Professional Healthcare With a Personal Touch

7208 East Cave Creek Road, Suite H, Carefree, AZ  85377   |   Phone: 480-488-9095

30 years


Five Reasons to Choose Physical Therapy Early for Pain

If you experience an injury or develop pain, seeing a physical therapist early can help you address and manage your symptoms. Physical therapists are movement experts who improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. A physical therapist can help you:

  • Get better safely and without fear of causing further injury.
  • Stay physically active and avoid the cost and potential risks of surgery and prescription opioids.
  • Recover as soon as possible.
  • Avoid other problems caused by changes your body makes to avoid pain.
  • Achieve your goals.

Acute Versus Chronic Pain

Acute pain. Typically, the first two to three weeks after an injury is called the acute phase. During this phase, it is easier to diagnose and treat pain.

Chronic pain. Pain lasting longer than three months is considered chronic. Identifying the cause of chronic pain is more complicated, and treating chronic pain takes longer.

recent study, published in May 2020 in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, found that people who get physical therapy early after the onset of low back pain have much better results than those who wait. Other studies, such as an October 2015 article published in JAMA, and a July 2020 article published in The Mental Health Clinician, have shown that early physical therapy improves disability and decreases pain and reduces the need for medication.

Seeing a physical therapist early, in the acute phase of pain or injury, often leads to the best results. Here are five benefits of seeing a physical therapist early if you experience pain.

  1. Get Better Safely, Without Fear of Causing Further Injury

Pain may cause you to avoid activity for fear of causing more damage. After a thorough evaluation your physical therapist will design a personalized plan of care based on your needs and goals to:

  • Improve and manage your pain.
  • Safely improve movement, function, and quality of life.
  • Recover from injury and prevent future injury.

Physical therapists often work with other members of your health care team to ensure the best possible care.

  1. Stay Physically Active To Avoid the Cost and Potential Risk of Surgery and Prescription Opioids

When an injury or pain occurs, our body enters protection mode. Often, people in pain avoid moving altogether. But avoiding all activity can delay recovery, and lead to new problems.

To recover from most causes of pain, it’s important to keep moving. An active lifestyle that is appropriate for your condition can help you manage symptoms and decrease or eliminate pain. A physical therapist will help you:

  • Understand your pain.
  • Set realistic expectations for recovery.
  • Prescribe exercise specific to your condition, needs, and goals.

A physical therapy program may help you avoid or delay surgery and can help you properly prepare for surgery, if required. Physical therapy also is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a safe and effective alternative to opioids for the management of most non–cancer-related pain. A physical therapist can help you understand the use of any medication that is best for your condition and show you safe ways to reduce your pain.

  1. Recover as Soon as Possible

Those who seek care within two weeks of an injury or onset of pain may require less care. In addition to treating your pain, your physical therapist will help you better understand your symptoms and provide strategies to manage your pain and recovery, as soon as your condition allows.

  1. Avoid Other Problems Caused by Chronic Pain

When pain lingers, we may develop new movement patterns to avoid it. As a result, you may develop additional issues that require more time and effort to treat and reverse. Problems that may develop include:

  • Stiffness.
  • Loss of strength and endurance.
  • Increased sensitivity to and frequency of pain.

Seeing a physical therapist at the onset of pain may prevent it from becoming chronic.

  1. Achieve Your Goals

Movement is crucial to your health, quality of life, and independence. For some people, pain makes movement a challenge. Your physical therapist can discuss your goals and work with you to develop a program to achieve them so you can get back to your desired activities or sport as soon as possible.

Physical therapists are movement experts. They improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation.


7208 East Cave Creek Road, Suite H, Carefree, AZ  85377   |   Phone: 480-488-9095

Cynthia is wonderful & professional.

Lucy is great too.

Both explain things to me, like why an exercise is done & how to do properly. SR

“CPT was wonderful from the first visit to the last. Very informative and helped me incorporate stretches and strength exercises into my everyday life.” CM

” Appreciate the calm, caring atmosphere — very professional. Also, the ‘on time’ for appointments!” ML

The Carefree Physical Therapy Treatment Team


cynthia driskellCynthia Driskell, PT received her Bachelor of Science in Health Science and Physical Therapy at the University of Missouri in 1979, as well as a BA in Biology at Drury University in 1977. She established Carefree Physical Therapy as a sole proprietor in 1987. In 1996, she was recognized as a Geriatric Certified Specialist by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists. Cynthia is also certified as an Exercise Expert for Aging Adults (2010) and as an ASTYM provider.

