Base-Line Theory of Health and Movement provides a new perspective on physical health and mental well-being, stressing the importance of focusing on 5 main muscles of movement & developing your conscious proprioception skills.
I offer an explanation, and method of treatment, for chronic pain and many related syndromes that are currently classified as idiopathic e.g. fibromyalgia and associated conditions such as chondritis, restless leg syndrome, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, many "IBS" issues, neck cricks, tension headaches and a myriad of other symptoms.
How we use our body matters. If you are not using the right muscles you are using the wrong muscles, creating a bad posture and leading to body-wide pain as the body tries to adapt. Cumulative stress, inflammation and damage causes a progression of symptoms as the body becomes increasingly unbalanced and misaligned. The pain will only get worse until the underlying physical issues are addressed.
This page contains some of my thoughts I'd to share about our bodies and current approaches to health care and our mental well-being.
Please contact me via email if you would like to discuss any of these points or have any other comments, criticisms or questions about Base-Line healing.
The body whole is an extremely complex entity, with countless parts interacting and influencing each other (solid bits, soft bits, fluids, molecules, ions...) We are one unit of many parts, interconnected from head to fingers to toes. This interconnectedness means we should not look at our list of painful problem areas in isolation, rather we should consider them as symptoms of an issue with the whole body.
Our system for movement includes the musculo-fascial-skeletal system (muscles, bones and a range of connective tissues), consisting of thousands of names for all the pieces that work together as we move. When our system for movement is functioning at optimal, the head, arms and legs can all be moved independently through their full range of motion in a smooth and controlled manner but relatively few people are in the physical condition to enjoy this freedom of movement.
With a full range of natural movmement, the body is balanced and aligned, free of physical restrictions and the associated tensions and pain.
When we don't move well - due injury, pain, stiffness (physical restrictions), then our posture (body position) is affected. We change our positioning in an attempt to avoid pain and discomfort but these adjustments affect the body's state of balance and alignment.
Put a pebble in your shoe and your foot will be sore. Leave it there and your knee will start to hurt, and then your hip, then your back... A chain of pain that spreads through your body as you bend and twist to avoid the latest discomfort.
I believe there is too much focus on skeletal structures when diagnosing painful movement.
Historically, the skeletal system has been considered the basis of the body. Bones remain, long after we are gone and radiographs provide clear images of bone in living patients. It has become habitual to focus on bones and joints because we can see them on an X-ray and 'diagnose' a problem. Muscles and connective tissue are not so easily imaged and consequentially, not so considered.
Changes to the surface of a bone (roughening, remodelling, osteophyte spurs etc.) provide a visual abnormality for doctor and patient to focus on. But WHY have they occurred? Bone is a comparatively inert body tissue (bone marrow is active) and these changes take time to develop. Although they may become clinically significant, bony changes are a symptom of a problem, not the primary cause of pain.
♢ "Traction spur" osteophytes occur where muscles attach to bone. They indicate a long-term problem where a muscle (via its ligament) is pulling on its periosteal attachment causing the periosteum to react.
♢ Osteochondrophytes occur at the cartilage-bone junction, in response cartilage damage. This can be due to acute trauma, but more commonly is "wear and tear" (degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis). Also due to long-term poor muscle usage?
Bone pathology found on imaging should not be used to explain the pain without supporting evidence. There is little correlation between pain levels and findings on imaging the spine (excluding acute trauma and nerve impingement). Severe changes can be seen (herniated/ruptured discs, vertebral remodelling) without functional significance or pain. references
After my 'rock bottom' it was a relief to hear my MRI showed severe changes to my lumbar spine. It was evidence of something physically wrong, the years of pain were not just in my head. Then I had a proper look at my MRI and saw the damage was old, I'd been living with it for years.
We tend to use our joints as reference when talking about pain, umbrella terms covering a section of body. "Oh, it's my knee." or "It's my shoulder."
Where is the pain? - The joint itself, or the surrounding connective tissue and muscles?
Is the pain always in the same place? Or does the exact location shift around, even if it's still your 'knee', or your 'shoulder'?
Our vertebrae (bones of the spine) are there to protect our spinal cord. They are NOT a stack of blocks that keep us upright.
I've seen back pain attributed to the “rapid” evolution of humans - the theory that our ability to walk on two legs developed too fast and our body didn't adapt itself to bipedal movement. A face-palm thought now that I understand the importance of our main muscles of movement.
