1. When and how did you decide to become a bodyworker?
I guess it was a few years after I graduated from PT school. I was unhappy with what they taught and the outcomes I was getting. I also had the misfortune of possibly causing one of my patients a spondylolisthesis (broken back bone) while doing a manipulation. That was way back in 1982 and I have not done a manipulation since. So, I needed to come up with a safer more effective way to treat patients that actually addressed the cause of the problem and cured them. That’s when my search lead me to such wonderful techniques as Muscle Energy Technique and Counterstrain.
2. What do you find most exciting about bodywork therapy?
I think the best part of this type of work is the dramatic changes that happen, even with the most complicated patients. My practice is one that sees the worst of the worst cases; those that our less-than-perfect medical system has given up on. Using these techniques makes such a huge difference and they are completely safe. No chance of doing any damage. In the USA, the health care system is really a sick care system with virtually no prevention. The system is so overloaded that practitioners can’t spend much time and the methods used to treat complicated patients are the same as the simple ones. It’s like a conveyor belt and if the simple techniques don’t work, then you are out of luck. The Muscle Energy Techniques, once mastered, can transform these patients in very short order.
3. What is your most favourite bodywork book?
Besides my own manuals M1-M2-M3-M4 I really like Positional Release Therapy by D’Ambrogio and Roth. I use it a great deal.
4. What is the most challenging part of your work?
I guess the chronic nature of most of my patients is a challenge but again, with these techniques its much easier. Getting patients to do their follow up stabilization is always a chore.
5. What advise you can give to fresh massage therapists who wish to make a career out of it?
Save your hands, they are your tools and cannot be replaced. Use elbows, styloid process, pisiform, any bony prominence you can and always remember to stretch your fingers, wrists and forearms regularly. Stay away from sugars and processed foods. They are depleted of nutrients, enzymes and minerals and your body can’t repair itself well. They also lead to inflammation in your body. Inflammation has a host of domino effects on your body that will shorten your career.
6. How do you see the future of bodywork and massage therapy?
I cannot speak for the future of the profession in Australia, as you have a national health care system. However, in the United States, people are really looking at alternative and complimentary adjuncts to health care and massage research is showing a tremendous benefit to overall health, vitality and longevity. I would think the Australians have learned this already so you have a bright future ahead of you.
Tom Ockler P.T. has extensive teaching experience throughout the United States, Canada, England and Australia. He was a past Associate Instructor with the Upledger Foundation, teaching in their Muscle Energy and Strain Counter-Strain programs. As a teacher, Tom has earned the nickname “The Patch Adams of Physical Therapy” due to his unique style of injecting humour into complicated subjects. He has developed teaching methods that explain very complicated subjects in easily understandable formats. His two DVDs Muscle Energy Technique for Lower Extremities, Pelvis, Sacrum, and Lumbar Spine and Muscle Energy Techniques for the Thoracic Spine, Ribs, Shoulder and Cervical Spine have been hailed by students as the most user friendly and useful Muscle Energy manuals ever.