Cynthia has a record of extensive participation in the Arizona Physical Therapy community. She is past- President of the Arizona Physical Therapy Association, past-President of the Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy, and current chair of the AzPTA State Government Affairs Committee. She is a founding member of Arizona Physical Therapy Provider Network (PTPN).

Cynthia is active in the community with Soroptimist International of Saguaro Foothills, coach and referee with Desert Foothills Athletic Club, and the Foothills Caring Corp. Cynthia and Walt Murphy live and raise their family in Cave Creek. Away from the office, Cynthia enjoys riding her horse and playing tennis.

30 yearsAZ License #0921

“Cynthia Driskell was great! Very knowledgeable and patient.”  LC

“I would highly recommend Carefree Physical Therapy. Everyone is friendly and professional. Cynthia is the best!”  JJ

nathan millerNathan Miller, PT, DPT received his Doctor of Physical Therapy at Northern Arizona University in 2008, and his undergraduate degree in Religious Studies from Arizona State University in 2005. Nathan joined Carefree Physical Therapy in 2011. He has continued professional training in orthopedic manual therapy, has 3 years of experience in neurological rehabilitation and is certified in trigger point dry needling.  He is interested in a broad spectrum of health, wellness, and prevention activities. Nathan and his 2 children live in north Phoenix with their parrot.


“In just 6 months with Nathan’s help, I’ve recovered from a severe ankle break (eight screws and a plate).  He couldn’t have been better in helping it along.  We started with me looking like a walk-on for being a Hobbit and ended being able to walk six or seven miles per day.  Nathan is a true professional and was fantastic to work with!” RR

“Nathan was extremely helpful & informative. He monitored my progress and added more exercises/weight accordingly. He answered my questions & concerns so I was able to understand! I feel my time here was valuable. I would recommend your facility & Nathan to others.” DU

Chelsea recieved her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at A.T. Still University in 2015, and graduated from ASU with a B.S. in Kinesiology in 2012.  She completed an Orthopedic Residency Program through A.T. Still University in 2015-16.  Chelsea joined Carefree Physical Therapy in 2016 and is continuing her post-graduate education in orthopedic physical therapy. Chelsea, her husband, daughter and son live in north Phoenix. She enjoys exploring outdoors, hiking, biking and playing with her goldendoodles.

Chelsea Symancyk, PT, DPT has a passion for Pilate’s which she loves to share with her patients and clients. She received her training through Polestar, which has special emphasis on the application of Pilate’s based exercise in rehab settings.

It is her goal to improve your posture and guide you in your physical goals. This includes maximizing performance for professional or recreational interests such as hiking, golfing, and swimming as well as increase daily activities abilities, such as housework, yardwork, walking or running.

What is Pilate’s?

Pilate’s is a form of exercise which incorporates low-impact strength and conditioning with significant focus on flexibility and endurance training. Pilate’s aims to improve posture through techniques of spine elongation, improving muscle balance, and core strength.

Who is Pilate’s right for?

Most individuals can benefit from Pilate’s! Chelsea has seen particular success for those who are experiencing chronic pain, may it be from arthritis or other contributors. Pilate’s is a way to break the negative pain cycle so you can integrate back into an active lifestyle with a low-load and graded program. One thing to appreciate the most about this form of exercise, is that the equipment can be used to support you in your movement or as a resistance in your exercise, depending on your level and goals. This allows us to personalize the needs for each client and provide sufficient challenge for lower-level client’s as well as experienced or higher-level athletes.

This is also beneficial when phasing back into recreation after surgery or when recovering from an injury conservatively. If you have specific questions related to your body and appropriateness for Pilate’s don’t hesitate to call our office and ask for to speak with Chelsea.

How to get started?

Call our office to schedule a Physical Therapy Pilate’s evaluation. This will include a thorough assessment of your posture, flexibility, strength, and balance. We will review your personal and activity goals in order to personalize your rehab or exercise journey to your needs.

Chelsea’s deep knowledge of her skill was most impressive and for a patient such as myself, I appreciate her willingness to discuss the physiology and purpose for the exercise.  I can say I always felt I was in incredibly competent, sensitive and professional hands. She is such an asset to your practice and I am so grateful I was fortunate enough to be paired with such a delightful skilled therapist. CB, 2017

Gillian received her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at Northern Arizona University in 2015 and Master of Occupational Therapy degree at Midwestern University in 2007.  She joined Carefree Physical Therapy in 2017 after two years experience in outpatient orthopedic therapy as a Physical Therapist, and six years experience in neurological rehabilitation as an Occupational Therapist.  Gillian has professional training in orthopedic manual therapy and specializes in treating individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.  She has an adjunct faculty position at Midwestern University’s Physical Therapy Program and guest lectures for Northern Arizona University’s Physical and Occupational Therapy Programs on topics relating to neurological conditions.  Gillian is published on topics such as the neurological hand and visual training to improve balance in people with Parkinson’s Disease.  She enjoys volunteering for a variety of annual events for people with Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis, and she is a United States Quad Rugby Association Classifier.  Gillian loves hiking and yoga, as well as spending time with her husband, dogs, and 4 cats.

