Everyone needs their own medical detective, a practitioner who can get to the bottom of challenging clinical cases, while still being able to provide professional and friendly care. Dr. Casey Frieder is just such a practitioner; endowed with clinical talent and personal charm. Originally from Ketchum, Idaho, Dr. Frieder earned his Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree at the University of Western States in Portland, where he received expert training in clinical diagnosis and conservative treatment of neuromusculoskeletal conditions and graduated as his class valedictorian. Dr. Frieder is also the inventor of the BioEdge soft tissue tool, an instrument used by doctors and therapists throughout the world for treating soft tissue disorders.
Prior to his medical training, Dr. Frieder spent several years as a woodworker, crafting fine furniture and cabinetry. This work sharpened his powers of visualization and attention to detail—attributes that he is now grateful for when investigating dysfunction in the human body. Dr. Frieder developed other skills and insights that enrich him as a physician during years of yoga study in India, which revealed subtleties in the structure of body and mind, deepened his compassion for human suffering, and taught him to be still and expand his awareness.
Dr. Frieder offers thorough and compassionate care that restores balance quickly, while inspiring his patients to enjoy active and healthy lives. Dr. Frieder lives in Ashland with his wife Maureen, daughters Indira and Zyra, dog Otis, and cat Shumba. When not in the clinic, he enjoys making music, playing soccer, mountain biking, rock climbing, alpine skiing, and resting in his hammock.
I spoke with Dr. Frieder to learn more about his approach to healing and the services he’s brought to our community.
Dr. Frieder, thanks for speaking with me today. Let’s start at the beginning- growing up in Idaho.
I was blessed to grow up in a small town in a beautiful mountainous environment, much like Ashland but with more snow and potatoes. I spent a lot of time outdoors and had plenty of time and space to explore and experiment in nature. We kids were often playing in the forest by the river or cruising on the ski hill. It was a very healthy environment and I was deeply nourished by clean air, water and physical activity. I loved all types of sports including soccer, Taekwondo, baseball, skateboarding and volleyball. Being so active, I experienced my fair share of injuries and by age 16 I’d broken 3 bones and had many wounds stitched-up. My childhood experiences provided first-hand evidence of the innate healing powers of the body and how individual health and well-being are true expressions of a healthy natural environment and active lifestyle.
You mentioned that you come from a family of doctors. How did this influence your childhood aspirations and subsequent professional development?
My father is an oral surgeon and I’ve always had a lot of respect for his work. What I remember most about his work from childhood were the phone calls he made to check-up on his patients after an operation. It revealed a depth of compassion that has obviously stuck with me.
Nonetheless, my childhood dream was to become a professional soccer player. It wasn’t until I was playing soccer in a top collegiate program at the University of New Mexico that I realized the life of a professional athlete would not fulfill me. I had too many other interests. I was enjoying classes in art, philosophy and biology, and playing soccer all the time suddenly seemed quite limiting.
Six months later I found myself living in the Himalayas in India, studying yoga. My eyes were opened to the suffering in the world, the subtle energies of the mind/body, and the amazing human potential to heal and serve one another. Upon returning to the US to finish college, I began to prepare for allopathic medical school but quickly realized that it would not be a good fit. My older brother and one of my roommates were suffering so much on their way to becoming MD’s that it seemed silly to sacrifice my own well-being following the same path. I believed and still do that you must “heal thyself in order to heal thy world,” and that one of the duties of a doctor is to exemplify a healthy lifestyle. My choice to become a chiropractic physician occurred nearly a decade later. I felt that I was mature enough in my own being to serve others as a healer, but I was uncertain of which type. During a visit with my father–who had recently had his fifth unsuccessful back surgery–he suggested I look into chiropractic and upon doing so I immediately knew it was the perfect fit.
Staying active has always been an important part of life for you. How does this translate into recommendations for your own patients?
The human body is designed for movement and many physiologic processes rely on it. For example, the cartilage cells which pad and protect the inside of our joints are dependent on movement to pump-in nutrients and remove waste products. They have no direct blood supply and when joints are not regularly exercised through their full range of motion, they develop adhesions that restrict movement. An appropriate mantra for the body is therefore “move it or lose it.” I view all my patients as athletes because physical activity and exercise are important for all people, especially those who haven’t been moving much. Whether the sport is dog walking, swimming or dancing, we can all benefit from learning to move in healthy ways.
My personal motivation for staying active is simply that it’s fun and feels great. However, this is not true when the body is in pain or injured. Then every little movement can be tortuous. That’s why I meet people wherever they are at, gently introducing more movement into their daily rhythms, which in turn expedites the healing process. All of the medical research confirms the fact that people who are able to stay active in spite of their pain have better outcomes then those who become inactive in response to it. The key is to find a personal balance between activity and rest. I assist patients in this process by improving functional movement patterns and ergonomics. A paradox of our time is that most people need more of both movement and rest. We spend way too much time in a limbo of compromising postures—in front of the computer, on the couch, or in the car—that don’t provide exercise or true rest.