Bones are the solid connection points for the real workers - our muscles.
There are hundreds of muscles in the human body forming a complex, layered system of muscular tissues, varying in size and shape, that are the basis of human movement.
Our muscles are part of the musculo-fascial-skeletal system which, when we have a full range of natural movement, is capable of a flow of movement through innumerable poses. (Think of the movements of Tai chi and the asanas of yoga.)
All muscles should be free to fully activate, from larger muscles that provide strength and shock absorption, to the 'fine adjuster' muscles that move our eyes, facial muscles, fingers, toes etc.
Posture means the position of your body. Posture depends on the muscles that you are using - how you are "holding yourself" - which in turn is responsible for the positioning of your bones (including the spine) and joints.
With a good posture the body is comfortable, using the right muscles, guided by the 5 main muscles of movement, to keep the body in a good position for the activity being undertaken.
A bad posture means the body is not well positioned, which results in physical stress and pain. A bad posture can be corrected over time by learning to use the main muscles of movement to their full potential, balancing and aligning the body.
"Use your core muscles" is oft-repeated advice, but what does it really mean?
There are many definitions for 'core muscles' and I feel it would not be helpful to add to this over-used term but think of your Base-Line muscles (long and strong) as the body's core pillar of strength.
Your Base-Line muscles should be at the core of your body, supporting all movement.
I had no idea movement could feel so easy yet so powerful. Now I can feel the potential of my Base-Line, the body's core 'pillar of strength', central to healthy movement.
An 'active' muscle is traditionally is described as "contracting", but this implies a reduction in length or decrease in size which is often not the case. The 3 standard classifications of how a muscle 'contracts' are:
For example, working with the rectus abdominis, the Line of our Base-Line muscles, involves elongating the muscles, so I prefer to use the terms 'activating' and 'engaging' rather than contracting when talking about muscles.
It is not "all or nothing" when a muscle works. There are 'hundreds of thousands' (no exact figures available) of muscle cells known as myocytes or muscle fibres, in a muscle. Some muscle fibres may be active whilst others are resting - or spasming, with each muscle consisting of many overlapping areas of potential activity.
It takes conscious effort and practice to fully engage the whole of a muscle. Focusing on the main muscles of movement for a sufficent time to be able to use them to their full potential.
If the 'wrong' areas of muscle are activated they become stressed and sore, resulting in the myalgia of imbalance.
Muscle nomenclature has evolved over 100's of years but the names given are not necessarily a representation of a muscle's significance and function.
For instance, the trapezius muscles are so named because of their shape and are subdivided into three parts, based on the direction of the muscles fibres.
Labelling the lower part of the trapezius as the "inferior trapezius" may be spatially correct but it is easily interpreted as 'less important' by the modern reader. For a full range of natural movement, movement of the head and arms should begin from the lower trapezii (plural), extending from Base-Line support.
Muscles are traditionally described as having an 'origin' (where the end closer to the body's midline attaches to bone) and an 'insertion' (where the end further from midline attaches to bone). This can be helpful but should not imply that a muscle has a start and a finish in some sort of a one-way system. Therefore I am using the term 'attachments'. Exactly how each muscle 'blends' with the surrounding structures at their attachments is much more complex than a tendon sticking to a bone!
Anatomical variations between individuals exist e.g. the number of tendinous intersections of the rectus abdominis muscles can vary (the "6 pack" might be 4, 8 or 10 pack) and different attachment points of the proximal rectus femoris to the pelvis have been noted.
The pyramidalis muscle, closely associated with the pubic symphysis of the pelvis and the rectus abdominis muscles is variably present.
Could any of these anatomical differences be clinically significant?
Our connective tissue system can be thought of as a body-wide web of collagen fibres in various forms. From grossly visible ligaments, tendons, aponeuroses and fascia (a bit of a vague term in my opinion), to the microscopic layers that surround individual cells in our muscles and other organs.
Anyone regularly handling body tissues (surgeons, butchers etc.) will have encountered connective tissue, from very thin but tough sheets aponeuroses, to 'fluffy' areolar subcutaneous tissues, often something to cut through to get to muscles and organs.
Connective tissue is so ubiquitous it's often overlooked and not generally considered as a major source of pain but I believe the formation of physical restrictions within connective tissues is a substantial contributor to the symptoms of fibromyalgia. (Think scar tissue, post-surgical adhesions, fibrosis which form when connective tissue is damaged or inflamed.