AZ License #11596

“Very impressed with the professional treatment of the therapist and the facility.  The depth of knowledge and programs for Parkinson’s patients is outstanding.” IC

Bill received his undergraduate degree in General Science in 1975 and his graduate certificate in physical therapy in 1978 both from the University of Iowa.  He was certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association in 1979 and became a Board Certified Sports Clinical Specialist by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists in 1989. Bill was then certified as a Senior Strength Trainer by the International Weightlifting Association in 2013 and became ASTYM certified in 2015. A practice owner for many years, he has a lifelong interest in orthopedic rehab, strength training, return to activity and wellness. Bill enjoys travel, music, hiking, vintage cars, spending time with his wife Susan and their 25 year old twins. Bill joined the staff at Carefree Physical Therapy in 2019.

“Extremely pleased with Carefree Physical Therapy and the knowledge of the therapists! They did me a world of good!!!” JP

Lucy AriasLucy Arias has a Bachelor of Arts degree with emphasis on Health and Human Performance from St. Mary’s College of California. She joined Carefree Physical Therapy in 2006, after several years experience as a PTA in California. She received as Associate in Applied Science degree in Physical Therapy Assisting from Gateway Community College and her Arizona PTA certificate in 2014. Lucy, Juan, and their 4 children live in Carefree.

“Very satisfied with the treatment. Therapist (and assistant) very competent, sympathetic, and charming.”  NM

Lisa recently relocated from Michigan to Cave Creek, has been married for twenty three years, and has three children and five grandchildren! She joined Carefree Physical Therapy in 2021. Her past work experience consists of HIM supervisor for seven years, medical coder for twenty years with various office experience. She taught a semester of coding at NMU as an adjunct teacher. Lisa has her Associates in HIT, is a certificate in Medical Administrative Assistant, and holds a RHIT credential!

Jessica moved to Arizona with her family in 2018 from Michigan. She received her education from Baker College and Kaplan University.  Jessica has been working in the medical field for nearly 20 years, with experience in Medical Office Management, Billing/Coding and Surgical Scheduling and joined Carefree PT in 2019. She is a dedicated mother and spouse. In her free time, Jessica enjoys spending time with family and friends, cheering on her children’s sports teams, checking off her bucket list adventures with family, boating and traveling.

“Very satisfied. I would highly recommend Carefree Physical Therapy.”  PG

“Carefree Physical Therapy is my favorite therapy. Beyond professional, courteous, helpful and friendly. NO better place!”

ginger morganOur dear friend and colleague Ginger Morgan passed away on Friday, March 20, 2015 after a brave fight against breast cancer for 2 years.

A graduate of University of Alabama-Birmingham in 1987, Ginger was very dedicated to her work at Carefree Physical Therapy as a physical therapist’s assistant from 2003 to 2015. Ginger was an integral part of our team at Carefree PT. She was fun, energetic, hard-working, and is fondly remembered by patients and coworkers.

In remembrance of Ginger, we placed a memorial bench on the the Go John Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park. It was one of her favorite trails, that she had hiked with her children Taylor and Katie. We invite you to hike the Go John Trail, enjoy the beautiful desert park, and remember our friend Ginger.

ginger bench on go john trail

The Carefree Physical Therapy Practice

Serving Carefree, Cave Creek, Desert Hills, North Scottsdale, and North Phoenix since 1987, Carefree Physical Therapy (formerly Foothills Physical Therapy) is dedicated to providing quality out-patient physical therapy and rehabilitation care to its clients of all ages for orthopedic, geriatric, and neurological conditions. We treat acute injuries, post-surgical needs, and chronic conditions. We offer post-rehab independent exercise programs at our facility.

Carefree Physical Therapy has been a Medicare certified provider since 1987 and credentialed by NCQA standards. We also participate with Medicare’s quality reporting initiative.

We participate in many insurance networks such as all BC/BS, and State Compensation Fund (workers comp). As a founding member of Physical Therapist Provider Network (PTPN), we participate in many other major networks such as Aetna, Humana, Healthnet, Community Care Network (CCN), Multiplan, and PHCS.

