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Old 24-06-2008, 06:37 AM   #1
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Default My Personal Experience with Ideomotor Movement: An Autobiographical and Phenomenological Account

My Personal Experience with Simple Contact and Ideomotor Movement: An Autobiographical and Phenomenological Account

Roughly eight years ago, I participated in a clinical rotation with a P.T. who used what he referred to as “nerve glides.” Having never heard of such a thing in P.T. school, I did some searching on the net and came across two names that stuck in my mind: Barrett Dorko and David Butler. I didn’t really have a clue what Dorko was talking about, aside from his tangents into matters philosophical, so I decided to consult one of his preferred references, Butler’s Sensitive Nervous System. In addition to Butler, I eventually picked up Dorko’s other two recommendations: Spitz’s Nonconscious Movements and Levine’s Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma. Of the two, I found Levine’s observations more captivating, as he described some of the innate processes encountered in the animal kingdom occurring before and after trauma.

Shortly after finishing Levine’s book, I attended Dorko’s Simple Contact workshop. I was looking forward to meeting Barrett, who I had known only through his online essays and posts. As a result of my combing of his website, much of the material presented was familiar and understandable. I wasn’t surprised until it came time to actually practice Simple Contact, as I experienced what some might call a “healing” experience.

While seated, my partner was contacting my hand when it suddenly began to oscillate. After moving for a few seconds, I also allowed my neck rotate as it seemed to want to do. Before I knew it, my neck, which had always been fairly tense theretofore, was positioned in full extension (something I thought was potentially unsafe based on my P.T. training, or at least uncomfortable). Almost simultaneously, my jaw opened wide and I was breathing very deeply and heavily through my mouth. Perhaps most strangely, I experienced strong muscle contractions in my trunk and legs, to the point where my quads were sore for several days following the workshop.

Over the next few days, I would proceed to report to my family and colleagues what an amazing experience this had been. Moreover, I thought my search for a clinical / theoretical niche was finally over. Unfortunately, over the following weeks, my enthusiasm waned, as I didn’t feel overly comfortable or confident in what I was doing. Add to this my borderline dysfunctional degree of skepticism (I reasoned that SC was not ideomotor movement, but actually facilitated movement; I also explained away my experience as a self-fulfilling prophecy rooted in my knowledge of Levine’s book), and Simple Contact was no longer on my conceptual map; in many ways, I dissociated it from my consciousness, and did so for several years. Occasionally I would try to move spontaneously, but I didn’t feel that what arose was novel, so I pretty much gave up on that as well.

Fortunately, this dissociation phase was not necessarily a bad thing, as I eventually returned to exploring my own body. This primarily consisted of something akin to awareness through movement exercises, intermittent seated meditation, and increasing mindfulness of my thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations throughout the day. Over time, I noticed a gradual, but certain, change in my emotional and bodily state. I was more relaxed, less nervous and jittery, and more kinesthetically aware. Through the movement exercises I was able to successfully free up my pelvis, right hip, and right ankle. However, despite consistent effort and multiple approaches, I found myself unable to conquer my most recalcitrant problem, my left sided neck and shoulder girdle issues. I was able to loosen my upper cervical spine with movement work, but that was about it.

For several months, I became engaged in readings related to Somatics, including the works of Thomas Hanna, Feldenkrais, etc. I was also practicing some of Hanna’s exercises, hoping they would solve the neck issue. But at some point, I found myself saying, “If these aren’t working quickly enough for me, how could I ever consider asking my patients to do them?” I wondered if I needed more training and looked into the Feldenkrais and Hanna Education programs. I cringed at the thought of such an expense and commitment, and was approaching my wits end. So drawing on my penchant for Occam’s Razor, and wondered if there were a simpler way. Alas, from the depths of some dissociated area of my soul arose a familiar image, Dorko’s Simple Contact. Re-enter ideomotor movement.

One night, I was standing in my bedroom alone, and decided to allow ideomotion/spontaneous movement in my neck. Before long, my neck had wiggled and zig-zagged through patterns I didn’t know were possible and certainly weren’t on my awareness through movement exercise list. I noticed occasional pops, perhaps more appropriately called self-correction, as the areas that I knew were tight were somehow being amended in an efficient and pain-free fashion. I also experienced what some might call a tingling or vibration spread across my forehead, face, chest, and arms, very similar to what I had experienced in deep meditation, but even more saliently. After allowing my neck to move for a while, I shifted my attention to my hands, engendering movements in my arms that were so effortless it seemed to contradict Newton’s laws. My arms remained abducted for what seemed like over a minute without the least bit of fatigue. Since I knew of problems in my left shoulder girdle, I then shifted my attention to that region, and soon it began to rotate in a circular fashion. This was particularly surprising, since up to that point I had only been able to elicit movement in my hands/arms and neck. Soon, I was able to readily shift between neck, arms, and shoulder, amazed at how shifting attention and sensing could produce such intriguing movements. Goddamn that Barrett, he had been right all along!