No part of the body is in complete isolation, our web of connective tissue extends everywhere from head to fingers to toes.
Sensory receptors located all over the body generate information about what they 'sense' and this information is sent to the brain via our nervous system. Our nervous system sends messages electrochemically: Electrical charges transmit information along individual neurons (nerve cells) and chemical messengers transfer information between neurons. Sensory feedback travels from peripheral nerves to nerves in the spinal cord that go to the brain.
Our brain processes the sensory information it receives and provides an interpretation of what is going on in our body. When the brain interprets signals as something 'bad and to be avoided' it is classified as pain. This is where the expression 'pain is in the brain' comes from but it is (usually) messages from the body saying that 'something is not right' that is the basis of our pain experience - the pain is telling us something is not right with our body.
The brain has many resources to base its interpretation on. All its stored 'knowledge' an eclectic library based on what it has learnt from previous experiences and exposures, habits, expectations and innate factors, as well as the sensory information coming from whole body (a whole lot of mail constantly being delivered), and who knows what else!
Sensory feedback can be misinterpreted - 'lost in translation' - as the brain takes its best guess about what the signal means e.g. heart attack signals are often described as an arm pain or indigestion - the conscious brain says "this is where the pain is coming from", but it is wrong.
There is the potential for 'crossed wires' as a signal travels from cell to cell to the brain. Smaller nerves feed into larger nerves that then join the spinal cord 'highway' to the brain the original source of the signal may be lost along route. The message itself may be altered as it passes from nerve cell to nerve cell (the basis of pain amplification theories).
A dysfunction in the nervous system is easily blamed for otherwise unexplained symptoms of pain but I believe that the pains and weird sensations associated with conditions such as fibromyalgia are not a problem within the nervous systems but are due to the sensory information generated by physical restrictions in connective tissues and myalgia of painful, stressed muscles when the body is imbalanced.
Our response to 'pain signals' occurs on the conscious and subconscious level. From reflex withdrawal responses (that are mediated by the spinal cord, not the brain) to various pain avoidance tactics - our habits, conditioned responses as adjustments are made throughout the body to avoid the position that caused us pain.
Modern research tends to focus on breaking things down into smaller and smaller parts. We have gained a lot of knowledge (and confidence) by taking this approach.
A good understanding of cellular function and the chemistry of our bodies has allowed the development of effective treatments for many conditions and the ability to find small differences in our DNA (several billion bits in a chain) is an amazing feat, continually advancing our understanding of genetic conditions.
We continue to look deeper and deeper into the complex micro-levels (the physics of biology and chemistry) of the body. However, looking for subtle biochemical changes or nerve dysfunctions to explain conditions such as fibromyalgia and other (currently classified as) idiopathic pain syndromes will not be successful in my opinion. My recovery has shown me they are a macro-dysfunction of an unbalanced body.
How many modern-day health issues are macro-dysfunctions - affecting the whole of us, both physical and mental?
We are one unit of many interconnected parts, so examining and treating the whole seems a sensible plan but holistic approaches are often considered 'new-age' (even though they usually outdate modern medicine) or dismissed as 'a bit hippy'.
The basic concepts in many holistic approaches seem to get lost. Either by people trying to categorise, memorise and explain, or others caught up in the mysticism and hype. (And far too many people trying to make money from those that are looking for something to make them feel better.).
There is a lack of empirical data (scientific 'proof') for many of the concepts and I do understand the scepticism but the design of many clinical trials to look at such things are very flawed in my opinion. Modern approaches tend to look at isolated specifics rather than the whole but comparing 'like to like' is a matter of perspective - two patients may have similar clinical signs but different holistic 'root diagnoses' and recommended treatment. Conclusions drawn when testing a treatment for a specific diagnosis miss the point of the holistic approach.
'Qi', 'chakras', 'energy vortexes'. I get them. I've felt them. I believe they are trying to describe our sense of conscious proprioception, experiencing an awareness of the positioning and movement of the body, guiding us to develop the mind-body connection. Understanding comes with the experiencing the Base-Line experience of working towards body alignment and balance.
What we do with our bodies matters to our health, physical and mental.
