Just Breathe!

Man Deep Breathing in Supine Position

Life gets busy, and it can often be stressful. While we cannot always change the things happening around us, we can help control how our body responds to these stressors by adding some breath work to your daily routine. Don’t panic! You don’t have to lie on a yoga mat on the floor in a candle lit room (yep – I get that’s not everyone’s jam!) to reap the benefits.

Here’s a fun fact: the pattern we use with our breathing can impact our nervous system, and in turn impact how we feel! When we perform slow, deep breathing we activate our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), sometimes referred to as our “rest and digest” system. This system helps relax our body after periods of stress and danger. Sometimes, if we’re experiencing ongoing pain or life stresses, we have difficulty turning our PNS on, and we may spend too much time the “fight or flight”/sympathetic nervous system (SNS). This “fight or flight” (SNS) is necessary for safety and survival, but if we spend too much time in this system, it can be quite straining on our bodies.

Breathe… To Calm Your Body’s “Fight or Flight” Response to Pain or Stress

To start, find a comfortable position (standing, sitting, lying down) and just take note of how you are breathing. Are you expanding your belly/lower ribs, or does most of the movement happen in your upper chest and shoulders? When you inhale does your abdomen expand or are you sucking it in? What we are looking for is minimal movement in the upper chest/shoulders, and expansion of the ribs/abdomen when we take a breath in. If you are breathing quickly, see if you can slow it down a little. Be sure to use a rate that feels comfortable to you.

If you want, you can even close your eyes and visualize areas on your body relaxing, perhaps letting go of any extra tension with each exhalation. You may even say something like “I am” when you are inhaling/expanding your ribs/abdomen, and then say “calm” (or really whatever you WANT to be!) when you exhale (allowing your abdomen to return to its normal shape). If you have the time, spend 5-10 minutes practicing this. Try not to let your mind wander off to what you might need to do after this practice and try to be in the moment.

Once you have the patterning down, try to add this activity frequently throughout your day. Breathing like this for just a minute, regularly during your day can really make a big difference – so go ahead and give it a try. If you want to practice this technique with a skilled Saunders physical therapist, and learn a few more helpful tips, please give us a call so we can help you feel your best!

By Shannon Burrows, PT MSc

Man Breathing in Supine



TMJ Treatment

TMJ palpation intraoral performed by physical therapist

Treatment of your TMJ Disorder involves a multifactorial approach. We work with your dentist or surgeon, as applicable. Our goal is to achieve pain relief as soon as possible, and then to restore normal motion, relaxation, and posture to prevent recurrence of your symptoms. Saunders physical therapists specialize in TMJ disorder treatment – choosing Saunders means you will be treated by an experienced professional.

The Saunders TMJ Treatment Philosophy

Musculoskeletal Evaluation: We look at your posture and its potential contribution to TMJ dysfunction. We often discover muscle imbalances of the jaw and neck. We perform a biomechanical evaluation of the temporomandibular joint, cervical spine and craniofacial region. We inquire about habits that can contribute to symptoms, including jaw clenching or grinding the teeth.

Treatment:  Treatment may include manual therapy such as joint mobilization, craniosacral therapy, and myofascial release techniques. Neuromuscular re-education also plays a large role to improve muscle imbalances and decrease strain on the TMJ and cervical spine.

We may use therapeutic modalities such as iontophoresis or ultrasound. Instruction in diet and habit modification is important to decrease irritation to the tissues. Finally, we help you independently manage symptoms through a home exercise program.

TMJ palpation intraoral
It is common for people with TMJ disorders to also have neck problems. Spinal dysfunction affects the mechanics of the TMJ and correction of posture and spinal joint and muscle imbalances is often key to TMJ pain or headache relief. At Saunders Therapy Centers, we can evaluate your head, neck, and jaw to determine the root cause of your symptoms, and develop a treatment plan to get you feeling better in no time


Categories TMJ

Work Ready for Brain Injury Program – The Saunders Method

Saint Paul Industrial Rehabilitation Team

After extensive rehabilitation, are you at a plateau, struggling to perform work activities or figure out next steps for return to work?

At Saunders, we provide a supportive, structured environment where we gradually expose you to the common stressors people with brain injury encounter in the work environment. These can include difficulty with light or sound, visual disturbances, difficulty concentrating, and physical challenges.

Regain Function and Return to Work with Saunders!

Saunders Therapy Centers’ Work Ready Program is just like our Work Hardening program – but adapted for you. In a nutshell, Saunders’ Work Ready program is simply Work Hardening that goes at your own pace, and also addresses the specific challenges you might be facing with sensory or task sequencing problems. 

What Can I Expect?

At Saunders, your program will be CUSTOMIZED. We perform a 2-hour, comprehensive evaluation to determine your strength, function, and readiness for work. We then work WITH YOU to determine the ideal program.

We gradually increase exposure to those frustrating combination of circumstances that are getting in the way of returning to work.  The activities you’ll do, the length and duration of each session, and the overall length of the program will be unique for your circumstances.

Work Ready for Brain Injury Team

We know it’s hard to increase physical stamina if you’re struggling to tolerate light or sound.

Work Hardening – What Exactly Will I Do?

Most people who are referred for Work Hardening have physical barriers that prevent them from reaching their work goals. Examples of these are stiffness, weakness, poor balance, or poor endurance….

What is the Work Hardening Evaluation?

