The Band Dispenser


To give or not to give.

By Adele Levine, PT

Before I started working for myself, I sent each of my patients home with a shopping bag loaded with resistance bands—each one a generous length and one in every color. This gift giving was one of the favorite things about my job. I loved new bands’ vanilla scent and soft powdery texture. Standing in the back of the clinic, where the rolls of resistance bands hung, I would sniff appreciatively before yanking off a generous portion—eyeballing it for length as it began to puddle onto the floor by my feet. I would do the same thing with every single color and then I would scoop up the pile and deliver the armload to my patient—who surely felt anxious about what all those resistance bands were going to mean.  

If my old boss saw me standing by the resistance band rack, she would become completely unglued, a reaction I never understood—until I began working for myself and discovered how expensive resistance bands are.

Initially, I decided not to order any because I see patients in their homes. In lieu of equipment, I focus primarily on body-weight strengthening exercises, stretches, and balance drills. But recently a patient requested some resistance exercise band. She was an experienced physical therapy patient and had a resistance band from a previous physical therapist. “It’s getting old,” she said, holding out a red band about seven feet long. Clearly her old physical therapist had shared my past tendencies. “Can I get another one from you?” 

“Nope, sorry.” I said briskly.
“No?” She looked at me in disbelief.
“I don’t have any.” 

The concept that I did not have any resistance bands seemed completely out of place to her, and I could see the judgment wheels churning. Was this really a physical therapist she was seeing?  

The next time I came to her house, she brought up the resistance band issue again. She really felt like she needed replacement band—in spite of the fact that none of the home exercises I had given her to do involved using such a band. “Well, when I order some, I’ll make sure to bring you a piece,” I said cheerfully, knowing the likelihood of that happening anytime soon was slim to none. 

Exercise bands quickly became our issue, and she brought it up every time I saw her. Including one business deal in which she suggested her ordering the roll of resistance band, taking a piece for herself, and selling the rest to me. It began to seem that her lower back pain was not bothering her half as much as the fact that I was not going to transform into a exercise band dispenser. Which, luckily for both of us, was how it ended. With her lower back pain resolved, I discharged her. This patient had made great progress, but my failure to dispense color-coded bands limited her satisfaction overall! 

Adele Levine, PT, is the author of Run. Don’t Walk and a practicing physical therapist in Silver Spring, Maryland. She can be reached at

Run, Don’t Walk by Adele Levine, Penguin, April 2014. ISBN 9781583335390

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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