The three-man business — currently staffed by owner and licensed physical therapist Leslie Toulouse, massage therapist and office manager Karen Henke, and water fitness instructor and therapy aide Iain Hill — has rented operating space at the community center since 1994. The reason they’ve stayed for so long, Toulouse says, is because of the quality pool: unlike other locations she’s experienced, Alf’s substantial depth allows her to increase the range of exercises her clients can do in the water – not to mention its consistent temperature and cleanliness.
From their station at Alf's, Toulouse and her staff treat patients of all ages who face a range of physical issues, including sports injuries, total joint pain, back pain, stroke recovery, multiple sclerosis, and other central nervous system disorders. Treatment methods employed by the local therapists include stretches, manual work such as massage and tissue stimulation, traditional land-based physical therapy training, using Alf’s gym equipment, ultrasound stimulation and water therapy.
What makes Aquatic Physical Therapy of Nevada different from other physical therapy institutes is its focus not on what their patients can’t do on land – but what they can do in the water.
“(The water) is two things: It’s buoyant and it also gives you support,” Toulouse explains. “It allows people to work out in ways they can’t anywhere else. I combine that with the manual work that I do and that allows for a very high success rate with my patients.”
By success rate, Toulouse is referring to the achievement of less pain, increased range of motion, flexibility and a greater display of strength within her patients – an objective reached by well over 90 percent of her clients, she says.
Hill, the self-proclaimed “exercise guru,” or patient dubbed “exercise sheriff,” has worked as the water fitness instructor for Toulouse’s business for the last four years. In his opinion, one of the primary benefits of the water is its ability to level the playing field in terms of treating clients of all ages and ability levels.
“You can’t play basketball until you’re 104, but you can swim until you’re 104 and that’s a huge perk,” Hill said. “(Aquatic therapy) is worlds faster. It’s smoother, faster and the low-impact training is something that people can do for the rest of their lives.”
Although each client that the business serves tends to face his or her own unique range of symptoms and displays treatment success in a different manner. For Toulouse and the staff at Aquatic Physical Therapy of Nevada it’s the rewarding feeling of watching patients make those personal gains that makes the job worthwhile.
“The nice thing about Physical Therapy is that you’re measuring changes all the time … I love it. I love watching people regain strength and independence,” Toulouse said. “I love coming to work every day. (Helping people) is a really nice feeling. You feel like you’re doing something to make the world a better place.”
Barbara Martin is one such patient whose world has been improved by the efforts of Toulouse and her associates. Initially, Martin started coming to Alf's for treatment after witnessing the successful and amiable treatment that her husband received after being directed to Toulouse by his back surgeon. When she herself began having problems with her knee, Martin knew exactly where to turn for friendly, effective treatment.
“(Toulouse) seems to be well known among doctors in town as someone to go to for treatment. She does everything well,” Martin said. “She can spot your problems, quickly.”
After having been treated at Aquatic Physical Therapy of Nevada since February of this year – first for a knee injury and later to treat back pain caused by overcompensating for the injured knee – Martin is enamored not only with the practice and healing abilities of aquatic physical therapy, but also with the staff of the small practice.
“(Exercising in the water) feels good, for one thing. We can do what we can’t do without water … you can move around easily and just move more and more,” Martin said. “I love it. I love (the staff). I just really care for them. They’re the greatest. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”
Despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews that Toulouse – who has been described by clients as a “healer” – receives from her patients, the small business owner doesn’t let their confidence in her abilities affect her ego. After nearly 20 years of owning Aquatic Physical Therapy of Nevada and acting as its lead physical therapist, Toulouse continues to strive toward improving her abilities by amassing knowledge that enables her to help heal her clients.
“I hope to keep studying, keep learning, keep working for a long, long time,” Toulouse said. “That’s the nice part about doing what you like – you don’t think about retiring, you just keep thinking about getting better.”