We utilize FOTO (Focus On Therapeutic Outcomes) a national interactive health analysis for quality assurance outcome measures.

Carefree Physical Therapy Services

carefree physical therapy

Orthopedic manual therapy means identifying movement abnormalities and correcting them. It relies on body movement analysis, mechanical positioning, and manual (hands-on) testing to assess muscle and joint abnormalities. Orthopedic manual therapy techniques can be applied to the spine, shoulders, hips, or other extremity joints.

Such abnormalities may cause symptoms of pain, stiffness, weakness or instability. These changes may be about some part of the body not moving freely enough, and the treatment is to restore more normal movement. Other conditions may create pain or dysfunction because some parts of the body are moving too much and the goal of treatment is to stabilize and limit motion.

Treatments in orthopedic manual therapy are movement oriented. Manual (hands-on) techniques by your physical therapist can be passive or active, with specific positioning techniques. Therapeutic exercises are targeted at specific areas of weakness or dysfunction, and home exercises are prescribed to support the changes obtained by the manual therapy treatment.


“Exercises are customized for each problem area. Staff is excellent!”  MF

Augmented Soft Tissue Mobilization

Carefree Physical Therapy is recognized as a network member with physical therapists certified in the provision of the ASTYM system of soft tissue mobilization.

ASTYMThe ASTYM system is a therapy approach that addresses problems such as scarring, fibrosis and degeneration that occur in soft tissues. These problems may develop as the result of trauma, surgery or overuse. The System is effective for new injuries as well as chronic, nagging conditions. The ASTYM System uses instruments along the surface of the skin to locate these problem areas and start the body’s healing process. As the body heals, exercise and activity help guide the healing which allows you to return to activities without pain and limitation. The success of the ASTYM System is documented for a wide variety of diagnoses and many times it helps patient where other treatments have failed.
The ASTYM System is used in settings ranging from therapy clinics to hospitals to industrial rehabilitations. This proven treatment helps countless patients every day.
The ASTYM System has been used in clinics by rehabilitation professionals since 1996. Thomas L. Sevier, MD guided the clinical, scientific and outcomes research used to develop the System and document its remarkable effectiveness.



“Completely satisfied. Nathan was great and even though there was ‘pain to gain,’ I completely trusted him with my rehab.”  JP


dry trigger point needlingTrigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) treatment is a very effective technique used to reduce muscular pain. the technique utilizes thin, solid filament needles to deactivate and desensitize trigger points in muscles. Myofascial trigger points are painful “knots” in muscles that can contribute to pain, decreased flexibility, and decreased muscle function. It is not uncommon for a person to continue to experience pain long after the inured tissues should have healed. This can be due to trigger points in the muscles in and around the area of injury. By inserting the needles into these trigger points, a “twitch response” or brief contraction is elicited, followed by relaxation of that muscle. This results in “deactivation” of the trigger point, which reduces pain and restores normal function to the muscle. Once normal muscle function is attained, treatment can progress to strengthening and returning to normal function.


“You made my rehab fun and enjoyable, as did your friendly staff.”  JA

There are many causes of dizziness and imbalance. There are three components that help us maintain our balance throughout our daily activities which include our vision, sensation and the vestibular system. The Vestibular system includes parts of the inner ear and brain that help control balance and eye movements during all activities. When a problem occurs within the vestibular system it results in symptoms of vertigo. Vertigo is a sense of rotation, rocking or spinning when someone is perfectly still. Vertigo of peripheral (inner ear) and central (brain) origin can be addressed by a physical therapist. Specific treatments will depend on the cause of the vertigo, but can include head and neck maneuvers or other exercises to help eliminate your symptoms.

One of the most common causes of vertigo that physical therapists treat is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). BPPV occurs when the small calcium crystals normally found within the inner become displaced leading to irritation to the small hair cells within the inner ear canals leading to an inappropriate communication within the vestibular system resulting in symptoms of vertigo. When the calcium crystals are displaced within the inner ear canals normal movements such as looking upward, downward, side to side or rolling over in bed can result in dizziness, spinning, nausea, and difficulty walking.

