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Interview With Dr. Perry Nickelston

By July 23, 2010June 26th, 2014Interviews

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dr. Perry Nickelston, he’s a rising star in the fitness field who loves to learn, loves to help others, and loves fitness. This is a very heartfelt and inspiring interview, I hope you enjoy it. -Bret

1. So Dr. Perry, you are a chiropractor yet you seem to be very skilled in the arts of physical therapy and strength & conditioning. How did you get so damn smart?

Haha…well thank you for the compliment my friend. My mottos is; ‘Never stop learning!’ Learning is a passion for me. I am an avid reader and researcher. I make it a point to learn as much as I can to help my patient’s. I read 2-3 books a week. I listen to podcasts, read blogs (like your awesome blog), listen to CD’s in my car, watch videos, attend conferences, and make it a point to absorb myself in the profession I love. You can learn something new from anyone. You must be open to new things and be willing to share with others. I like to call my type of treatment Integrative Medicine. It is the perfect name for combining and using any and all types of therapies to help change a person’s life. There is never just ONE perfect technique or training program.

Fitness and working out have been a passion of mine since I was 14 years old. I started out lifting the old cement covered weights from Joe Weider in my basement. Yes I am that old. My workouts were based in traditional bodybuilding trying to pack on muscle to look like Arnold Shwarzenneger. After reading Arnold Schwarzenneger’s autobiography I had a new vision of what the body can be. It changed my life and how I viewed myself. I was a very fat and obese kid growing up and I changed how I looked based on Arnold’s teachings. Bodybuilding was the catalyst for my entire life evolving into a new sense of confidence and empowerment. I understand the pain of not liking how you look and not liking how you feel about yourself. Because I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of being overweight, I dedicate myself to helping others who may feel this way.

Because of my love for fitness, all of my Pain Laser Movement Centers are located inside health clubs. So I get to work inside my ultimate playground all day. Talk about fun! The gym equipment is my rehab room. Plus, my patients see me walking my talk. Everything that I teach others to do, they see me doing. I am a living testament to the success of my programs. Once a client is done with my treatments, I transition them to a personal trainer that can take them to the next level of body awareness and development.

2. Obviously you’re a huge advocate of the FMS. Describe how the functional movement screen drives your methodology.

Looking at movement has changed everything that I do as a clinician. About 6-years ago I read Gray Cook’s book ‘Athletic Body in Balance’ and it blew me away. I started looking at the body in a totally different way. It was a paradigm shift for me in regards to how I trained and also how I evaluated/treated patients. I began implementing the strategies in that book and the results were amazing. I never learned this stuff in chiropractic school. They do not teach this form of evaluation in medicine. I began using his techniques and combined them in a unique way with my deep tissue laser, soft tissue therapies (ART, MFR, TP, etc.), manipulation and corrective exercise.

I then created my own system of this combination called RRTT™. A few years ago, a friend of mine suggested I reach out to Gray Cook and tell him how much I loved his work and the success I was having by combining it with laser therapy. So I said, why not. I sent an e-mail to Gray, and the following day he called me! I mean, I almost fell to the floor in disbelief. I never expected he would contact me. We hit it off immediately and talked for hours. He is a good old boy from the South like me. I was born and raised 30-minutes from his headquarters in Danville, VA. We both have the same southern accent. Lol Turns out he was actually looking to learn more about laser therapy and the timing was perfect. I was flabbergasted when he invited me down to his clinic in Virginia to show him the laser. Of course I booked a flight that day and went down to spend about 3-days with him, and man did I soak up that knowledge. Gray ended up getting the same laser I use and I trained him on the techniques. So in his Danville, VA clinic he also uses the LiteCure LCT-1000 deep tissue laser like me.

I have since gotten certified in the FMS and the SFMA (Selective Functional Movement Assessment) which is the medical version of the FMS. This can only be taken by a healthcare provider. It is a much more in depth evaluation of someone who is in pain that needs to have a clinical diagnosis/assessment. I believe in the principles of FMS/SFMA and it is the core foundation of my treatment system. From the moment I left Gray Cook’s clinic, I knew that this is what I would be destined to teach others. I think the secret to success in fitness, training, medicine, healthcare, and everything in life comes down to having a core ‘System’ to follow. So many people are looking for the next big fad and new way to do something. They end up all over the place with no clear system in place to work with their clients. I recommend finding or creating a system that works for what your goals are.

