How many of you can solve a Rubik’s Cube? I confess that in my youth at school, I could, and quite quickly too, but now I really struggle!
The purpose of asking this apparently rather bizarre question is that I have come to liken treating stubborn recurrent injury or life affecting chronic pain to the challenge of solving a Rubik’s Cube.
The analogy is quite startling. Firstly, when you get handed a Rubik’s Cube to solve, it can be in any state. Secondly, as you begin to solve it, you have to build a strategy, but key to this is that as you move pieces around, you are obliged to think several stages ahead in order to achieve your overall objective. Thirdly, if you pick the wrong strategy – or indeed just stick to exactly the same strategy every single time – it will take much longer to solve than if you work out a new strategy each time, and finally, the whole essence of a Rubik’s Cube is that it is a multi-dimensional challenge – just getting one side looking great might give you satisfaction, but it doesn’t solve the overall problem!
Ok, so how does this analogy translate into solving stubborn recurrent injury or life affecting chronic pain issues?
Well, let’s take the points above in the reverse order and look at them from a holistic therapy perspective.
Solving the Cube is a multi-dimensional challenge. My very first qualification was as a Clinical Remedial & Sports Massage Therapist. I treated people with injuries, aches and pains at cycling and running events and also in my own clinic. However I never really felt that this approach was getting to the true root cause of their issues. I wanted to understand more about WHY injury happens, but until very recently this profound question has never been researched. I needed to better understand the underlying processes in the body that lead to problems occurring. Often I was told that there isn’t any such underlying process – that injury and pain “just happen” – but I simply could not accept this. So I went in search of something to provide this “missing dimension”.
Picking the right strategy. This component also has many sub-dimensions to it, but to keep things simple I will focus on just one. If you have a stubborn recurrent injury (e.g. you keep on sustaining a hamstring strain or knee pain) or you are struggling with a life affecting chronic issue (e.g. non-specific lower back pain), how do you know what is actually causing this? As a Clinical Remedial & Sports Massage Therapist I was always taught to “treat what I see and feel”. So I would talk to the client, observe posture and other external clues and then palpate the musculoskeletal system and determine a course of action for that treatment session. And, yes, quite often that would calm things down or even provide relief for the client, but often only for a period of time, after which the symptoms might return. My enquiring mind always wanted to understand WHY this was happening, especially as I was often confronted by a client who assumed that this was “normal” because they had been told by their GP or other health professional “they simply had to put up with it”. But I never accepted this premise and continued my journey to find deeper answers, in order to help them.
Understanding the Journey. In my Rubik’s Cube analogy I talk about accepting that you cannot always get to where you need to get to immediately; sometimes you have to pick a route that involves sorting out other issues first and then proceeding in a particular order to achieve the final objective. Another analogy that works well here is one of pulling a thread on a knitted jumper. Sometimes you pull a thread and it stops after a while, but on other occasions you pull a thread and a whole load of knitting unravels in front of your very eyes! It is this latter scenario that is the panacea of therapy. Finding the right thread to pull!
OK, let’s talk specifics. What ARE these multiple dimensions? How DO we know exactly what the underlying cause is for a particular problem? And how DO we pick the correct strategy to solving these often complex and life affecting issues for people?
On my Rubik’s Cube image above I show 3 key dimensions to resolving these issues; Neuro-musculoskeletal, Cellular Health and Central Nervous Systems. Together these dimensions come together under a science called “Intrinsic Biomechanics”.
There is actually a fourth dimension, but I will introduce this one at the end!
Intrinsic Biomechanics is all about what is happening and what we can measure INSIDE the body, that makes it work and move (or not work and move).
We isolate specific key factors (nerves, muscles, joints, structures, body metabolism and central nervous system operation) and see if these are each working optimally. Intrinsic Biomechanics is very different to Extrinsic Biomechanics, which is all about what we can see and measure from the OUTSIDE (e.g. posture or gait). Intrinsic Biomechanics drives Extrinsic Biomechanics and if we can better understand what is going on INSIDE, we have a far better chance of understanding what is happening OUTSIDE in terms of what we can see and feel and the specific symptoms the client is experiencing.
We now know for example that over 91% (and growing) of all musculoskeletal injury is directly caused by what is going on INSIDE the body. For example the vast majority of knee ligament or knee pain issues are actually caused by problems INSIDE the body that have been there for an extended period of time. In fact we now know specifically that the vast majority of these knee pain issues are directly caused through the pelvis not functioning correctly.
To be slightly more generic, we now understand that the vast majority of musculoskeletal injury occurs because of minute, concealed compensations taking place throughout the body, over a long time. There are no tangible symptoms to find through talking to the client, or through observation or palpation, but nonetheless they are there, like tiny little hammers knocking at various places throughout the body. Eventually however, when circumstances are “right” i.e. the place where the hammer is hitting becomes weak enough or is additionally provoked in some way, then injury and pain are the result, but not necessarily in the places where the hammers were hitting.