I found it interesting to hear you say that your years of woodworking have helped to make you an even better practitioner.
Indeed, woodworking taught me to be methodical, follow a plan, and pay attention to even the smallest of details. There are many situations where a single mistake can ruin an entire project, so you have to be very careful. There is an old carpentry saying to “measure twice, cut once.” In my experience, it’s even better to “measure thrice,” before you cut. Nowadays, when examining a new patient or problem, I am very careful and thorough in my history taking and examination. I collect as much information as possible before determining where the roots of a problem lie. This is an absolute necessity because the human body is very complex, different problems can and often do mimic one another, and all patients are unique. It is easy to misinterpret clinical evidence, which can lead to an inappropriate treatment plan and poor results. Particularly with low back pain, it can be quite a conundrum to figure out exactly where the source of dysfunction is. Fortunately, chiropractors are trained to be true experts on neuromusculoskeletal conditions and I’ve found that I can usually figure out what the problem is on the first visit.
No matter what the problem is, I pay close attention to my patients’ progress because if the treatment isn’t working, I want to know ASAP so that we can switch it up and figure out what does work and will bring lasting relief and functional improvement. Why waste time trying to pound a square peg into a round hole?
You chose to attend the University of Western States (UWS) in Portland for your chiropractic training. What impressed you most with the school and the training you received?
I was most impressed by the extensive curriculum and in-depth diagnostic training, which suited both my wide range of interests and attentive nature. I admit that the program was a lot more challenging than I expected and it took me a few months in the beginning to up to speed, especially because it had been eight years since I finished undergrad and I was going back to school while raising a family. In four years, I received over 5,000 hours of training, ranging from minor surgery and pediatrics to neurophysiology and nutrition. The state of Oregon has the broadest scope of practice in the country for chiropractors and Western States is committed to preserving that responsibility by creating Primary Care Chiropractic Physicians. They define this as practitioners who are well-equipped to serve as portal of entry physicians and either treat the patient or make an appropriate referral no matter what the complaint may be. In my case I’d say they did a pretty good job. Although I don’t use all of the skills I acquired on a daily basis, I’ve found it fairly easy to determine which patients will respond to my care and I feel very comfortable working with other practitioners to ensure a patient is well cared for. Healing is truly an art and a science and my training at UWS provided a solid foundation of science. As for the art, that seems to come more from my life experience.
How would you describe your practice today in Ashland?
In a word, I’d say that my practice is “patient-centered.” I work in a warm and relaxed environment at the Hands On Wellness clinic on 2nd Street in downtown Ashland, just east of Lithia Way. My focus is on providing quality, comprehensive care. In order to do so, I spend ample time with my patients; an hour for initial consultation and exam and 20-30 minutes for follow-up visits. I employ numerous healing modalities including manual adjustments to the spine and extremities, gentle cranial adjustments, myofascial release, muscle energy techniques, instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (using the BioEdge tool I invented), nutritional counseling, flower essence therapy, ergonomic assessment and relaxation techniques. In addition, every patient is prescribed home exercises and stretches because I’ve found that to achieve optimum results, it is vital that patients work just as hard out of the clinic as I do in it. I share the clinic with two other talented chiropractors, Dr. Cynthia Wright and Dr. Kelly Lange, and we are blessed to have a wonderful office staff. All three of us docs share a similar philosophy and commitment to quality, patient-centered care that fosters wellness in our community. I am very grateful to be part of such an awesome team.
What are the top ten conditions you most currently treat?
Neck and shoulder pain, back pain, headaches, tendinitis, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, neuropathies, jaw pain, obesity and hypertension. The truth is, most conditions are symptoms of underlying dysfunction and cannot be effectively treated by focusing only on the site of pain. To completely resolve a problem, I look at the whole picture, the entire being, to identify hidden roots of dysfunction that are manifesting as the patient’s symptoms.
You shared an interesting story with me about a patient who was having knee pain. You were able to identify that the pain was a result of a structural imbalance in the opposite foot and thus treated the foot. The knee pain went away.
Again, it is quite common for symptoms in one area to be caused by dysfunction in seemingly unrelated structures. Examples include a pinched nerve in the lumbar spine causing pain, numbness, or weakness in the feet or tight bands of muscle on the side of the neck generating pain in the chest, arm or upper back. Always keep in mind that the human body is a symbiotic structure made up of countless interwoven pieces. Injury to one area inevitably affects the overall structure and function of the entire organism. This is a fundamental truth of life not just for individuals but also societies, ecosystems, planets, etc…
I appreciated you sharing that years of self-inquiry have really helped you bring and maintain a centered approach in your practice. Can you say more?