Don’t get me wrong, I encourage people to always learn new and innovative ways to make themselves better at their chosen profession. I simply stress to them that when learning something new, they begin thinking of how this information can be integrated into their current system. Don’t scrap the entire system and start from scratch every time you see something cool. The FMS and SFMA are my foundational systems. Every patient starts from the FMS/SFMA and then I branch out to other things in my arsenal when necessary.

3. Who are your top influences in regards to your beliefs and practice as a fitness and health professional?

As I mentioned previously Arnold Schwarzenneger was the biggest early influence for me in fitness. I still follow his principles today. They are base foundational strategies that are timeless and when applied correctly they work. I grew up in the old school era of fitness. The industry today is so different than when I first started. Some other people that influenced me early on were Lou Ferrigno, Frank Zane, Dave Draper, Lee Labrada and Franco Columbo. Today there is an entirely new perspective on working out, fitness and health. I am constantly learning new things from fitness professionals.

In all honesty, I truly believe that most fitness professionals know more than the average doctor about exercise, fitness, health, and nutrition. Fitness professionals on are the front lines with people who are experiencing aches and pains with movement dysfunctions. I have met some truly brilliant trainers that have taught me a lot. Some of my influences today include Gray Cook (he is my mentor and opened my eyes to a new paradigm shift in clinical thinking). Whatever Gray says, I do! Pretty simple strategy actually. He is in my opinion the foremost expert on movement, and the most brilliant diagnostician and clinician I have ever met. I follow the work of Alwyn Cosgrove, Coach Robert Dos Remedios, Todd Durkin, Mark Verstegen, Joe Dowdell, Lee Burton, Dr. Mark Cheng, YOU (Bret Contreras), Carson Boddicker, Eric Cressey, Mike Reinold, Joe Heiler, Anthony Renna, Charlie Weingroff and many others. I could literally fill up an entire page of people that I have learned from, but you get the idea.

Mark Verstegen’s Core Performance book changed it all for me on what training really means. I personally completed his Core Performance program about 5 years ago and it gave me a totally new perspective on training. My body moved and felt better than ever before. I knew this was the wave of the future in training. There are so many passionate and innovate fitness professional that share information and that is one of the primary reasons I love this industry. Everyone in the fitness industry does it because they love it. You can sense the passion and the energy when you around them. In the world of traditional medicine you get nothing like that at all.

4. What do you like to do for continuing education?

I do it all. I never stop learning and I don’t take a course or a class just so I can get the obligatory CEU credits. I take it because I want to be the best at what I do. The internet has really opened up the options for continuing education via webinars, online courses, podcasts and videos. A part of your yearly income should be set aside for education and professional improvement. I can tell you one thing for sure, if you are not taking the time to learn and make yourself better, I guarantee your competition is and they are going to steamroll right over you. I highly recommend taking education courses that focus on business success and communication skills.

This is the biggest mistake that I see new doctors and new trainers making every year. I know you may love what you do and you may even be the best in the world at it, however if you cannot run a business or build relationships with people you WILL struggle. You are ultimately in the people business. And that is built on a foundation of building relationships. Attending conferences and workshops is my opportunity to network and build relationships with people that I admire and share my passion.

One of the biggest keys to success is reading. There’s a reason successful people read more books. Build a library and study. I don’t simply read; I study. I highlight passages and refer back to them over and over. Buy DVD’s and CD’s to watch and listen whenever you can find a free moment. Stop watching television and invest in yourself. One of my favorite inspirational people is professional success coach Zig Ziglar. Zig talks about what he calls ‘Automotive University’. It is the school inside your car. Instead of listening to mindless radio on your drive time, stick in an audio resource to teach you something new. It can be on finance, fitness, self improvement, nutrition, cooking, or anything else you want to learn. Do that for an entire year, and you can make yourself an expert on just about anything. Soak up the knowledge every moment you can find.

