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Recently, I visited Bob Keller, the owner of Seacoast Medical Massage of Keller Therapeutics, located in the Meridian Body Therapies office at 166 Water Street, in Newburyport, MA. Below is the interview for the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce’s #portpeople campaign which is a weekly profile of members of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry!

Courtney: How long have you been in business?
Bob: I finished massage therapy school in 1992. I have been at this location for about 10 years, previously having an office in the Towle Building, and in a chiropractic office before that. I have long practiced in Massachusetts, and mainly in the Newburyport area.

Courtney: Did you always want to be a massage therapist? What made you want to be one?
Bob: No. In fact, most of my career, after my first graduate degree, was with computers, and most recently focused on helping companies develop an intelligent, digital workforce; I continue to do this work. On the other side, in my teens and twenties, I had terrible back problems that would lay me up for a week or more. At last, I learned the Feldenkrais method, which aims to improve human functioning by increasing self-awareness through movement. This course changed not only my back, but my entire view and use of my body forever. Ultimately, this was my inspiration for adding healthcare, and especially body work, into my skill set. Additional graduate studies in psychology, analytical psychology, neuroscience, and clinical neurology set me on a path to medical massage therapy, psychological counseling, dream work, and spiritual direction.

Courtney: What’s unique about your practice?
Bob: Rather than doing hour-long full-body, feel-good massages, my practice is focused on medical massage therapy. This means that my goal is to relieve specific pains and other conditions using only soft tissue techniques. That is, I use no drugs, no cutting, no cracking, and no needles, just very precise, gentle muscle movements. My work is focused mainly on The Myokinesthetic System, MYK for short. My treatments are about 10-20 minutes, patients are fully clothed, and I use no oils nor creams. The method of MYK is to have a kind of whispered conversation with your Central Nervous System about how it might make some changes to get rid of your pain or other problem. The underlying premise is that body and nervous system in balance will be pain free. 80-85% of my patients feel significant relief after just a few treatments. I should add a disclaimer here. Patients call me Dr. Bob, and often accuse me of doing miracles. Alas, however, I am neither a medical doctor nor a divinity; my field is medical massage therapy, trying to understand this miracle we call the human being.

Courtney: What type of pain/injuries do your customers experience?
Bob: A wide variety ranging from headaches, backaches, and foot aches to acid reflux, anxiety, and a lot more. You can see a good list at my website, Some patients are referred to me by local doctors.

Courtney: What’s been your favorite experience in this line of work?
Bob: I remember one case that is typical of my favorite experiences. A man had fallen off a platform 15 ft. onto a concrete floor, landing on his back. Ten years later he came to see me with a list-as-long-as-your-arm of opioid, steroid, and other pain killers. After just a few treatments he was able to discontinue many of his meds, and to start tapering off others.
In liberating a patient who has been on such terrible pain medications, I feel as though I am striking a blow against our increasingly devastating opioid crisis.

Courtney: What piece of advice would you give to your younger self or inspiring massage therapists, to overcome struggles you have faced in this industry?
Bob: You need to be technically excellent, and willing to deal with all kinds of people, whatever their shape, size, or age. One challenge many massage therapists face is finding a way around being too distant or too intimate. And most importantly, be patient.

Courtney: What brought you to Newburyport?
Bob: I lived much of my life in southeastern Pennsylvania; I grew up in a town called Wawa. For 10 years I worked for the DuPont Company, and then taught computer courses around the country. Eventually, I moved to Massachusetts to help start Artificial Intelligence Corporation. It was during this time that I began to practice body work more extensively, and decided that helping people with pain and other conditions was my true passion.

Courtney: What is one of your favorite places to spend time in Newburyport?
Bob: I love to sit in front of a fire on cold, snowy day, and write. Among other things, I write a bi-weekly column in the Daily News called “Making Sense of Medicine”. In these, I take complex medical issues and talk about them in ways that anyone can understand.

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