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Dr. Sean Speaks


Screen Shot 2015 10 13 at 9By Sean M. Wheeler, M.D.  

Earlier I wrote of the importance of your power to remain motionless in achieving liberation from chronic low back pain.  As to many this is counterintuitive idea, lets discuss further.  

As each of us began our lives, to walk we had to achieve a degree of fixed stillness to acquire the self-directed power to move.

To move our legs and learn to walk, select muscles of our bodies had to remain motionless, or still.      

These select muscles are specialized bracing muscles appearing in six high-performance locations within the body — ankles, feet, low back, neck, shoulders, and hips. 

At peak capability and as the label implies, bracing muscles brace, providing stability by not moving throughout the day endurance, while our action muscles move only intermittently when we direct them to flex or move.

A baby begins to walk as she gradually masters the innate use of her bracing muscles; so that her young body is able to brace itself permitting self-directed movement, including the taking of her first steps.       

Understanding how our bodies must simultaneously develop the power of fixed stillness within months of birth, and combine it with the power to move, offers deep insight into how we learn to walk, and how our bodies retain mobility through a lifetime.

As we age or through injury, diminished circulation [blood flow] to our bracing muscles cause them to lose their endurance and the power of fixed stillness — to brace.  Our bodies attempt to make up for this loss by altering movements through, for example, shortening gait, restricting joint motion, and substituting action muscle strength for bracing muscle endurance.

These altered movements too often result in other physical ailments, leading to a life of decreased mobility and often chronic pain.

What if, as initially accomplished as a newborn, we were to live our lives continually renewing our power of fixed stillness?  What would we unlock in ourselves?  How might our lives become richer and more fulfilling?

Think of this for a moment.  By renewing our power of fixed stillness, could we live a life of greater mobility as we age? 

The answers are found in the wisdom we each gained as newborns, relying on the fixed stillness of our bracing muscles to develop self-directed movement; to walk. 

Our newborn wisdom.    

[Image credit: Steve Wisbauer]

Dr. Sean Wheeler back pain expertBack Pain Expert Dr. Sean WheelerOliver Finlay is an accomplished sports performance professional, a highly educated and chartered physiotherapist with over 16 years in top-tier national and international sport, supporting elite players and coaches in achieving the highest levels of athletic success.

Based in Edinburgh, Finlay has worked with Olympic Medal winners and world champions, in addition to championship and cup winning teams, with a client roster including Team Great Britain, including during the 2012 Olympic Games, Scottish Rugby UnionPittsburgh SteelersNew York Giants, and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

Given their mutual interest in sports medicine and human performance, Finlay recently reached out to sports medicine and back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler, to discuss Dr. Wheeler's new book UPRISE, soon to be published in the United States.

"We struck up a conversation regarding a book [Dr. Wheeler] has been writing over the last seven years.

Dr. Sean Wheeler is one of those guys you wished you had known for years, had the chance to collaborate with, bounce ideas around with & learn from during subsequent conversations.  

Even in his emails, a passion for the work he has immersed himself in resonates loudly & his vocabulary is a refreshing music to the ears of those that work in the rehabilitation battlefield.

I can’t wait to read his book UPRISE, once you read the interview Sean kindly agreed to do with me, I think you might understand why."

During an exclusive interview in which Dr. Wheeler describes why he wants to change the way the world treats back pain, he shares the thinking behind UPRISE and what he hopes to achieve:

OLIVER FINLAY: How do you hope that the approach to treatment in the [low back pain] field could develop over the next ten years in light of the work you are doing?

DR. SEAN WHEELER: I hope to reframe everything that is being done in spinal research. The entire field has been built upon the flawed idea that discs just break down. We have to change that fundamental belief.

I hope to change musculoskeletal medicine with the idea that, in addition to the back, there are five other areas in your body that have to be stable and weaken quickly: the neck, shoulders, hips, ankles and feet. Subsequently, when you get an injury that lasts for more than five days, you must not only address the injury, but also address the muscles that stabilize that area.