5. You are known as “The Laser Doctor.” How did you become known as that?

Well, I just sort of started calling myself that name. I liked the way it sounded. Haha. I started using laser therapy many years ago when the United States Food and Drug Administration approved its use in the US. Cold laser Class 3 therapy was approved in 2001 and high power Class 4 laser was approved in 2004. I use the most powerful Deep Tissue Class 4 laser in the country and have dedicated myself to teaching other physicians how to apply it successfully in their practice. I use laser therapy for every condition in my office and it is a primary part of my movement rehabilitation program.

I have never found a condition that did not benefit in some way from deep tissue laser therapy. I work with the fascial system a lot in my treatments and the laser light is able to reach fascial areas that cannot be treated by hand. So the deeper fascia can now be helped with this form of therapy and the results are literally astounding. Due to the cellular healing effects of laser I can make a drastic impact on recovery, regeneration, durability and reduce the risk of future injury because it strengthens the collagen matrix of tissue.

6. I see that you also know a thing or two in regards to nutrition in relation to hormonal health and optimization. Tell the readers a couple of things that they should know about hormonal health and what they can do in order to be proactive in this regard.

Five years ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It was a malignant tumor which spread to my lymphatic system and I had the entire gland removed with most of the lymph nodes in my neck. Looking back, I had suffered from signs of low thyroid (inability to lose weight, depression, lethargy, fatigue, tiredness and many other symptoms) for many years. Yet even being in the healthcare field I was not observant enough to check my hormones until I woke up with a baseball size goiter on my anterior neck. I knew immediately it was a thyroid problem.

I had the surgery and went on Synthroid meds since I had no thyroid gland anymore. I started to feel better and the symptoms began to fade, until I started experiencing very bad hot flashes and dizzy spells. I would just be standing and talking to someone and fall right to the ground passing out. They checked me for everything (brain tumors, heart problems, circulation, and more). Yet everything came out negative but I was still having the symptoms. And they just told me I had to live with it! Say what? Not an acceptable answer.

So I began to research hormones (I love learning remember) and learned everything I could about how the endocrine system works on the body. The intricate relationship between one hormone to another is fascinating. Wow! What an education. I realized everything comes down to hormones. I discovered my underlying problem was adrenal gland fatigue. It is a syndrome that affects most everyone, but the medical profession does not look at it until it is at a life threatening stage. The adrenal gland hormones are primary biological mediators and control the way other hormones are synthesized by the body. Once I started healing the adrenals with nutrition, certain exercise programs, supplementation and stress reduction activities my symptoms disappeared! Imagine that?

I realized how many people were also suffering from this condition and then I began treating people for it with great success. My website has an entire section about the adrenals on the page about hormone balance. I teach that food and exercise act like a drug, in that they effect body chemistry and hormone balance. Every time you eat something hormones react, either positively or negatively depending on several factors (nutrient timing, food combinations, amount, and how often you eat). The type of exercise you choose should be conducive to your fitness goals, and your nutrition guidelines will ultimately change based on that goal.

For example, a tri-athlete will eat and train totally different than someone who is looking to lose weight and gain lean muscle tone. What I recommend for every person is to take a hormone symptom survey to see the basic landscape of your hormone system…how are they interacting together? People are too quick to blame just one or two hormones for everything, such as insulin and Cortisol, without looking at the relationship these two hormones have on many others.

There is a fantastic book called Ultimate You written by Joe Dowdell and Brooke Kalanick, ND that talks about this hormone relationship. It is a cutting edge book that I highly recommend. I also encourage people to get a saliva test to evaluate your adrenal system. Saliva is the best way to test for free hormones in your body and the only way to accurately test the adrenal system. You can click here to visit the page on my website for the Hormone Symptom Survey. It’s really simple, the more checkmarks you have, the worse your hormone system is and then you have an indication of what needs to be addressed.

7. I’m pleased to see that you’re a fellow glute-afficionado. What do you do to get your client’s glutes working to their full-effect?

Well I have to give you mad props here Bret. I purchased your e-book on glutes and was blown away by how much great information was in there. Wow! Lots of pages in that book my friend. I learned many new things from you and I highly recommend everyone purchase that book. To me, the hip and glute complex is everything. It is the most critical and overlooked component of your core. Everyone who enters my office with a pain problem, movement dysfunction or disability has a hip complex glute problem. EVERYONE!

