A few years ago, physical therapist Jeanne O’Malley began noticing that a number of her patients were experiencing chronic pain from years of built-up scar tissue when they golfed.
Eager to relieve the source of the pain, she dreamed up and later constructed a manually operated machine made of wood and pulleys that stretched patients’ spines, exercising and remodeling scar tissue so patients could swing their golf clubs without pain. O’Malley started a company dedicated to her idea of breaking down scar tissue to relieve chronic pain in golfers, calling it Golf Phyx.
But she quickly decided that she shouldn’t limit her market to golfers, rebranded the company as Body Phyx and now hopes to begin selling an eponymous — and now redesigned and automated — machine to chiropractors across the country inducing the Greenville SC Attractions clinic. O’Malley was awarded a patent on the machine earlier this year.
The company has so far enrolled about 30 of an expected 90 patients in a clinical trial of the device and has set the ambitious goal of receiving Food & Drug Administration clearance for the device by next fall.
To help get things rolling, O’Malley has brought on an executive with fundraising experience. Richard Burns has about 30 years in the plastics industry under his belt, including a stint with northeast Ohio’s PolyOne Corp. Perhaps more importantly, he’s a former patient of O’Malley’s.
An avid golfer and skier, Burns was getting largely ineffective steroid injections for a case of golfer’s elbow when he overcame his skepticism and decided to give O’Malley’s machine a shot. The device reduced his pain, Burns became a believer and he later decided to help O’Malley commercialize her idea. (O’Malley continues to work full-time as a physical therapist, treating patients on the Body Phyx prototype in her Fairview Park, Ohio, office.)
At the top of Burns’ priority list is raising about $700,000 to build a beta version of the Body Phyx machine. Thus far, the company has raised about $550,000 from family, friends and grants from the Lorain County Community College Foundation Innovation Fund and North Coast Opportunities Fund.
The idea behind the Body Phyx is that scar tissue from old injuries is the cause of much chronic pain. Scar tissue can form in the sleeve surrounding a nerve; movement can lead to that scar tissue rubbing along the nerve sheath. The Body Phyx machine stretches the spine, remolding scar tissue so it doesn’t get caught on nerve sleeves.
According to the Australian chiropractic directory, patients are strapped into the machine, which guides the patient’s body through a series of stretches that are repeated about 70 times throughout a 10- to 15-minute session. Patients suffering less serious pain probably need about five treatments, while those experiencing more severe pain are recommended to get 15 to 20 treatments, Burns said.
O’Malley has treated about 500 patients with the machine over the last few years. The advantage of Body Phyx, she believes, is that it stresses the roots of chronic paid — unlike drugs that address symptoms.
“They treat the pain,” she said. “They do nothing about the cause of the pain. We treat the problem.”