Signature Rehab Tools Key To Hamstring Fix

Physical therapists bring 70+ years of experience to  comprehensive evaluations.

Even for an accomplished equestrian such as Thomas Yockel, riding a spooked horse can be a harrowing experience. As Thomas explains, it’s akin to driving a car you’ve suddenly lost control of.

Thomas Yockel

“I was out on the Fourth of July riding with a group through the woods when my horse, Chester, got spooked,” says Thomas, who does a lot of trail riding as well as some cow sorting with Chester on a nearby cattle ranch.

“I’m not sure what spooked him, but he suddenly took off on a quick run and ran into some other horses. It was there that he somehow got kicked. When that happened, he made a quick right turn that almost threw me out of the saddle.


“He then started running again, and as we were heading for a tree I decided to bail out. As I came off the horse, though, my right leg got caught up in the saddle and I wound up falling really awkwardly to the ground.”

Thomas, 71, fell so hard that he couldn’t stand up, much less walk. He was transported out of the woods on a four-wheeler and later taken to a nearby hospital by his wife.

At the hospital, doctors ran tests to determine the extent of Thomas’ injuries. Miraculously, they found only bruised ribs and a soft tissue injury to his right leg that the doctors didn’t identify.

That soft tissue injury was pretty bad, though, because it was preventing Thomas from walking without excruciating pain. As a result, Thomas was advised to seek physical therapy. Based on experience, he went to Regional Rehab, the practice of Charles C. Donley, PT, and Paul Ernandes, PT, PhD.

“I chose Regional Rehab because my wife went there a year before after suffering a severe stroke,” Thomas relates. “Her speech therapist recommended them, and they were great. They did such good work with her, I said, That’s where I want to go, too.

Assess the Whole Patient

Charles and Paul take the concept of comprehensive care to a new level by looking beyond the primary complaint and individually evaluating each patient as a whole.

“Once we’ve each completed our individual assessments, we share our findings with each other,” explains Charles, founder of Regional Rehab. “One question we always ask each other is, Do you see anything else here besides the primary complaint that requires our attention?

“We put our 70-plus years of experience together to ensure we’re doing everything we can to help each patient in every way possible. Those comprehensive evaluations and collaborations are among the biggest keys to our success.”

“This is by far the best rehab facility I’ve ever been to.” – Thomas

In taking this approach with Thomas, Charles and Paul quickly discovered the soft tissue injury preventing Thomas from walking without excruciating pain was a torn right hamstring.

“It didn’t take us long to figure that out,” Paul explains. “First of all, the pain he presented with in the back of his right leg strongly suggested that his hamstring was injured. Then he told us he heard a pop back there when he fell off the horse.

“That is a very important assessment because anytime a patient tells us they heard a pop, it means something probably snapped. There was also a lot of bruising in the area, so after learning all that, it was just a matter of finding where the tear was.”

Paul found the tear by simply feeling the back of Thomas’ leg, which was black and blue from the middle of his thigh to below the knee. The therapist then put together a treatment plan using two of Regional Rehab’s signature tools.

One is the Class IV deep tissue therapeutic laser. This device uses wavelengths of red and near-infrared light to stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal damaged cells. It does this by triggering a release of nitric oxide, which removes congestion and swelling, promotes healing, reduces discomfort and increases blood circulation.

The other is the HIVAMAT® 200 deep oscillation device. The HIVAMAT creates gentle impulses that relax muscles and penetrate all tissue layers to remove inflammatory byproducts from the cells that cause pain but are not part of the cells’ natural makeup.

“The Class IV laser, in particular, is an impressive and versatile tool,” Charles notes. “We use it for burn and wound patients as well as for all the musculoskeletal issues we typically treat, such as acute, chronic and postoperative pain.”

The Class IV laser and HIVAMAT are part of a protocol that typically includes stretching, exercises for balance and range of motion, as well as manual therapy. That part of the protocol was a critical part of Thomas’ treatment plan.

Better All The Time

After a bad fall, Thomas is riding again.

In addition to being taught an array of exercises that allowed him to rebuild flexibility in his hamstring, Thomas was also given range-of-motion treatments that helped to lengthen his hamstring and keep the scar tissue mobile.

The bulk of those treatments were provided by physical therapist assistants Maribel Aliaga, PTA, and Brandi Girard, PTA, who note that the aim is to alleviate tightness and pain. In Thomas’ case, the sessions with Maribel and Brandi worked wonders. After a few weeks, Thomas went from barely being able to walk to walking comfortably without pain.

“As soon as I started doing the exercises, I started feeling better right away,” Thomas enthuses. “Now, I’m up and walking again without any issues, and I’m back riding again. It’s all thanks to the good folks at Regional Rehab.

“This wasn’t the first time I’ve had to do physical therapy. I’ve had to go through it a few other times in my life, but this is by far the best rehab facility I’ve ever been to. The therapists, Brandi and Maribel, are great. I’ve never met any who are better.

“And with Paul, it wasn’t just a matter of, Do this and follow that. He was constantly evaluating me and making changes to my treatment depending on how well I was recovering or if he decided I needed to do something different that would provide better results.

“Like I said, the staff at Regional Rehab is just outstanding. I absolutely recommend them to anyone, 100 percent.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photo by Jordan Pysz. mkb



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    • Regional Rehab

      Regional Rehab's ultimate goal is to enrich people’s lives by helping to enhance their physical and mental well being, creating an atmosphere of quality care and optimum healing with a loving touch.... Read More

    • Charles C. Donley, PT

      Charles C. Donley, PT, is the owner of Regional Rehab. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy, graduating cum laude, from the University of Pittsburgh. He served on the board of the Hernando County United Way, is a d... Read More

    • Paul Ernandes, PT, PhD

      Paul A. Ernandes, PT, PhD, joined Regional Rehab in April 2018. He previously was director of physical therapy at Vitality Physicians and Rehab and spent 10 years as director of rehabilitation at Oak Hill Hospital in Brooksville. He has also ... Read More