Samantha Nickel

Samantha Nickel

Samantha Nickel

Samantha Nickel


Clinic: Maple Grove

Joined Saunders: 2016

Samantha Nickel

Samantha joined Saunders Therapy Centers’ in January 2016. She will greet you with a smile when you visit the Maple Grove office. Samantha loves her job because she is able to be herself. She loves the people she works with – they make such a difference in patients’ lives. In her time outside of Saunders she is a full-time student working on her Physician Assistant degree. She enjoys traveling, the cabin, and spending time with her family and friends.


Carey Meehan, PT, MS, CSCS

Carey Meehan physical therapy Saunders Maple Grove

Carey Meehan, PT, MS, CSCS

Back and Neck Pain, General Orthopedics, Headache Treatment, Incontinence Treatment, Pelvic Health, Running Program, Sports Medicine, Temporomandibular Disorders, Dry Needling

Clinic: Maple Grove

Education: Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota.

Joined Saunders: 2002

Carey Meehan, PT, MS, CSCS

Carey is accepting new patients with pelvic health concerns. She is not accepting new orthopedic or TMJ patients at this time. 

Carey joined Saunders Therapy Centers in 2002. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota.

At UW-La Crosse, Carey worked with the University of Wisconsin Sports Medicine team and became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Through additional continuing education and the Saunders mentorship program she has developed a deep foundation for orthopedic and manual therapy specializing in spinal/sacroiliac joint dysfunction and sports medicine injuries.

In addition to being a well-rounded orthopedic, sports, and spine specialist, Carey has aggressively pursued professional development opportunities focusing in the areas of dry needling, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) and pelvic health, including incontinence, pelvic pain, and pre/postnatal musculoskeletal dysfunction. 


Lisa Martens, PT, DPT, OCS

lisa martens Saunders physical therapy

Lisa Martens, PT, DPT, OCS

Back and Neck Pain, General Orthopedics, Headache Treatment, Myofascial, Craniosacral and Visceral Treatment, Running Program, Sports Medicine

Clinic: St. Paul

Education: Doctor of Physical Therapy from University of St. Catherine in 2009, BA in Psychology from Gustavus Adolphus 2006

Joined Saunders: 2009

Lisa Martens, PT, DPT, OCS

Lisa is accepting new patients at this time.

Since joining Saunders in 2009, Lisa has established a solid following of repeat patients and physician referrals in our St. Paul office. She also serves as the Manager of our Orthopedic/Pelvic Health Clinical Staff.

As an avid long distance runner and competitive cyclist, Lisa understands the specifics of sports related injuries and recognizes the importance of living an active, balanced lifestyle. She has been involved in establishing programs to promote health and wellness with the Minnesota Chapter of the APTA.

Lisa’s educational background includes a BA in psychology from Gustavus Adolphus and a DPT degree from St. Catherine University. Additionally, she is board certified as an Orthopedic Clinical Specialist through the American Physical Therapy Association.


Marie W. Holecek, PT, MHS, ATC

marie holecek Saunders physical therapy

Marie W. Holecek, PT, MHS, ATC

Back and Neck Pain, General Orthopedics, Headache Treatment, Incontinence Treatment, Pelvic Health, Myofascial, Craniosacral and Visceral Treatment, Sports Medicine, Pelvic Pain

Clinic: Bloomington, St. Paul

Education: Winona State University, Bachelor of Science – Biology 1987

Mayo School of Health Related Sciences, Physical Therapy Program 1989

University of Indianapolis, Masters in Health Science 2002

Joined Saunders: 1992

Marie W. Holecek, PT, MHS, ATC

Marie is accepting new patients at this time.

Congratulations to Marie Holecek for Edina Sun Current readers’ “2015 Best Physical Therapist” award!

Marie joined Saunders Therapy Centers in 1992. She is a 1989 graduate of the Mayo Program, and was the first graduate of Saunders Therapy Centers’ mentorship program. She completed her Master of Health Science in Physical Therapy at the University of Indianapolis in 2002.

Marie has a special interest in myofascial, craniosacral, visceral, and energy work, with a holistic approach to chronic pain. She believes in empowering her patients to take an active role in the healing process.

Marie has taken most of her training through John Barnes PT, the Upledger Institute, and the Barral Institute. She also has had extensive professional education in pelvic health, and treats incontinence, pre/post natal, and pelvic pain.

Marie has been a guest lecturer on the lumbar spine for the College of St. Catherine’s physical therapy program and has assisted in teaching several manual therapy courses around the country. She also has her certification in athletic training. 

She loves to travel and is an avid baseball fan following the Twins and her beloved Chicago Cubs.


Chronic Pain Alternatives – Physical Therapy and Other Non-Drug Interventions

When it comes to treating chronic pain, physicians have often turned to medication as a first resort for conditions such as headache, neck pain, low back pain, and pelvic pain. In recent years, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this has been a bad approach. The “opioid epidemic”, as it’s now called in local and national news, has claimed the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans, and shows no signs of slowing down. Why do physicians so quickly turn to medication for treatment of chronic pain conditions? Is strong medication the only thing that can provide relief for headaches? Is there no other approach for treating neck and back pain?

An article in the New York Times discusses alternative therapies, including physical therapy, exercise, acupuncture, tai chi, yoga, progressive relaxation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction. It also discusses a frustration we physical therapists often express: Drugs are often prescribed as a first resort because American health insurance systems have been slow to pay for other forms of care. Physical therapy visits can be limited or associated with very high co-pays, making drugs a more affordable (but more dangerous) option. Other alternative therapies aren’t covered, so back, neck, and headache pain sufferers are forced to pay out of pocket…

Still, one should consider the pros and cons of medication vs. alternative therapies. Most people recover from severe pain without the need for surgery or long-term, potentially addictive medications. If you do not have a serious diagnosis requiring surgery, consider a visit or two to the physical therapists at Saunders Therapy Centers. We can consult with you and tell you if we can help. We are well-attuned to financial considerations and will make sure to not waste your money or time when determining what we have to offer for your particular case.

