Fox Valley Orthopedics: A Stronger Approach to Physical Therapy

The newest additions to this orthopedic practice don’t have any doctors, and that’s by design. Here, patients still get the treatments they need but in a more convenient location.

Bill Strawniak, PT

When you’re on the road to recovery after an injury or a joint replacement, probably the last thing you want is to drive long distances to see your doctor and your physical therapist.

That’s why Fox Valley Orthopedics (FVO), one of the region’s leading orthopedic specialty practices, is growing to meet its continually widening patient base. This summer, the practice opened freestanding physical therapy clinics at 13308 Village Green Dr. in Huntley and 1444 N. Farnsworth Ave. on the east side of Aurora.

“Huntley is our first standalone clinic, where there are no physicians under-roof, meaning there are no physicians on site,” says Bill Strawniak, PT, co-director of physical therapy for Fox Valley Orthopedics Physical Therapy. “One of the major reasons we did this is that, when we started looking at our patients’ demographics, we saw many patients came from the Huntley area.”

The story was similar at FVO’s Geneva South location, which was drawing more heavily from the Aurora area. These new freestanding locations have a major advantage of being convenient for patients. “Most people don’t mind traveling 30 to 45 minutes to see their physician once a week or every few weeks,” says Strawniak. “But when you’re asking a patient to travel two to three times a week for physical therapy, they’d rather stay closer to home.”

While you won’t find physicians in the Huntley or Aurora locations, these teams of therapists remain closely tied in with the physicians and physical therapists who work out of FVO’s other facilities in Algonquin, Barrington, Elgin and Geneva. This is a critical advantage for patients, says Strawniak, because it means there’s a consistent line of communication and treatment.

“We’re all on the same EMR [electronic medical records] system, so I can see what the doctor is thinking and the doctor can see what my assessment is and how the patient is progressing,” says Strawniak. “Patients feel confident that we are all on the same team and working toward the same goals. I know much of a patient’s history on day one, including testing that may have been done or any other interventions that were explored.”

Fox Valley Orthopedics specializes in orthopedic medicine, so its physicians and therapists primarily focus on concerns related to bones and joints. Whenever there’s pain or dysfunction there – often it’s the result of injury, surgery or joint replacement – these specialists help patients to return to the lifestyle they once enjoyed.

The therapy process typically begins with a referral from a medical doctor, like those who work at FVO’s seven existing clinics. Physical therapists use their first meeting with a patient to perform an evaluation, in which they assess the source of pain and how the pain leads to functional impairments.

“We’re looking at posture, range of motion, flexibility and strength,” says Strawniak. “We then determine the major factors of their dysfunction. What specifically is driving this person into therapy?”

After the evaluation, the therapist sets out a treatment plan, often some combination of manual therapy, stretches and strengthening exercises at the clinic and at home.

In the case of a knee injury, this might start with a doctor visit to find the source of pain and/or dysfunction that prompted a referral to therapy. The therapist uses that diagnosis to craft an exercise regimen – one that’s aimed at reducing swelling and restoring motion and strength.

“It can take a while to get their function back up,” says Strawniak. “Initially, we’ll focus on reducing edema followed by restoring motion. We follow this with strengthening tailored to each patient’s goals.”

Over the course of several weeks, the patient goes from non-weight bearing exercises to standing, walking, running and biking. The most successful patients back up their clinical experience with a regimen of easy stretches at home – and a good dose of self-motivation.

“Patients often have a specific goal that they want to attain,” says Strawniak. “When patients are motivated, they tend to be very compliant with their home exercise program. It’s really a partnership between the patient and the therapist, and this leads to great outcomes.”

FVO’s new Huntley clinic, located in a shopping center next to Jewel, and the Aurora clinic, located in an office complex, are outfitted with a range of equipment to help patients regain function. At a row of exam tables, they sit or lie while stretching their muscles. They may also use light weightlifting, a treadmill, stretchy therapy bands or their own weight to help regain strength and movement. Additional tools, like the NuStep, can help, too

“Patients love the NuStep,” says Strawniak. “It’s a little like a sitting elliptical machine. People who have limited knee range motion after surgery need a certain range of motion to use a bike. But we can get them on the NuStep sooner and adjust it to their abilities.”

In addition to a private treatment room, both clinics also offer supporting services to help relieve pain. Therapists may use Kinesio Tape, an elastic adhesive tape that uses the body’s natural healing system to help decompress a joint and reduce fluid buildup. FVO also has the ability to practice dry needling, which Strawniak says is similar to acupuncture, except that this approach stimulates muscles to help relieve knotted or compressed tissue.

The FVO physical therapy team is skilled at a variety of approaches, including strength training, massage, heat and ice applications, and joint mobilization to address everything from chronic pain and joint conditions to injury recovery, prosthetic training and conditions like plantar fasciitis.
Because FVO’s specialty lies in bones and joints, you won’t find patients with neurological conditions. But you will find people recovering from a joint replacement surgery, which includes an increasingly younger population, due to shifting philosophies on this operation.

Whereas 20 years ago, the physician would have told an active patient in their upper 50s to wait 10 years, a combination of new techniques and improved materials have made it easier to say yes, according to Strawniak.

“There were all sorts of precautions doctors would put on joint replacements – oh, you shouldn’t run, you shouldn’t ride a bike,” he adds. “Most, but not all, physicians are throwing that out the window and saying, ‘If you want to run, then run, and if something changes we’ll address it down the road.’

With the Huntley and Aurora locations complete, FVO is already planning for its next big thing. Plans are underway to open a clinic that houses physicians and physical therapists under one roof in Yorkville, a fast-growing corner of Kendall County located about 8 miles southwest of Aurora.

“It’s an area we’re not directly servicing right now,” says Strawniak. “We definitely see patients from that area, so it’ll be nice that they can stay closer to home now. We anticipate this will be one of our busier clinics once it’s up and running.”

For now, though, Strawniak is excited to see how these freestanding clinics are already changing the paradigm.

“It’s easy and convenient here,” he says, as he surveys the Huntley therapy gym. “We’re really looking forward to seeing how much this expands demand in this area, and seeing where it might grow, too.”