A basic foundation of my program is mandated that they all learn how to restore proper movement and function to the hip and glutes. Most of the time it is a locked down hip joint that has lost adequate mobility in all planes/vectors of motion and it is causing movement compensations in other areas of the body. Due to the proper lack of joint motion, the glute soft tissue and muscle complex becomes inhibited and altered firing patters occur, resulting in movement dysfunction. I always find massive amounts of trigger points (muscle knots) and soft tissue adhesions (scar tissue) in the hip complex. These must be released prior to joint mobility work, stability training or muscle activation drills in order for your body to neurologically remember how to hold movement.

There is a step by step ‘system’, (there goes that word again), for restoring mobility and stability to movement. In chiropractic I was taught that the spine is the primary center for restoring function, but I have since changed my paradigm to believe that the hip complex is the primary center of function. When I say function I mean movement function, not neurological. Why the hip? I have seen many people come to see me for chronic lower back pain and they have had everything in the world done to address that pain, including lots of manipulation.

Everybody has been treating the ‘site’ of ‘pain’ and not looking for the ‘source’ of pain. Big difference! Hence, the name of my business and the mantra for my treatment technique…Stop Chasing Pain. I always evaluate the hip and glutes because I know 99% of the time nobody has looked at it because it did not hurt. I free up the hip complex and the back pain resolves. It is a classic case of the body using a compensation pattern for movement. The hips were locked down, so the body increased movement in the lumbar spine to compensate and it was simply getting tired and worn out from overuse.

So all you gotta do is restore movement in the non-painful dysfunctional area (in this case the hips) and the body will do the rest. I have created a ‘system’ for body movement restoration called the RRTT™ System. It teaches the step by step principles I just briefly described here. The system shows you to take any athlete, evaluate 4 core areas of joint movement and soft tissue fascia for proper function and implement correctives to make a huge impact on body performance. It will be available soon via my website for anyone who wants to learn more and I will also be giving workshops and seminars on the techniques. I am hopefully presenting at the IDEA Summit next year and the Perform Better Summit on the system.

8. I loved all of your videos. You’ve done instructional videos, demonstrational videos, and even videos from your car! You like to use a variety of equipment and exercises to really hit all the “angles” or as I like to say, the “vectors.” Tell us why vector variation is important and how you train the various vectors.

Well I do love to shoot video. I am what you call a video junkie. It’s lots of fun and the feedback from fans has been awesome. My training, exercise, and rehabilitation programs are all based in vector and planes of motion movements. In fact it was your work on vector training that really caught my eye. Very few people understand the power and significance of training with vector movements. As a society most people do daily activities and exercise programs in the sagittal plane of movement (front to back). They sit all day at work, they sit in their car to and from work, and they go to the gym and then sit on equipment to exercise or get on aerobic equipment that is sagittal in motion.

So they set themselves up for movement dysfunction. Very rarely do they rotate, move side to side or up and down. If they did these vector movements in a workout, there would be a lot less people getting hurt and needing to see people like me. Not to mention that their physiques would look so much better and actually function properly too. The more muscles you use in a given movement, the more calories you burn and the more body fat you lose. So it makes sense to move in all vectors.

That’s why I love Ginastica Natural as a workout. In 10 minutes I go through every vector known to mankind and my body moves so much better. I also use the TRX suspension training system to work on vectors and can be used for varying degrees of difficulty. This way I can teach quality over quantity and have people ‘own’ the movement before they progress. All of my patients learn AIS Active Isolated Rope Stretching for joint vector movement. It is my favorite method of stretching because it can bring a joint through all planes of movement and really get good blood flow into the area. I use a PurMotion Functional Training station to work vectors. I have made several videos posted on my YouTube channel about the PurMotion.

9. Rapid Response Time:

Place of Birth: I am a Southern boy born in Martinsville, VA.

Current City of Residence: Turned into a Yankee living in New Jersey circa 1981

Favorite Type of Music: haha…child of the 80’s so I love the ‘Hair Metal’ bands. My all time favorite is ‘KISS’. My friends call me ‘Dr. Disco’ because I love disco music. All of my videos and podcasts start with the opening to the disco song’ Stomp’. It’s sort of my brand I guess.

