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Meet Christine Pieton of Pieton Physical Therapy in Santa Barbara

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christine Pieton.

Christine, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m a Southern California native who grew up along the coastline of Corona del Mar in Orange County. My love for sports and exploring the outdoors began at an early age, as did my appreciation for human anatomy and physiology. I remember finding the circulatory system fascinating in my 8th-grade science class, and knew early on I wanted to do something in the medical field when I grew up. I explored these unique interests further during my undergraduate years at UCLA and served as a sports medicine intern for our collegiate teams. My time in the training room sparked my passion for orthopedics and sport-specific rehabilitation, ultimately leading me to pursue my graduate degree in physical therapy.

During my time at Emory University, I deepened my passion and physical therapy expertise for endurance sports and special considerations needed for addressing overuse injuries. This unique focus reconnected me with an old [strengthening] friend, mat Pilates. I had previously found this movement practice beneficial for strength and conditioning in college but now began to appreciate it from a rehabilitative perspective. As I began to integrate Pilates back into my own strength and conditioning programming, I quickly noticed how much stronger and more efficient my movements had become, especially over the course of my marathon training. During this same time in my graduate training, two of my mentors were trained in Pilates and used it with their patients. This realization served as a catalyst, prompting me to embark on my Pilates teacher-training coursework – a path that would later influence my professional career more than I could have ever imagined.

In my early years as a physical therapist working in both hospital and outpatient orthopedic settings, the combination of my pilates and rehab knowledge proved to be invaluable. My patients appreciated the uniqueness of my movement perspective as they noticed the improvements in their bodies and their ability to overcome injuries. It was through this work that my patients encouraged me to open my own practice, Pieton Physical Therapy, in April of 2015. I offer one-on-one physical therapy and private Pilates instruction utilizing both mat and apparatus equipment. I tailor my instruction to meet the needs of my clients, whether it be for movement re-education, cross-training, overcoming injury, or general health and wellness.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Ha! What smooth road?! 😀

During my first job out of physical therapy school, I was the only clinician who was trained in Pilates. I remember feeling really self-conscious in the beginning about being so unique and tried to keep my pilates exercises “under wraps”. It took me a few months to feel comfortable with being different. As I gained more confidence and noticed how my PT/Pilates combo helped my patients get better faster, I learned to lean into being different. And the more I did that, the more I started to notice that patients were seeking me out for this unique skill set. It was my patients that then started asking me, “So have you ever thought of opening your own space?”…

At this point, I was only about ten months out from having graduated from PT school. There was no way I was ready to open my own office…or so I thought. That’s the dream for 5-10 years from now I told myself. I had a lot of fear and impostor syndrome blaring loudly in my head to think I was capable, and definitely didn’t have the financial resources to think my own office was possible so early on. And yet, my patients kept asking. They also started asking if they could work with me privately for Pilates training after they completed their physical therapy plan of care. As more people kept asking, the more I realized I needed to stop being so afraid, and let go of the arbitrary number of years of experience I thought I needed.

A few months later, I finally got the courage to write out a business plan and figure out what I needed to get started. After working through the financials, I realized it would take about a year for me to save up the money. I built out a whole plan for working extra hours at our community hospital on the weekends in order to make this dream a reality. I shared this with my then boyfriend, now husband, at our kitchen table through quite a few ugly tears. He looked at me and asked, “Is the money the only thing that’s keeping you from starting your own practice tomorrow?” I explained that that was the majority of the issue and the fact that I needed to find a space to actually call my office. He calmly replied, “Then I’ll write you the check tonight for the full amount.” I could barely contain the tears at this point and asked him, “but what if I fail?” His response, “You and I both know that’s not possible. You’re too strong to fail and too many patients have been asking you to do this. They need you.” Eight weeks, later I signed a year long lease – eek! – filled with equal parts fear and excitement. I’m proud to say it’s been four and a half years since I made that leap into the unknown, and I’m so grateful for the support from my patients and husband who all had faith in me before I had faith in myself.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I empower people to believe in themselves through movement, regardless of age or ability. As a physical therapist, I help people understand the way movement is created within their body, and how movement connects us to others and the world.

The mind body connection is so important at Pieton Physical Therapy. I talk about this concept a lot with my patients and work together with them to support their whole system in order to reach their movement goals. I specialize in helping people optimize their health and wellness so that they can enjoy the most out of each day, whether that’s playing out on a sports field with their teammates, training for their half marathon, being able to play in the backyard with their little ones, and everything else in between.

My areas of clinical specialty include orthopedic, sport-specific, and women’s pelvic health. I don’t see these areas as separate, but rather as a collective area of specialty. In the last few years, I have shifted my focus towards women’s health. Women need and deserve specialized support throughout their lifespan for all the unique changes that they go through, especially during adolescents, the prenatal and postpartum periods, and beyond. Many women suffer from pelvic health conditions that prevent them from living their fullest lives. This includes but is not limited to: pelvic pain and discomfort with daily activities and fitness routines, urinary and fecal incontinence, and pain with sex. Many people, including other healthcare professionals, are unaware that pelvic health is a specialty of physical therapy and that we are trained to help support individuals overcome these challenges. It is an honor and a privilege to support my patients in this way, and I feel grateful to serve as fellow advocate for their health and wellness.

What were you like growing up?
I grew up a total book worm who loved learning and exploring the world around me. I’m proud to say, even now in my early 30’s, that’s still true! Growing up, I was always on the go: climbing trees, swimming in the pool/ocean, riding my bike around the neighborhood, etc… I still enjoy all of these activities and feel most alive when I’m out in nature. Even now, I will never pass up an opportunity to shimmy up a good tree to enjoy the view.

My love for learning has always been constant, especially about all things science and human anatomy related. There are two points in my life that stand out about where my love for such interests came from. One was when I was around seven years old and my dad gifted me a wooden skeleton kit. I got to build the skeleton piece by piece and was immediately fascinated with all the intricate details of the ribcage and counting all the bones. My mom still has this skeleton model, ha! He is affectionately referred to as “Hugh The Human”. Second, was when I had to take physiology for 8th-grade science. It was my favorite class and planted the seed that I wanted to go into the medical field one day when I grew up. I’m proud to say I’ve always been a science nerd.

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Image Credit:
Joceyln Molina of Joceyln Molina Photography

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