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Physical therapist adjusts to pandemic life

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Snehal Tobkes has been braving the affects the coronavirus pandemic has thrown her way. Since March, it has caused a number of changes areas of wellness and fitness, including the physical therapy field.

Tobkes, who lives in Long Beach, opened Kinetic Physical Therapy in East Meadow last year. She had an office in Huntington for eight and a half years and planned to have two locations so she could expand on her programs and hire another therapist.

When the pandemic hit, she had to close her Huntington location and became a one-woman show. Until July, she only did appointments over Zoom. Most of her patients are 60 and older, but they eventually grew accustomed to their virtual meetings, she said.

“And, in a way, it has its benefits because I could see how they’re doing the exercises at home and what their setup is like,” she added, explaining that people could often do an exercise correctly in the office and then have trouble replicating it in their own living space.

“I could see how they’re doing it in their own space and help them to do it correctly,” she said. Zoom also allows her to record sessions for patients to re-watch if need be.

In person, she sees one person per hour and alternates between one of three rooms to prevent the spread of the virus.

Prior to opening her Huntington location, Tobkes was working in orthopedics for physical therapy clinics across Long Island. She was also an adjunct professor at her alma matter, New York Institute of Technology.

“Teaching is a key part of physical therapy,” she said. “When you could explain to someone what their body is doing and what the issues are, it makes it easier for them to fix them.”

When she was working in clinics, Tobkes said, she was seeing roughly four people in an hour and didn’t have the time to effectively work with them.

She employs a technique called myofascial release therapy, which involves messaging the thick layers of tissue that surround the muscle in order to isolate a person’s soreness or injury.

Once a problem is isolated, it becomes easier for her and the patient to work on alleviating it. But such a practice takes more time with a patient than she had when working at other bigger clinics.

She opened her own clinic so she could work one-on-one with her clients and spend more time focusing on what they need.

“It’s not easy to open your own physical therapy clinic on Long Island,” Tobkes said, noting that there were several in the same vicinity of her Huntington location.

To stand out, she added, “You have to find your niche.” Tobkes’ mother has Parkinson’s disease and her father has COPD. She said it was her inspiration to work in their age group and help people with similar physical conditions.