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Getting to know your neighbor: Creekside Physical Therapy offers fitness and fun

HAPPY TO HELP YOU –– Therapists Tom Ciancio and Ellen Wilson pose in front of the open floor plan of Creekside Physical Therapy. Photos by Lizz Schumer.
COLLINS –– Ellen Wilson of Collins said she wanted to stay in the community where she grew up. She still lives on the farm where she was raised, surrounded by the people she has known all her life.

So began Creekside Physical Therapy, a practice Wilson opened in a small storefront in Gowanda where Tim Hortons currently is. The business moved to Route 62 in Collins several years ago, to serve the locals Wilson grew up with, as well as patients from farther afield, who come to the “building in the middle of a corn field” for the one-on-one supervised physical therapy and fitness program Wilson and her staff offer.

Creekside’s three physical therapists, two assistant physical therapists, one certified personal trainer and one physical therapist aide offer a range of services for an equally wide range of patients, varying in age from 13 – 92 years old. Wilson said the practice serves a “high concentration” of orthopedic and orthoscopic therapy patients, although the practice offers neurological and vestibular therapy, as well.

The practice recently brought on Tom Ciancio, who comes off a stint as the director of rehabilitation services at Lakeshore Hospital.

“There’s lots of politics in administration,” Ciancio said, when explaining why he made the move to Creekside. “I wanted to get back into working with patients, so I gave Ellen a call.”

Ciancio, who brings with him 24 years in the field, offers his own experience with vestibular therapy to the practice, further expanding Creekside’s therapeutic capabilities.

“We’ve seen a lot and been exposed to a lot,” Wilson said. She brings 28 years of experience to the practice and said that most of the knowledge she and her staff have gained comes from working with patients, not sitting in a classroom. “You can’t get a lot of this knowledge out of a book. It takes a trained eye,” she said.

“We focus on functional strengthening,” Wilson said, noting that she and her team use exercises that build the range of motion necessary for an individual’s profession or lifestyle.

PEDAL HARDER –– Wilson chats with Sharon Hartlieb, on a seated elliptical machine, which Wilson said is useful for patients with ankle injuries and balance difficulties.

“If someone’s a bus driver who wants to get back to work, they need to be able to pull a certain amount of weight. We work on that,” Wilson explained. In addition, Creekside offers a fitness program to local volunteer firefighters at a reduced rate, to help those individuals build strength in the areas most useful for their line of work.

“We really appreciate our firemen and always welcome them. If these people are going to be fighting fires, we want them to be fit. We adapt the exercises to what they’re going to be doing,” Wilson explained.

“When a patient comes in, we evaluate their needs. Our philosophy is, we’re going to give people a program they can do. [Physical therapy] isn’t going to help if people can’t come in and exercise. We try to make it so they can do it, to get through it without suffering. We try to make it as easy as possible.”

Wilson explained that her staff members try to foster a friendly, fun-loving environment with “good care and a little fun, too” that can help patients find the best fitness plans for them, from pre-surgery preparations through surgery recovery and after their PT tenure has ended. That includes a fitness program for customers who may not need intensive physical therapy, but want to exercise in a manner that is effective for them, under the supervision of professionals who can help them stay safe, without putting a dent in their wallets.

PICK YOUR PLEASURE –– Creekside is equipped with recumbent bikes, steppers, treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, an upper-body ergometer and multiple strength-training machines. Photos by Lizz Schumer.

“We get everyone on the equipment, from people in wheelchairs to the fully ambulatory,” Wilson said. “Sometimes people come in here and they’re afraid, because they don’t know what they can do. We help them feel better about it, to feel good about what they can do.”

The fitness program kicks off with a one-on-one consultation with Wilson or one of the other therapists, to design a program. After the patient is cleared with his or her doctor, Wilson’s staff will supervise a workout plan for that individual. Unlike a regular gym, Creekside’s payment plan is on a punch-card basis, rather than a monthly or yearly membership, and the staff is on hand to help with form, techniques and any specialized health concerns participants may have.

“We try to do the best for our patients, without stressing their wallets or themselves,” Wilson said. “There should be no pain with exercise. Muscle burn, tiredness, yes. But if you’re doing a deep squat and your knees hurt, that’s not good.”

Although Wilson said she and employee Brenda Overhoff “redesigned this place every other day” before the new building opened, she said the open floor plan the business employs helps everyone work together, including both staff members and patients.

We have a big, open area so people can encourage each other. Maybe you’re getting ready to have knee replacement surgery, and someone here has already had it. I’ve never had a knee replacement, so you might be more willing to listen to encouragement from another patient who’s been there. Patients come in here and they’re stronger [for surgery] and less fearful, too,” she explained.

Creekside Physical Therapy averages 15 – 20 new patients per week and provides approximately 120 – 160 treatments each week, although Wilson said most of the business’s advertising is done “by word of mouth” locally.

“We won’t treat anyone if we know we can’t do them justice,” said Wilson, who has an orthopedic concentration. While Creekside does offer a variety of PT services, Wilson said the business is not equipped for pediatrics, wound care, or specialized pediatric care for kids with developmental disabilities.

COME SLALOM AWAY –– Therapist Brenda Overhoff demonstrates a pro-fitter machine.

The most important aspect of her business, according to Wilson, is the people she has grown to know and love, over the years.

“When you’ve been in the business this long, you get very attached to your patients. It’s not just Patient A and Patient B. We really care,” Wilson said. “It’s very important to me to stay local. I think we go above and beyond the standard.”

That is one reason Wilson said her office keeps longer hours than most medical facilities; so that patients can come after school, after work or whenever it is convenient for their schedules, one reason many local people choose Creekside for PT care.

“In New York state, patients have the right to direct access,” Wilson noted. Although many insurance companies still require a doctor’s referral, patients now have the right to seek a PT consultation independently, without a doctor’s order, which Wilson said ensures the quickest, most effective care possible. She said that “people rarely get a chance to sit in our waiting rooms,” and that the practice tries to get patients through their doors within 24 hours, if the patient’s schedule allows.

“We try to be accommodating. Our patients are already inconvenienced by their injury; we don’t want to inconvenience them any further,” she noted.

“[Direct access] has helped a lot of patients who can’t get in to their doctors [in a timely manner]. People have a choice of where they want to go, what’s the best place for them. With us, people can choose to stay local. There are so many reasons for that: the price of gas, weather, elderly people who can’t travel far.”

That commitment to supporting the local community stretches beyond the walls of her business, Wilson said.

“Being in a small town, I try to do all of my business locally. When you treat your neighbors well, you support each other,” she said.

“I think we have some great people in this area and you don’t have to travel far to get really great services, really great care.”

Creekside Physical Therapy is located at 14318 Route 62 in Collins and can be reached at 532-8129 for specific hours, questions and more information.


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