LIHU‘E — From touring with professional surfers to a new professional office in Lihu‘e, Dustin Dillberg is putting away his passport — at least for a little while.
Last month, the 28-year-old, diversely trained holistic practitioner and his wife, Kirby, a former professional figure from Chicago, leased an office across from Kukui Grove shopping center. Their shingle: Pain Free Kaua‘i.
Dillberg named his practice after Peter Egoscue’s book “Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain,” which professes a breakthrough system for eliminating chronic pain through gentle exercises and carefully constructed stretches rather than drugs or surgery.
“Although a lot of people are familiar with Egoscue’s book, they aren’t familiar with me on the island,” Dillberg said. “We work with patients holistically. We take a look at your diet and nutrition, look at your stress levels, balance your nervous system so that you can utilize the lifestyle and nutrients that you have. We develop a program for you and stick with it for a certain amount of time, test it and make sure that results are measurable. We don’t want to just treat with our eyes closed and hope that something works.”
The model of the practice is different from many healthcare practices in that it’s client-driven and not expert-driven, he said.
“We’re almost conditioned in our society to sit down and pour your heart out to your doctor for a very short amount of time, the five minutes or so that’s often considered that visit, but then wait for a solution,” Dillberg said. “We want to put that responsibility back on the client. We are happy to help them, but it’s ultimately them that’s going to get them healthier or not.”
He provides the tools and resources, but the patient must do the work.
“That’s the beauty of having the rehab-driven care,” he said. “We use acupuncture and other things, but we make sure that it’s backed up with other rehabilitative protocols that are going to allow for the changes to become long-term.”
Pain Free Kaua‘i also offers active release therapy, nutraceuticals and detoxification, and sports medicine, which was a natural choice for Dillberg given his love of surfing and sports. He has treated numerous professional surfers, who are prone to posture imbalance and lack stability, Dillberg said.
Nutraceuticals is a non-pharmaceutical approach to pain management.
“We use nutrients, herbs, things that are found naturally in the body or in food sources. We can use those in therapeutic doses to help restore balance to whatever the underlying cause or symptom or disease problem the patient might have,” he said.
Though the nutritional product’s Pain Free Kaua‘i offers are pharmaceutical grade, none are considered pharmaceuticals.
“The companies that we use all meet very rigorous testing in the pharmaceutical industry,” Dillberg said. “I actually tour basically every facility that I carry a product from. When I go to these facilities, I want to make sure that they supply the proper paperwork and testing and the companies that I work with actually self-audit, so they don’t just wait for the FDA to come in and audit them. One of the companies self-audits three times a month. There are also contracted by the FDA, so they look a lot deeper into the quality of their products. It far surpasses anything you could find in a general health food store.”
He said the price is comparable, especially when one considers the amount of products they would have to take for the same level of absorption. They are are also safer, he said, because they’re lacking all the fillers and therefore lack some of the side effects.
At the age of 7, when most kids were still playing with toys and watching cartoons, Dillberg began his healthcare education through the tutelage of his father, Dr. Kerry Dillberg of Dillberg Integrated Healthcare in Po‘ipu. At the age of 16, he purchased Kaua‘i Surf School, a joint venture with his brother.
He achieved a masters degree at the age of 23 from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego and certifications in nutrition, spinal rehabilitation, postural alignment, Neuro-Emotional Techniques, sports therapies and High Resolution Blood Analysis.
Dillberg’s post-graduate work included studies at the Pettibon Institute and Egoscue University for Postural Alignment, where he is now “one of the select few given the honor of teaching at the university,” he said.
Since 2007, he has practiced out of his father’s office in Po‘ipu and accumulated the experience needed to begin his own practice.
The challenges of doing business
As new business owners, the Dillbergs have been “loving it.” The newlyweds say they can’t seem to spend enough time together. Fortunately, busy work schedules won’t keep them apart. Kirby manages the front office.
The immediate challenge, they said, is letting people know where they are and what they are doing.
“I’m really privileged to have a nice reputation working with the different athletes, which is one of the main reasons we wanted to branch out,” Dillberg said. “A lot of our clientele were driving from north of Kilauea and they were driving all the way to Po‘ipu for the care and the therapy we offer. And a lot of people don’t know we’re here yet because we are still just finishing up our first month in business.”
They opened the practice on Sept. 7. So far, business has been great, Dillberg said.
“We’re really thrilled with the clientele that have sought us out and are working with us. There’s a certain clientele that is super thrilled about the change in location and just the feel of the practice, with people stopping by just to hang out quite often and enjoy some of the services,” he said.
The trickiest part for the couple was working through the lease for the office.
“I learned a lot about leases,” Dillberg said. “It was something I was really foreign to. I’ve spent all my time and energy dedicated to health-related studies, not real estate. The professionalism of the building is great, but it’s tough with housing costs and real estate prices going down so fast but the rent prices and lease prices haven’t.”
Another challenge the Dillbergs face is the cost of having things shipped to Kaua‘i.
“The shipping costs on the therapy tools and equipment that we use is high and we keep running into delays. Where stuff is guaranteed in five days, it comes in 21,” he said.
For example, the massage therapy chairs in their lobby didn’t arrive in time for their opening, so they couldn’t offer people a place to sit.
But overall, the Dillbergs say they feel very blessed in their new venture together.
“It’s not easy in the economy and everything but we’re loving living outside of our comfort zone. We were in a pretty simple position before, but we wanted to learn what it would take to own our own business and pursue all of the different elements to it and create something for ourselves. I feel like we’ve been pretty successful at doing that.”
Their long-term challenge will be balancing overhead and making sure that the cost of doing business on the island doesn’t get out of hand, Dillberg said. Like many business owners, the Dillbergs must find ways to balance their desire to provide affordable services with the high overhead costs typical in the islands.
“We really try to make all of our services incredibly affordable for the level of care, unheard anywhere else on the Mainland or, I would like to argue, anywhere else,” he said. “To spend as much time as necessary to make sure they get their goals met and all different tools and education would commonly require people to go to several different places compare the price of that it’s almost silly how affordable it is, but it’s tough for anyone to spend money on anything nowadays.”
Dillberg, who is a big believer in an ounce of prevention, said he would love to see a shift in healthcare to a client-driven model. He believes it would help drive down insurance costs and costs for employers to “just take a look at their healthcare in a different fashion.”
Pain Free Kaua‘i takes insurance.
“We’re in the process of setting that up appropriately,” Dillberg said. “We are part of the HMSA discount program. We are happy to work with patients that have insurance by either providing Super Bills so they can get reimbursed or working with the insurance companies directly.”
A Super Bill is a healthcare receipt accepted by insurance companies.
“We’re working to make sure the money they spend on their health insurance is going to work for them, especially considering how high insurance costs are now,” Dillberg said.
What they enjoy most about owning their own business is the feeling that they can always do what’s right .
“We can always work out something that’s right for our clients. When you’re working for someone else, that’s difficult to do,” Dillberg said. “Being able to have that ownership and the healthy pride that comes with it, knowing that you are represented the way you want to be represented.”
For more information, call Pain Free Kaua‘i at 245-0007, drop by the office at 4366 Kukui Grove St., ste. 200, Lihu‘e, or go online to www.painfreekauai.com.
• Vanessa Van Voorhis, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or by emailing email@example.com.