A new exciting group is emerging
Most professions are steadily evolving as a result of new discoveries, research and internal and external demands. The health and fitness industry is definitively no exception, rather the opposite. Not only do the entire health professions change, but new groups are also developing within the different disciplines based on personal interest, exposure to new ideas, and personal experiences. This has led to a situation where the scope of practice often is so wide that practitioners at one end of the spectrum have got very little in common with those from the other end.
Looking at the different health disciplines the divisions within the groups are very obvious:
Chiropractic: This discipline is split in the following ways: There is a practitioner centred way of practicing where the belief is that by adjusting the spine a couple of times a week over an extended period of time problems will be corrected. Then, there are some practitioners who complement the treatments with generic exercise hand-outs, and finally there are a growing number of chiropractors who practice in a way where the patient’s movement and stabilization patterns are assessed and corrected, with exercise regimes then designed based on the individual’s need.
Physiotherapy: Again there is a great divide between the tissue treating practitioner that greatly depends upon ultra-sound, Tens machines, and massage and the Physiotherapist that assesses the patient’s functional movement patterns and then designs an exercises strategy to activate proper stabilization and correct movement dysfunctions.
Medicine: There are vast differences in the approaches between a Doctor who mainly prescribes anti-inflammatories and pain-relief for over-load injuries, and the practitioner who looks at the whole picture and either prescribes exercises or refers the patient to someone who will. There is a growing movement away from excessive surgery and medication towards a more functional approach.
The fitness industry is going through similar division where the way of working no longer is standardized and the different methods are greatly varied.
Gym/Personal trainers: There are still individuals in the field that work with generic programs and basically only work as repetition counters, while there are others that assess a person as an individual and design programs depending upon the individual’s ability to maintain a proper form of execution.
Coaches/Trainers: There are still many coaches that are only using basic standardized protocols for strength, power, and flexibility. These out-dated coaches are also often of the opinion that sports-medicine personal working with functional training theories are just interfering with the “real training”. There is however a new breed of coaches that realizes that stabilization and function not only rehabilitates and prevents injuries but also improves sports performance. Athletes are individually assessed and dysfunctional patterns are corrected in a close working relationship with the sports-med staff.
Put all the health and fitness professions side by side and there is a new group emerging that bridges the gap between the different disciplines. The practitioners in this new group often have more in common with each other than with many Colleagues of the same profession.
One major thing this new group has in common is the functional approach where individuals are tested and assessed, after which programs are designed to specifically activate proper stabilization and to correct dysfunctional patterns. In this functional group of practitioners all speak the same therapeutic language and can see the value of each other. Imagine the result Medical Practitioners, Chiropractors and Physiotherapists would have working closely together along the same ideas, and with open communication. If we also add properly educated trainers and coaches to the equation all the pieces would fit perfectly together.
Looking in the book-shelves of all these different functional health and fitness practitioners you would expect to find books by Stuart McGill, Craig Liebenson, Vlad Janda, Karel Lewit and Gray Cook just to mention a few.
I have personally had the privilege to study with the Prague school of rehabilitation for the last 12 years. The Prague school really bring this unique scenario together, and the participants in these courses have been a mix of Chiropractors, Physiotherapists and Medical Practitioners. Lately I have focussed my training in DNS where Professor Kolar’s methods, developed within Neurology and Physiotherapy, still fits in perfectly with my Chiropractic practice and training concepts. DNS are now expanding the scope to also incorporate courses for trainers and strength & conditioning coaches.
Activating and restoring ideal movement and stabilization patterns is the key not only when rehabilitating an injury but also when enhancing sport performance. This becomes very obvious when looking at the relationship between good and bad weight-lifters as well as back-pain sufferers and non-sufferers? The closer a weight-lifter is to the world-records the less loading there is on the spine and not very surprisingly back-pain sufferers are loading their spines more than non-sufferers. We all know that dysfunctional stabilization of the core and an inadequate functional use of the hip-joints increase the loading on the spine. (Both these observations come from McGill’s - Ultimate back fitness and performance, which is a must read for anyone interested in functional back performance).