42-YEAR-OLD FINANCIER LIZ HAD SPENT THOUSANDS OF POUNDS ON TRYING TO FIX HER BAD LOWER BACK.
She had tried physiotherapy, osteopathy, sports massage, a new office chair and steroid injections, and feared she was facing a lengthy lay-off, with back surgery in the offing.
Luckily, before she took the final step, one of her work colleagues recommended Victory, and she came to see us. She was complaining of pain almost all the time, with sciatica in her left leg which got worse when she sat down for long periods.
During the physio assessment, we noticed that Liz habitually stood and sat with her head too far forward, so that her chin was poking out, as if peering at a computer screen. Her neck and upper back muscles were severely hyperactive, and her centre of gravity was in front of her ankles – she looked as though she was on her toes, ready to leap into action. As a result of all this, her back muscles were very tight, causing compression of her lumbar discs and sciatic nerve.
When we tried to correct Liz's posture, we found that her habits were so ingrained that the suboccipital space between her skull and neck was severely limited. Once we were able to open this area up, and she managed to balance her head directly over her hips when she was sitting, she was able to relax her back muscles – and eventually, as a result of this, her back pain started to settle.
Over the course of 3 months of regular physiotherapy and rehabilitation sessions, we were able to teach Liz to relax her neck muscles and retrain her postural habits. From there, we showed her how to build up the strength and coordination of her core muscles to protect her from future injuries, through our spinal rehabilitation and Pilates sessions. She no longer has back pain when she sits at her desk, and has returned to her old hobbies of running and tennis.
39-YEAR-OLD RACHEL WAS AN ENTREPRENEUR WITH TWO CHILDREN AND A VERY BAD PROBLEM – PAIN IN HER LEFT KNEE.
She had been hit by a car 5 years earlier while trying to be a good Samaritan in the snow, and while the MRI scans – and even an arthoscopy - weren’t showing any structural problems, her knee hurt so much that she couldn’t walk. She had been referred to an excellent knee surgeon but with a clear MRI, surgery wasn't the answer, so he recommended physiotherapy with us. She limped into Victory looking and feeling crushed.
Rachel had been seeing an osteopath since the car accident, and told me that she was definitely better than she had been, but she had plateaued and the therapist was stuck.
When we assessed her, we found that there was wasting of the muscles of her left leg, especially around her buttock and thigh. Her pelvis was moving poorly, and her left hip was painful when we guided it into rotation. There was also a restriction in her left knee, which was painful when she bent it too far, and she wasn’t able to balance on her left foot.
However, when we controlled the movement of Rachel’s pelvis and left hip, her balance and knee pain significantly improved. This was where we started treatment.
Rachel is not a Londoner, so visits were less frequent, which made her progress a bit slower than usual. Nevertheless, she was totally dedicated to doing her hip exercises, so we were able to see significant changes at every treatment session, as her balance, flexibility and pain levels all slowly improved.
After 12 sessions of physiotherapy, Rachel, who had been on crutches, and had been told that her knee would never improve, was able to run 1.5 miles without pain. She now has normal balance on her left foot, and is now able to play with her children again.
15-YEAR-OLD DAN WAS TRAINING TO BE A PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER WHEN HIS COACHES FIRST SENT HIM TO ME IN 2014.
Despite his putting in plenty of work on court, Dan’s forehand was inconsistent as he struggled to turn his thorax. This problem had a surprising source – his feet.
Using the Integrated Systems Model to assess him, we broke down Dan's forehand into small tasks, making him move slowly and repeatedly so that we could analyse where the breakdown was occurring.
When you take your racket back for a forehand, you have to twist your thorax. Dan could rotate his thorax perfectly to the left, but not to the right. Bingo! This was why he couldn't execute a proper backswing. But why couldn’t he rotate?
A common problem for people who rotate poorly is restriction in the thoracic spine and the attached ribs, so we cleared this first: surprisingly, nothing we repositioned in Dan's upper body made any difference to his ability to rotate. Clearly, the problem was coming from elsewhere.
Looking further down Dan's body, we noticed that when he rotated to the right, his right hip slid forward in its socket. Not ideal. We investigated further, and noticed that when we kept his hip centred, his thorax rotated perfectly. When he rotated to the right, his right foot appeared correctly balanced - but when he returned to a neutral position, the foot remained in the same place, and didn't respond to the change in load.
We then tested the effect of facilitating movement in Dan's feet, and this time he was able to maintain a properly-centred hip and a normal rotation of his thorax.
We treated Dan's feet for a few weeks – focusing first on releasing the tight muscles under his foot and in his calf. We then helped him to practise using the newly-released muscles to spread his foot under load, enabling him to stabilise and absorb shock effectively – before introducing the new foot movements into his forehand. His technique improved, and his confidence with it.
Dan's results showed a rapid upturn. He began to move better around the court, and was no longer at risk of developing an injury due to compensating for his stiff feet.