The Pressure Positive Story
An Interview With Owner and Founder, Bernard (Bun) Gladieux Jr., By Julie LuongoNote: For almost seven years, I suffered mild to severe hip pain and never did anything about it. Quite honestly, I didn't know I could do anything about it. However, a series of coincidences led me to The Pressure Positive Company and Bernard "Bun" Gladieux's invention. Being a freelance writer, my curiosity was piqued when I heard of Bun's "ah ha" moment that gave birth to the Original Backnobber®. I think it's an interesting story and thought you would too. –Julie Luongo (2006)
Julie: How did you come up with the idea for the Original Backnobber®?
Bun: It was 1979, and I was commuting to Washington D.C. regularly from our country place in rural Pennsylvania. At the time, I was representing a large food industry trade association. I was sitting in traffic near the entrance to the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel one late, hot Friday afternoon with an annoying knot in my neck, probably from all of the time spent that week on the telephone combined with old trauma from athletic activity.
Julie: What sort of athletics?
Bun: At the time, I was jogging or cycling most mornings, year round. I also ran occasional races, from 5Ks to marathons.
Julie: So, you're kneading at the knot in your neck?
Bun: Yes. And I knew from experience that I could make the pain go away if I could just get to the spot and apply enough simple, steady, firm pressure to the center of it. I think we all intuitively know this. But I had studied up on it a bit and was involved with people, mentors, friends, health professionals, athletes, all of whom were familiar with soft tissue pain and dysfunction.
Julie: I think we can all relate to this kind of literal pain in the neck.
Bun: The knot caused a persistent ache in my shoulder. But I couldn't apply enough pressure with my own hand to allow the muscle to release. I knew I needed some way to press deeply into the heart of the knot. So, I dug around in the back of my car and fished out a small, collapsible umbrella. I hooked the flimsy, plastic, arched handle over my shoulder and pressed its tip into the sore spot. It worked. It gave me just enough leverage to direct more intense, precise, and consistent pressure. Much more so than I could with my bare hands. However, as I was working on the spot, the umbrella handle snapped in two.
Julie: So, that broken umbrella was the inspiration for the Original Backnobber®?
Bun: You could say that I love having the right tool for the job. I have a barn stuffed with tools, some old and traditional, many hand-made for specific jobs, others waiting to be invented to meet some future need. So, when I returned home that weekend, I went to see the blacksmith in town. I asked him to make me a sturdy, S-shaped steel bar.
Julie: And that was the prototype for the Original Backnobber®?
The Pressure Positive Company’s Purpose
The Pressure Positive Company’s goal is to help people live pain-free lives by providing effective, safe, simple, and inexpensive massage tools to help facilitate trigger point and myofascial release. We invent, manufacture, and distribute quality products that allow people to manage their muscle tension.
Bun: Indeed. It was made from a rough scrap of hot-rolled steel bar with two brass balls welded on either end. It was crude, but functional. Eventually, I replaced the brass with wood and refined the details of the curves. Once I was satisfied with the design, the blacksmith bent several identical S-curves. Meanwhile, I found the wood parts, put them together, painted them, and wrote some instructions.
Julie: Right off the bat you knew that you wanted to share your idea?
Bun: I knew it helped me. So, I took my small inventory of Original Backnobbers® and set up a table at a local 10K foot race exposition. A friend of mine, an orthopedic surgeon saw it, liked it, and referred me to a therapist who was working in his nearby clinic.
Julie: There weren’t many muscle therapists around at the time, I suspect.
Bun: Not like this one. This therapist, Darlene “Poochie” Jones, had been a U.S. National Heavyweight Judo champion and was then, also, a trainer for Pottstown High School football, wrestling, and basketball. Poochie had been a licensed practical nurse, and was a trigger point myotherapist with a certification from the Academy for Myotherapy and Physical Fitness in Lenox, Massachusetts. I met with Poochie that week, learned about myotherapy from her, and then went to visit the folks at the Academy in Lenox.
Julie: You went to the Academy to learn more about trigger point therapy and to show them the Original Backnobber®?
Bun: Yes. In fact, they became the first customers of The Pressure Positive Company. So, the students, faculty, and graduates of the Academy were the first professional users of the Original Backnobber®.
Julie: It turned out to be the right tool for the job.
Bun: The professionals thought so. I started getting orders for the Original Backnobber® from myotherapists throughout the country. Shortly thereafter, I was taking orders from their patients and professional associates. We formally founded The Pressure Positive Company 1982 and have been growing steadily ever since.
Julie: Before you invented the Original Backnobber®, you said you knew a good bit about the subject already.
Bun: I started using muscle compression in 1977. A mutual friend introduced me to Dr. Hans Kraus, a wonderful Austrian physiatrist then in private practice in New York City. Dr. Kraus was one of the world’s medical pioneers in treating muscle pain and dysfunction.
[Note: Dr. Kraus is known as the “Father of Sports Medicine.” He was an associate of Dr. Janet Travell when she was White House Physician to President John F. Kennedy. He had consulted with Dr. Travell on how to deal with the President’s back problems in the months before he was killed in Dallas in 1963.]
