Akiva Shmidman has been a practicing physical therapist since 2003, first in New York and now for the past nine years in Baltimore. The 36-year-old Pikesville resident, who specializes in sports medicine, has seen his share of patients with lower back pain. The BeActive brace, a product Shmidman invented to help these patients, will soon be available at stores locally and across the country.
About 10 years ago, “I had a patient with terrible back pain that radiated down his leg. He said he had experienced severe pain for five years with basically no relief during that time,” said Shmidman. “It was a challenge. While examining him one day, I encountered a tender point on his calf. When I pressed on it, all of a sudden his back felt better.”
From then on, every time Shmidman exhausted traditional treatments, he would try applying pressure to the calf. In most cases, the technique relieved patients’ pain.
“I thought, ‘What if I could spread this treatment globally?’” he said.
Shmidman explained that low back pain is typically caused by tension to the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body.
“When you compress the calf muscle, this releases tension in the sciatic nerve, relieving various types of low back pain, including herniated discs, piriformis syndrome and mechanical low back pain,” he said. “It even helps women with sciatica caused by pregnancy.”
Shmidman went to work designing a brace that would mimic the manual compression for patients outside of his office. The device was patented in 2012.
Shmidman tried marketing the BeActive brace independently but said he was only able to “get so far” on his own. When he heard about Pennsylvania-based Top Dog Direct, a national marketer of “as seen on TV” products and its “speed-pitching” event in Philadelphia last spring, he decided it was worth a try.
“There were three panelists meeting with inventors and I pitched the product to them,” related Shmidman. “One of the panelists said, ‘I have back pain right now.’ So she tried the brace and said, ‘Yeah, I feel better. It’s amazing.’ After that there was no question. I got the contract.
“About two weeks later, I was filming infomercials in a house and at a mall in New Jersey,” he added.
Shmidman, who recommends the brace as a pain management tool to be combined with other types of treatment, said media tests of the infomercial received tremendous responses, so now the product will be moving into the retail market. Soon, he expects it to be sold at chains such as Target and Wal-Mart at a price of $19.95.
Shmidman and his wife Deborah are parents of six and attend Congregation Ohel Moshe. “It’s been a good experience working with Top Dog,” he said. “Originally, they scheduled the shoots for the commercials on Pesach and I couldn’t do it. So they rescheduled.”