The next day I didn’t practice ideomotion, allowing what I’d experienced to sink in and become integrated. I could not help but notice the increased resting level of sensation present in my upper body, as though those areas encountered some new level of life. I could already tell that this new level of sensation would make eliciting ideomotion even easier.

The following day, after already confidently applying it with a few patients, I decided to move some more. This time was even more powerful, taking me into what I would call a deep meditative state (actually, I think it was already deeper than anything I’d experienced with meditation within about two minutes of starting). This time I was sitting, but working primarily with my neck again. Not only did I quickly experience the aforementioned tingling sensation, but eventually felt a marked rush of warmth throughout my face, chest, and arms. This was not your typical flush, but could almost be classified as hot. In fact, it took about three to four hours for this feeling of warmth to dissipate (or maybe I merely adjusted to it). This session blew my mind (or should I say my bodymind), again conjuring the notion that I had just encountered what can only be classified as healing (okay, Barrett, we can say “correction” if you’d prefer).

Of the five or so total sessions that I’ve worked on ideomotion, I am at this point, speechless (but as you can tell not wordlessJ) with respect to the self-healing power that resides within. Has anyone else on the board had similar experiences?

Sorry to be so lengthy (not really, it was fun writing this),

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Old 24-06-2008, 08:29 AM   #2
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Drew,

Thank you for posting this account.

You seemed to have had quite intense corrective movement, of which quite a few others might envy. (It is still effective to have a small response, such as warming and not much else.) How has it been eliciting ideomotion with patients?

Isn't it exciting to have such effective corrective movement/s without any effort from the PT or the patient?

By the way, Simple Contact is just the name of Barrett's course; ideomotion can occur without any tactile contact at all.

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Old 24-06-2008, 12:58 PM   #3
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Drew,

I don’t know that I’ve much to add. I should say that I appreciate your effort here, though, as you’ve discovered, when we write what we actually want to write, there’s no real effort.

Since you’ve taken my workshop I’ve begun to emphasize the word “catalyst” when speaking of Simple Contact and I specifically say that I don’t like the word “facilitate.” The latter implies some sort of leading if not downright coercion. As Nari noted, physically contacting another isn’t necessary when trying to make them aware of ideomotion. All they need is an environment that promotes an internal conversation full of the relevant questions. This why the movie Cast Away is precisely about my work.

Self-correction, like creative behavior, is inherent to life but therapists (including my friend David Butler) seem not to recognize the significance of that or their role in its inhibition.

Thanks for writing, and join us here more often. You’d be more than welcome.
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Old 24-06-2008, 02:37 PM   #4
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Thanks Nari and Barrett for your thoughts. To some extent, there is a fear involved in posting some of these experiences, perhaps representing a more general fear of expressing oneself in a culture which may view such phenomena as strange, abnormal, or even delusional. Despite this, the intense nature of these experiences override any latent tendencies toward inhibition. What may be most important for me personally, is the fact that these experiences will most likely revolutionize the way I practice. I am already three times as confident in the use of SC and even have inklings to start my own practice. For me, experiencing (and interpreting in a sensible theoretical framework) is believing.

One salient difference between SC and other manual therapies is the fact that one can practice it (ie, ideomotion) independently. Thus, there can be a direct transfer between one's own phenomenological knowing and experimenting to patient care. Though I'm sure that SC can be effective in the presence of a therapist who hasn't done self-work in this regard, I would suspect there may be something missing, sort of like a Christian missionary who never had a religious/ecstatic experience.

I'll keep you posted on any further developments in my wacky world of ideomotion
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Old 24-06-2008, 04:02 PM   #5
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Drew, I'm glad you posted your experience. It is filtering into a new place (in me) that previously had had no input. New take. Novel stimuli. Thank you.

I don't know how much writing you've done other than here, but if this is any indication, please keep it up.
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Old 25-06-2008, 01:16 AM   #6
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Diane, I'm glad that you found the post meaningful. I would also enjoy hearing of this "new place" you refer to. To provide more clarity on my experience, I wanted to briefly highlight the dilemma I faced in the clinic a few years back.

