25 Innovative Physical Therapists in San Francisco

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower,” the late Steve Jobs said.

If that’s true, these 25 physical therapists in and around the San Francisco area are true leaders in their fields. Some focus primarily on sports and performance-related injuries, while others specialize in post-operative or post-traumatic recovery.

All of them, however, embrace cutting-edge developments and unique approaches to patient care in the physical therapy field — and their patients are enjoying the benefits.


Simon Gibson, Montclair Physical Therapy

Simon hails from New Zealand and studied at the Auckland Technical Institute. Simon takes a “whole person” approach to each client’s program. As a result, his full-service practice includes several features that go well beyond the traditional PT model, including a modern, full-service gym; personal fitness training; fully equipped Pilates studio; massage therapy; and nutrition consulting.


Linda Avery, Linda L. Avery & Associates Physical Therapy, Inc.

Linda Avery has been in the physical therapy business for decades, and her practice reflects that long period of devoted study and intense focus. Linda’s approach is somewhat holistic and interdisciplinary, incorporating craniosacral manipulation and other kinds of bodywork in addition to traditional modalities to meet each client’s specific goals.


Nikki Losee, DeWitt Physical Therapy

What distinguishes Nikki from other physical therapists who treat elite athletes is her deeply personal familiarity with the world of extreme sports. She is an endurance athlete herself, with four Ironman competitions under her belt and training for a fifth in progress. She’s also a board-certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and Functional Movement Screen therapist.


Jacqueline Colon, GSPORTS Physical Therapy

Jacqueline Colon knows her joints. She specializes in orthopedic rehabilitation for sports-related shoulder, knee, hip, and foot injuries. Jacqueline holds a US patent for a medical device used to treat the painful foot condition plantar fasciitis.


Melissa Jeans, SOMA Sport & Physio

Dr. Melissa Jeans combines patient education, manual therapy and function-enhancing exercise to help her clients recover fully both from orthopedic and sports-related injuries. By focusing attention on prevention, she not only helps her clients recover full function, but also helps them avoid re-injuring themselves in the future.


Sophia Fong, SOMA Sport & Physio

Dr. Sophia Fong earned her DPT from Northeastern University and did her clinical rounds at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. Dr. Fong specializes in posture and gait analysis, as well as releasing neural entrapment, core stability, and mobilizing with mobility.


Elizabeth Miracle, Miracle Physical Therapy

Elizabeth “Liz” Miracle specializes in helping women prepare their bodies for labor and delivery, and aiding them in recovery from painful gynecological conditions. She also serves as an Assistant Clinical Professor for the University of California San Francisco’s School of Physical Therapy, and is certified in Pelvic Physical Therapy from the American Physical Therapy Association.


Adrian Carvalho, Golden Gate Physical Therapy

A former college athlete himself, Adrian Carvalho has successfully helped many college and professional athletes, including tennis legends John McEnroe and Michael Chang. Adrian provided host-site physical therapy for participants in the PGA Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He also guest lectures for several universities and colleges, including San Francisco State University.


Tracy Michelmore, Potrero Physical Therapy

Tracy specializes in outpatient orthopedic rehabilitation and therapy that caters especially to surfers. She also volunteers her time and expertise to Operation Rainbow, a nonprofit group that helps bring orthopedic care and surgery to children in developing countries around the globe.


Meghan Slemenda Dietz, Local Motion Therapy

Meghan Slemenda Dietz’s specialty is finding the precise source of orthopedic and repetitive stress/sports injuries. She caters to amateur athletes by helping them regain their previous levels of activity through a combination of body awareness and posture techniques, and can even help prevent recurring headaches. She trained at some of the best institutions on the East Coast before relocating to the San Francisco area, where she opened Local Motion Therapy with classmate Tara McGann Friedman, below.


Tara McGann Friedman at Local Motion Physical Therapy

Tara is a native of San Francisco who studied elsewhere — the University of Oregon and New York Medical College — before returning home to open Local Motion. Tara says she is an upbeat and active person, always looking for opportunities to run and also to expand her knowledge through continuing education.


Jill A. Sweringen, Purple Iris Healing Center

Jill received her BS in physical therapy in 1985 then returned to graduate school at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1997. She earned her master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2000 and has since become a licensed acupuncturist in California, earning national certification in 2001.


Sydney James, Therapydia SF

A competitive triathlete, Sydney graduated from California Polytechnic State University and the University of California-San Francisco. Her specialty is addressing dysfunctional movement patterns and habits by first engaging in a close observation-and-assessment session, and then re-educating the client’s body to avoid future injury. Her treatment plans are grounded in the concept of “regional interdependence,” or the idea that physical limitations, which may initially appear to be separate issues, may in fact all be part and parcel of the same major problem.


