BY SUSAN ERWIN – Orthopedic body worker and Therapist David O’Connell has been healing island residents at Park Avenue Massage and Bodyworks since November.
And it’s an interesting story how his path led him to Boca Grande.
David is originally from Brighton, Massachusetts. He excelled in track and field during high school. But after experiencing several injuries, including spraining both of his ankles, and thereby visiting a variety of doctors and physical therapists, he started looking into other, holistic options to treat his pain.
It wasn’t until he had five herniated discs that his pain grew so bad that he decided to pursue a career in eastern health practices.
He found a Korean teacher in Boston who did acupuncture, yoga and herbalism. “All of that combined started to make me feel so much better, it helped so much in so many different ways. It also made my mind feel much calmer, which is another part of healing. I feel like my injuries are what motivated me to pursue this path, and it’s really changed my life,” he said.
He moved to New York, where he became a Yoga instructor, studied Tai Chi and also became a licensed massage therapist. He also is trained in martial arts, including Kung Fu and Judo.
He has since continued his education by dedicating thousands of hours in workshops in many different areas, including Boston, Connecticut and North Carolina. He later taught courses in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
A few years ago, David taught a seminar in active isolated stretching and strengthening in Hong Kong.
“It was the first time I had ever been to that side of the world. Once I arrived and got situated, my colleagues and I went out to dinner. We went to a bar in central Hong Kong, and the first very person I met was Connie Swartzendruber’s son, Adrian. He was in the pub and my colleagues knew him. They went over to say hello and then introduced me to him,” David said. Adrian later introduced David to Connie.
Connie is the owner of Park Avenue Massage and Bodyworks, located at 333 Park Avenue, Suite 1A in Boca Grande.
So he spoke with Connie on the phone a couple of years later, and she invited him to come to Boca Grande and meet with her in person.
Never having visited the area before, he said he had only heard about Boca Grande from fishing magazines that had articles about tarpon fishing.
“With the past few winters being so harsh up north, I decided to come down, and I just loved it. It’s so peaceful, and the pace is so much more relaxing than New York City, where everything always seems rushed,” David said.
He met with Connie, and there was an immediate meeting of the minds. She invited him to come and work with her on the island.
“Connie is highly respected in our field, and I’m very happy to have the opportunity to work with her,” David said.
David said his primary practice is corrective exercise and performance enhancement.
“A common problem people have is with their posture. You’ll notice that many people will hold their head slightly tilted to one side or have one shoulder that’s lower than the other. There are specific muscles in your neck that bring that joint out of alignment, so I help balance the body so they can get a better alignment,” David said.
David said the active isolated stretching and strengthening techniques both he and Connie use were created by a man named Aaron Mattes, whom he greatly admires.
He said many of his clients come to him with the hope they will be able to walk and move better. He uses a variety of tools and techniques to help clients, such as myofascial release, deep tissue massage and manual ligament therapy.
This helps many of his clients improve their mobility, and it can also help with their golf and tennis games.
“These techniques combined with stretching can really bring a person to balance. Every person’s body is quite dynamic, and from day to day we are all in a different place. So each session is different,” he said.
David no longer teaches yoga, because he feels he has found better tools to treat pain.
“I am trying to focus on using those techniques that I have personally seen work to help many of my clients,” he said.
David said he has recently been seeing a lot of younger patrons between the ages of 8 and 15 who are seeking his help.
He said that, with all the technology everyone is using these days, it’s no surprise, because there is so much more pressure on the neck.
David has been married to his wife, Maria, for 13 years. The couple currently lives in North Port.
Maria is an interpreter/translator at a local hospital.
“She provides outreach to different communities and also assists the doctors with insurance matters,” David said.
When he is not working, David enjoys hiking, walking on the beach and Latin dancing. He also enjoys listening to live jazz music.
“And I like watching movies: new movies, old movies, art movies, international movies … but I really do not watch much regular television,” he said.
He said he also enjoys a Brazilian drink from time to time called a caipirinha. It’s a mix of Brazilian rum made from cane sugar and mixed with lime juice and then served over ice.
“It’s hard to find the brand of rum (cachaça) locally, but it’s quite a treat. Very refreshing”
David said he enjoys working in Boca Grande because of the more relaxed schedule.
“A New York minute is fast enough, but a Hong Kong minute is even shorter, so this is a nice change of pace. The people are more personable here, and it’s just a very relaxing flow. I really love the west coast of Florida,” he said.
To make an appointment with David, call him at 617-851-6067 or call Park Avenue Massage at 941-964-6433.
The studio is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and walk-ins are accepted during those hours. Appointments can also be made in advance before or after regular business hours.
“Sometimes a client can experience such awful pain and need relief right away. I want to make myself available for anyone who wants to receive this treatment, because it’s really transformative. It really is unbelievably beneficial,” David said.