Recently I spoke with Tristan Gatto, PTA, about his course, 14 Day Spinal Reset. As somebody who has suffered from back problems most of my adult life, it was a little bit of heaven to have Tristan bring us this course. I believe having a strong core and a strong back are essential to carrying us through life–and Tristan is so fun-loving! It is a pleasure to take his course. I hope you read on to find out more about him and his amazing work with us.
Madisyn Taylor: Hi Tristan. I found your program to be gentle but very effective. How common are back problems?
Tristan Gatto: Back issues are very common. Eighty percent of people will experience at least one episode of back pain in their lifetime. Recurrence of back pain is also common. More so these days than ever, our postural awareness has diminished. We drop our heads toward our phones or computers, we slump in chairs or in our cars…the list goes on and on. Over time this affects the health of the spine and surrounding supportive tissues. Eventually, the body becomes fed up and revolts, developing inflammation and emanating pain to get your attention. Yoga-and-strengthening programs, like the 14 Day Spinal Reset, place emphasis on postural correction and offer huge benefits in the prevention of back issues. The most common observation I’ve witnessed over the years is people don’t seek help until the pain gets to be too much. What they don’t know is that if they had a consistent yoga-and-strengthening practice, back issues could be prevented. On the other hand, people who seek interventions like physical therapy (PT) or yoga will achieve great results and then return to old habits once they stop these activities. The cycle repeats itself. This is a huge reason why we see so much recurrence of back issues in the PT field–it’s a compliance issue.
MT: Tell me a bit about your background and how you got into being a physical therapist assistant?
TG: I started my career initially as a professional singer and dancer. I toured and performed for 10 years straight out of high school. Over the years, I had a couple of bad back strains that put me down for weeks at a time. I had to do numerous sessions of physical therapy to recover and get back into shows. I always thought helping people who are injured or in pain was an interesting job, but honestly felt it was so boring from a patient perspective!
Funny story: My sister is a physical therapist, and she is the reason I decided on the physical therapist assistant path. The PTA to a PT is similar to what a physician’s assistant is to a doctor. We carry out the plan of care, perform hands-on tissue work and stretching, monitor and assess patient progress with the plan of care, and relay this information to the PT. Basically, we are the workhorse and the care provider the patient would primarily see during their treatment. In addition to my PT training, I also became certified as a yoga instructor and have been practicing as a licensed PTA and E-RYT 500 (experienced registered yoga teacher 500) for over six years.
MT: Each day in the course, you progress through three phases: mobilize, stretch, and strengthen. Can you talk a bit about each of these and why we will practice all three in one day?
TG: This philosophy boils down to methods of practice I’ve learned when treating patients in the physical therapy field. Research has found that the body responds better to stretching and strengthening interventions when it is warm. Stretching cold tissues can actually be detrimental to muscle tissues, causing more harm than benefit. Therefore, the best method for success is to first mobilize the tissues through safe, effective movement to create circulation throughout the body and “hydrate” the tissues. Once the tissues are optimized by this movement, we are in a perfect position to stretch the tissues safely. When the tissues are released through stretching, strengthening the tissue fibers enables the muscles to hold the new space created as a result of the stretching activities.
MT: You suggest using heat and ice throughout the course. Why is this?
TG: Heat is great to use before an activity to externally warm the muscles and provide localized circulation to the area of the body it is applied to. Heat also allows for relaxation of the muscles and nervous system, so it is great to use at the end of the day on a stiff mid or low back or even tight shoulders and neck.
I am a big proponent of ice. Muscles can become inflamed when they are overused, and this causes mild to moderate localized inflammation and sometimes pain. Ice is known to decrease inflammation and pain, promote healing, and even reduce the intensity of migraine headaches. One thing I’d like to mention is that while these modalities can be effective, they can also cause adverse effects if not applied correctly. In my course, I have made sure to thoroughly instruct how to safely use these modalities to avoid any harm to the student.
MT: Tell me about some of the items people will need to take this course and how they will use them.
TG: For this course you need a tennis ball, large towel, and a chair. These are used to help release tissues, promote ease with stretching activities, and assist in modifications for positional or mobility limitations.
MT: What is this pesky piriformis muscle I keep hearing about?
TG: The piriformis muscle is found under the gluteals and is a primary muscle that performs external rotation of the hip. It is actually part of six muscles that externally rotate the hip, however, it has received a lot of notoriety because of diagnoses like piriformis syndrome. This muscle attaches from the outer hip bone to the inner border of the sacrum, and the sciatic nerve travels behind the piriformis, which means it can become compressed or impinged when this muscle becomes tight due to overuse or weakness. This can bring about the common symptoms one associates with sciatica.
MT: In lesson five you have people off the floor and standing, and you introduce the “spinal wave” and “fists of fire.” Tell me about these.
TG: The spinal wave mobilizes the facet joints that run in pairs in each vertebral section of the spine. These joints glide at an angle to produce movement in the spine like flexion, extension, side bending, and rotation. Due to injury, osteoarthritis, overuse, or poor posture, these joints can become stuck and lose mobility. The spinal wave encourages natural, fluid motion in the spine in addition to being very soothing to perform. It’s similar to the benefit of rocking yourself like one would an infant.
I like to use fists of fire to raise the heart and breath rate in order to increase circulation to all areas of the body while encouraging forced exhalation. This breath work promotes greater core engagement, which brings improved awareness to the connection of breath and core. I also love fists of fire because it is super empowering to perform and promotes a sense of strength and presence. You feel stronger, taller, and more present when you’re done!
MT: I’ve known you for a while now and thoroughly enjoy your upbeat and fun personality. You bring this attitude to your lessons as well, which I find so refreshing.
TG: I’ve found over the years that if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing then you’re probably not going to continue. I like to keep things fun, light, and very down to earth because yoga and fitness, in general, can be very intimidating to most–and it shouldn’t be! I think my years in the entertainment industry have helped me keep my courses entertaining while also being educational. If you’re too “heady” you lose people; if you’re too “bland” people stop paying attention and quit. Attention spans are very short these days and time is precious. It’s a fine balance of creating an environment that allows for learning and fun, especially in a digital medium, while providing classes that people will love to do over and over.
MT: Who should take this course and why?
TG: Everyone! Anyone can benefit from this course–no matter if they are a young athlete or a retiree. We all need education on how to move our bodies more effectively and maintain the health of our movement. I always tell my clients “motion is lotion” because it’s so true. As humans we have to keep moving in order to survive. What I do know about this program is that it is specifically designed to be gentle, safe, and time-efficient without the worry of “what if I get hurt?” You won’t! I’ve used my background in PT to develop a course that is truly derived from anatomy, biomechanics, and cutting-edge research in movement health. There are so many courses I see–and have tried–that fall short of achieving the quick results people are searching for as an answer to their back issues. I truly believe this course is the answer!
Well, there you have it. Thank you, Tristan! If you feel like you need to oil your back and joints a bit from the inside, then you will enjoy this course very much. I found it really easy to follow and Tristan’s fun personality made the time fly. Until next time.
For more information visit:
> 14 Day Spinal Reset