As a male therapist with an intellectual bent, I had some difficulty feeling comfortable with intimate touch. My sense is that most male therapists eschew this issue by looking at patients in a fashion that is more mechanically-oriented. For me, doing so was not an option due to my readings in neurobiology, as well as my gut sense that there was more to pain (and human beings) than mechanically-deranged parts. Add to this the general mechanical bias of the P.T. profession, and I felt like my hands were tied, both physically and metaphorically. In order to return to some semblance of clinical comfort, I not only needed a clinical approach that satisfied my intellect, but also to evolve beyond my own disembodiedness. This is why, for me, integral mind-body practices (such as meditation, ideomotor movement, Feldenkrais, etc) became so critical to both my professional and personal well-being. Finally, after several years of disenchantment and disillusionment, I am coming to a place where I can authentically be myself, and, hopefully, allow the same for my patients.

Barrett, I'd also be interested in hearing your perceptions of the steps that led you to your current position. Did observation precede theory? You don't come across as a touchy feely person, although you seem to display a certain penchant for aesthetics. How did you make the transition from coercive manipulation to Simple Contact? Were there some uncomfortable moments for you. Diane, feel free to chime in on this as well.

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Old 25-06-2008, 02:07 AM   #7
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Mechanical explanations for pain and procedural steps for treating it satisfy our desire for certainty - or, at least, perceived certainty. So many people prefer "ortho" because it is seemingly clearcut, straightforward. There is a set of rules, courses, certificates, laudable achievements - all of which reaffirm the choices one makes. There is a certain truthiness which is appealing.

However, when someone prefers reality to truth and authenticity over posturing and true learning vs. recitation and mimicry, only the uncertainty of both inner and outer exploration will do. I expect it is a process without end. And that it is frequently uncomfortable. Belief is easier.
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Old 25-06-2008, 02:23 AM   #8
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Well, Drew, for me it put a whole new spin on what people might have to go through before they can "give themselves permission" just to be in their own body and observe it "behaving." I found your post refreshing and honest. I mean, you observed, then remembered, then explained beautifully the emotional (and intellectual) path you had to take to get from A all the way to B, first inside your own head and also outward into the practice world.

I'd love your permission to copy your post, credit all to you of course..

There is so much in there about all the struggle against the disembodying culture, the inner fight about what the term "therapist" means (especially when it has "physical" plunked in front of it..), the dichotomy between your sensitivity to your own mental state combined with this apparent inability to relax into your own physicality, plus having to deal with the culture as we all do..
Quote:
As a male therapist with an intellectual bent, I had some difficulty feeling comfortable with intimate touch.
I think you're right - I think that learning how to be a contactful physical therapist IS hard - it's hard for everyone but maybe moreso for guys, so they stick with just thinking about the skeleton .. and then (inauthentically, for themselves and the treatment culture and all the patients' poor nervous systems, also mutely hoping for more integration and authenticity too) ... maintain treatment constructs, along with all sorts of goofy related ideas, about joints being to blame for all pain, to justify treatment from a joint-based perspective (safer)(or so they imagine).

Instead of doing that you let the boundaries inside your own head dissolve.
Then you realized you never had had to worry about them in the first place.

All great stuff. I predict Ian S will love your post too.
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Old 25-06-2008, 03:04 AM   #9
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Diane, I am honored that you wish to copy the post and you're free to do so at your leisure and dispense it to whomever. I was also a bit taken aback, although in a positive sense, by your donning me with the clapping icon. That's cool. Your comments pertaining to the unfortunate patterns of some male therapists are astute, although personality factors may largely undergird our clinical proclivities, myself included. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for empirical evidence and theoretical soundness, not to mention phenomenological confirmation. I think you're right about Ian, we've always tended to see things on a similar wavelength.
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Old 25-06-2008, 06:31 AM   #10
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Drew,

I have also taken a copy for personal reference. A significant aspect, so neatly drawn out in your prose, is the slow-motion leap you took from more traditional (and to me, unneccessarily complex) practice to something simple.
Re male PTs: I found male physios, at least in my neck of the woods, quite resistant to the concept of eliciting ideomotion. As though it was an insult to their skills and vast knowledge of skeletons and muscle.
Very few PTs, it seems, are willing to take this opportunity when it is offered, almost as though it is heretical, or just plain wacky. Breaking out of the boundaries of traditional practice isn't easy, but something is there, driving with x horsepower (I still haven't worked out what, exactly) and in crude terminology, it something like kiss - keep it simple, stupid. Or at least that is what I told myself. Especially after Barrett's workshop...

