Passion for patients: North Parramatta Physiotherapy & Sports Injuries founder shares her ‘why’

Seeing the benefits her care provides for patients has been the driving force behind 30 years in private practice for North Parramatta Physiotherapy & Sports Injuries principal, Mary Knapman.


After starting out in hospital wards as graduates, Sydney physiotherapists Mary and Peter Knapman realised that working on the frontline in an outpatient setting really suited their dispositions and abilities.

An enduring interest in helping patients manage movement problems has now seen the Knapmans spend three decades as hands-on clinicians, diagnosing and treating a range of musculoskeletal issues.

These days, they’re the joint principals of the North Parramatta Physiotherapy & Sports Injuries, a busy outer-Sydney practice employing a team of six.

Additional services include biomechanical and postural assessments, trigger point dry needling, pre- and postnatal Pilates and a running lab.

Hands-on help

“Often, you’re the first port of call because in Australia you don’t need a referral to see a physiotherapist in private practice; you can just walk in off the street,” Mary Knapman explains.

“Understanding what’s wrong with a patient, finding out what’s causing the problem and developing a treatment plan is so fascinating and interesting – and so rewarding when you can see, over time, the impact of your intervention.

“A lot of our job is about working out, ‘what do I need to do to get this person back to doing what they want to be able to do?’.

“Everyone has a story, especially when they come to you in pain, and to feel you can help them and make a difference to their lives.”

Growing and learning

In recent years, the Knapmans have expanded their service offering to include clinical Pilates and performance training for athletes.

The practice runs an outreach clinic at the nearby Westfields Sports High School several mornings a week.

“Adolescents can have a whole sub-group of issues they develop, especially if they’re elite sportspeople,” Mary Knapman says.

“Understanding and treating those issues, working with young people who are very motivated and looking to achieve peak performance, can be so rewarding.”

Diversifying to meet the changing needs of the local population has been vital for the health of the practice.

“One of the things we’ve seen is the emergence of a huge market of people who want to improve their health and that’s a place we want to be, providing a holistic management service, rather than just remedial treatment for acute problems,” she explains.

“As physios, with our skills in diagnosing and working with people with an array of muscular and movement difficulties, we feel we have a lot to offer.”

Continuous learning is essential to keep skills up-to-date, Mary Knapman adds.

“We’ve seen loads of changes over our clinical lifetimes, in terms of how patients are treated and managed, based on emerging evidence” she says.

“You have to extend yourself in order to stay current.”

Long-term relationships

NAB and its subsidiary Medfin have been supporting the Knapmans for over 20 years.  Recently NAB has supported their move to expand into both new premises and Clinical Pilates through equipment finance three years ago. “NAB has come with us the whole way– it’s been a very long relationship” Mary Knapman says. “As we’ve needed to develop or change or move, they’ve walked the same walk, supporting us as we respond to changes in our industry.”

Having access to a business banker with knowledge of the healthcare industry has been a benefit that’s difficult to overstate. “It’s like a one-stop shop and that makes it so much easier when you have questions, knowing there’s an individual you can take them to,” Mary Knapman says.

“For small business owners especially, you’re trying to wear a lot of hats and it’s really reassuring to have that person there, to be able to say, ‘Oh I’ll just ring NAB and run that by them’.”

Satisfaction with a job well done

Is there a payback for so many years dedicated to helping the scores of patients who’ve passed through the doors of North Parramatta Physiotherapy since the Knapmans first hung up their shingle?

Yes – taking pride in the fact that their passion for providing good service has resulted in the growth of a healthy practice, Mary Knapman explains.

“We started with just one small treatment room and we’ve been able to expand, to take on a really great team and to share our knowledge with newer members of our profession,” she says.

“It’s rewarding to see them develop skills and experience; for us to be part of their professional journeys.

And I’m so proud of the fact that Pete and I still really enjoy what we do every day – I don’t know how many people can say that after 30-plus years in a job!”