For most people in 'developed' countries, survival is not reliant on physical activity. Many of the things that would have kept us in good physical condition are lost habits, whether it be crouching in a social circle, traditional dancing, squatting to use a toilet or the essential tasks of daily life.
We don't use the full range of our physical abilities enough to maintain them, and for the most part have no idea what we're missing.
I like to think of my ancestors dancing around the fire after a good bowl of mushroom soup and some fermented apple juice.
Healthy food, physical activity, community and a sense of achievement - things that make us feel better.
Very few people fully utilise their main muscles of movement and enjoy a full range of movement.
People are generally happier when they have a 'diagnosis' for their idiopathic symptoms. Fancy words that are something to hang on to but don't explain anything.
Many believe, or are hoping, that some magic tablets will come along to finally fix them.
Some medical practitioners come with a "Don’t question me" attitude. Arrogance? Bluff? Conviction in what they've been taught? Or a fear of being found to lack real answers?
It can be hard to let go of ideas presented as fact. What we're taught, what we're told. What we've read on the internet! Look deeper, question everything.
Say something in a confident voice and people will believe it, especially if it sounds technical! I've always struggled with that degree of certainty. Very little is absolute in my opinion, but I am confident that connecting with your Base-Line muscles is the key to feeling how to heal.
To reference: to use a source of information in order to ascertain something.
I was trained to reference and do a lot of research using many different sources, always with the motto: "question everything" in mind.
To use a citation: to quote from or reference to a book, paper, or author.
The all too common usage of one-line citations is not good scientific practice in my opinion. Authors picking out lines that suit what they want to say but without context or caveats - the "regurgitation without rumination" trap. I have come across many scientific papers that I could cite to back-up my Base-Line Theory but I am not happy to do that. There is much information regarding 'physical restrictions in connective tissue' - fibrosis, inflammation, collagen cross-linking, trigger points etc. out there if you care to look. An interesting article from painscience.com about citations.
Evaluate information and the quality of the source of that information. Think for yourself, do your own research and learn from your experiences.
I believe in the power of my Base-Line so much I created this website (and learned how to code in order to do it!) but still, don't just take my word for it! Base-Line theory of human health and movement is a new perspective that I am confident will be validated in time as people focus on their main muscles of movement and feel for themselves what I mean.
I do have ideas for clinical research into the main muscles of movement, but ultimately this is something to be experienced rather than quantified. Please contact me if you would like to discuss Base-Line Theory or anything on this site.
If you only take one thing from this website, let it be:
There are many idiopathic (of unknown cause) symptoms and syndromes associated with chronic pain. No known cause means no effective treatment, no relief for those who suffer. Until now.
My recovery has shown me the importance of the 5 main muscles of movement and our sense of conscious proprioception are fundamental to our well-being (both physical and mental), but few people (in my experience) use these muscles to their full potential.
I believe that only when the main muscles of movement are being used correctly and the body is dynamically balanced and aligned with a full range of natural movement can their dysfunction be ruled out as the cause of these otherwise mysterious, painful symptoms experienced by so many.
▹My recovery from 40 years of pain and nearly 2 decades of depression.
My years of deep depression now a hazy memory. Re-living and releasing all the pain and stored trauma I had been carrying around, has been a long journey. Feeling how to heal from a life-time of fibromyalgia.
▹My education and experience as a veterinary surgeon.
Medical and surgical training. I've handled a lot of muscle, bone and connective tissue 'in the flesh'.
▹My life-long fascination with all things biological and medical.
I've absorbed a lot of information and have a multitude of concepts floating around in my head.
▹Wide research into the varied symptoms I have suffered from.
I've read a lot of theories over the years, but nothing that could explain my pain.
▹Critical analysis of information I am presented with, and a good dose of common sense.
Well, I'd like to think so...
▹An innate understanding that has developed as I connected with my Base-Line and learned to heal myself.
You gotta feel it to get it.
▹A natural scepticism. A trait I like to encourage in others too.
Question everything. Think for yourself.
About back pain and imaging:
The main ref. I want to use is behind paywall: Deyo RA, Weinstein DO. Low Back Pain. N Engl J Med. 2001 Feb;344(5):363–70: so here is an article that's the next best thing: painscience.com.
article - Systematic Literature Review of Imaging Features of Spinal Degeneration in Asymptomatic Populations. And a snippet: "Imaging findings of spine degeneration are present in high proportions of asymptomatic individuals, increasing with age"