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1st Mar


Motion is Life

My early career mentor and friend Ola Grimsby for decades used the phrase “motion is life”, to articulate the ultimate goal of orthopedic manual physical therapy: to restore normal human movements.  The vast majority of patients who come to us for help, are experiencing some difficulty with movement, either due to pain, or difficulty or inability to perform certain tasks of daily activities, and often a combination of both.

Whereas we as clinicians must understand the science of pain and its psychological implications, our primary concern should be to improve each person’s ability to move and handle activities, and thereby increase his or her quality of life.  Our manual skills and exercise knowledge, if used with good judgment and intuition, can be very effective tools in accomplishing such a goal.  As such, our trade as manual physical therapists involves both science and art, in equal proportions.  The latter, unfortunately, is less encouraged today in evidence based research, however there are signs of the pendulum swinging back, with recent calls by researchers to listen more to the voices of clinicians, to make research data more relevant to peoples’ quality of life.

To measure success in physical therapy solely through range of motion, strength and pain level on a scale, is to ignore the person, his or her perception of himself/herself both physically and emotionally, and how this is impacting his or her daily activities and social life.  The effective physical therapist knows how to treat the whole person, not the back or the shoulder.

This becomes crucial in particular when people have chronic pain, and often pain sensitization, which describes a condition where our peripheral and/or central nervous system have been altered to cause us to experience more pronounced and widespread pain.  In such cases, the clinician must still work on correcting specific movement disorders through orthopedic manual therapy, without causing undo discomfort (which would easily worsen the pain perception), however he or she must understand that the pain must be de-emphasized, and a great deal of effort must be put on providing the patient will positive education and goal setting, while offering much encouragement and compassion, to ultimately help the patient help himself/herself to improve his or her quality of life.

Motion is life.  Fear of movement and loss of ability to move as we want, limits our ability to experience life the way we want to.  Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy, as practiced by the effective clinician, strives to restore peoples’ motion and mobility, and to improve their quality of life.  I feel very blessed to be part of this profession.

As always, we post all our newsletters here at

Best wishes for good health and mobility,


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