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Pain Questions (An Interview with Todd Durkin)

This is an interview with Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, NCTMB, and owner of Fitness Quest 10.  His clinic in San Diego focuses on pain management, corrective exercise, therapeutic massage and bodywork, and performance enhancement.  Todd is a national presenter and is someone who once dealt with chronic pain.  In addition to running his clinic, he presents workshops on various health, wellness, and fitness topics to corporations, conferences, and meetings.

What is your experience with chronic pain?
I suffered a serious back injury while playing professional football that ended my career.  I was bed-ridden for 30 days, was on Vicadin and anti-inflammatories for nine months and faced the option of surgery.  The diagnosis was spinal stenosis, 3 herniated discs, and degenerative disc disease.  Besides a lot of pain and fear, I was left with many questions to ponder about my future.  My football career was over and I needed to make decisions on my next phase in life.  It lead me on a journey that has been quite fulfilling.

Did you have surgery?
No.  My philosophy was to explore all my options before “going under the knife.”  The statistics on back surgery aren’t great and I wasn’t completely comfortable with having my spine operated on.  I talked with several doctors about my options and most of them agreed I would need surgery.  I decided to try all alternatives before getting surgery.

What options did you try?
Traditional physical therapy, medications, osteopathy, acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and energy work.  I believe all of them helped me but I still couldn’t get out of pain and could not get off my medications.  That was probably the scariest part.

What allowed you to finally get pain-free and off your medication?
It actually was quite evident when it happened.  After much research and talking with many experts around the country in pain, I began receiving a type of work called Zen Bodytherapy.  This type of work combines Rolfing, Feldenkrais, and energy work.  This work is a series of 10 sessions that specifically addresses the fascial system of the entire body.  It was after session 4 that I began an obvious detoxification of my body.  I had diarrhea and vomited for almost 3 weeks.  It had a very metallic taste and it was obvious to me what was happening.  After session 6, my detoxification was complete and I was off painkillers.  I went through the 10 sessions over five years ago, haven’t taken any medications, and have been pain-free.

What is fascia?
Fascia is the critical system to address when you are dealing with someone in chronic pain and it’s the one system that is not often touched.  It is a connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves, binding those structures together like plastic sandwich wraps. It consists of several layers: a superficial fascia, a deep fascia, and a subserous (or visceral) fascia and extends uninterrupted from the head to the tip of the toes.

What kind of work do you do?
The work that I now do at my clinic is a combination of Zen Bodytherapy, Rolfing, Feldenkrais, myofascial release, sports massage, and integrative bodywork techniques.  In addition, my strength and conditioning and personal training background allows me to work with people from a corrective exercise standpoint to help improve people’s function.  I love working with people in chronic pain or with people or athletes that are trying to achieve optimal performance.  If the body is structurally aligned and in proper form, the body can achieve great results.

Do you have other healing modalities at the clinic as well?
Yes.  We have a wonderful chiropractor, Pilates, Yoga, personal training, and nutritional counseling.  All of these modalities have their role in optimizing health and we feel fortunate to bring such high quality and care to our people.  All of our practitioners have a minimum of an undergraduate degree in an exercise science field and the majority of them have at least a master’s degree in their respective fields.  Combined with tremendous and varied experience, our staff is very reputable, personable, and skilled.

What is your education and experience?
My undergraduate degree is in Kinesiology from The College of William and Mary.  I was a quarterback and captain of the football team during my time there.  My graduate degree is in Biomechanics and Sports Medicine from San Diego State University.  My initial massage therapy certifications were completed at Rising Spirit Massage School in Atlanta, GA.  My Zen Body Therapy advanced bodywork trainings were completed under the founder of the Zentherapy, Dub Leigh.  He himself brought me through the sessions and then taught me the work.  He had a profound impact on my development as a bodyworker.  I have been in the field for over 10 years now and helping people is my passion.

How does your work differ than other types of treatment for chronic pain?
Without question, this work addresses the fascial system.  When you address the fascia, you are addressing the structure of a body, as well as any past emotional traumas.  Life is a series of events and mental anguishes, emotional traumas, and physical injuries that are stored in the fascia.  Unless the fascia is addressed, our past experiences can wreak havoc on the body and create a lot of physical pain.

What can you share with people that are in chronic pain?
Regardless of how bad your pain is or how long you have been in chronic pain, there is hope.  If you have never received this work, you must explore this option.  Again, your pain will not go away if your fascia is aberrated.  Most forms of treatment do not address fascia and this is the key.

How important is the mind in healing?
The mind plays a very important role in healing.  If you are in pain and feel there is no hope for the future, it can be downright depressing and scary.  The fear and anxiety that pain can cause can self-perpetuate the problem.  It creates an unhealthy, catch 22 loop that the pain creates fear and the fear creates the pain.

If you realize there is hope out there and that you can do something about it, your mind will become at ease and your pain will diminish.  With a combination of effective treatments, a positive mental approach, and a proactive responsibility on your side, there is no doubt you will become pain free.  You just need the recipe for success to follow and do it on a daily basis.

What can people do on their own that are in pain?
There are a few simple things that people can do on their own after their fascial systems have been addressed.  The frustrating part from a practitioner’s standpoint is when one doesn’t do the daily movements and responsibilities on their own after their sessions are finished.  In order for one to stay optimally lengthened, there is some homework that is prescribed.  If one does their homework (it takes no longer than 15 minutes per day), we see incredible results.  As a matter of fact, I usually don’t see them much after that.  They just refer their friends over to us to receive help.  The homework is a combination of Feldenkrais movement therapies, stretching exercises, and corrective strengthening movements.

Are you against surgery?
Surgery has its place in the healing process and we are very fortunate that we have such truly wonderful, skilled surgeons in our country.  I have many friends, clients, and family members that have had successful surgeries.  Some of my friends and clients are actually surgeons themselves.  But when it comes to chronic pain, there are many successful options out there that exist that aren’t as intrusive to the body.  Once the body is cut on, the fascial system is never the same and it must be addressed.  If you have an acute problem or there is no other option, we are blessed to have quality surgeons.  But cutting out a problem is not always the solution when it comes to dealing with chronic pain.  Although it could eliminate a symptom, it often does not address the root of the problem.  Surgery should be used as a last-resort if nothing else works.

Where can people find people like you that do this type of work?
There is a website that lists the practitioners of this type of work.  The website is Regardless of who you choose to go to, always look at their background and the path that lead them to their work.  If they have a degree in an exercise science field, it is a plus.  People can feel free to contact me with questions or to locate a practitioner in their area or city.

Todd Durkin is a 2 Time Personal Trainer of the Year and Founder of Fitness Quest 10 & Todd Durkin Enterprises in San Diego, CA. He trains people from all walks of life, but is best known for the work he does with over 25 NFL Superstars. He trains the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Reggie Bush, Alex Smith, and Donnie Edwards amongst others. His expert staff of 30 trainers, coaches, and massage therapist/bodyworkers perform over 400 weekly sessions and help educate, motivate, and inspire the world to greater levels of health & fitness. Todd has 17 DVD’s on fitness & sports performance and has been featured in many national magazines and media outlets. His ezine newsletter “TD Times” is his way of connecting clients, trainers, coaches, colleagues, and friends from all over the world. He can best be reached via his websites,, or by using the contact form below: [easy-contact]

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