Convincing other PTs of the effectiveness of self-correction is rather like exporting ice to Iceland. I never succeeded, but I hope you can.


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Old 25-06-2008, 12:42 PM   #11
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I think we have to be very careful when assigning certain behaviors to either gender. 90% of my classes are female, and they seem as resistant to learning as any men I've ever met. In addition to that, countless times I've heard from them "I don't have any time to read, I have kids at home."

If I dare, I tell them what Charles Hayes always says, "At self-university the tuition isn't your time or your money - it's your desire."
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Old 25-06-2008, 02:00 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barrett Dorko View Post
I think we have to be very careful when assigning certain behaviors to either gender.
I agree. It even made me think about the regulars here - significantly more males than females. And most with an intellectual bent.

Sometimes when I talk to patients about the nervous system, I feel like I am conveying that it is somehow ethereal. While it is certainly mercurial, it is a tissue as well and one of the things I think we do well here is remember its mechancial properties and how that impacts upon physiology. Today's car mechanic needs to know far more about computers and wiring than in the past. This does not make them touchy-feely, though it may mean there is less grease under their fingernails. All that it really means is that they needed to update their knowledge. The same could be said for today's PT, male or female.


Drew, can you elaborate on what you mean by "intimate touch"?
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Old 25-06-2008, 04:27 PM   #13
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Quote:
we have to be very careful when assigning certain behaviors to either gender.
I agree that in our pomo days on earth at the present time, we do... However, I would bet the farm that it was not women who invented and still mostly perpetuate the ortho or chiro memeplex. I lay that one entirely at the feet of men.

Conversely, if it hadn't been for systematizers/professionalizers of whatever gender, nothing about PT would ever have become organized/kluge-ified. Instead, human primate social grooming would have remained instinctual. I hope it can live on to be both at once.
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Old 25-06-2008, 04:57 PM   #14
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If you're speaking of the manipulative paradigm, I can't think of anybody to counter your argument, Diane. However, the biggest name in PT that can be tied to the early days of the ortho-digm would be Florence Kendall.
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Old 25-06-2008, 05:16 PM   #15
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However, the biggest name in PT that can be tied to the early days of the ortho-digm would be Florence Kendall.
I am speaking of the manipulative orthodigm Cory. I would define Kendall as having contributed mightily to the mesodigm. Which is a bit different from the orthodigm but/and not necessarily more informative (at least from my own vantage point). The two have reinforced each other very well. Together they provided and still provide a huge haven (like a big paleolithic cave) for those who wish to emphasize the "physical" in front of the "therapy", hide from their own intellect (while raising kids) or from the neurodigm/ectodigm or from their own integrative work (which Drew faced and tackled and broke through to the other side of, and for which I applaud/ed him).

I don't see why a physical therapist can't be both physical and therapist, but I agree, it's a long learning curve that moves inevitably through the ecto/neurodigm, including one's own. There is no way to avoid it forever.

It seems to me that those of us who hang out here (yes, mostly guys, way to go guys) have taken that on willingly.
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Old 25-06-2008, 10:20 PM   #16
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Nick,

Quote:
It even made me think about the regulars here - significantly more males than females.
Good point. I agree one needs to be careful about assignment of gender-specific behaviours; my statement about males being more resistant to changing was purely a trend I'd noticed in the workplace, where females outnumbered males about 10:1.
As a side issue, does any modern PT actually take any notice of Kendall's work? Does anyone still do the infamous 'muscle charting' of 30+ years ago?

Drew, I'm also interested to know more about 'touch' and awkwardness.


