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Chiropractor: Mark J. Blessley, NTS., DC

Cathy Sivak, Contributing Writer

His Career

What initially led you to pursue a career in the natural therapeutic field?

I was up in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1988 and I was doing construction and home remodeling. I was noticing a lot of tension in my upper back and shoulders, and I thought it would be a beneficial thing to get a massage. I was also thinking about what the next step would be to get out of construction and help people in a different way. I called around for massage therapists, and I found out that they were charging $40 an hour, and that I had to wait two weeks for an appointment. So I said to myself, “$40 an hour and they are booked two weeks in advance, that’s a business opportunity. There is obviously a need for more massage therapists.”

After completing my training, and spending time in private practice massage therapy, I decided to pursue an affiliation with a medical provider. I searched for doctors that work directly with the body, and decided to try to work with the chiropractic field. I started work at Chiropractic Arts Clinic in New Mexico. I worked there for a couple of years, all of the while taking course in clinical interests like neuromuscular therapy and craniosacral therapy, and I got involved in sports medicine. I became a nationally certified sports massage therapist with the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) National Sports Massage Team. I don’t think the team exists anymore, but at the time (the early ‘90s), it was a big deal. I was also the first massage therapist asked to work with the University of New Mexico Women’s Track & Field team, and I was the only massage therapist asked to go to the Olympics.

How did your natural therapeutics career lead you to the chiropractic field?

All along, my chiropractic mentors were telling me I could help people more efficiently and at a higher level as a chiropractor. I had been watching how we treated patients, and what the most effective care was; it boiled down that the combination of chiropractic and massage together is quite a bit more effective than either treatment alone.

It was not my intention to become a chiropractor when I decided to become a massage therapist. That was very far from my mind. But it turned out that being a massage therapist first was a really helpful to me as I went into chiropractic school, because I already had studied physiology and learned palpitation skills. It was a huge advantage over other students coming from other professions or schooling backgrounds. The third year of chiropractic school, you go into student clinic and work with instructors at first; they know what to feel for when you’re checking them. I had instructors tell me I had a “feel” like a doctor already, that my touch was really good. It developed a confidence. The other students were not used to placing their hands on people and were trembling; I just went right in there. If you wanted to do a part-time business while you are in chiropractor school, with massage therapy you can take appointments that fit your schedule; it’s a good way to make additional income as you are going to school.

How is your chiropractic career unfolding?

I went to work with a sports medicine group in Washington. I started with Kim Christenson. He was a sports medicine chiropractor with a very good reputation in the local area, and a rehab specialist. He was especially good at using sports medicine techniques, which is an excellent way to address injury. In sports, when have an injury on the field, they are not interested in doing something that takes a long time. You want something that makes the injury heal as quickly as possible, because these are millions-of-dollars-a-year athletes. You don’t mess around; you find out what works, and that’s what you do. If you think about it, everyone can be treated like an athlete when they have an injury, to get better faster, a better healing environment. It works out well to use a sports better approach. Even if you are an older person, or somewhat limited due to other health conditions, you can still tailor a sports medicine approach to the person’s condition. That’s what I was doing for years and years.

What I’m doing now is I’m coming back around and thinking that prevention is often the most practical. You can’t prevent a car accident or a slip or a fall. But you can do sports medicine and prevention, to help a person heal after they’ve had an accident. All of the prevention is becoming a big issue with the congenitive (developed) diseases. Many of them are inflammatory and dietary in nature, basically life choices in nature. What I learned at the New Mexico School of Natural Therapeutics on a basic, preliminary level is now being supported by a much deeper understanding of that part of human physiology.

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