Keeping Bay County moving on the cutting edge, physical therapist goes beyond the traditional

For a little over two years, Tom Barba drove from Sanford to Bay City where he worked as a physical therapist. 
“...that was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. I started driving through Auburn and down other back roads,” says Barba. 

It's when he first noticed there weren’t any physical therapy centers in Auburn. A few short years later, he would be the one to change that. 

In addition to traditional physical therapy services, Auburn PT offers unique treatment options including dry needle treatments, free clinics for the public, and treadmills that defy gravity. 

“We listen. We listen way more than we were taught. And we allow the body to tell us what's going on with it and work towards goals of decreased pain and increased mobility,” says Barba. 

Auburn PT’s Anti-Gravity Machine 

A biomechanics researcher at NASA invented a treadmill intended to simulate gravity for astronauts. 25 years later, Robert Whalen’s son Sean used the prototype treadmill in his father’s garage for just the opposite desired outcome, weightlessness. The Anti-Gravity Treadmill, or AlterG is used for strengthening and conditioning, rehabilitation, gait training, and weight management by reducing the user’s weight by 20-80%. 

"The AlterG has allowed me to be able to run pain-free. I have back problems and running outside or on a regular treadmill is nearly impossible. The AlterG allows me to take some of the pressure from constant pounding off my back which in return allows me to run and get the same great workout in as running on regular ground." says Katie Norton, the office manager at Auburn PT. 

Dry Needling is not Acupuncture 

Dry needling is not acupuncture, although both use thin stainless steel solid needles and both are used primarily to reduce pain. 

Acupuncture focuses on how energy flows through the body and is used to alleviate pain in addition to a number of other medical ailments. Dry needling focuses on trigger points or knotted areas of muscle tissue and is used to release muscle tension, inflammation and pressure.

Now gaining popularity, dry needle treatments are only available in a few places across the state of Michigan, including Auburn PT. 

Evolve Fitness 

“We have a full fitness center, so when we see patients, we can discharge them to the fitness center where they can continue their exercises and where we are readily available. We are no longer saying good-bye to our patients. We are building relationship for the long term. They are always able to come back to us (for free) with questions if something like their shoulder is bothering them again,” says Barba, who also founded Evolve Fitness. 

Some of the members at Evolve Fitness have been going regularly since it opened. 

One of them is in his 90’s. 

Public Clinics and Continued Education 

High school students are offered the opportunity to work as a co-op working at each of Auburn PT’s three locations to gain experience in the medical field. It is where Katie Norton got her start. 

“I was a high school co-op. I was going to go for nursing and I started it and I didn’t like it and I stayed on here. For the most part, everyone has gone on to PT schools or at least the medical field,” Norton says. 

In March, little leaguers aged 8-11 will receive free one-on-one attention to learn how to minimize the risk of shoulder and arm injury through exercise and stretches. The aim is to prevent bad habits from forming. Limited to 15 students, the clinic will take place on March 20th in Essexville. In the months to come, free clinics for golf and women’s health will also be open free to the public. 

Founded in Auburn in 2003, Auburn PT currently has two other locations in Essexville and Bay City with plans to expand. Their office provides a place to heal from injury, reduce pain, and increase mobility. 

“We receive way more from our patients than we can give them," says Barba. "We can give them the gift of walking again or being pain-free, but if you ever spend a day here you would see that those patients give back so much more to us.”