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Meet the Owner: Local Physical Therapist Expands Practice

Cindi Prentiss has locations in East Setauket and Smithtown, and is set to open a location in Oakdale.

For business owners across Long Island, Hurricane Sandy had all kinds of effects, from negatives like loss of product to positives like more customers.

For Cindi Prentiss, the recent hurricane had the effect of speeding up the process of opening a new location. Her practice, Physical Therapy and Beyond, already has offices in Smithtown on Landing Avenue and in East Setauket on Belle Meade Road, and this week will expand to a south shore location at 2 Berard Boulevard in Oakdale.

"We did a little bit of research and realized that we have patients down there," she said. "It’s going to get the patients seen quicker and it’s going to get my employees work. It just all fell together."

Prentiss is offering free injury screenings at both Smithtown and East Setauket following the hurricane and nor'easter. She said she is getting an increase in phone calls from people as a result of the extreme weather.

"A lot of people are calling with back pain because of the hurricane and snowstorm," she said. "They had to bend over and pick up things and move things and dump things."

Prentiss, 48, began practicing physical therapy after graduating from Boston University and Dowling College. It was a field she got her start in based on her own experience with an injury. She had trained as a dancer from a young age, and after aerobics came out in the 1980s, she began teaching – but soon had bad shin splints. Prentiss sought help from an athletic trainer at a community college, and had a major realization when she stepped into the trainer's gym.

"I walked in and said, 'What is this?'" she said. "I started gearing up to go to school for physical therapy."

Since then, Prentiss has spent years diversifying her practice. From her start as a physical therapist, she later became a McKenzie certified spine specialist. When she became a mother, she developed a pregnancy back pain program. Prentiss also began treating incontinence and pelvic pain with physical therapy, and treating the jaw for TMJ and headaches.

Among the challenges of owning a health-and-wellness practice is dealing with insurance companies, particularly Medicare, and seemingly endless paperwork. Insurance companies have really changed the way health care businesses operate, Prentiss said.

"That’s a major, major challenge," she said. "When I started 25 years ago, if you had an ACL reconstruction, you came to physical therapy for nine months to a year, and insurance companies paid for it. Now they want you out of here in like four to eight weeks, depending on the insurance company. It’s very fast."

Prentiss opened her practice in Smithtown in 2000 and expanded to East Setauket in 2006, and has also started a massage therapy business (Healing Hands) and personal training gym (Beyond Fitness) tied to her East Setauket office. Currently, she employs nine physical therapists. She has been featured in both print and broadcast media, including CBS News, Cabelvision’s "Extra Help," Newsday, Glamour, and others.

"I really enjoy helping people. The satisfaction of getting them better is just the coolest thing," she said. "...Getting back to the business of enjoying life once again is really a mantra. That as much as this is a business, it’s all about helping and caring."

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