Name: Marta Helliesen, PhD, LMT
Location: Hollywood, FL
Occupation: Rehabilitative Massage Therapist & Movement Specialist
How do you or your business help those with chronic disease/medical conditions or who need pre & postnatal care?
Most of my clients, of all ages, come to me because they are in pain. Each client has their own unique pain pattern and this frequently doesn’t fit the textbook cases. Thus, as a professional, I have to have vast knowledge so that I can think outside the box and treat accordingly. The treatment in my clinic is always a collaboration between me and the client. If, for instance, the body is out of alignment causing all kinds of mysterious pain, we work to balance the muscles in order to align the joints utilizing movement, soft tissue manipulations, and muscle energy techniques. For clients dealing with cancer the aim is to help reduce the physical and emotional stress they are under, and if they have been through surgery the work is with their scars to minimize long-term stiffness. Many of my elderly clients are struggling with poor balance and fear of falling so for them, we focus on proprioceptive training along with strength training and mental focusing. The key is to take each client seriously, listen carefully, and treat the whole person, not the symptoms.
What makes you different from all the other fitness professionals out there?
My multifaceted education in neuroscience, psychology, bodywork and biomechanics gives me the gift of seeing the client and his/her problems from a different perspective. It allows me to piece together their symptoms in a non-conventional way, and treat accordingly. This is very useful when clients have complex problems, layers of compensations, and pain in many areas of the body.
What is your favorite activity or class to participate in?
My main passions are reading and working out outdoors. I take advantage of the beautiful Florida weather to get my vitamin D and my exercise. If I have time I love a good yoga class as well.
What is one piece of advice that you would give other fitness professionals about working with special populations or those who need pre-& postnatal care?
My first thought is; Be humble! Don’t make assumptions, comparisons or quick conclusions based on what you think you know. Be curious and rediscover your client every time you meet.
What type of community activities are you involved in?
For the last 2 years, I have been actively engaged in fighting the opioid epidemic. I am also working pro-bono with people in recovery from opioids as well as cancer survivors with limited means.
What is one of your favorite memories involving working with someone who has a health challenge or disability?
What comes to mind is a 52-year-old client who came to me last year after she had been run in circles in the medical world for 5 years. When I first met her she was in severe pain all over her body, had put most of her physical and social activities on hold due to pain; she felt weak, was no longer able to work, and was very depressed about her situation. She had, to no avail, undergone two back surgeries justified by MRI findings of which none was the source of her pain.
We methodically built up her physical and mental strength, released fascial adhesions and trigger points, awakened inhibited muscles, reprogrammed dysfunctional neuromuscular pathways, and reignited her zest for life. A year later she is pain-free, back to work, is hiking and biking, and has reconnected with her circle of friends. It was a profound and challenging process where we truly worked as a team and where her commitment really paid off.
What would you like to see change, develop or emerge in the future of healthcare and the fitness industry?
I would like healthcare and fitness to be less of a business venture and more focused on actual healthcare and fitness. In a perfect world, there could be collaboration and respect between the fitness and the medical world. Ideally, there would be less focus on treating the symptoms and more focus on treating the person. Progress would mean more focus on educating the clients about their bodies and health and teach how each person can take responsibility and prevent dis-ease, rather than be treated for it. Higher education requirements for fitness professionals would make them better equipped to care for their clients, as well as to engage constructively with the medical professionals.
And what are you doing to make this happen?
First and foremost, I never stop studying and learning. In my clinic, I work with one client at a time and give them my undivided attention. I design specific treatment programs for each and every client to fit the person’s need, ability, age and personality. I take every opportunity I can to mentor and educate fitness professionals that cross my path, and I make an effort to meet with medical doctors in my community to share my approach and discuss treatment options.
What is your favorite fitness, inspirational, or motivational quote?
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Albert Einstein
Anything else we should know about you?
I was born and raised in Norway and while I have now been in the US for 30 years I still maintain a lot of the European mindset and set of values. Prior to my current career, I was a neuroscientist and a psychologist, both of which has informed my current work tremendously. I truly love my work and devote most of my time to either clinical work or research. I am very grateful to be able to apply my knowledge in such a way that I can help people obtain a pain-free life.