Treatment for vestibular conditions may involve repositioning maneuvers in the case of BPPV and habituation/adaptation exercises and balance exercises are usually required in cases of inner ear weakness or central vertigo disorders. The main goal of therapy is to eliminate or reduce your symptoms of vertigo to improve safety and confidence as you return to daily and recreational activities.
Non-vestibular causes of dizziness and imbalance:

Dizziness can be linked to a multitude of problems and is commonly linked to blood flow irregularities from cardiovascular conditions. It is important to follow up with your primary care physician when experiencing symptoms of dizziness. Non-vestibular causes of dizziness may include the following:

Side effects of medications
Orthostatic Hypotension (decreased blood pressure when changing positions)
Stress, Tension & Fatigue
Vision Disturbances (bifocals, cataracts)
Central nervous system conditions (ex. Stroke, aneurysm, tumor)
Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and other cardiac conditions
Neck Arthritis (vertebral basilar insufficiency)
Chronic conditions (ex. Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson Disease)


“I would highly recommend Carefree Physical Therapy.  Everyone is friendly and professional.”  JJ

As patients approach discharge from a formal physical therapy program, on going exercise for fitness and maintenance of function is highly important. Many individuals have home gyms, or a community fitness center to use. For those patients who need access to appropriate equipment, or a safe atmosphere for on going exercise, Carefree Physical Therapy offers a monthly gym membership. The cost is $40 per month, for gym access, Monday – Friday, 7:30 am to 5 pm. The office is closed on weekends and major holidays.

We will provide you with instruction and a checklist of recommended activities to continue your individual program. You are always welcome to ask for assistance as needed.

This program is not available to the general public. It is limited to current and past patients of Carefree Physical Therapy.

Remember – exercise is the best medicine!

I felt that Chelsea and I had a great partnership dedicated to my rehab.  I couldn’t be happier with my results. Everyone here was terrific! AM

Carefree Physical Therapy recommends Fall Risk Assessment for individuals who experience balance challenges without falls, who have experienced a recent fall, or who express fear of falling and limit their activity due to that fear. As a participating Medicare provider, we provide fall history questionaire and risk assessment as part of the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative to all of our Medicare patients.

preventing slips, trips and fallsIn our practice, we utilize evidence-based, functional tests to determine fall risk. These tests include:

Functional Reach Test – standing and reaching forward
Timed Up and Go Test – stand from a chair, walk 10 feet turn and walk back to sit down
Timed Chair Rise – sit to stand from a chair 5 times without using your arms
Single Leg Stance Test – Stand on one foot with arms across your chest

The test scores that indicate if you have a low, moderate or high risk for falls. The results of these tests can also suggest which exercises and activities could be beneficial for reducing your fall risk. Additional testing may also help to determine if an assistive device or other training may be helpful.

Falls are not a part of normal aging. Risk of falling can be greatly reduced by addressing issues of balance and strength through an appropriate exercise program.


“Best facility in fifty years of frequent therapy.  Best therapists!” SF

michelle gavuraEnjoy the benefits of Pilates training for total body movement with emphasis on core stability.   Available by appointment with Michelle Gavura, PT, a certified Pilates Rehab Practitioner.  Michelle provides private lessons, individual equipment sessions, and group mat classes.

Contact Michelle at 602-295-4702,

PWR!Moves® training targets multiple symptoms associated with Parkinson’s Disease (PD).  The training emphasizes four, basic PWR! Moves®:

Posture against gravity – countering the small, flexed posture commonly associated with PD

Weight shifting – to improve movement control during mobility

Trunk rotation – to reduce the rigidity with PD that interferes with efficient and coordinated movement

Transition – to improve movement from one position to another (walking, functional transfers, bed mobility, etc.)

Training the Basic 4 PWR! Moves® can occur on the floor, in sitting, or in standing and involves high velocity, large amplitude movement designed to decelerate disease progression.  Research shows people with PD can GET BETTER and STAY BETTER with the right exercise!

Carefree PT PWR! Moves® exercise classes are instructed by Gillian Porter, PT, DPT, who has been leading PWR! Moves® exercise classes since 2012.  Classes are $10 per person and are held on Tuesdays at 12:30pm and Saturdays at either 10:00AM or TBD, depending on the focus of the class.  Please call our office at 480-488-9095 to request more information about the PWR! Moves® classes.

COVID-19 update: As of 04/01/2020, our clinic-based classes are on hold until further notice. In lieu of in-person classes, Gillian will begin posting weekly exercise videos starting the week of 04/27/2020. Click on the purple link below to view the latest PWR Moves® exercise video.

PWR! Moves®

Please click the link below to see how we are working with the Parkinson’s community. Video credit to Brandon Rhea at

Moving Day Phoenix 2020

In addition to the services listed on the left, we also offer:

  • Post-surgical Rehabilitation

  • Acute Injuries – Spine and Extremities

  • Exercise Prescription

  • Sports Rehabilitation

  • Industrial Injury Rehabilitation (Worker’s Compensation)


Affiliations & Links