NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - When you go into Salem Sports & Spine, you may find it differs from other physical therapy centers. It is quiet, intimate and friendly and you are greeted and often accompanied throughout your session by Linus, the congenial Welsh corgi.
“You’re not just a number, getting rushed in and out,” said owner Michele Leasure. “Other places have four or five patients in an hour assigned to one therapist. I’m not willing to sacrifice quality.”
Leasure took a circuitous route to physical therapy. In high school she dreamed of becoming a veterinarian but a senior year accident injured her right arm so badly that she had to give up the idea. Instead, she went to the University of Maryland where she taped her classes while she learned to write with her left hand.
After finishing an undergraduate degree in kinestheology, she got a masters in physical therapy at Emory University. Along the way she encountered an osteoplastic therapist who “cured everything I had with just his hands,” she said. He became her mentor. Today she is a certified orthopedic specialist.
“It’s a very specific course and way of treating people,” she explained. “It’s a whole-body aspect. For example, I don’t just look at a painful shoulder. I look at the neck, the whole body, how it changes the way you walk.”
A lifelong equestrian, Leasure rode the show circuit in the 1990s and paid her show fees by operating a physical therapy service at the show grounds. She treated riders, staff and spectators as well.
In 2002, she was selected as the official physical therapist for the U. S. team at the World Equestrian Games in Spain.
Eight years ago her travels brought her to Old Salem Farm. “I was worn out from all the traveling and I really liked this area. I like the laid-back atmosphere here and the opportunities to hike and walk and ride. And I love the beauty of the reservoirs.”
Roughly twenty years of experience have taught Leasure that most physical injuries can be attributed to “bad posture, poor lifting techniques and not listening to your body. Tight muscles cause a lot of problems. The most important thing is to stretch and not sit too long, at the computer, for example. You see, it’s all about posture.”