Trey Tucker: Healing With A Scientific Touch

Published: November 11, 2019
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Trey Tucker ’06 utilizes the words of the Auburn Creed, especially “the human touch,” to treat his patients with the best care possible as a massage therapist at Synergy Sports Wellness Institute in Atlanta.

As a senior in high school, Tucker knew his path would lead him somewhere to sports medicine, but he didn’t know how. After graduating from Auburn with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, he wanted to continue his education. Wanting to take somewhat of a break from school between moving on to physical therapy training, Tucker thought massage therapy was a happy middle between wanting to continue in the same field while preparing for what he thought would be his career.

In 2007 he graduated from the Academy of Somatic Healing Arts, where he received certifications in Swedish, Clinical Sports and Neuromuscular Therapy. What he didn’t know was that he would fall in love with the profession and the thrill he still receives influencing people’s lives for the better.

“Massage therapy was everything I loved about being in sports medicine and helping support the sports industry, but with a lot less of the downside,” Tucker said. “As a physical therapist, I would only see my patients maybe five to 10 minutes. I’m not going to get that interaction with them and truly understand the history of their injury and their body.”

Building a relationship and a dialogue with his patients is crucial in aiding them in their health, Tucker said. “Through massage therapy, I have much more time with them to be able to dive into what’s really going on.”

Tucker’s approach as a massage therapist is a lot different than how most would view the profession.

“I tell people all the time that I don’t listen to Enya; I don’t have scented candles,” he said, laughing. “I’m talking to you. A lot of times, a patient will say something that they don’t think is important but is a big part of what is going on with their body.”

Tucker views his work through a more scientific lens utilizing measurement and biomechanics. His Auburn biomechanics professor, Wendi Weimer, inspired him to truly understand how the body works.

“I tell people all the time that I’ve never fixed a person, not in my entire life,” Tucker said. “What I do is address biomechanical dysfunctions or disadvantages caused by repetitive stress or acute injuries. Through massage, I am able to allow the soft tissue causing that dysfunction to return to its normal state, thus allowing the body to return to a more biomechanically neutral position.”

“I’m so grateful for my degree from Auburn because I use it every day. Every single person that we work with, I’m using my exercise science degree.”

Tucker said his most rewarding moments as a massage therapist is when he actively sees the positive change he has in a person’s life. Most people that come to Synergy either have pain, or goals.

“I love the surprise that people get when they get off the table,” Tucker said. “They say ‘I feel better and it doesn't hurt.’ One of the things I like to say to them is ‘only one of us is surprised.’”

Tucker worked with one patient despite a language barrier between them. Through their sessions, Tucker was able to alleviate some of his chronic pain.

“He kept saying ‘my soul feels better,’ but what he was trying to say was that he had hope that he was going to heal,” Tucker said. “Because I was able to spend so much time with him and get to the root of the problem, he’s in the process of becoming better. To be able to understand and take the time to work with someone, [to] get to know their story and then have them come back and say something like that to you is amazing.”

Auburn Family Connections

Tucker has worked with an array of athletes, including former Auburn players such as San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dee Ford, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Rudy Ford and Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber.

“It was really great being able to help those guys,” he said. “We immediately shared a ‘War Eagle!’”

Tucker’s love for Auburn goes back generations. Originally from Bessemer, Alabama, he jokes the only people that have come out of that town are him and Bo Jackson. Tucker moved around a lot as a child, living in Dallas, attending middle school in Atlanta and high school in Pennsylvania. However, there was no question about his choice of college. Coming from an Auburn family where his father, uncle, great uncle and sister graduated, Auburn University was a no-brainer.

Tucker said he has the same feeling of family with Synergy Sports Wellness Institute that he did as a student at Auburn. “It’s just exactly where I wanted to be and the type of work I wanted to do. I actually just celebrated my fifth year here. I look back at it now and wouldn’t change a thing.”

His boss praises the Auburn graduate. “He is such a humble man. He is very talented and does a great job,” said Michael Hatrak, Synergy Sports Wellness Institute owner and CEO.

Tucker not only works with professional athletes, but also with people who he calls “aggressive amateurs”—the people who work 9-to-5 jobs, but also participate in sports activities, marathons or high-intensity workouts.

The principles of massage therapy apply to everyone.

“You have an athlete who throws a baseball. That’s a repetitive stress that they do over and over again, but it’s the same repetitive stress that you have if somebody works in a factory. They have the same movement and the same motion over and over again,” Tucker said.

“People who sit at a desk all day. That’s a repetitive stress in the same way that a catcher squats behind home plate. Your body will adapt to those positions that you put it in. Those adaptations that can throw your body off, which can tighten one set of muscles and cause another set of muscles to be lengthened. You’re at a biomechanical disadvantage and you’re setting yourself up for injury.”

Tucker’s patients know immediately he’s an Auburn Tiger.

“Two things that people know about me are that I absolutely love my job and Auburn,” Tucker said. “Anyone that comes into my office can tell I’m an Auburn fan. I have the Auburn Creed as my computer’s background.”

Tucker didn’t fully employ the words of the Auburn Creed until after he graduated. It wasn’t until he saw a commercial that ran featuring notable alumni reciting it did he finally take note, especially the phrase “I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy for my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.”

“That, to me, is exactly what I do,” Tucker said. “My goal is to use my abilities to help.”

The second phrase that encapsulates how Tucker views himself and his work are “I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains the mind and my hands of my fellow men.”

“When I read these two things I ask myself ‘okay what can I do education wise today to train my hand to work more skillfully,” Tucker said. “I have never been more comfortable in a job and gotten so much happiness out of it.”

While at Auburn, Tucker worked with the track and field team as a student assistant athletic trainer.

“When I got my degree and I got my certification, I knew what to expect when I came out of the classroom environment into the actual work environment.”

He advises current students to “get to know your professors, they have office hours for a reason. Spend the time at the office hour. Get to know your advisor and the dean of your school; they literally have been in college longer than anybody else. They’re going to know how to lead you down the path where you want to go.”

In his off time, Tucker likes to play golf and cook.

“I’ve recently taken up golf again. I don’t know if that’s more relaxing or more frustrating,” he said. “I also enjoy cooking. There’s something very therapeutic, especially on Sundays. I try to cook some sort of big meal that requires a lot of time in the kitchen. Turn the radio on, listen to some really good music and just get in the kitchen and cook and clear the brain and get everything ready for the next week.”

St. Baldrick's Foundation

Another passion for Tucker is the St. Baldrick's Foundation that raises money for childhood cancer research.

“When I was 19, right before my second year at Auburn, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and underwent surgery to remove a tumor from my back and the lymph nodes from under my arm,” he said. “Thankfully, I dodged a pretty big bullet. No one should have to go through that experience, especially young children.”

Volunteers like Tucker pledge to shave their heads and beards in return for donations toward research, with almost $35 million already being raised nationwide in 2019.

“I have shaved my head and beard every year for the last eight years, and for the last four years I have organized one of the shaving events in the Atlanta area,” he said. “It is both a way to bring awareness to childhood cancers and also stand in solidarity with the children going through cancer treatment, and let them know its ok to be bald.”

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