I am a writer and former massage therapist in Vancouver, Canada. I publish this website with help of several editors and contractors, and correspondence with many expert colleagues I am honoured to know. In particular, I was the assistant editor for ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years, working closely with their world class team. PainScience.com is huge (2,300,000 words) and busy (35,000 daily visitors), and it routinely attracts the attention of anyone who might care about the science of painful problems. The site is funded solely by sales of educational e-books, and zero advertising. I keep it clean. My main qualifications are:
- good training as a massage therapist (certification standards in my part of Canada are quite high)
- clinical experience from a busy 10-year massage practice (2000–2010)
- 21 years of workaholic independent study
- valuable relationships with many experts
- entrepreneurial success making science education profitable
- 25 years of writing and publishing of all kinds
- ironic personal experience with serious chronic pain since 2015
Some personal basics
I am pushing fifty now, married for almost twenty years. I grew up in the Canadian north, and I’ve lived in Vancouver since 2000.
I am an amateur athlete, mostly as an ultimate Frisbee player, but probably for not much longer: at my age, I would be struggling with the intensity even if I didn’t have some health issues.
I am unusually short; I was given growth hormone as a child (my first “interesting” encounter with health care).
Keen tech hobbyist since I was about six years old, and mostly an Apple guy since the early 80s. Dog lover, cat lover; read and watch a great deal of science fiction and fantasy; know my way around a telescope; and classical history fascinates me.
Me & my lovely wife, who shall remain nameless. (This small picture is probably her only Internet presence — she’s an offline kind of lady.)
Major influences, mentors, and acknowledgements (a hopelessly inadequate summary)
It’s impossible to thank everyone who matters without getting tedious. Just like at the Oscars!
Dr. Lorimer Moseley, Diane Jacobs, PT, and Jason Silvernail, PT, are particularly responsible for teaching me some mind-bendingly important lessons about neurology that changed everything (and still are).
I was a part of the editorial team at Science-Based Medicine from 2010 to 2016. Everyone there, but especially Drs. Steve Novella, Harriet Hall, and David Gorski, was generous and supportive, and taught me how to think about health care.
Blogger-massage-therapists Alice Sanvito, Todd Hargrove, Laura Allen, Ravensara Travillian — out of literally dozens of other worthies — have all routinely given me invaluable ideas, advice, perspective, and so on.
Chiropractic apostate Sam Homola, DC has particularly been an inspiration and a resource; Eyal Lederman’s writing has taught me much, and I’m privileged to correspond with him. Anti-quackery activist Dr. Stephen Barrett has offered various kinds of support over the years. Psychologist and massage researcher Dr. Christopher Moyer has contributed expertise and comments to PainScience.com many times over the years.
I left massage therapy because the profession is an embarrassing mess
I love massage, but the profession of massage therapy has a deeply pseudoscientific character overall, defining itself mostly in opposition to science-based or “mainstream” health care, where rejection of science is actually celebrated by many practitioners, probably a majority. My practice was busy and fun; I enjoyed my work and adored my clients. But I wasn’t comfortable in a profession so conflicted about science. It was getting awkward. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my career explaining to scientists and engineers and doctors that I was one of the pro-science massage therapists.
I wrote about these concerns and was threatened with professional censure by the regulatory body that licenses massage therapists. They effectively demanded that I stop blogging. I quit the profession instead. You can read the whole bizarro-world story on ScienceBasedMedicine.org: Why I Quit My Massage Therapy Career.
Other theraists who share my feelings have remained in the profession, fighting to modernize the profession, and my hat is off to them — I do what I can to support them with my writing and publishing.
Flaky stuff: a history of fascination with alternative medicine, vitalism, and “internal” martial arts
Most of my critics assume that I must be ignorant of all things alternative, magical, spooky, and flaky. In fact, my “street cred” in this area is quite solid — so much so that I find it fairly embarrassing today. Back in the day, I tried and believed practically everything alternative medicine has to offer. My modern skepticism is all the more credible for having left that world behind.
I did this kind stuff for 20 years: semi-mystical martial arts. I was insufferably earnest about it. And I moved on.
In particular, I practiced taijiquan and qigong seriously for twenty years, and participated in a number of other martial arts, such as aikido.
I was also exposed early in life, way back in the mid-80s, to some of the world’s foremost experts in the idea of vital “energy” and traditional Chinese medicine — Jock McKeen and Bennet Wong, the remarkable founders of Haven, analogous to the Esalen Institute. Jock and Ben and Haven influenced me strongly right through the 90s, but after that I started to move decisively in new directions where their ideas were less relevant and more questionable.
Creating this website has been an education much like a university degree
I respect academic accomplishment immensely — and yet the effort I’ve put into this website is not just comparable to the effort required to earn a degree, but undoubtedly greater. You can do a lot of independent study in 20 years, and I have. There are about two million words of original articles and tutorials here — roughly 10–20 books worth — with a large, well-maintained and carefully annotated bibliography.
For many years, all this it was driven by interactions with clients, and everything I wrote was for clients. Later, interactions with experts and readers from around the world became more important. Countless times it is my readers who have suggested something I never would have thought of, or reminded me of something I should have.
So, the total educational value of publishing this website is unique and incalculable.
The personal touch: my own sports injuries and pain problems (and my wife’s)
I write a lot about sports injuries, so it would be nice if I had some significant experience with athletics, eh? And I do: I have had perhaps more than my fair share of direct, painful, and highly educational experiences with some of the athletic injuries I write about, especially iliotibial band syndrome.
Me playing ultimate in the sun a few years ago.
I had always been “prone” to aches and pains, which is really why I started this website. But that tendency was a pain puppy humping my leg compared to the Cerberus of suffering that has been mauling me since 2015. I graduated to the pain big leagues: serious chronic pain, fatigue, and exercise intolerance plus many other bizarre symptoms, all unexplained, making me a fibromyalgia patient. You can read my chronic pain story on my personal blog: “Chronic Pain & Tragic Irony.”
In 2010, my wife had a particularly horrendous car accident while travelling alone in Asia. I learned a great deal about injury rehab from her experience — a thin silver lining.