Julie: You met with him, just as a friend of a friend, to satisfy your curiosity?
Bun: I was interested in anything related to fitness, athletic injury, and athletic performance. We went to lunch, and later I visited with Dr. Kraus in his Midtown Manhattan office. We talked about theory and practice in treating and preventing soft tissue injury. In addition to a generously extended conversation, Dr. Kraus gave me a stack of his monographs, articles, and books about trigger points. He also gave me some translations of German medical papers that had been written on the subject in the 1840s that were a part of his own educational journey in the field. This information became the core of my own knowledge base and the substantive beginning of everything we’ve done in the past twenty-five years.
Julie: You were doing this to fix your own pain?
"A tool is but the extension of a man's hand, and a machine is but a complex tool. And he that invents a machine augments the power of a man and the well-being of mankind." - Henry Ward Beecher
The Pressure Positive Company’s Higher Purpose
The Pressure Positive Company is committed to furthering the understanding of non-invasive techniques in all of the hands-on therapy professions. We want to spread the word about trigger point therapy and myotherapy to all pain sufferers. In short, we want to spread the word that muscle compression is one of the most effective and least costly methods to alleviate muscle pain.
Bun: Well, I immediately saw, in the information, the potential solution to managing my own back and neck pain. But, at the time, I was working in a national community of athletes. So, I was excited to share what I found with people who were also struggling with pain. I knew a lot of people who shared a very similar kind of simple, but stubborn, muscle or “soft tissue” pain and stiffness.
Julie: Friends from running events?
Bun: Certainly, but I was also active in the American Running and Fitness Association. I was writing and editing the Association’s periodical for its 40,000 members. As editor, I enjoyed the support of a strong Editorial Advisory Board of the country’s leading sports medicine professionals. During that time, I also served for several years on the Association’s Board of Trustees.
Julie: Nevertheless, you’ll admit that you really dove into the subject.
Bun: I wanted to learn everything I could, because it made sense to me. I saw immediately that soft tissue compression could be effective in dealing with garden-variety pain and stiffness. Plus, it was benignly non-invasive. After reading Dr. Kraus's manuscripts and papers, it was clear that this technique had an immediate practical application for me. I could apply non-invasive trigger point therapy on myself and see if it worked.
[Note: Bun is definitely not a stranger to rigorous research. He is a graduate of Harvard, a Naval destroyer deck officer, and a former policy and budget analyst in the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President.]
Julie: I’m amazed at how long you’ve been working with trigger points to alleviate pain, since it’s relatively new to me.
Bun: I’ve worked with a group that is now the National Association of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists since 1984, when it was founded, and I currently serve on the Association’s Board of Advisors. Since the beginning, we’ve worked to partner with healthcare professionals and others who are dedicated to helping individuals manage their pain non-invasively in a protocol that melds clinical and self-care approaches.
Julie: You helped spread the word, which I appreciate, since I needed to hear it.
Bun: I don’t take any credit for it. However, over the past twenty-five years, awareness that non-invasive therapies and informed self-care can have an important place in the treatment and management of soft tissue pain has grown steadily among both health professionals and patients. It’s been a most gratifying trend.
Julie: So, you’re a soldier in the pain management revolution?
Bun: I’ve just tried to share what I’ve known and have learned from highly skilled and experienced experts over more than thirty years, namely that simple, deep muscle therapy, particularly trigger point compression, combined with specific stretching and strengthening exercises, can reduce pain, improve range of motion, and restore function.
Julie: And it’s simple.
Bun: It is not brain surgery or rocket science. It is exquisitely simple, but it takes some patience, some knowledge, and some motivation to make it work. Putting it all together, just about anyone can bring about his or her own relief, right from the beginning, with the proper tools, education, and commitment.
Julie: Speaking of commitment, tell me about the Pressure Positive Team.
Bun: My wife Sally and I consider it our great fortune that our son Bunky, our daughter Renee, and our daughter-in-law Lynn came from their respective careers to join The Pressure Positive Company. Today our team is complete with Bunky serving as our CEO, Renee as our Director of Marketing and Sales, Renee's daughters, Andrea Ash and Jessica Welker providing modeling as needed, Cindy Heffner in the office, Lynn contributing professionally written editorial content as needed and myself, Sally, Cynthia Koser and Marti Scott Kehs in the onsite shop.
Julie: How did your family get involved?
Bun: Bunky managed the complete reconstruction and restoration of the nineteenth-century buildings on the family’s rural homestead in 1992, then started helping out on various Pressure Positive projects. Within a year, he left his own construction company, and in 2002 he became the CEO. Then, in 2003, Renee moved from Seattle, after nearly 25 years, to head The Pressure Positive Company’s Sales and Marketing Department.
Julie: Most people don’t realize how fulfilling it is to work with family.
Bun: It never occurred to me that I would be so fortunate as to be able to share the pleasures, challenges, and satisfaction of this kind of business, side by side with the people I care most about. It’s by far one of my most rewarding and deeply enriching life experiences.