OK, let’s now return to my 3 dimensions on my Rubik’s Cube; each of these 3 dimensions intrinsically interacts with the other two, and more fundamentally, if we determine to treat just one dimension (e.g. the neuro-musculoskeletal dimension, through remedial massage), we are potentially missing key information that can significantly affect the presented situation. Here are 3 common examples that I find in my practice to illustrate this point:
- Neural tension or tethering in the shoulder e.g. the median nerve – a normally hidden “hammer” – can cause thoracic immobility which in turn can lead to the pelvis not functioning properly, which we now know is a direct cause of knee pain and injury.
- Cellular Health issues (tissue acidity or inflammation, or reduced levels of key minerals such as magnesium or potassium) – very significant ‘hammers’ – can be the cause of recurrent neuro-musculoskeletal issues, so soft tissue work alone is unlikely to provide a robust, sustainable solution.
- A previous physical or emotional trauma at some point in a client’s life (an ‘historical hammer’) can actually cause the central nervous system to “lock in” particular neural messaging in the body that ultimately manifests itself as back pain for example, so again, addressing the palpatable muscular tension or spinal immobility is not going to result in a robust, sustainable solution.
The fourth dimension I eluded to earlier in this article is “Awareness and Understanding” on the part of the client.
If we can help the client clearly understand WHY things are happening then they can start to take control and make lifestyle, exercise or nutritional changes for themselves, which then means that, together, we have a fighting chance of actually solving their life affecting or stubbornly reoccurring symptoms once and for all.
Furthermore, a client who understands that their problem is likely to be multi-dimensional, especially if they have tried several 1-dimensional approaches or seen several therapists previously and not obtained the clarity or solution they are seeking, is more able to make informed decisions on what the best route to recovery might be.
In summary therefore, my clients generally come to me when they have hit a brick wall with solving their problem. We work together to unlock the root cause(s), build a bespoke strategy and then work together to solve the problem and achieve their objectives.
Here at Unity Body MOT we provide totally unique intensive (1 to 3 month) and slightly less intensive but longer-term (6 – 12 month) bespoke Programmes to solve the client’s issue and help them achieve their objectives. We also run awareness and training days at Studios, Health or Sports Clubs and Gyms where we provide training on the absolute latest injury thought leadership to the instructors and coaches and also provide initial screening to clients at the venue, picking up the key markers (or hammers) that could potentially lead to injury or pain in the future.
2015 will see us launch our groundbreaking workshop, seminar and master class Programme that we intend to roll out across the Country.
About the Author
Specialist in Internal Human Mechanics, Optimal Health and Performance
Simon Wellsted MSTO MISRM MBCA is a Physical Therapist who is qualified as a Specialist Biomechanics Coach and Clinical Sports and Remedial Therapist providing Clarity, Certainty and Consistency to people struggling with chronic pain and recurrent injury. UNITY BODY MOT is unique in that it provides mentoring, coaching and treatment, getting people back to fitness by determining underlying root causes and then integrating a groundbreaking set of advanced therapy skills to deal with painful, recurrent or debilitating conditions. The mentoring and coaching includes coordinating activities with other wellness and exercise professionals so that everyone is pulling in the same direction.
Simon offers everybody a totally free initial consultation where you will learn something new about your situation. Joining one of UNITY BODY MOT’s then involves a comprehensive assessment employing the very latest research, expert knowledge and clinical evidence. On completion of an individual’s full assessment, which may take up to 2 hours, the knowledge and understanding gained goes into the design of a bespoke coaching programme using advanced therapy skills for either solving or putting clients on the right track to helping with life affecting issues for which they have been unable to find answers elsewhere.
Simon spent over 25 years in IT Consultancy but retrained ten years ago as a physical therapist – he now practices the very latest remedial therapy techniques and concepts in a way that is totally unique and fundamentally changing the way people understand pain and injury. Knowledge and understanding are crucial and UNITY BODY MOT’s refreshing approach seeks to re-frame common beliefs about pain and injury and also challenge common myths. Once we understand underlying causes then we are well on the way to solving them.
Simon specifically sought out the most up-to-date training and thought-leadership in the country and now works alongside some of the most eminent practitioners and researchers in the world who are right at the forefront of injury research. Simon is currently successfully helping people with issues ranging from recurrent back and knee problems through to migraine and stress, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, IBS and Ankylosing Spondylitis. The vast majority of Simon’s clients come through word-of-mouth referral and many of his client testimonials are available on his website and Facebook page.
- Level 5 BTEC Diploma in Clinical Sport and Remedial Therapy
- Specialist Diploma is Intrinsic Biomechanics Coaching
- Osteopathic Clinical Assessment & Spinal Manipulation
- Upledger CranioSacral Therapy
- Clinical Kinesiology Taping
- Specialist Training in Advanced Tissue Pathomechanics, Advanced Hip & Pelvis Girdle Pain Pathomechanics, Dynamic Stability Mechanics and Biometric Testing.
- Full Member of the Sports Therapy Organisation (STO)
- Full Member of the Institute of Sport and Remedial Massage (ISRM)
- Full Member of the UK Biomechanics Coaching Association (UKBCA)