For example, I hope to change the way we view the chairs our kids sit in. The posture we accept in our children. The fundamental strengthening of our children as they grow to prevent future back pain, neck pain, knee and hip arthritis, among other things.

Read the full interview for more insights behind the coming revolution—the revolution in medical care for low back pain.

Watch as sports medicine and back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler introduces a new medical termBracing Muscles — and why understanding the function and care of your Bracing Muscles is so important in the treatment of chronic back pain, and how caring for them properly achieves back pain emancipation.

Based on an examination and critique of established medical practice, Dr. Sean Wheeler's new bookUPRISE, offers a new understanding of the body as the finely tuned instrument it is – as not only your body, but as your Body Guitar, and a medical innovation to achieve back pain emancipation.

Bracing muscles located in your low back play a crucial role in this emancipation, to assist you in reaching pain freedom.

Dr. Wheeler's new understanding of treating chronic low back pain required the creation of new labels in aid of understanding. A glossary of this new terminology appears here.


Dr. Sean Wheeler back pain expertDr. Sean WheelerSports medicine and back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler has long been obsessed with pain. How pain, and its absence, affects behavior, competitiveness, and quality of life.

Drawing upon more than a decade of specialized training, patient treatment and medical experience, Dr. Wheeler came to a breakthrough realization of how to effectively treat patients with chronic low back pain.

This realization is the topic of his soon-to-be published book UPRISE.

In his own words from UPRISE, Dr. Wheeler describes his moment of realization:  

A year or two after finishing my pain management fellowship and while practicing sports medicine, I was slated to give a lecture to a large group of physical therapists one weekend.

In preparation for this lecture, I was poring over research papers when I came across an article that caught my eye. It wasn’t the main point of the article that caught my attention; it was an aside that piqued my interest—how most people develop a lack of blood flow to the lumbar spinal discs in the vertebrae by age 35.

This fact gave me pause. It stuck with me, and for the rest of the week I found myself returning to that article. I couldn’t get it out of my head. It kept me up at night. One thing in particular was bothering me: why was there no blood flow to the discs? There had to be a reason the disc was set up this way. After all, there’s no part of the human body that is supposed to move that doesn’t get great blood flow.

I was mulling this over in the car on my way home from the office one night. It was maybe nine o’clock in the evening, and after a long day at work I was fatigued. Maybe it was something about being fatigued and having trouble seeing the road—the contrast between the headlights and the darkness was hard on my eyes—that put me in a trance and allowed me to think more clearly, but something clicked. 

It was suddenly so clear. The discs. The reason discs don’t get ample blood flow is because they aren’t supposed to move.

The problem isn’t that they move too much in some people—it is that they move at all. The lack of blood flow to the discs indicates they are supposed to remain stable. That is what separates those with discs that break down and those with discs that don’t—the former are unstable because the discs are moving.

Moving discs also mean that the discs are heating up. Anything that moves heats up. The parts of your body that move also have blood flow to take that heat away. If there is no blood flow, you can’t take the heat away, and the disc breaks down.

This was my Aha! moment—almost a spiritual realization—that forever changed my thinking about back pain.

And how to effectively treat it. 

Read more soon in Dr. Wheeler's new book UPRISE, or reserve your advance copy at the link.

Watch as sports medicine and back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler discusses a new entry point label - Body Guitar®for the discussion, diagnosis and treatment of back pain, and how to achieve back pain liberation.

Dr. Wheeler creates the metaphor of how a fine guitar mimics the function of the human spine - the unique human back including the lumbar spine [the low back] - and how both the guitar and the low back require an investment of time throughout the life of each to maintain full effectiveness as instruments of melody.

This new understanding, of the human spine as Body Guitar, is a leading new concept introduced in Dr. Wheeler's extraordinary new book UPRISE, coming in early 2015.

As revealed in UPRISE, whether by the music of a well-played guitar, or by the "song" of the well-lived impactful life, so often the attraction to either hinges upon keeping the instrument - guitar or Body Guitar - in tune.


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Until now, few studies systematically examine what really works against repeated back pain and what doesn’t.

Gretchen Reynolds, NYTimes Well blog

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