Jen Esquer: Doctor of Physical Therapy
Interviewed by Women Who Fight
You are a very successful private sports therapist, talk us through your journey.
As cliché as it sounds, I followed my passion. I worked in a private practice immediately after graduating DPT school. It was great, and I continued learning, but as my following on social media grew, the amount of people reaching out to me also grew. People were reaching out to offer me business opportunities through social media, but many were reaching out just to find out how they could work with me personally. Eventually, people started paying cash to the clinic just to work with me. One day, after a magazine shoot, I realized if I continued to work at the office, I could miss out on bigger opportunities to collaborate with magazines or other companies. I also knew I had a career to fall back on if I needed to come back to a clinic. So, I decided to take a leap of faith to build my own clientele and create my own schedule. My intention was not to make money, it never has been. My intention in quitting was to continue opening other doors of possibility in my career and seeing if I could spread my message and impact more people. Once I quit, to my surprise, my schedule quickly filled up. I was suddenly seeing 6-8 clients 5-6 days/week. I rented space out of a gym and got clients through word of mouth or social media. Once I decided I wanted to expand my reach and help more people worldwide through online programs, I had to take a step back from in person care. I went down to 3 days/week to focus on learning online marketing, then to 2 days/week and now I currently treat 1 day/week. I still have a passion for helping clients in person but making a difference worldwide through empowering others to take care of their own bodies has currently been my focus.
What challenges have you faced?
When I first started out, I needed to learn what program would be best for documentation, what consent forms I needed to keep me within my legal rights as a clinician, and how to write SuperBills appropriate for out-of-network care in case a client asked. Through help with friends and consulting others, I quickly managed to get this all rolling. Documentation is still tedious and my least favorite part of the job, but it is necessary. With continual content creation through my social media presence, to say I am not marketing would be silly. Of course, I am fortunate to not have to pay for FB ads or market to MDs for business, but I am constantly marketing my brand and my expertise daily through Instagram.
What sort of injuries are you working with? Is there a difference in injuries for men and women?
I work mostly with people who suffer from chronic pain, such as, low back pain, nagging knee pain, neck pain and thoracic outlet syndrome. Martial artists typically suffer from hip, knee or shoulder injuries. There is not much of a difference between men and women in terms of injuries that I treat. Recovery is not only different man to woman, it is different person to person. Some people respond quickly to treatment within only a few sessions after understanding their bodies and others take a bit longer to get back in balance. Either way, with consistency in home exercises, there is always a good recovery.
Muscular imbalance is affecting athletes’ performance. How would you recommend to work on those? Is it simply a case of working the other side more in training?
The body will never be in perfect balance. The inside of our bodies (our organs) are all out of place, I’m not sure why we expect the outside (muscle/joints) to be perfectly symmetrical. In order to find a more efficient balance within our bodies, we must move into and out of the dysfunction. The nervous system (brain) will find a point of reference that will be more “symmetrical” when explored through both ranges of motion. Just as well, fascial lines (lines of connective tissue overlying the muscles) run vertically and through spirals along the body. This means that a shoulder issue can be stemming from the foot on the opposite side of the body. In order to improve movement, dysfunction and imbalances, we must examine the body as a whole. Each case is unique to that person.
Strength using weights/machines or strength using body-weight/ plyometrics? Which one would you recommend? Following an injury? (i.e handstand or shoulder-press?)
It depends! Following an injury, often times it is helpful to use machines to offload the affected area or weights to target a certain muscle group in early stages of healing. As the body progresses, body weight, heavier weights for full body lifting and plyometrics are all great ways to progress the body back to full strength and function. Although, again, I would say there is no “one way” or rehabbing or strengthening anything. The answer is always “it depends” as it depends on the injury, the reason and the “why” for each exercise.
Are you following a general/universal discipline for optimal posture or are you treating each person differently?
By this question, I think you know the answer. Each person must be treated differently. Unless you work the same job, do the same hobbies, sit, stand and walk the same way and have the same life stressors… you should be treated differently. Posture does not always determine pain. I would actually say it hardly does. There is also no such thing as static posture. Our bodies are in constant motion, even when we think they are still, there is a slight sway.
From the standpoint of the average person who regularly trains but doesn’t really stretch, and is noticing a decrease in mobility, how hard is it to regain mobility? What would it take to achieve it?
For every person, improving mobility begins with consistency and finding ways of taking into the central nervous system to reduce stress (breathing). Again, this answer comes with a… “it depends.” If this person experiences a lot of stress in their everyday life, it will actually have a negative effect on improving mobility. For someone who experiences very low stress, good breathing and moves regularly, they will most likely improve mobility relatively quickly.
Any advice for people dealing with knee injuries? Lower back problems?
Of course! Stop focusing on the pain area and start assessing other areas of the body that are restricted. When we examine our bodies on a very easy joint-by-joint model, we find the areas that should be more mobile are the upper back, the hips and the ankles. The areas that typically fall into pain are the areas above or below those areas (neck, low back, knees and feet). So, instead of just focusing on that area that is painful, address the areas directly above and below the area. Changes are they are not very mobile and therefore, causing increased strain and tension at the painful area. Massages and foam rolling are temporary. Movement is the fix. This is why my program, The Mobility Method, covers 26 self-assessments that people can go through to figure out their own areas of restriction and ultimately help themselves out of pain!
What are your thoughts about yoga?
Yoga is great, but again it is general. My program allows people to dive into their bodies to truly understand where their restrictions are and the specific exercises that would be best for their own restriction. Just as well, mobility covers not only the passive keys to stretching, but the active competent as well to improve function and carry over into everyday life that not all yoga covers. Yoga is a great way to tap into breath and relaxation, but like most classes, it is general and not individualized to one person’s needs.
There are so many different types of Yoga, which one would you recommend and why?
I recommend people going into whatever class feels best for their bodies. There is no “one type fits all” which is why there are so many different types of classes. Nor would I say one is better than another. Some yoga practices are a bit extreme, and one should take caution not to force their bodies into positions they are not ready for, but in general, I would recommend people going into a class that feels safe, has a good instructor and they feel better after.