Favorite 3 Movies: The Blade Series, Caddyshack, Pumping Iron

Favorite 3 Exercises: Anything with the TRX Suspension Trainer, the Turkish Get-Up, ropes

Favorite Type of Food: Italian. Pizza is my weakness…but I also love sushi. So they cross each other out on the nutrition scale right? lol

Favorite Type of Training: Metabolic Training and Circuit Training

Favorite Sport to Play: Love martial arts. I take Krav Maga every week.

Favorite Sport to Watch: Baseball…a diehard NY Yankee fan.

10. Thank you very much for the interview Dr. P! You are becoming popular very fast for great reasons; you seem extremely passionate and caring, you go the extra mile in terms of providing free quality information, and you know your stuff! What’s next in store for the Laser Doc and where can readers find out more about you?

Well, thank you so much my friend. I am honored. I love what I do and will always keep turning out information to help others. I live by the premise of giving. If you give of yourself with character, integrity, honor and passion, people will feed off that genuine energy. I learned a long time ago that people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. I live by that every day. Everything I do for my clients and patient’s I have experienced firsthand. I know it works and I believe in what I do with every fiber of my being.

All of the information I post on my blog, podcast, facebook, website, articles, videos, twitter is what I believe in and want to share with the world. I have several new projects in the works right now. I am working on a new fitness product with my very close friend Joe Dowdell of Peak Performance Gym in NYC. This is a recovery and regeneration based product that I believe will transform the industry.

I am also working on teaching the chiropractic profession about the FMS. I will be working directly with Gray Cook and Lee Burton in teaching chiropractors how to implement this system into their care programs. I am working on an e-book and a published book about my Stop Chasing Pain self treatment program.

If people want to learn more about me they can visit my website at and on the homepage is a link to all of my social media sites. Or you can simply Google search my name and find all of the articles I have written for various nationwide magazines and journals. So if you want to find me, it’s really easy. Lol

Thank you Bret for the opportunity to share a little piece of my world with your readers. It is truly an honor to work with you, but more importantly to call you my friend. Next up is where I interview you for my podcast…haha.


  • PolyisTCOandbanned says:

    I don’t know anything about this guy’s laser system or about use of lasers in general for fitness. Maybe some reference to basics would help? I mean the only laser stuff I know are Dr. Evil’s fish-mounted killers. Umm…and the use of lasers with Visudyne in treatment of optical disease.

  • PolyisTCOandbanned says:

    My previous comment was moderated. (why did spam filter do that?)

  • PolyisTCOandbanned says:

    Off topic:

    I think it might be interesting to hear your thoughts about the hip flexors for sprinting and/or other sports. I realize you are the glute guy…and by specializing, you became…special. but figure you must have some perspective on the opposing muscle group. I actually deliberately exercise it, but I know a lot of people who say not to (either feeling it unimportant for sports and/or not prominent visually and/or difficult to isolate and/or exercrised implicitly by mistake in abs anyhow). I kind of even have basic questions, like how strong is the HF in comparison to the glute? Like if I tested the two on a multi-hip machine, how much stronger would the glute be versus the HF?

    (As usual I pass out work, vice doing it myself…)

    • Glenn Mills, Usain Bolt’s coach, believes in strengthening the hip flexors. I do too; through their entire range. A try to have my athletes throw in around four sets of hip flexor work per week, so it’s nothing too taxing on their system but can give an added boost of power. As for balances, I have studies that show the normal strength balances between hip flexion and hip extension, but I can’t seem to locate it. Although I’m big on the idea of “strength balances,” I’m not too concerned with numbers so much as proper mechanics (no lumbar flexion, ability to hold thigh above 90 degrees, decent levels of strength, etc.).

  • Well done interview, gents.

  • PolyisTCOandbanned says:

    Yeah…maybe I’m more used to seeing the hip flexors worked in gymnastics, given all the L-seats and piked positions. They contribute a lot to that sport.

    Football, less so as there is some much involved in pushing opponents. Sprinting would be intermediate, I guess, since gait is really an all leg muscle involvment.

    I know L-seats, V-seats, standing back tucks or pikes (try doing a set of 10) will hammer your abs and hip flexors.

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