Nikki Robinson is one of the top Myofascial Release Physiotherapists in Europe, a gentle and safe treatment that work with the mind and the body to help with pain and inflammation. Her vast expertise and knowledge in the field together with passion for well-being and health put her in the spotlight to get nominated and finally awarded the Best Business Woman Award in Health and Wellness. She qualified as a Physiotherapist from the Queen Elizabeth School of Physiotherapy, Birmingham in 1993 and then worked in the NHS and in Australia.
Following that she travelled to America and trained in Myofascial Release with John Barnes, the American Physiotherapist who developed the technique. In 2006 she founded Holisticare, one of the few specialist Myofascial Release practices in Europe, opening a purpose built treatment centre in 2010.
A member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council, Nikki is also a member of the Fascia Research Society, ensuring she has access to the latest fascia research and journals from round the world to keep her knowledge and skills up to date.
What is the story behind Holisticare?
I started Holisticare 10 years ago, working 2 mornings a week from home while my daughter was at playgroup. Holisticare is a specialist center offering Myofascial Release which now based in a purpose built Treatment Centre on a working farm and has 4 specialist Myofascial Release therapists.
I took a career break from 2001 when I had my children, then in 2006 I was looking for a course to update my skills and came across Myofascial Release. I didn’t know anything about it, but it sounded interesting, I could afford it and was able to get to the venue, so I booked it! After the first five minutes, I knew that this was for me but I didn’t realise how much it was going to change my life.
This technique satisfies my Physio-head as it’s based on science and research, and it suits me personally as it enables the therapist to truly follow the patient and work with their mind and body. It is the only treatment I have come across that works with the patient rather than doing things to them. So I never know what I am going to be doing in a treatment session – it depends on what my patient does so it is never boring. In fact, every day I am inspired and humbled by our patients and how they allow us to work with them in changing their lives.
Before I found Myofascial Release, I knew that I would start my own private practice in some shape or form. So the Holisticare name and logo were conceived one night by my husband and me, with the help of a bottle of wine. We even registered the limited company and website!
Myofascial Release is a treatment developed by an American Physiotherapist called John Barnes and Holisticare is one of the few specialist centres in the UK. It is a safe, gentle, hands-on treatment that works with your body to untangle the restrictions that cause pain, tension and inflammation.
Everything that happens to us from the time we are conceived is recorded within our fascial network (the myofascia). This is a continuous web of fibers that holds our cells in place and connects them all to each other. This 3D network gives you strength, flexibility and stability meaning that no part of the body exists in isolation. The myofascia solidifies and shortens in response to any kind of trauma, repetition of movement or ongoing poor posture. It will slowly tighten, spreading tension throughout your whole body.
There is a gloopy substance between the cells and fibers, called the ground substance. This reacts to physical and emotional stress and becomes more solid, preventing your body from being able to adapt to things and leading to symptoms and illness.
The ground substance is thixotropic, meaning that it becomes more fluid in response to warmth and pressure. During treatment, this comes from our hands and we use this reaction to feel where the restrictions are coming from and to gently release them.
As we never force our patients’ bodies, it is very safe and enables us to truly follow what they need, getting long-term results. It also allows us to work very deeply without pain, so most of our patients find it a very relaxing treatment.
Myofascial Release is also very effective for athletes before and after training and competitions. It helps to loosen muscles, which reduces the chance of injury, and clears lactic acid after exercise. As it is such a gentle technique, you don’t have to endure the pain of a sports massage.
The technique is even safe in pregnancy and for new born babies, helping with conditions such as back pain, SPD, colic and reflux.
Obviously Myofascial Release can’t cure everything but there is a good chance that it can make a difference to most symptoms that people present with. Many of Holisticare’s patients have tried lots of different therapies with limited success before they come to them. By working with their bodies, they are able to help conditions that are often hard to treat.
As a centre of excellence, we have patients travelling from all over the UK and even internationally to come to us for treatment. To enable them to make the most of their time with us, we offer an Intensive Treatment Programme - 15 hours of treatment / week for 1, 2 or 3 weeks. These weeks are often life changing and are a very rewarding part of the business.
You have won the Best Business Woman Health and Wellness Award. Tell us about this and how did you feel to receive this great award?
This is the first year that I have entered any business awards, so I was very happy to have been shortlisted as a finalist. The whole Holisticare team attended the Awards Evening - a black tie event for all the finalists. When they announced that I had won I started shaking, I was so surprised! To be in a room with so many inspirational women was amazing, so it was a huge honour to be chosen as a winner - for my team as well.
It has been lovely to get our patients' feedback about the win too. They are really happy for us and have been saying some lovely things about us.
How did you fund your business in the beginning stages?
I started my business from home and built up gradually as the children got older. Other than paying for courses and a treatment couch, I had no initial expenses, and as I wasn't working when I started I didn't have the pressure of giving up an income to start my business.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when you first started as a business owner?
The main challenge to begin with was how to explain what I did. As Myofascial Release is a specialist Physiotherapy treatment, most of my patients came to me for Physiotherapy and were happy to receive the treatment I recommended. It took me nearly 10 years to come up with a concise explanation of what we do, which we now give to our patients on a card to carry with them so they too can explain it:
‘Myofascial Release is a safe, gentle, hands-on treatment that works with your body and mind to unravel the restrictions that cause pain, tightness and inflammation.’
This is getting much easier now as Myofascial Release is increasingly being recommended as the treatment of choice for many conditions, such as Fibromyalgia and pelvic pain.
Physiotherapy is a very competitive field. How do you make sure that your practice stands out from the rest?
Our specialism is the main difference. And the fact that we only ever treat one patient at a time, our treatments are all hands-on and we are all passionate about what we do.
Customer service is another area in which we excel - we were also finalists in the Harlow Business Awards Customer Service category. We pride ourselves on providing our patients with a service that comes from the heart. We feel that their therapy doesn’t only happen on the treatment couch but in all our interactions with them and their families.
Holistic medicine is becoming more popular now. Why do you think people are starting to pay more attention to holistic practices when it comes to their health?
I have definitely noticed a shift over the ten years that I have been in business. I think that is partly due to the strain on the NHS - frustration with waiting times and limitations on treatments offered mean that if people are able to pay for their own treatment they are looking for options.
Increasing media coverage of health issues and the internet publication of research have also given people the knowledge to make decisions about their own bodies.
Nearly 80% of new patients at Holisticare come through word of mouth. I feel that this illustrates the power of doing a good job so people talk about us. Many of our patients have been through the traditional NHS route and not been helped, so they feel they have no choice but to look for alternatives.
How important would you say social media has been for you?
Social media has helped raise awareness of what we do and has enabled me to respond to requests for help. We have also had new patients from other people recommending us on social media, but it is not a large source of business for us.
What advice do you have for those who want to start their own business?
I would really recommend speaking to a business/marketing coach before getting started - the learning curve needed is huge and I didn't know how much I didn't know! And once you understand your own strengths and weaknesses, it is easier to know what areas you need help in.
I also learnt that you have to be confident in what you are offering - if you can't tell people that you're good, then why would they try your services? Business networking has helped me to spread the word about my business and I have met lots of wonderful people who I have been able to use too.
If you want to learn more about myofascial release physiotherapy and get in contact with Nikki and her team, visit the Holisticare website for more information.