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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Myofascial Release Therapist Looks Beyond Symptoms

Dec 30, 2020 09:30AM ● By Sheila Julson
Dave Vollmers of Specialized Therapy Service has a keen ability to think outside the box, which eventually led him to the John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release (MFR) approach while working as an occupational therapist. When Vollmers saw how the hands-on method of treating restrictions of fascia (soft tissue) had helped a factory employee, he knew he was on to something. “My brain works as a mechanic. Wherever it takes me, it takes me, whether it’s conventional or not,” he says.

Fascia is the body’s connective tissue and looks similar to the pith of an orange, covering muscles and joints. Fascia can eventually tighten, lose elasticity and become restrictive, Vollmers explains. MFR uses gentle yet steady and sustained pressure to release fascia restrictions by softening and elongating tissue.

“MFR is basically two theories,” he elaborates. “One: Never force, and you’ll never injure. To do that, you have to get rid of your ego and put patients first, asking them what they need. Two: You have to listen to patients’ symptoms and look elsewhere for the cause. We have intelligently designed bodies that know when something is damaged from stress, poor posture or injury; it has to compensate. If the left side is hurting, the right side will take over.”

Vollmers, an avid outdoorsman and a high school athlete, had attended college on and off throughout the University of Wisconsin system. He had originally planned to pursue a degree in wildlife management and veterinary sciences, but he later became uncertain about what he wanted to do.

While working two jobs—one as a bartender and one at the Milwaukee County Medical College morgue, where he obtained research specimens—he thought about how his high school girlfriend’s mother had talked about occupational therapy. “For whatever reason, that stuck in the back of my mind,” he says. He decided to call Curative Care to ask if he could shadow a therapist in their rehabilitative hand clinic. While there, he found that he liked that setting and returned to UW-Milwaukee, but he was unable to get into the school’s occupational therapy program.

While bartending one evening, he met a nurse that had told him about Concordia University’s new occupational therapy program. He applied and was accepted. During one of his shifts at the morgue, he happened to meet Dr. Leah Dvorak, who would end up being his anatomy professor, as well as a powerful mentor while he pursued an occupational therapy degree.

Discovering Myofascial Release

After graduating from Concordia, Vollmers eventually worked as the rehab and fitness director at the former Delphi Corp., in Oak Creek. It was there that he discovered the effectiveness of MFR, a treatment that softens and elongates fascia, thus increasing range of motion, improving blood flow and stimulating the body’s autoimmune response.

“A factory worker had neck pain and needed therapy, but he said, ‘You can’t help me. Everybody else has tried and failed,’” Vollmers recalls. Vollmers remembered that his wife, also a therapist, had once talked about MFR. Instinctively, Vollmers tried MFR on his patient with the neck pain. The patient left, still skeptical that he had been helped.

“The next day, that burly guy came running toward me. At first, he seemed angry. I thought, ‘This isn’t going to end well,’” Vollmers laughs. “But he hugged me and said he had slept soundly for the first time in four years. He didn’t have any more neck pain.”

Realizing MFR’s effectiveness, Vollmers heard that John F. Barnes, PT, would be in Madison to teach his gentle MFR technique, so he signed up for a class. “Barnes started talking about anatomy, and I soon realized he knew more than most of the anatomy professors I had studied under. At that point, it was clear I was in the right spot,” Vollmers says.

When Delphi Corp. began downsizing and closing its U.S. plants, Vollmers decided to strike out on his own. In February 2002 he formed Specialized Therapy Services—a dedicated myofascial release clinic—which, for 16 years, was located at the intersection of 92nd and Center streets in Milwaukee before they moved to a larger location in Elm Grove. Vollmers has accumulated over 500 hours of courses, and has also worked for the Myofascial Release Treatment Centers and seminars as an assistant instructor to Barnes. He uses MFR to treat adults and children, and he incorporates reiki and craniosacral therapy into services. He accepts insurance.

Helping people become mobile and pain-free motivates Vollmers every day. “When I hear people say things like ‘my back pain is gone,’ that’s why I do what I do,” he enthuses.

Specialized Therapy Services is located at 890 Elm Grove Rd., Ste. 1-1, Elm Grove. For more information or to make an appointment, call 414-778-1341 or visit

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer for Natural Awakenings magazine.