Where do you work? Douglas Nelson


Douglas Nelson will present The Mystery of Pain at the AMTA 2016 National Convention. Read on to learn more about Douglas and his approach to massage therapy and pain.

What drew you to the profession?

What I saw way back in 1977 is that our health care system did not deal well with soft tissue pain. If you break your arm, there are great services available. If you have arm pain, you now officially have a problem as there are few resources for the general population. Over nearly four decades in this field, that mission has been clarified but has never wavered. People need what this field has to offer.

How long have you been practicing massage?

This April was my 38th year of practice.

Describe your education.

Truthfully, my early training in massage therapy was quite weak. As it turns out, that was an advantage for me. Knowing how little I really knew motivated me to fill the holes in my knowledge base with every opportunity available. I am afraid that if I graduated from a solid program, I might not have been so motivated, assuming I knew more than I really did. Like so many other examples in life, what seems like an obstacle turns out to be an advantage. While I am extremely grateful for all the wonderful teachers in my life, it is my clients who have taught me the most. Their questions and trust in me have driven me to always keep learning and growing in order to serve them better.

What is your current setting like?

I own a group practice with 18 massage therapists in Champaign, Illinois, all of whom practice Precision Neuromuscular Therapy (PNMT). I opened the office in 1982 and we have two locations, one of which is on the University of Illinois' campus. My office is hyper-involved in the community on many levels, something we are very proud of.

My teaching institute, NMT MidWest, does about 100 seminars annually across the U.S. The home office is in my clinic building.

What do you enjoy most about your current position? What are the challenges?

My biggest challenge is that I own a business but also work in that business. I see around 25-30 clients a week, which can often take away from running the business. I often feel pulled in many directions. On the other hand, I absolutely love seeing clients. Both my therapist employees and my students know that I am immersed in this work just as they are. I know what it is like to struggle and fail, searching for the best way to solve a clinical presentation. Welcome to the real world!

It is my experience that, especially in the teaching realm, if you are not seeing clients, you begin to have easy answers to very difficult questions. I appreciate the challenge of life in the clinic and the learning opportunities that present themselves every day.

How has AMTA impacted your career?

I have been a member since AMTA had just over 2,000 members. It is always a treat to be at AMTA National Convention, meeting colleagues from across the nation.

Why should massage therapists attend your session at the AMTA National Convention?

No matter the name of the condition that clients present with, pain is the common denominator. The deeper our understanding of the mechanisms of pain, the better of service we can be. Plus, my approach is from the perspective of a practicing massage therapist. First and foremost, I am a clinician. I don’t have the luxury of philosophizing about the experience pain; my clients expect me to actually do something and be effective. I think massage therapists will find many principles which they can integrate immediately into their practice.

What are some takeaways from your session that attendees won’t read about in the session description? 

The more deeply I understand pain science, the more I realize that massage therapy is uniquely positioned to have a significant impact on the experience of pain. There is a reason massage therapy has been around so long; there is much that this field can offer people who hurt. The more deeply we understand the science, the more effective we can be. It is a long and complicated journey and there are no easy answers, but our clients deserve nothing less than our full attention to this evolving field.

What is one sentence of advice you would offer newcomers to the profession?

Every session is an opportunity to learn and grow in this field.


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Join us October 26-29 in Milwaukee to earn 18+ credit hours and expand your skill set.

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"AMTA and my chapter have already given me back so much that I cannot believe I ever considered another group."

Chris B., AMTA member since 2012

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