YouTube for your pain

February 19, 2019

WINONA — Bob Schrupp and Brad Heineck are the most popular physical therapists on the Internet.

Several years ago, that would have been a piece of tongue-in-cheek hyperbole. A sly joke. A put-on.

Not today. Today, the Winona-based physical therapists are a YouTube phenomenon, with more than one million subscribers to their channel.

Their channel ministers to an aging world looking for relief from aches and pains. People with shoulder pain, herniated disks, back and knee trouble, and neck discomfort. And many find remedies in watching the 10- to 12-minute videos featuring the two easy-going, sometimes quirky Midwesterners.

No one has been more dumbfounded by their success than Bob and Brad, the title by which they are known by their legions of fans. Perhaps the least tech savvy stars on Youtube, neither were children of the Internet, being 50 when they launched their YouTube channel.

Early on, some family members thought they were nuts.

Schrupp, a former Mayo Clinic staff therapist, recalled years ago making one of his first videos in his basement. It was a video on arthritis, and his son and a friend were looking on, skeptically.

“My son goes, ‘Dad, nobody old watches YouTube,’” Schrupp said. “He goes, ‘Nobody’s going to watch this, Dad.’ And now it’s got — what — 200,000 views?”

Today, the number of subscribers on Bob and Brad’s YouTube channel could fill 10 Super Bowl stadiums, and 1,600 new subscribers click on every day. Strangers stop them in grocery stores and restaurants, “I know you!” Those eyeballs help generate multiple revenue streams, including a monthly check from YouTube.

Their growing fan base is now a platform on which the duo sell an assortment of Bob & Brad products, from the Wall Anchor by Bob & Brad and Knee Glide to the BOOYAH Stik and Bob & Brad Grip Strengthener.

And while they decline to talk about the money their Youtube business generates, one sign above all speaks to their success: Their families no longer grouse that Bob and Brad are wasting their time.

Their show works because they offer solid advice to pain-suffers. But that’s only part of the explanation for their successful YouTube channel. Bob and Brad have been making videos for eight years (there are more than 1,700 of them). In the early years, when the benefits seemed nonexistent, Schrupp was tempted to quit.

“I told Brad the other day. If we hadn’t been involved together, I would have stopped at one point,” Schrupp said.

Schrupp is owner of Therapy Network, a physical rehabilitation agency in Winona. Heineck works for him, but as “Bob & Brad,” they are equal partners.

For years, the duo explored different ways to reach a larger audience. A set of DVD videos they created for nursing homes failed to solicit a single purchase. A blog Schrupp experimented with met the same fate. Nobody read it. Then Bob and Brad tried their hand at making YouTube videos.

Schrupp said the idea sprang from listening to Gary Vaynerchuk, a speaker and Internet guru. Vaynercuk’s insight was that anybody could make a living on YouTube, as long as they stuck to it. It didn’t matter what the person’s area of interest or expertise was. Just start doing videos.

“I’m like, ‘Brad, I think it will lead somewhere,’” Schrupp said.

As a trial run, they posted a video of one of the discs they made. Two days later, Schrupp checked his computer to see whether anybody had watched it. It recorded 20 views. Schrupp was shocked, not because it was so little but because he had at last found an audience.

“Nobody read my blog, and yet 20 people have already watched this video,” Schrupp said.

Both admit that their early videos were crude, awkward productions. They were too reserved. They talked too slow. They talked over each other. But one of Vaynerchuk’s insights about making YouTube videos centered on making them authentic. Don’t edit things out. If a mistake or mishap happens, leave it in.

“When we started, we were trying to be funny,” Heineck said. “We wanted to be the funniest therapists on the Internet. And when we tried to be funny...

“We were not funny,” Schrupp adds.

They kept making videos, almost always in one take. And as they made more videos, they began to feel more at ease in front of the camera. Their personalities began to emerge. A chemistry developed between the two.

It takes a long time to build up to a million subscribers. For Bob and Brad, it took about eight years. It started out slowly, more as a flat line on a graph that begins to come to life, going up and up, often consistently but occasionally abruptly. It took five years to get 100,000 and then, as they built up momentum, two years to go from 100,000 to a million.

As their channel grew, so did the opportunities.

“The more eyeballs you get, the more you can do things. Products will start coming to you. We get approached — if not daily — almost daily by people who want to have their products on it. We turn down the vast majority. We’ve got to love them in order to show them,” Schrupp said.

Bob and Brad film Tuesdays and Thursdays at Sauer Health Care in Winona, and a largely unscripted show goes up once a day. There is YouTube logic behind the daily postings. YouTube operates on an algorithm, and “any time you please the algorithm, your numbers go up,” Schrupp said.

“It’s like milking the cows. You do it every day,” he added.

They say the gratification comes from the testimonials they get — the gratitude expressed in emails from those around the world who have found relief from their pain.

It’s what motivates them, they say.

“The comments are what keep me going,” Heinick said. “If we didn’t have the positive feedback, saying, ‘you saved me a trip to a doctor,’ ‘you saved my mother,’ I wouldn’t want to continue to do it.”