We Are Not Broken

“Needs stability.”

I admit I used to write this in patients’ charts as part of my assessment of “what was wrong” with them. Over the years and especially most recently, I finally figured out – that statement is false and can be damaging.

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Denver to attend the biggest physical therapy conference in the world. There, along with 20,000 other therapists, we soaked up the latest research and treatment techniques through peer presentations, talks, and special events. I posted snippets of conference content on Instagram (follow me @drmeganbrown if you like all things Alexandria and wellness) but I heard from many of you that you wanted me to share more.




Here’s my number one take away: We are not broken. This epiphany from one presentation on lumbo-pelvic pain opened my eyes to this notion: We (PTs) need to stop telling people they’re unstable. When we diagnose an instability in the body (spine, pelvis, shoulder) we pull this notion into patients’ heads that they are broken.


Here’s how we say that:

“You need to stabilize your spine.”
“Your hips need stability, then you’ll be pain free.”
“Your core is not stabilizing your back, that’s why you’re injured.”


Have you heard any of these lines before?

You are not broken. You don’t have to go through life feeling that you are broken. There are talented people in the physical therapy profession and at Mind the Mat who can guide and empower you to improve your function and live life to the fullest by moving your body daily.


My biggest conference take home:

Change the vocabulary to form a more patient-empowering statement…
“Let’s recruit your muscles and coordinate their activation to improve your function.”




What’s your take home from this post? Where else are you hearing this messaging? Do you have another health provider who could be influencing long lasting pain problems with specific messaging? Are you fearful of moving/exercising/living a certain way because you’re afraid you will further “break” something? Deep down in your heart of hearts, what are you most worried about?

When we first opened Mind the Mat 12 years ago, I taught a class called Restorative Pilates. In this class, we welcomed people to exercise in spite of any injuries or mobility limitations. A young woman joined one day who was scared to death to move. She said, “My doctor told me to never do squats.” I paused and gave a bewildered yet light response: “Well how the heck do you stand up and sit down?” We laughed and she moved freely and beautifully throughout the rest of class.

You are not broken.


  • The latest from Megan
Megan Brown, physical therapist, Pilates instructor, mother and co-founder of Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga in Alexandria, VA, likes to goof around. Yet her commitment to her students and her skill set in the field is no joke. After graduating from University of Virginia with a degree in Sports Medicine, Megan went on to receive her Masters in Physical Therapy and eventually her Doctorate in the profession. Although Pilates was never part of the plan, the method changed the way she treated patients, positively re-directed her career path and enhanced her own active lifestyle. Customized Pilates instruction is her specialty–she designs classes based on clients needs: athletes, new moms, rehabilitation or just for fun (why be serious all the time?). Pilates + Yoga is the best of both worlds, hence the creation of Mind the Mat studios providing classes for all—in every walk of life.

Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga was founded in 2008 by Megan Brown, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Polestar Certified Practitioner of Pilates for Rehabilitation and Sara VanderGoot, Nationally Certified Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher (e-RYT 200, RYT 500). In their private practices as physical therapist and massage therapist respectively Megan and Sara observed that many of their clients were coming in with similar needs: relief for neck and shoulder tension and low back pain as well as a desire for more flexibility in hips and legs, stability in joints, and core strength.

Together Megan and Sara carefully crafted a curriculum of Pilates and yoga classes to address needs for clients who are pregnant, postpartum, have injuries or limitations, who are new to Pilates and yoga, and for those who are advanced students and are looking for an extra challenge.


2214 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301


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