I’ve discovered that for me to stay centered and thereby maintain a clear perspective in my practice I must leave my personal story out on the deck. This allows me to focus on the present moment rather than past interpretations of reality and respond authentically to whatever clinical challenges arise. So much suffering is a result of repeating the same painful stories over and over. The truth is that in any moment, there is always more to be grateful for than to complain about. When you let go of the story of who you are and are willing to just be, you find yourself in the center, able to see clearly for 360 degrees and withstand whatever arises, even if it is quite painful. Life is much more enjoyable when you don’t take it too seriously. Besides, only one in ten cells in the human body is actually human. The rest are bacteria!
Let’s talk about you as a good team player in the care of patients.
My job is to help people regain their health and inspire them to maintain it; most of the time it happens under my care. However, there are some cases that I can’t solve or that require the skills of another practitioner. No problem. Cooperation is always more fulfilling than competition. We are lucky to have so many wonderful healthcare providers in our community and I love to play quarterback. Helping patients to find the best practitioner for their needs is an essential service and it feels great to make an appropriate referral. I know they’ll come back when they need me.
Some of your clients just love the more traditional chiropractic adjustments that you perform.
Yes, some folks come to see me specifically for what we call an HVLA, (high-velocity low-amplitude), adjustment. It is a quick, precise impulse that is applied to joints that are out-of-position or restricted in their range of motion. The current research that is validating chiropractic manipulation as the best treatment for most neck and back pain is based on this type of adjustment. However, there are plenty of cases where it is more appropriate to use light touch and low force techniques. People vary widely in their preferences and the most important thing is always to communicate clearly and work within the patient’s comfort zone.
You also perform craniopathy and treat TMJ disorders. Can you say more about this and any other areas of focus in your practice?
The brain is the center of our nervous system. It is a supremely important structure in the human body and yet often gets overlooked when it comes to treatment. Craniopathy is a gentle method of adjusting the skull in order to relieve tension, correct musculoskeletal distortions and normalize the flow of cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF), thereby improving brain function. The work itself is quite subtle but the results are often profound. Disorders of the jaw, (TMJ), are often linked to other problems in the skull or neck. I enjoy treating this region because the anatomy is fascinating and correcting jaw problems is very important since they can be so disabling. I also really enjoy treating problems in the extremities–arms, legs, hands and feet. Sometimes patients avoid telling me about an extremity complaint because they are unaware that I treat non-spinal problems. In my experience, dysfunction in the extremities usually responds very well to chiropractic care.
When speaking with you on the phone I really appreciated your humor and enthusiasm for your work. Can you say more about this?
A good sense of humor is a powerful tool and laughter is sweet medicine. It comes naturally when you are willing to tell the truth and see things as they are. After all, human behavior and motivation is pretty amusing stuff. I admit that I learn most of my jokes from my patients. As for enthusiasm, it comes naturally because I love what I do. My work challenges and fulfills me. It is a perfect fit.
You obviously enjoy what you do. Can you tell us a little bit about your family and what you love about being in Ashland?
My wife Maureen is simply outstanding. She is a classically trained Pilates instructor and recently opened her own studio called Ashland Authentic Pilates (www.ashlandpilates.com).
Her professional path has paralleled my own with many adventures before discovering a great passion for helping people strengthen their bodies and minds with Pilates. She absolutely loves her job and is so talented at it. We have two daughters, ages 7 and 3, who are beautiful bundles of energy. They have settled into Ashland effortlessly since arriving last summer. Our dog is an English Springer Spaniel named Otis who many readers have probably met at the dog park or walking around town. He’s quite charming. What I love about living in Ashland is everything! I’ve traveled around the world and never found a better place. For me, this is the greatest community on earth; a place of elevated consciousness and artistic expression. People here are kind, intelligent, and committed to living in a healthy, sustainable way. The natural environment is absolutely epic: mountains, rivers, forests, ocean…aaahhhh. Ther are so many great local places to explore. We plan on living here forever.
Best advice ever given and favorite book you have ever read?
The best advice I’ve ever received is from a local spiritual teacher named Gangaji and it is simply to “Be still.” In stillness, the truth is revealed–both relative and absolute. The book I’ve enjoyed the most over the past 7 years of raising children is “Fox in Socks” by Dr. Suess, although I’m still struggling with the “three free fleas…” page. Another one of my favorites is “I Heard God Laughing,” a collection of poems by Hafiz, an awakened Sufi poet from the middle ages. Talk about Divine humor! His words reveal the joy and absurdity of being human like no other.
Is your practice now accepting new patients?
Yes. I try to see new patients as soon as possible after they call because they are likely in pain. If you’d like to make an appointment to see me, call 541-482-3492 and schedule with our staff or leave a message and they will promptly return your call. I am a preferred provider with most insurance plans. In the meantime, visit our website at www.ashlandhands.com where you can download and complete the paperwork for your first visit. This will allow us more time to focus on you during the first visit. I am available all weekdays except Wednesday and always for emergency appointments.
Any last words or comments for our readers?
Huge thanks to all of the wonderful patients and friends who’ve made my first year in Ashland an absolute delight. I’m grateful to be serving this community.
120 N. 2nd St, Ashland, OR 97520