Summer Sports Reboot: A Week at David Reavy's REACT Physical Therapy Studio

Steven Jackson

Get in fit form with this proven method that rehabilitates and strengthens your body.

Having trouble with your backhand or golf swing after a winter of inactivity from an injury? Chicago-based physical therapist David Reavy, whose pro-athlete-packed REACT Physical Therapy studio is expanding to New York City this fall, may be able to put you back together even better than before—and fast.

Nagging injuries rendered me a sidelined triathlete: I was unable to run or squat and had developed plantar fasciitis, a common cause of heel pain. I flew to Chicago to spend a solid week meeting with Reavy and his therapists every day; we worked on releasing and activating non-firing muscles, then did strength and power exercises to help bring my body back into balance and make me less susceptible to future injury. 

It’s a pretty simple theory: Putting pressure on the point where the muscle is tight and restricted, coupled with specific movements, loosens up the muscles, realigns the body, and restores muscular balance. The Reavy difference? His soon-to-be patented method of active release therapy works muscles in a set sequence, unlocking them to function in series, the way they’re supposed to.

He calls it the “four pillar approach”: Create mobility, stability, strength, and power. The body works reflexively—that is, it functions automatically, like computer software. Restrictions, or bugs in the software, prevent muscles from working together. 

Think of how you walk: Your left leg moves forward as your right arm swings backward, allowing your upper body to rotate around your spine. Your walking motion involves muscles from your toes all the way up your body and into your arms, all firing in sequence to create a single step. If one muscle in that series is not firing properly, others need to compensate, straining other muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and leading to imbalance and injury.

“It’s like a surround-sound system,” Reavy says. “You want all the speakers to work equally.  But if only your center channel is working, eventually it’s going to blow.”

Left, Reavy performs the first step of his method with a simple, dynamic muscle assessment to gauge muscle imbalances. Right, he assists with a self-release for the hip flexor using a lacrosse ball placed under the hip and knee at a 90-degree angle.

Reavy doesn’t simply treat injuries, which are only the symptoms of muscular dysfunction; he treats the underlying imbalance, healing the injury and preventing recurrence.

And it’s not just about recovering from injuries. “Prehabbing,” as he calls it, keeps the body stronger to allow it to function longer. Take, for example, NFL running back Matt Forte of the New York Jets. Forte credits Reavy with keeping his body in one piece despite the bone-crushing hits he receives in a game. When they first met, Forte’s hip was out of alignment, causing knee pain as his body strained to compensate. Reavy’s treatment, along with a “prehab” regimen of warm-up exercises, has kept Forte from further injury.

Dwayne Wade, another Reavy client, also had knee issues. After working with Reavy in 2008, Wade had one of his best seasons ever. He won two consecutive NBA MVP awards, and helped the U.S. Men’s Basketball team take gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Reavy performs a hamstring release. 

As for me, the sidelined triathlete? By the end of my week with Reavy, I was walking differently, breathing better, and squatting to my heels. More importantly, I was running. Five sessions and I was back. Since then, I’ve been doing my releases and exercises, and have maintained my flexibility and strength. 

My body is working reflexively, like it’s supposed to, and I’m moving easily in everything I do. I’m no pro-athlete, but David Reavy and the REACT team put me back in the game. 

For information on the four REACT Physical Therapy studios in the Chicago area, visit bereact.com

 

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