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Combining physical therapy and pilates makes sense — and then Mindy Nagel went virtual

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune health reporter

Mixing Pilates into physical therapy was natural for Mindy Nagel, PT, DPT, OCS, owner of College Hill Pilates and Physical Therapy LLC. A former professional dancer of ballet and modern dance, Nagel has been practicing physical therapy for 13 years. She opened her practice in March of 2019, marking her first anniversary when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Mindy Nagel

A Doctor of Physical Therapy and a certified Pilates instructor, Nagel uses Pilates exercises in her rehab program. Once the physical therapy has healed an injury, a patient can continue to see Nagel for Pilates. This helps to keep the patient stay in shape and provides valuable insight for Nagel who knows the patient’s history of injury.

“Since I know the history of your previous injury, I can continue to help you get stronger with Pilates,” says Nagel.

Some see her just for Pilates, not having had an injury, but most of her Pilates clients had physical therapy and converted to Pilates to keep from being reinjured.

When COVID-19 closed everything, Nagel could have kept her office open, but wanting to keep her patients and family safe, she temporarily closed her practice until June 1. However, Nagel’s clients did not lose their physical therapy sessions. Nagel already had been involved in telemedicine communities and had the idea in the back of her mind. Having a good caseload of patients, she brought the idea of online video sessions to them. They embraced it. She has also been able to continue teaching a Pilates class Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. through video.

Nagel likes telemedicine.

Staying fit in person or by telemedicine.

“It is another way for people to get a chance to see me and talk to me,” she says. She likes it as a tool to screen new clients. Scheduling an online visit “you and I would talk to figure out if I can help you or if you should go somewhere else. It’s a way of saving time for you and for me, to get you in the best place for you pretty quickly.”

“I do still have some patients who are not comfortable coming in to see me because of their certain morbidities that put them at higher risk or maybe their age bracket,” Nagel says, so she continues to see them virtually. She has other patients who now have an in-person office visit every other week and check-in opposite weeks virtually.

The hybrid model is working well for Nagel. With this, exposure is limited, decreasing the risk. “I can get my hands on them [and] I check and make sure their exercises are going okay. If they have any questions about what I’ve given them to do, they can ask,” making any needed changes, Nagel says. She and patients are still getting that connection and her expertise.

“I am very much an extrovert and I love people. I love to see people, that’s part of why I love being a physical therapist because it gives me a chance to see different people all day,” Nagel says.

Seeing patients on the computer is not the same as in person, it is hard to pick up on nonverbal cues. “I prefer to see people in person but it definitely has made it so that I was still able to see my people, keep in touch with my people, and make sure that they were doing okay and staying on the right track with their rehab programs,” says Nagel.

This new model of telemedicine makes it possible to see “people who really aren’t comfortable with getting out about yet or shut away at home with no access,” Nagel says. The type of physical therapy Nagel likes to practice is, “hands-on, such as mobilizing joints, working on soft tissue structures, and just getting my hands-on people. I feel like getting my hands-on people gives me a better sense of what is going on with what’s wrong,” she says.

“That was a challenge with the telemedicine. It’s made me a better therapist because I had to think of other ways to figure out what was going on with people,” she says. Trying to figure out problems from watching or listening to descriptions helped Nagel develop and strengthen her interview skills.

“I think it’s been a good experience for me to do that.”

Nagel plans to continue with the online model somewhat.

“I will, just because it does broaden my ability to see people,” if they are not local, do not drive, or do not have access to transportation. It provides access. “I think it is helpful for that, so I’ll continue to offer it and see where it goes,” she says.

Maridith Yahl is the NKyTribune’s health reporter

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