We need to Rest from doing what we do all day at our jobs. We even need to Rest if we do regular daily exercise. If you do the same activity at your job day in and day out you need to Rest those muscles that you use, exercise the ones you don’t use and stretch the ones that get tight. If you do the same exercise routine every time, you will end up with an overuse injury. You have heard that too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing. It it true! We need moderation, variety, strength, flexibility; we need balance in our lives and that is built on Rest. Rest means different things to different people. Some people read, others take a hike, I love to bake to relax.

Recliners and Riders are not inherently bad, but too much of either one can cause you harm. Rest from your Recliner and take a walk. Rest from your Rider and weed the garden. As the kids go back to school and learn their 3 R’s, I will take the one R that we have in our home and enjoy it. Our Rest this fall is sitting on bleachers watching soccer games….did I ever mention bleacher sitting…. another important sitting event to discuss for another time….I now need to Rest.

P.S. The above comments are not fully supported by the all of the GRPTS staff, no wonder my husband likes some of them better than me! 🙂