Innovation Ignites Innovation
In 1999, a simple idea came to me. And it is hard-pressed to believe I was the first to think of this pose, considering how common it is. One thing I am certain of is that I was the first to measure it. It was in biomechanics class when the idea struck while learning about the research regarding prolonged sitting and disc compression. The data from these studies also explained how the discs are diurnal in nature, squeezing water out during the day while taking on water over the course of the night when lying down.
The recovery of fluid appeared to be essential to the disc’s health. What if we could recover the fluid loss at more frequent intervals over the course of the waking day? Perhaps, that fluid loss and re-uptake could improve the health of the disc, I thought. And while I looked around the classroom that morning, I saw many already doing what I hypothesized to be a potentially useful postural strategy—using one’s upper extremities to decompress the lower spine. I could see clearly that students were propping up their heads to stay awake, and others were leaning on the desk with their elbows. In later settings, I also observed the elderly using canes or even walkers to help reduce hip, knee and back pain.
“what if we pressed down with the upper extremities to offload the lower torso to help refill the lower intervertebral discs?” JF
In 2006, I began to write to put my thoughts together.
Many authors influenced me, including Michael Adams, Francis Smith, Stuart McGill, James Iatradis, Jill Urban, and Michael Freemont…to name a few. Over the years, I began compiling a reference list looking at the spine’s dynamics. I began weaving a document and what came out first was the replenishment paper that was published in the Journal of Circadian Rhythms. This paper looked at why Cetaceans do not experience REM sleep, and I tied in concepts that I had learned from McGill’s first textbook, Low Back Disorders regarding spine stability and spine hydraulics.
In 2007 I began collecting data on the simple seated strategy I had initially thought of in 1999. I called the movement strategy “chair-care” because I wanted people to be able to remember it. However, people look at me a little funny when I reference it as such and ask if it had anything to do with chair repair. When I saw a group of researchers name it a dynamic seating exercise and compare it to the popular McKenzie Prone press-up, I did welcome the new name.
My first research paper on this dynamic sitting exercise was published in The Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies . It involved measuring the standing height of 89 people before and after the exercise which showed significant gains after the exercise. To get an inside look at what may be contributing to the increased height, I stepped up my methods to include upright MRI to see what may have caused the height change.
In the same year, 2010, my assembled team showed that the dynamic sitting exercise increased the spacing between the vertebra (disc height) and improved the neutral curve of the lumbar spine after a period of 15 minutes of sustained sitting. We used mid-sagittal slices of the seated MRI images to measure spinal changes, leading to a second pilot paper in The Spine Journal