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The future of physical therapy is integrative

Urban Zen Integrative Therapy
The Urban Zen Integrative Therapy program now provides therapists at Shift's enlightened physical therapy practice


This spring, one of New York City’s leading physical therapy practices is transforming its Union Square office into an integrative center for treatment and rehabilitation.

While integrative health has become popular with internal medicine (thanks to guru physicians like Mark Hyman and Frank Lipman), integrative physical therapy and rehab is a revolutionary new concept, says Patrick Walsh, founder of Shift Physical Therapy (formerly Performance Physical Therapy).

“We’re dealing with the physical, but also the emotional, psychological, and energetic aspects of injury,” Walsh explains. And to do that Shift will be offering complementary treatment therapies that New Yorkers are hip to, like acupuncture. “It’s not just that we now offer acupuncture or reiki, we’re creating an environment where we heal the whole person.”

This is important, says Walsh, because physical injuries and symptoms often have more than one root cause.

And it’s this philosophy that resonated with the fashion designer Donna Karan and celeb yogis Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee, creators of the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program (UZIT). The UZIT program is providing Walsh with holistic therapists trained in reiki, nutrition, yoga therapy, and essential oil therapy.

“We treat the patient and not just the illness,” says UZIT program director Gillian Cilibrasi. “This is an ideal opportunity to integrate gentle eastern healing modalities to enhance the benefits of PT.” Tri-State Acupuncture College is also providing on-site acupuncturists and bodyworkers.

So, how does an integrated PT visit work?

Say you make an appointment for some chronic back pain (which you think could be from a herniated disc, being a stress case, or doing spinal twists wrong in yoga). Your physical therapist will work with you the way any traditional therapist would.

But after a detailed intake that will delve into everything from your work life to your emotional life, they may also direct you to the acupuncture table, a reiki master, or an essential oil therapist just in the next room to help address some of the factors besides the physical ones.

It’s like having a personal wellness swat team all in once place, working together on your behalf. (And the center does take insurance, which often will cover your integrated visit.)

In the end, Walsh hopes you’ll leave feeling like you—and not just your back—were treated. Could be that’s good prevention, too. —Lisa Elaine Held

Shift Physical Therapy (formerly Performance Physical Therapy), 95 University Place, 8th floor, Union Square, 212-604-1316,