Rachel Buchanan, Presidio Sport & Fitness

Rachel is a lifelong athlete, like many of the physical therapists on this list. She embraces a holistic approach that is centered in traditional manual therapy, functional movement and exercise, as well as thorough patient education.


Don B. Azcarate, Ace Physical Therapy

Don Azcarate is particularly adept at broken bones — specifically, at helping restore full function and strength after fractures have healed. Don also served as the official physical therapist for the Artemis Racing sailing team as they trained for and participated in the 34th America’s Cup competition.


Wendy Richardson, Back and Body Care Physical Therapy

Wendy Richardson focuses her professional attention on every aspect of her clients’ lives. Her practice incorporates an interdisciplinary approach that goes far beyond the usual PT modalities and includes such treatments as Feldenkrais, yoga, Pilates, myofascial release, and deep tissue massage. She’ll even help her clients improve the ergonomics of their home offices.


Lisa Paradiso, Chiro-Medical Group, Inc.

As a certified Pilates mat instructor, Lisa Paradiso brings her expertise in the body’s core strength to each of her clients at Chiro-Medical. She specializes in treating clients with spinal injuries and limitations, as well as those with other types of orthopedic and post-surgical impairments.


Stacee Brown, FORM Physical Therapy

Stacee Brown takes her time, literally. Each of Stacee’s PT sessions, whether for post-operative rehabilitation or orthopedic injury, lasts a full 55 minutes. One happy patient notes on Yelp that “[Stacee] goes right to work on your foot/feet, hamstrings, whatever, and doesn’t let up. And mind you, this is NO assistant, or helper, or ‘warmer-upper.’ You are getting 100% Stacee with her extensive medical knowledge and long experience.”


Oliver Mok, Noe Valley Physical Therapy

Oliver Mok’s patients are so pleased with his therapy that they’ve been known to drive dozens of miles to continue working with him. Oliver works with soft tissue and joint mobilization, and helps stabilize his patients’ spines and back muscles through careful hands-on adjustments and extensive physical re-training.


Lisa Giannone, Active Care Sports Performance & OrthoPedic Rehabilitation

Lisa is known as a thought leader and truly innovative therapist among her peers and colleagues. She has worked extensively with some of the city’s leading athletes and dancers, and specializes in keeping these elite performers on top of their game. Even Sports Illustrated has taken note of Lisa’s expertise, highlighting her successful treatment of former NFL star Jerry Rice’s potentially career-ending knee injury.


Kevyn Sebastian, Momentum Therapy

Kevyn Sebastian is known for her success with chronic pain patients, a group that’s often underserved in physical therapy practices that focus primarily on acute injuries. Her success is due in part to her willingness to examine every factor that may be contributing to the overall pain levels and dysfunction. Her sessions, which can last up to 90 minutes, also include client education and lifestyle planning.


Gina Giamanco, Red Hawk Physical Therapy

Gina Giamanco, a native New Yorker who relocated to California in 1997, works extensively with dance-related injuries. Her treatment plans benefit from her in-depth expertise in manual therapy techniques and in Pilates-based core strength training. Gina serves currently as the physical therapist to the San Francisco company of Stomp.


Richard Soriano, Action Sports Medicine

Richard Soriano’s experience with sports training and athletic performance helps him get his patients back to their pre-injury levels of wellness, or even surpass their own personal bests. By staying up-to-date with the latest research in kinesthesiology and rehabilitative techniques, he helps his patients get back in the game while simultaneously doing all they can to avoid repeated injury. Richard says his main personal goal is to “be the fearless 80-year-old mountain biker still having a blast on the trails.”


Tuanjay “TJ” Nguyen, Ultrahealth Sports Physical Therapy and Training

TJ Nguyen has an impressive track record with ACL post-surgery rehab clients. He bases his treatment plans for ACL post-operative clients on targeted range-of-movement exercises as well as various massage techniques. When he’s working directly with patients, he strives to empower them through education and encouragement.


Julie Schottland at Core Pilates and Physical Therapy

Julie’s experience covers a wide range of orthopedic settings, but her specialization is in back pain, injury, and post-surgical rehabilitation. Julie says her goal is to empower patients through helping them understand what is causing their movement dysfunctions, then giving them the tools they need to improve.

The Bay Area has more than its share of experienced and outcome-oriented physical therapists, and this list is far from exhaustive. These men and women perfectly illustrate what the combination of education, experience, and innovation can accomplish, even in a field like physical therapy where outcomes can vary wildly from patient to patient. In that sense, they are true leaders.


images by:
David Yu / Flickr