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Old 25-06-2008, 10:34 PM   #17
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To follow up on my initial post:

Today I was working with a patient and she said something that is fairly commonly heard in the therapy world, but not so common to me. As I was inspecting her feet, she instantly reported: “Your hands are so warm.” Afterward, I attended to my hands and realized that they did in fact feel warmer than usual. For as long as I can recall, I have tended to feel cooler than most people, especially in my hands. But since the ideomotor session I described above, my thermoregulatory system seems to have been altered, most notably in my face, hands, and arms. It feels as though my face has remained flushed ever since, although this may actually represent a more “normal” temperature to which I’ve yet to fully acclimate. It could also be that my sensation of heat in my face has been heightened, allowing me to feel the warmth that has always been present. Regardless, it was interesting to somewhat of an outside confirmation of these changes, even if anecdotal.
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Old 25-06-2008, 10:40 PM   #18
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Nari, By "awkward" I was connoting a level of uneasiness and resistance in touching patients in a non-coercive fashion. This was, at least in part, related to my preference for living in my head, as well a sense of nervousness and lack of confidence in what I was doing. Though I often felt things deeply, I had difficulty translating that into compassionate action. Fortunately, the changes I've undergone in the last several years have essentially eliminated such awkwardness, allowing me to more readily feel my body, feel comfortable in it, and feel comfortable extending it to others.
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Old 25-06-2008, 11:54 PM   #19
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Quote:
does any modern PT actually take any notice of Kendall's work?
Anyone in Sahrmann's camp probably would.
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Old 26-06-2008, 12:42 AM   #20
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Drew, it's all about understanding and awareness, isn't it.

The old maxim 'know thyself' seems OK but in its absence, I think many of us put on a 'professional front' of confidence, compassion and caring. This front translates readily into the following of orthodigms and mesodigms, to quote Diane, because it is what PTs do. For me, along came Butler in 1990 and upset the applecart no end - mine, anyway. For that, and later, Barrett's thoughts, I was and still am grateful.

My rubicon was in 1991 where a nice fellow with a 10 year history of "plantar fasciitis", expensive orthopaedic shoes, expensive orthoses and facing the thought of leaving his gardening job, had a functional and painfree foot after a week of neurodynamics. I was 'sold.'

I noted during several sessions of self-correction, that I felt warmer, but the skin felt the same on touch.

Nari

PS: Sahrmann made a big impact in the 90s here, but seems to have fallen by the way.
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Old 26-06-2008, 01:51 AM   #21
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Nari, Couldn't agree more. It seems as though awareness may be as close as we can get to a panacea. It is a sort of gateway into wisdom of all sorts, including the bodily intelligence upon which ideomotion draws.
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Old 26-06-2008, 02:06 AM   #22
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Kendall's influence remains very, very strong. Her ideas have been proven exactly wrong repeatedly but I rarely meet anyone who knows that. If this is mentioned it is typically thought to be a sacrilegious statement.

I'm not kidding.
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Old 26-06-2008, 03:17 AM   #23
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Re Kendall: looks like I should do some research on her to work out why she was so popular. I still have her text on muscle testing, but it hasn't been used for teaching undergrads for ages. I honestly thought it was obsolete in the world. Silly me.

Drew, excuse me for being a bit picky, but what do you mean by 'bodily intelligence'? Non-consciousness?

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Old 26-06-2008, 12:32 PM   #24
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Nari, I think my recent thread (A theoretical treatise...) might shed some light on "bodily intelligence." I realize my writing can be vague and irresponsible at times, so thanks for keeping me honest I don't recall where I used "non-consciousness," but it serves as an alternate to "unconscious," which is frequently associated with coma or other related medical probs.
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Old 26-06-2008, 09:06 PM   #25
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I always thought Kendall's "Muscle Testing" was a result of the polio epidemic, which had disappeared by the time I entered physio. Was there anything else available in the 60's?

I haven't used muscle testing since I started treating patients with chronic pain 10 years ago. It's a relief to see the attitudes expressed above. I'm not the only one who has thrown away the book.
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Old 26-06-2008, 11:58 PM   #26
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I'll risk getting some righteous wrath from other members, but I kind of like Kendall's Muscle book for the detailed presentation of each individual muscle and it's nerve supply. This is useful material still IMO. Of course the "posture and pain" portion is outdated and known to be incorrect now.

Nari, I see part of the attachment of American PTs to Kendall and her ideas as a patriotic sort of thing. She is one of the big names in our history. We can't boast of Butler, Shacklock, Maitland, Carr, Shepherd, McKenzie, etc.
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Old 27-06-2008, 12:33 AM   #27
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I would admit that Kendall did great work for her time period, as it seems no-one else bothered with the details. She was no doubt inspired by the polio epidemics.
However, times have changed and is there any neuroscientist considered by US PTs as being just as significant?

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Old 02-07-2008, 03:44 AM   #28
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Drew
Back to the topic you started out with, I'm curious as to how your neck and shoulder symptoms are doing? Have the changes you experienced been long-lasting?
Regards,
-Gilbert
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