About Me

Have you thought about how important your brain is for overcoming pain or an injury?

How about who you trust your brain to?

Based on first-hand experience, I can tell you that you can fall for just about anything when you don’t know what you don’t know.

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A Shortlist of What regularly Falls Short of Getting to The Root Cause

1 / stretching

2 / foam rolling or rolling on a lacrosse ball

3 / “traction” (a.k.a. decompression therapy)

4 / Cortisone Injections (a.k.a. steroid injections)

5 / one-size-fits-all exercises (that increase compensation and strengthen the muscles that were already strong)

6 / spinal “adjustments”  (a.k.a. stretching and placebo rolled into one.)

7 / massage techniques designed to release muscles, trigger points, and ‘knots’ 

8 / custom-made orthotics  (Also known as pebbles for your shoes.)  Whether you have flat feet or overpronate, supporting your arches will cause more problems than custom orthotics solve.

<img data-src="https://engagingmuscles.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/human-legs-bowed.png" alt="human legs are bowed before and after twelve sessions of massage therapy" width="1200px" length="600px"/>

My about me story includes having lived with chronic low back pain.

The year was 1990.  I was about nineteen years old at the time.  A few months after graduating high school, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc and piriformis syndrome.

As you might have imagined, I had good days and bad days.  On the days I felt less pain, I would do too much.  Then I would have more pain for what I now know was muscles not being prepared to tolerate the demands on my musculoskeletal system.

Although I was not aware of it at the time, I was trying to figure out how to overcome low back pain with a combination of surface-layer knowledge and first-layer knowledge.

[ Sidebar: Whether you know it or not, you are running up against surface-layer knowledge and first-layer knowledge.  Second-layer knowledge cannot be learned in a university.  The next time you feel caught in a vicious cycle, think about what you read here. ]

To add insult to injury, back then, I was doing what many people feel is therapeutic today—stretching, strengthening, and chiropractic.

Like many people dealing with acute and chronic back pain today, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Case in point, I needed to find out which of my about five hundred fifty muscles were underperforming.

Not to mention I didn’t realize my muscles were tight because the underperforming muscles could not pull their weight.

Although the relief was short-lived, stretching, strengthening, and chiropractic helped.

Today, I recognize I was being fooled by randomness.  In other words, unknowingly, I was addressing symptoms only to have my brain find a different workaround.

For example: much like what you will experience in rehab today, I was attempting to strengthen muscles, not realizing that some of the muscles involved in the movement were not pulling their weight to the best of their ability.

As good as my intentions were, my brain figured out a different workaround (that didn’t include pain).

After experiencing pain for several months, I ran into a friend from high school who was attending massage school.  After we discussed the back pain I was experiencing, he asked me to participate in a case study he had to do for his sports massage class.

Agreeing to that offer was one of the many times in my life where the quote, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” applies.  Up to the point of running into my friend from high school, I had not received a sports massage or even a full body massage.

After each session, I could feel how much more range of motion I had throughout my trunk and spine.  But unfortunately, the new available range of motion didn’t hold because I didn’t have stability throughout the new range of motion—something I didn’t realize at the time.

Even still, I was twenty years old.   So Dave’s massage techniques and my brain’s ability to find a workaround were enough to get me to where I felt good enough to be more active.

After Dave documented what he did over three sessions, he encouraged me to start going to the gym he went to.  Eventually, we started playing two-person beach volleyball competitively.

Not long after regularly going to the gym and experiencing what Dave’s hands-on skills were able to do for me, I decided to pursue a career as a licensed massage therapist and a nationally certified personal trainer.

As I share this about me story with you, I see my experience with low back pain and my pursuit to overcome it as a gift.

<img data-src="https://engagingmuscles.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/about-me.png" alt="in about me Rick Merriam applies a transverse friction massage technique to a neck muscle" width="1200" length="1228"/>
Photo Credit: Natalie Harding

About Me Continued

In 1994, I completed a 600-hour Massage Therapy Program at The Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy (CCMT).

Having felt all that comes with experiencing pain and an injury, it didn’t take long for my interest in working with the muscular system to become my passion.

From 2003 to 2009, I was an applied biomechanics consultant at ESPN.  In the three years before consulting for the strength coaches and personal trainers at ESPN, I taught the biomechanics of exercise and how to best progress exercises to personal trainers and group exercise instructors throughout New England.

After finishing my presentation at a gym in Stanford, Connecticut, a couple of curious employees at ESPN came up to ask questions.  First, one employee asked me a question many attendees had asked before:  Where did you go to college?   I responded with; I didn’t go to college.  To this day, I remember being surprised by her reply: We would like to meet with you.

About two weeks after our first meeting, we met at ESPN’s Bristol campus (aka, where it all started).  At the start of the meeting, they told me my ability to teach and think critically was something they valued.  Then, they explained why they felt my skill set was an asset to their staff.

Their thought process took me by surprise.  Because before this meeting, my ability to think critically and apply second-layer knowledge was consistently perceived as a threat to individuals who held a title.

After serving as a consultant at ESPN for a few years, my primary role evolved to providing hands-on therapy for sports and work-related injuries every week.

In 2014, Runner’s World UK quoted me in an article that questioned the value of stretching.

Over the last few years, I have been quoted in Massage Therapy and Bodywork, Massage Magazine, IDEA Fitness Journal, Massage and Fitness Magazine, and The Guardian Liberty Voice.

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In 2018, Voyage Dallas interviewed me about all things Engaging Muscles.

I have also served as an applied biomechanics consultant at Canyon Ranch and The Greenbrier.

It’s been 27 years since I first held a license to perform the best sports and deep tissue massage techniques.

<img data-src="https://engagingmuscles.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/about-rick-merriam.png" alt="Rick Merriam applies deep transverse friction massage technique to hip of patient who is lying on his side" width="1200" height="1624"/>
Photo Credit: Natalie Harding

I was a nationally certified personal trainer throughout the first 18 years of my career.  During that time, I completed thousands of one-on-one training sessions.

My wife and I relocated to Dallas in 2009.  Before moving, I taught kinesiology and advanced kinesiology of the lower extremity at The Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy.

From 2009 to 2018, I immensely enjoyed teaching applied anatomy and kinesiology at the Parker University School of Massage Therapy.  

After moving to Dallas, I found part-time work at Luke’s Locker, a high-end family-owned specialty running shoe store.  That two years of experience fitting running shoes is a key ingredient in my practice today.

Not too long ago, I sat down with Jen Schwartz.  She is the host of the Think Fit Be Fit Podcast.  We talked about fitting running shoes and the movement economy of the feet.

I recently talked with Steven Sashan, the co-founder of Xero Shoes and the host of The Movement Movement Podcast.  You can listen to the episode with the player below or read the transcript here.

We talked about custom orthotics, shoes, stretching, and much more.

Texas Massage Therapy License:  MT110566

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