Arthritis isn’t just Wear and Tear!

Conventional wisdom is that osteoarthritis of the knee results mostly from wear and tear, which is why, these days, it’s more common among older people and those whose excess body weight puts extra stress on those joints. BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT LATEST EVIDENCE SHOWS! 

Dr. Richard Loeser, a rheumatologist who directs the Thurston Arthritis Research Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, was quoted in this article published by NPR,  “Your joints aren’t just like your automobile tires that wear out as you use them,” he says. In fact, exercise helps nutrients diffuse into cartilage in the knee and keep it strong and healthy.

If cartilage “is formed and more healthy when you’re younger, then your joints are more likely to be functioning better and have less osteoarthritis when you get older,” Loeser says. And exercise also helps fully grown people.

“By strengthening your muscles and by stimulating your cartilage you can still improve the health of your joint,” Loeser says. Read more in the original article HERE.



By Robin Saunders Ryan, PT MS


I want to talk more about the power of positivity… Trying to be positive when you’re experiencing stress or pain is difficult, and do-gooders who spout trite advice can come off as annoying, at best!


nesting birds

New research by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, takes the pressure off of trying to be positive all the time. Her theory promotes “micro-moments” of positivity as a key to improving long-term well being. The concept is that repeated brief moments of positive feelings can provide a buffer against stress and depression and improve both physical and mental health.


After reading about this theory in Jane Brody’s April 3rd New York Times article (Turning Negative Thinkers into Positive Ones), I spent a day trying to be hyper-aware of tiny moments that made me happy. Here are a few things I remember:


  1. Discovering that birds moved into the new birdhouse I bought at the Uptown Art Fair.
  2. Noticing the bright, lime-green color of fresh buds on these really cool trees in my neighborhood. 
  3. Being charmed by the baby in the Target checkout line –she flashed me the BIGGEST toothless smile!


Try it out! Dr. Fredrickson’s research has shown that micro-moments of positivity are cumulative, and that we can train the circuitry in the brain to promote more positive responses with repeated practice.

Is Your Headache a Pain in the Neck?

by Robin Saunders Ryan PT, MS

Did you know? Many headaches are caused by neck problems. The term for these types of headaches is “cervicogenic.” The joints, discs, ligaments, and muscles contain nerve endings that can refer pain to the head. Although neck related headaches are most common at the base of the skull, your pain can also be felt in the face, forehead, eyes, temples, and even the upper back and shoulders.

headache neck pain cervicogenic

If your headache is accompanied by a feeling of stiffness, tenseness, or decreased motion in your neck, upper back, or shoulders, there is probably a neck-related component to your headaches. You should see a physical therapist for an evaluation.

Here’s what we will do:

  • Assess the motion of each of your neck (cervical) joints – Your cervical spine has seven vertebrae – each “segment” has a disc and facet joints, along with the ligaments that hold it all together. We can often find a problem at one or two of these segments. The treatment for this type of problem involves mobilization of the stiff segment.headache neck pain cervicogenic
  • Assess the muscles of your head, neck, and upper back. The muscles that control rotation, side bending, head tilting, looking up and down, etc… can get out of balance – especially when repetitive motion, static postures, or abnormal posture is involved. The treatment for muscle imbalance involves myofascial release, manual stretching, and very specific muscle exercises.
  • Assess your posture and lifestyle – Good alignment of the head and neck will minimize the forces on your neck structures. Poor posture, especially when sitting for prolonged periods, is one of the most common causes of neck related headaches and The treatment for poor posture is exercise and education and, sometimes, assistive devices, or a change in your chair or work station.

Medication can help headache pain temporarily, but unless you get to the root cause of neck related headaches, you are only treating the symptoms. Our physical therapists are skilled at headache evaluation and treatment. We can help your physician assess whether neck treatment would be of benefit.

Herniated Disc – Should I be afraid?

Robin Saunders Ryan, MS, PT


A common cause of back pain and sciatica is herniated disc. When our patients first hear that diagnosis, many of them are afraid, because they may know someone who had surgery or might have had a poor outcome. MRIs, CTs, and even drawings of herniated discs can be really frightening!

herniated disc


In fact, most people with a diagnosis of herniated disc do very well with conservative care. We use manual therapy, and teach you proper positioning and exercise to counteract the stressful forces that your work, hobbies and habits place on your back.


A 2016 study in the New England Journal of Medicine* followed a 29-year-old female with herniated disc and nerve compression causing right leg pain and numbness. Five months after epidural injection and physical therapy, an MRI showed that the herniation had disappeared.


Here’s another fun fact: Depending on age, up to 80% of people with NO SYMPTOMS have evidence of disc problems on MRI or CT scan**. This means that, even if you have a herniated disc, it might not be related to your pain. You might just need good, old-fashioned, back rehabilitation. It’s amazing what a handful of targeted exercises can do! Our therapists perform a very specific evaluation to determine which exercises you need to counteract any stability, weakness or range-of-motion problems.


Fear can be debilitating. Don’t let a diagnosis of herniated disc scare you away from doing the things you love. Try physical therapy!


*NEJM. 2016; 374:1564

**Am J Neuroradiol. 2015; 36(4):811-816