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Helping others feel good

Physical therapist Tara Saul joins staff at Ability PT

SOLON– COVID-19 put the brakes on Tara Saul’s transition to Solon.
Saul was originally set to take up her new position as a physical therapist at Ability PT’s Solon clinic in March.
While physical therapy was deemed an essential service by Governor Kim Reynolds and Ability remained open during COVID restrictions, there weren’t as many patients in the clinic, Saul said. Not as many people were going outside or not being as active, and as a result, there were not as many injuries.
Saul became a stay-at-home mom with very active son Logan, 1 1/2.
She and her husband rent a small townhouse in North Liberty and it’s not enough space for Logan to run around, but they managed.
Logan’s favorite quarantine activity was to park at Stuff, Etc. in Coralville and watch trucks on Interstate 80. He loves cars and trucks.
“That’d buy about an hour,” she said. “Grab a doughnut and head out to the interstate.”
Saul finally was able to join the clinic May 11, and she’s happy to be here.
“It was hard being at home for those eight weeks,” she observed. “It’s been really great being here.”
Saul, 31, a native of Keystone, graduated from high school at Benton Community, in 2007, and attended the University of Northern Iowa studying athletic training. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in athletic training in 2011.
At the high school level, she was a multi-sport multi-year athlete, emphasizing softball, but also participating in track and field and basketball, and volleyball until her senior year
Along with sports came the possibility for injuries, and Saul dealt with ankle sprains and a knee condition requiring physical therapy.
Therapy was a very positive experience. She was able to get back and finish seasons and it pushed toward her career
She knew she wanted to get into a medical field, and during an internship at the Mayo Clinic, she was exposed to a range of experiences, from primary care to athletic training, orthopedic surgery to physical therapy.
After the internship, she gravitated away from her initial career choice of orthopedic surgeon and drew closer to physical therapy.
“Because I would be able to help patients achieve their goal, not just putting them back together,” she explained.
Saul went on to obtain a doctorate of physical therapy from Creighton University, in 2014, and for the last five and a half years, she’s been working at an orthopedic surgeon’s clinic in Des Moines.
“We knew we wanted to be closer to family, so we started looking for jobs here,” she said of their relocation to Solon.
Her husband Billy actually landed a job first, as an athletic trainer with the University of Iowa in the Sports Medicine Department.
His family is in Illinois, she said. “So we got two hours closer to them. It took a six hour drive to a four-hour drive.”
The couple has been renting in North Liberty but close on a home in Solon July 3.
“We are more than ready to live in Solon,” she stated.
They wanted an area with a good sense of community and weren’t really feeling that in North Liberty.
“Our Realtor kind of opened our eyes to Solon,” she added.
Every time the couple looked at a house, anytime they were in town, the sense of community continued to grow on them.
Since joining Ability in May, Saul has been working with physical therapy patients experiencing pain or mobility issues to get them back to reaching their goals, whether that’s gardening or playing sports.
Usually there is something provoking the symptoms, but not always.
It’s often an injury and the patient needs to regain strength and range of motion.
But sometimes pain can come on without an injury, she said, like the onset of arthritis in older clients.
With the start of shortened baseball and softball seasons, she’s seeing athletes trying to get back to the game, and as summer progresses, she expects there will be more injuries associated with people getting out on water-skis or a playground.
Whatever brings a patient through the door, it’s a four-step process for Saul to get them back out.
The first step is to manage pain, whether through modalities like ultrasound or electrical stimulation, she said. “Kind of getting their pain to a level that’s more manageable.”
Then she starts working on normalizing range of motion so the affected body part can do what it’s supposed to do.
Once established, Saul helps the patient working with exercise bands, weights and gravity to get their strength back.
The final step is to achieve the client’s goal of returning to functional activities, whether it’s swinging at a golf ball or cooking in a kitchen.
Along the way, she may incorporate Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization, a technique using a tool to scrape along the surface of the skin to break up tissue restrictions beneath to remove tightness and scar tissue.
Ability patients can also be referred to massage therapist Jenny Kellogg, who serves as a physical therapy assistant along with personal trainer Eric Wykert at Elite Fitness, next door to Ability.
If physical therapists Saul and Andy Bishop feel a patient reaches a point where they can start more of an exercise program, they can access personal training at Elite.
It’s all about helping members of the community continue to be active, she said.
“I’m here to help people reach their goals.”