Dr. Heller, you’ve had a great career as a chiropractor in Ashland. You’ve won multiple Ashland’s Favorite Chiropractor awards from the Sneak Preview. Can you tell us a bit more about your history as a chiropractor?
I’d like to start even further back. My first healing arts exposure was in 1970, studying Polarity Therapy in Berkeley, California. Beth and I met in the Bay Area, and moved to Arkansas, to “live off the land,” in the early 70s. I went to massage school in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1974, and rediscovered my love of learning, and of therapeutic bodywork. Massage was not quite enough for me, so I went on to chiropractic school, starting in 1976, and graduating cum laude in 1979. My valedictorian speech was on integrating the right and left brain, in the healing arts.
What can you tell us about your history in practice?
I started my practice in Ashland in 1980, and have been warmly welcomed here since the beginning. Standard chiropractic, just adjusting patients, was never enough for me. My initial love was Applied Kinesiology, using muscle testing to talk to the body. I was invited to join a multi-disciplinary spine center, starting in 1994, integrating surgery, rehab, PT, osteopathy and chiropractic. I learned that I had so much more to learn about the spine and back pain. I am blessed to have had no boring days in my practice. I learn something new every day, and I am fascinated by the variations in how pain is expressed, and how simple safe conservative methods can help. I had always had an interest in the lower force forms of spinal mobilization. I went on from there to study with the French Osteopaths, including Jean Pierre Barral of Visceral Manipulation. Looking back, I have had at least 5 different practice styles over the 38 years. I feel very fortunate to have had so many great teachers. At the same time, I have had the stability of having the same office manager, Barbara Hansen for 31 years, and have practiced in the same location on Siskiyou Blvd for 36 years.
It sounds like you have studied with many teachers. How have they influenced you?
My license is as a chiropractor, but I try to bring the best of three fields to my daily practice. From physical therapy models I have learned to teach the patients to help themselves. From osteopathy, I have learned wonderful non-invasive gentle methods to release stuck places in the whole body. From chiropractic; I have learned to value manual and functional diagnosis; figuring out what is wrong with the patient from their story and their physical exam. I have also been exposed to wonderful soft tissue methods, ways of releasing the fascia, from all three professions. I attempt to integrate the best of the chiropractic, osteopathic, and PT models.
Have you been able to teach this knowledge to other practitioners?
Since 2002, I have had the opportunity to share my insights with fellow professionals. I write a regular column for Dynamic Chiropractic, the leading chiropractic trade journal. I have written over 130 professional articles, exploring low force adjusting, fascial release methods, diagnosis, rehab, and a wide variety of other topics. Writing has pushed me to understand my profession and our work better. Knowing how to do the work is one thing; explaining to others, is the next level of challenge. I have taught many courses; to chiropractors, PTs and massage therapists.
After all these years, what do you still love about your work?
My favorite challenge is the patient who has not experienced relief or success with previous methods. I thrive on this kind of challenge. Chronic pain is very difficult for the patient, and I love to help find the missing pieces for my patients. As my patient base has aged, I appreciate that not everyone is going to completely heal; sometimes the goal is to have their pain move from the dominating place in the center of their life, to a minor irritation out at the edge. I have developed a deep understanding of the lower back, pelvis, hips and tailbone and their ailments, going beyond the usual approaches to a deeper understanding. We attempt to address the multiple factors that can be helped by chiropractic adjustments, fascial work, and rehab, and common sense. Our goal always is help you help yourself heal.
What do you do in your free time, Marc?
I love the outdoors, including hiking, cross-country skiing, paddle boarding, swimming, and camping. I feel fortunate that Beth and I live in such a beautiful place.