Before beginning the program, each client participates in a 2-hour evaluation. We obtain a thorough injury history, work history, psychosocial screening and baseline functional assessment covering lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying,…

Realistic, Experienced, Non-Biased, Compassionate Treatment

Meet the Team

physical therapist assistant helping client perform exercise with dumbells

Our Expert Clinicians

Megan Fritsch, OTR/L

Industrial Rehabilitation Manager
Functional Capacity Evaluation
Work Hardening Programs
All Offices

Becky Park, OTR/L

Maple Grove Office
Industrial Rehabilitation
Work Hardening Programs
Functional Capacity Evaluation

Cole Burns, OTR/L

Bloomington Office
Industrial Rehabilitation
Work Hardening Programs
Functional Capacity Evaluation

Stacy Gonzalez, PTA

Saint Paul Office
Industrial Rehabilitation
Work Hardening Programs

Jennifer Joslyn, DPT

Maple Grove and Saint Paul Offices
Orthopedics, Pelvic Health, Back and Neck Pain, Dry Needling

Claire Girouard, OTR/L

Maple Grove Office
Industrial Rehabilitation
Work Hardening Programs
Functional Capacity Evaluation

Tyler Zajic, PTA

Saint Paul Office
Industrial Rehabilitation
Work Hardening Programs

Ashlea Tecker, PTA

Bloomington Office
Industrial Rehabilitation
Work Hardening Programs


Our Wonderful Administrative Staff

TMJ Symptoms

physical therapist explaining TMJ anatomy

How do you tell if your facial, head, or neck pain is related to your temporomandibular (TMJ) joint? The TMJ is the hinge joint that opens and closes your jaw. The joint can be palpated just in front of the ear, or from inside the ear. The muscles that operate this joint to open and close the jaw can be palpated along the temple, jawbone, and from inside the mouth. Sometimes, you can feel pain directly in the area around the joint, but there are other symptoms you should be aware of:

  • Neck pain
  • Aching facial pain
  • Headache
  • Pain or tenderness of the jaw muscles
  • Aching pain in or around the ear
  • Difficulty with or pain with chewing
  • Jaw “locking” or difficulty opening or closing

It is common for people with TMJ disorders to also have neck problems. Neck posture definitely affects the mechanics of the TMJ and correction of posture and treatment of neck dysfunction is often key to TMJ pain or headache relief. At Saunders Therapy Centers, we can evaluate your head, neck, and jaw to determine the root cause of your symptoms, and develop a treatment plan to get you feeling better in no time.


Categories TMJ

TMJ Headache

Woman with pained expression due to jaw pain

TMJ headaches can be disabling. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell where your headache is coming from – a good physical therapist can help! The temporomandibular joint has several muscular attachments, and a seemingly simple thing like forward head posture can place abnormal stress on those muscles. Pain receptors from the muscles are activated, triggering a headache.

Another source of TMJ headaches is the joint itself. A swollen, inflamed joint causes muscles to become tight and inflamed, causing spasm. Resulting headache can be felt around the skull, face and even neck areas. Saunders physical therapists are skilled at evaluating and treating most TMJ disorders. There is often both a muscular and a joint component, and the neck and upper back are often involved. At Saunders, our approach entails:

Musculoskeletal Evaluation: A thorough evaluation will be performed on your initial visit. We can determine which tissues are  involved by palpating the joint and muscles externally around the head and neck, and inside your mouth.

Manual Therapy: Our therapists all have advanced training in manual therapy which is a hands-on approach that addresses restrictions and provides gentle stimulation to relieve pain.

Exercise: Depending on whether your symptoms are caused by posture, neck or jaw tightness, or instability, a custom exercise program will be prescribed.

Postural Education and Positions of Relief: Our physical therapists will teach you body awareness and you will learn mechanics and postures that decrease load and stress on the spine and jaw. Something as simple as the resting position of your tongue can make a big difference!


TMJ can cause headache


Categories TMJ

Dizziness Caused by Migraine or Neck Pain

Migraine Causing Dizziness

There are many different causes of dizziness including conditions of the inner ear, medication side effects, changes in blood pressure, or prolonged bed rest. Did you know that migraine headaches and painful neck conditions can also cause dizziness?

When migraine is accompanied by vertigo, neck pain may also be present. The neck symptoms can vary, but often include:

  • Reduced range of motion
  • Pain on one side of the neck, radiating to the temple, forehead, or eye
  • Pain on one side of your cheek or face
  • Pain at one or both sides of the base of your skull
  • Sometimes, pain can radiate to one shoulder

Treating the neck symptoms often relieves the dizziness and lessens the severity of migraine symptoms. Saunders Therapy Centers’ physical therapists are experts at evaluating and treating musculoskeletal conditions of the neck, and can assess whether your dizziness is originating from migraine or neck symptoms.

Migraine Causing Dizziness

What Does A Physical Therapist Do for Dizziness Related to Migraine or Neck Pain?

Vertigo disorders are multi-factorial in nature and require a thorough exam to identify contributing factors. Our approach:

  • Musculoskeletal Evaluation: Your evaluation will include an assessment of your posture, muscle flexibility, muscle strength and gait analysis.
  • Dizziness/Balance Evaluation: Your evaluation will also include balance testing, as well as positional testing designed to establish the source(s) of dizziness. Sometimes, we may do simple tests to check your eye movements as they related to your symptoms.
  • Education: We spend time discussing your diagnosis and encourage self-management strategies as part of our comprehensive treatment approach.
  • Treatment: Our aim is to get you feeling better from the first visit. Depending on the results from your exam, you may respond well to manual therapy, or hands-on techniques designed to improve the symmetry and tone in the muscles of the head and neck. Simple home exercises are often an important part of your treatment plan.