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East County deputy develops tool to relieve back pain

Hidden Oaks resident Ethan Schneider is the inventor of the Sacro Stik.
Hidden Oaks resident Ethan Schneider is the inventor of the Sacro Stik.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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It looks so easy when cops chase down bad guys in the movies. In real life, it’s not that easy.

“This guy’s wearing shorts and sneakers and can run like a gazelle,” Manatee County Deputy Ethan Schneider said of a perpetrator who suddenly ran out of the operations center during one of his shifts. 

“We’re carrying 30 pounds worth of gear going after him. That’s why we have radios and cars,” Schneider said.

Schneider doesn’t have to chase perpetrators often, but he does have to wear a 30-pound duty belt through every shift. He’s been with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office for 11 years and runs the fingerprint unit. 

In his spare time, the Hidden Oaks resident has invented and patented what he calls the Sacro Stik. It’s a physical therapy device that helps strengthen his sacroiliac joints so he can feel and perform his best while carrying around an extra 30 pounds.

The International Union of Police Associations says on its website that low back pain affects nearly 38% of the general population, but 67.7% of those in law enforcement. 

Military personnel deal with the same issue, so do pole climbers. 

Schneider was 50 years old before becoming a police officer. He spent 14 years working for Bell Atlantic and Verizon.

“I was an old school climber, what they called a hook climber with the spikes on the boots,” Schneider said. “That’s a tough job. I had a belt and carried gear up the pole.”

It’s a long way down to go get another tool, but yes, there were times he forgot things on the ground.

Schneider has suffered from back pain for about 17 years. It was a long process of elimination to find out his sacroiliac joints were causing the problem. Sacroiliac joints link the pelvis to the lower spine. 

“When you try to find things to help the issue of carrying duty belts for police officers, you mostly find things that are reactive instead of proactive,” Schneider said. “They’ll offer you cushions to put under your belt or suspenders so that you can hang your belt.” 

Schneider said a lot of the products simply shift the weight to another part of the body, which then causes a new ache. 

Ethan Schneider demonstrates how to use the Sacro Stik.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

So Schneider asked himself one question: What can I create that would actually help strengthen the lower back, hips and sacroiliac joints so that you could work specifically on that area to help carry that belt?

Schneider had a third career that contributed to his quest. In between pole climbing and becoming a sheriff’s deputy, he was a certified surgical technician. He also held certifications as an EMT and personal trainer. 

Along with his background and personal experience with back pain, he started studying physical therapists on YouTube. One finding had promise, and it was as simple as using a broomstick or a golf club.

Patients were laying on their backs and weaving the stick or club through their legs, so one leg rested on top and the other underneath. The problem was that the straightness of the tool left his legs and hips out of alignment. 

So Schneider headed to Home Depot to buy PVC pipe. He has a pile of leftover prototypes in his garage. 

The final result is the Sacro Stik, which was launched about eight months ago. The device is made with furniture-grade PVC pipe, has an offset in the middle to keep the body in alignment and is unbreakable. 

The product wasn't solely designed for police officers. It can be used by anyone experiencing back pain or someone who simply wants to strengthen their back. 

Once the Sacro Stik is in position, one leg pushes against it and the other pulls towards it. The movement delivers an isometric exercise that targets the sacroiliac joints. 

“As soon as I used it, I felt blood flow to the area,” personal trainer Peter Sarni said. “That’s usually the major problem why people have low back pain. There’s a limited amount of fluid, both blood and spinal fluid, that gets to that area.” 

Sarni met Schneider while visiting Florida three months ago. When he returned home to New Jersey, he bought a Sacro Stik online and has been using it ever since.

“It’s an ingenious invention,” Sarni said. “He took an existing exercise that is a little unwieldy and made it fit. Sometimes, that’s all you have to do is make it a little more comfortable for people and they’ll be able to execute the exercise.” 



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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