An Idea 40 Years in the Making!
The story begins 40 years ago with Gregory S. Johnson, PT, FFFMT, FAAOMPT and Vicky Saliba Johnson, PT, FFFMT, FAAOMPT, who would eventually found the Institute of Physical Art (IPA) and develop Functional Manual Therapy® (FMT).
The Johnson’s beginnings in Physical Therapy were at Kaiser Vallejo Rehabilitation Center , an internationally renowned training program for physical therapists specializing in neurological rehabilitation. At Kaiser Vallejo they studied under Maggie Knott, PT, who is one of the co-developers of the worldwide recognized approach of PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation). Watching patients experience the life-changing impact of function-based, hands-on physical therapy inspired the Johnson’s to determine that every patient would be given the opportunity to discover their untapped potential.
The Beginning: Quality over Quantity
Throughout the 70’s and early 80’s, Gregg and Vicky Johnson continued their studies of the human body with some of the profession’s greats such as Stanley Paris, PT, PhD, Ola Grimsby, PT, PhD, Robin McKenzie, PT as well as alternative approaches such as Rolfing, Feldenkrais, Aston Patterning, Trager Approach, and the Alexander Technique. For the Johnsons, the gap between the “function-based” care of the neurological patient and the “pain and recovery” based care of the orthopedic patient was bridged by blending the knowledge gained in this expansive scope of the study. The Johnsons believed that to successfully treat an orthopedic patient (such as a patient with knee pain), it would take more than simple exercise and joint mobilization. They approached orthopedic patients the same way they approached a neurological patient, asking the patient to walk and perform applicable functional activities to observe the effects of the injury on the total body function.
After leaving Kaiser Vallejo and entering into private practice in the late 1970’s, Gregg and Vicky utilized a unique concept of one hour, one-on-one treatments. These one-hour treatments allowed them time to explore human function, establishing the foundation for the development of a new and unique manual therapy approach. In addition, this one-on-one, hour-long visit enhanced each patient’s experience and ability to develop self-responsibility and an expanded understanding of their body’s function. Gregg and Vicky looked at every patient as an integrated and interdependent system and determined to study, learn and discover how to treat every aspect of that system.
Continuous Development Through Problem Solving
Understanding that knowledge creates the perfect canvas for the art of healing, The Johnsons partnered with a pioneer in Holistic Medicine in the late 1970’s to explore and better understand the complex interrelationship between the health of all human systems and musculoskeletal/neuromuscular function. This partnership allowed Gregg and Vicky to truly focus on health and optimal function, and not only rehabilitation and recovery. While working with professional athletes in the San Francisco Bay Area, they had the opportunity to explore the function of the human body at the highest level. It was during this time that Gregg’s work with the fascial and soft tissue system reached the point of definition, allowing him to introduce Soft Tissue Mobilization into the physical therapy profession and establish an expectation for all therapists to evaluate and treat the soft tissues as an integral component of human function.
In the early to mid-1980’s, Gregg and Vicky became professionally associated with Dr. White, one of the nation’s most renowned spine surgeons, and began to observe the importance of function-based manual therapy for spine patients and to present this concept nationally at conferences and conventions. This working relationship provided the platform for the development of the concepts and techniques of CoreFirst® strategies, which are an integral component of FMT. From the beginning, Gregg and Vicky focused on facilitating an automatic core engagement. They believed, regardless of the motion or task performed, that the core muscles should contract first and automatically to provide stability. This need not and should not be a cognitive process. Knowing this, they developed functional tests to assess whether the core was contracting automatically, and focused on utilizing treatment techniques to reinstate the automatic function of the core.
Cohesion of Functional Manual Therapy
As the Johnsons continued to study and develop new techniques, they were motivated to find solutions for patients who had not improved through existing systems of care. This led to the development of a cohesive and fluid system of patient care, eventually named Functional Manual Therapy® (FMT). This approach became the foundation of the course material taught through their continuing education company, the Institute of Physical Art (founded in 1978). Gregg and Vicky committed a significant portion of their careers to “passing it on” through both short-term and long-term education and mentoring. Their desire to see all physical therapists “Discover Their Potential” drove the Johnson’s to eventually train thousands of physical therapists in the FMT approach. Through this, they were able to have an impact on the lives of individuals around the world who were touched by therapists trained in FMT.
In 1997, the first FMT Certification was offered, providing those therapists who had spent years training in FMT the opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency in both the FMT skills as well as the FMT clinical reasoning. For those therapists desiring further refinement of their FMT skills, Gregg and Vicky created residency and fellowship programs, focused on enhancing competence and mastery of FMT. Less than 0.5% of practicing physical therapists are fellowship trained.
The Inception of IPA Physio
The increased demand by patients to seek out and receive treatment by physical therapists certified in Functional Manual Therapy inspired Gregg and Vicky’s son, Ryan Johnson, to establish IPA Physio, Functional Manual Therapy® clinics. These clinics would be completely founded on the original vision of his parents: To discover each patient’s untapped existing potential and educate and inspire all therapists to achieve their optimum potential to change patient’s lives.