Readers, I’m going to go ahead and piggy-back on someone else’s writing today, as I think it is important to share. Katy Bowman wrote a blog post in which she discusses how to use scientific evidence to inform our behaviors. If you’re not familiar with Katy’s work, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to all the fan-boying that goes on in my blog. She’s a biomechanist whose work takes the information we know about how individual cells respond to mechanical loading and weaves it all together to make sense of our natural human movement requirements. She is doing great things to legitimize natural human movement scientifically, and has a real gift for conveying that information to the masses. Her book Move Your DNA (one of many) nearly liquefied my brain.
I think this will be of interest to my physiotherapy classmates, as evidence-informed practice is heavily emphasized in our program. (We are taught to thoroughly consider the information available, with strong scientific research representing the gold standard.) The key term there is “informed”. We have to take into account the best available evidence, consider it with a critical eye, and then use our best judgement to determine the utility of the information. Because good science is typically very precise, sometimes you have to chase a bit of a paper trail to gather enough information to fully inform a practice choice. Each individual study is trying to answer a very specific question, and you need a whole gang of them to really get a clear picture of what is going on.
For this reason, I think that developing an understanding of movement from a more artistic perspective is just as crucial as accumulating classical knowledge on the subject. Information gained through science helps us constantly refine our approach to movement (when used carefully), but there is so much that a good physiotherapist needs to learn that science cannot teach; an intimate understanding of the quality of movement, of the experience of movement. The scientific community is doing important work to shine some light on the unknowns, but at some point you have to step into the darkness and light a candle for yourself.
An individual who takes their perspective from either extreme is immediately obvious if you take the time to observe. Someone who comes from a fully classical approach can talk about the minutiae of movement for days, but they often seem to miss the forest through the trees. They might not be able to weave their knowledge together into something “real”. Someone who comes from a fully artistic or romantic approach may have a highly developed feeling for movement, but their practice and teaching may be limited by their lack of knowledge of the underlying forms. They might have some misconceptions about why their practice works, or some “woo woo” ideas that are actually counterproductive.
I think, as with many things in this world, the most effective place to operate is in the middle. Strike a balance between research and experience. Reinforce your knowledge with understanding and experience. Use scientific evidence the way it is meant to be used – to refine your approach. Recognize that the picture is rarely complete.