Cory Fisher

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April 16, 2013
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Disabilities don't stop massage therapist from practicing

Growing up in Southern California, Trent Adams dreamed of being an illustrator. He was thrilled when he got into a Seattle art school at age 18. He could not have foreseen what was to come.

“I was close to graduating when I began having trouble seeing,” he said. “I couldn’t see well at night, and I began tripping on things. Sometimes I’d lose my friends in a crowd.”

Adams, who had experienced some hearing loss in his youth, was gradually losing his sight. He was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, a condition that includes hearing loss and a progressive eye disorder called retinitis pigmentosa.

Forced to rethink his entire life plan, Adams eventually moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and spent the next 12 years working in collaboration with chiropractors as a certified massage therapist. Discovering he’d found a second calling in deep tissue work, Adams learned he had a keen, intuitive knack for identifying problem areas when working on clients. It was a skill that transcended his disabilities, which perhaps enabled him a heightened focus on issues surrounding a body out of balance.

Just under a year ago, Trent, his wife, Kristen, and two small children moved from Marin County to Grass Valley. Although Adams is now 95 percent blind and has lost about 70 percent of his hearing (he hears well with hearing aids), he says he has moved into a time in his life when he has never been more fulfilled.

Always eager to learn and improve upon his practice, roughly a year ago, Adams became certified in Active Release Techniques — also known as ART — a patented massage technique based on working with soft tissue and movement. The technique is designed to treat problems with back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, muscles, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems and many others.

According to Trent, the one thing all of these problems have in common is the overuse of muscles, which can result in pulls, collisions, insufficient oxygen and tears — both large and small. These abnormal tissues, among other things, can produce excess scar tissue, weaken muscles, create tendonitis, pain and reduce strength and range of motion.

An ART provider evaluates the texture, tightness and movement of muscles, tendons, nerves and ligaments prior to treating a patient with a combination of direct tension and patient movement. More than 500 moves, or “treatment protocols,” are specific to ART, based on the theory that soft tissue symptoms can be felt by hand.

Already a highly experienced and intuitive body worker, Adams said ART, dubbed “the gold standard of soft tissue release,” has introduced him to techniques that have changed his whole outlook.

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “I’m getting results I never did after 12 years of deep tissue work. I was amazed at how well I took to it — ART is an art form in itself.”

Adams — who has worked with clients ranging from triathletes to special needs children to seniors — currently has a private practice within the office of Chiropractor Kare in Grass Valley. Adams was invited to join the group at Chiropractic Kare when he treated chiropractor Karen Zeischegg Billings, who injured her arm in a serious car accident.

“She was impressed with what I was able to do with her arm,” said Adams. “She started to feel better right away. That was better than anything I could’ve put on a resume. My work complements that of a chiropractor — they realign joints, I release tight muscles. When people have chronic pain, ART chips away at it. This is such a powerful tool.”

Grass Valley resident Glennise Dole said her neck had become so stiff that she thought she may have to quit driving. Since she started ART treatments with Adams, she said she has seen a vast improvement.

“Nothing has been as effective as this for loosening up muscles — this is a step beyond deep tissue massage,” said Dole, 73. “Trent has made a world of difference in my life — it’s like night and day. I’m 95 percent better now, and it’s changed my whole outlook on life.”

Nothing is more rewarding than hearing comments like Dole’s, said Adams, who says the tools he learned through ART have given him the best results of his entire career.

“Dealing with my own illness, which some might call crippling, has taught me a profound life lesson,” he said. “If you find your purpose, you can overcome disabilities. Listen to the signs — what makes you happy? If you find meaning, you can adapt and overcome. The work I’ve been doing with ART comes to me so naturally it seems like I’ve been doing it forever. I’ve been rejuvenated by my career — I’m excited again.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at or call 530-477-4203.

If you find meaning, you can adapt and overcome.
Trent Adams

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The Union Updated Apr 16, 2013 08:10AM Published Apr 17, 2013 08:34AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.