It’s always been in the back of our minds to have a clinic in Rio Rancho — Jamel Esch, founder of Balanced Physical Therapy and Wellness




While most physical therapy clinics tried to merely survive the last two years amid COVID-19, Balanced Physical Therapy and Wellness continued to expand and provide continuity between therapists and patients.

Lawrence Herrera, a physical therapist with Balanced Physical Therapy and Wellness, works on the left shoulder of Jack Howard at the new Rio Rancho location on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. (Matt Hollinshead/Observer)

Banking on the notion that the worst of the pandemic’s in the rear view mirror, the Albuquerque-based company seized the chance to expand operations into Rio Rancho, opening a new location Monday at 2113 Golf Course Road.

“We thought it had a lot of potential, and that’s how we kind-of got into the Rio Rancho market,” said Jamel Esch, founder of Balanced PT. “It’s always been in the back of our minds to have a clinic in Rio Rancho… (The recent growth) was part of the draw. It’s had a little stall here, but I think it’s going to be back on track. It seems like just driving around Rio Rancho… I see a lot of development, a lot of buildings going on, recently at least.”

The Rio Rancho clinic is the company’s fifth in New Mexico. The other four are Bernalillo, two in northeast Albuquerque and one in Albuquerque’s far east side.

Balanced PT concentrates on rehabilitation involving hands, the pelvis, manual lymphatic drainage, running form, among others.

“There’s a need. The population is getting older, and a lot of patients are requiring more services for a long period of time,” said Lawrence Herrera, a physical therapist and co-owner of Balanced PT’s Sandoval County locations.

Herrera said a number of recent patients include those needing to work on their cardiovascular endurance to help them get through the day.

“We like to get them on bikes, treadmills, we have an elliptical machine. Just the initial steps to provide them with adequate strength and cardiovascular endurance,” he said.

Balanced PT started as as a family-owned setup, but developed into a place for young entrepreneur physical therapists to oversee operations.

“We partner with current employees almost exclusively when we look at opening other clinics,” Esch said.

Rather than letting bigger corporations seize control, Balanced PT strives to keep locations under the ownership of those in-house employees. The goal is to maintain continuity and stability, which Esch said will lead to a higher quality of care by giving local owners the freedom to see and treat patients the way they see fit.

“In most cases, therapists like seeing patients one-on-one, they like seeing patients progress, and they like having autonomy when they’re working with a patient as well,” Esch said. “We try to keep the patient with the same therapist. And so far, we’ve been able to keep really good therapists.”

Esch said it’s hard for physical therapy facilities in New Mexico to keep good employees, adding one of the chief complaints he’s heard from patients is the constant turnover in larger PT chains. That continuity of care, or lack thereof, directly impacts the patient’s healing process, he said.

“If you’re going to see a different therapist every time, I think that you’re less invested. Once you’re less invested, then you kind-of usually fall off,” he said. “If you keep the continuity and the consistency with the therapist, the patients typically go through their whole plan of care and don’t drop off prematurely.”

The Rio Rancho site has two physical therapists and is also hiring a PT assistant to start around late May.

“We’ve had a lot of great therapists as students, and I know we have a great crop of PTs that we know of that are graduating. Most of them have expressed interest in working for the company,” Esch said.