BioTensegrity and Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy and Biomechanical Diet

How does BioTensegrity knowledge benefit a child with Cerebral Palsy? Part 1

Thanks a lot for the responses to my previous couple of posts.

Frankly, I thought that there would be more questions on the video itself – so at the moment I am not sure whether it was: a) too technical; b) missed your interest points; c) you had technical problems viewing it; d) you’ve postponed viewing ‘until you have more time’….  So I would really appreciate more definitive responses – even a simple two line comment is most welcome. However, in case you have viewing difficulties – please click on the link ‘ABR on Vimeo’ above the blog text– that will send you directly to Vimeo website  where you can not only watch the video in a larger window but can download it to your computer as well.

Anyway – I’ve got a number of good questions both as the blog and Facebook comments as well as e-mails  – all of them had the same underlying theme: “This BioTensegrity thing –how does it help my child?”

It’s understandable – at the end of the day everything revolves around the proverbial WIIFM – ‘What’s in it for me?’– in other words:  “Is this BioTensegrity being nothing  more than an intellectual fun for you, Mr. Blyum, or can we expect something tangible for our kids out of it?”

A question might look simple enough – but it’s not. First of all there are at least 2 main aspects in it:

  • Improvement of ABR as a method – the ability of ABR tools to facilitate the developmental progress of your child better and faster;
  • Improvement of you confidence in ABR as a method and as a preferred platform for physical rehabilitation that you have chosen for your child.  
In other words, when looking either at BioTensegrity or at any other cross-disciplinary information – the sub-questions emerge :
  • How  does the new knowledge help me to help you to help your child (please notice that there are at least3 levels of help conversion to be taken into account on the road from my new thoughts to your child’s benefit)
  • How the new knowledge helps you becoming more confident in what you are doing through ABR and more accurate in interpreting how your child is changing as a result of your work.

I’ll save the “me” part for the next post -- let’s start with you:

I’ll be direct. Your confidence matters. It matters a lot. The more confident you are about what you are doing –the better results you get. When you know you are on the right track – and that perception is deep enough – it translates into tangible better results for your child.

I am not talking about the placebo. Placebo exists in the cases where you perform a ritual without being able to influence the substance of an impact – be it pills or food supplements. Placebo is at work when you trust the other person’s ability to do something for you your child in their professional capacity – that’s anything from surgery to stem cells.

There is no placebo in ABR– unfortunately – if anything in ABR there is an anti-placebo effect comparing to any therapies where you do not need to work daily– be it stem cells, hyperbaric oxygen, amino-acids or whatever.  

In ABR as much as in any other skill dependent approach the confidence in the method matters because it translates into the accumulation of micro-decisions and micro-improvements in your skill.

If you are constantly second-guessing your decision, if you are having an opportunistic frame of mind instead of the strategic one (always being on the lookout for the “Next Therapy”, i.e. the one that brings truly major results in a short space of time…), if you are limiting yourself to the mindset of: “Just show me what to do and do not bug me with all the reasons and details…” – then your micro-decisions are affected negatively.

You’d be looking for the shortcuts rather than the best paths; you’d be looking for distractions rather than focusing on improving your performance at every single movement; you’d be watching the clock rather than setting exercise delivery goals and so on.

In sports – that is called ‘the inner game’.  The ‘inner game’ is a state of mind, and beyond the novice phase when one just copycats the demonstration of skilled movements – the inner game is the main driving force behind the improvement of the ‘outer game’ – visible skill exhibition – be it batting in baseball, putting in golf, striking the ball in football or – be it a volume control movement of ABR that has all the necessary phases in it.

It’s simple – the better is your volume control through your ABR applications – the better is the progress achieved by your child.

Let’s face it – this blog or any other communication avenues that I am trying to use are servicing this main goal: improvement of your ‘inner game’ – your understanding of strategic priorities that are the most important for boosting your child’s development progress.

Classic framework is primitive yet it is s-o-o-o- intuitively appealing. On the surface it appears so clear cut: brain injury – ‘bad’ signals – ‘bad’ spastic muscles – ‘bad’ spastic muscles pull the bones abnormally –secondary musculoskeletal deformities develop,  or: brain injury – ‘bad’ signals to the muscles– messed up voluntary movements.

Getting away from this classic framework is far from easy – especially when it seems that everyone else around you is an ardent supporter of it starting with ‘official’ medicine and ending with ‘alternative’. Not to mention that our entire upbringing feeds this classic view since our childhood– you’ve been shown skeleton and muscles  all the way back from kindergarten. It is reinforced in the cartoons and movies – even zombies in horror flicks manage to move without being bothered too much by their compressional weakness at the trunk level…

Now it’s a Halloween time – and the skeletons are the theme that you see in costumes… So everywhere you turn to – the classic model, i.e. skeleton + muscles, surfaces up – be it in a chiropractor’s office or on TV with a fitness guru flexing his biceps and encouraging you to “exercise abs and inner thighs” or in a school textbook…

And here we come with the ABR message and tell you: “Guys, this skeleton + muscles model that you have known for your entire life – it’s all history. It’s intuitive but too primitive to reflect the reality and the hundred years of continuous failure in rehabilitation of persons with Cerebral Palsy is a direct result of this flawed model… ” – that’s a pretty big statement coming from a tiny organization.

But then what are the ABR tools? – Textile ‘melons’, ‘candies’, towels etc…. The contrast between stipulated theoretical advances of ABR and the household nature of the ABR tools that have funny names – is no less than mind-boggling… 

 And how does ABR look from a distance? – As if there is nothing happening – a super-slow movement that is barely distinguishable for an outside observer… Where is the action? Where is the sweating? Where is the perception of the ‘job well done’? Where is the ‘no pain- no gain’ principle?... Does all that help? – Not at all. Not only the ABR message goes against everything you have ever heard or learnt from all levels of authority but the ABR tools and movements seem so bizarre you are often ashamed of showing them to your friends and relatives being afraid for losing your reputation of a sane rational individual…

So that’s the key thing – confidence... The moment you lose it – there is a self-fulfilling prophecy of a downwards spiral because of the daily mini-decisions that you make in the wrong direction. You stop paying attention to details; you start looking for excuses of why it is impossible to do certain exercises instead of looking for the opportunities; you start listening to other people telling you how wonderful are the functional achievements of this and that new method; and so on…

It is impossible to maintain your ABR commitment for the work with a quadriplegic child without clear understanding of why this strategy is superior to all the intuitive ones like – stretching; practicing “walking”; placing a child in a standing frame; “sending signals to the brain” and so on and so forth.

The road up is not smooth and whenever you face any challenges there are plenty of voices to point out that you should start doing something “real” – including your inner voice. 

 What is the central ABR Message?

  • Weaknesses matter a lot more than “excessive strengths”. In fact “excessive strengths”, i.e. spasticity – is just another side of the same coin – fascial weakness.

So the only plausible long-term strategy is strengthening.

  • Core matters a lot more than the periphery – one can spend endless hours ‘fighting’ against the spasticity and movement restrictions in the arms and legs – but that is very much a losing campaign where what seems like ‘battles won’ ends up with even greater losses in the long run.

Hence strategically the strengthening efforts have to address the weakened core of the body– the deeper the better.

  • You need to appreciate the complexity of your child’s musculoskeletal system as an incredibly intricate mechanism. You have to respect such complexity and try to understand at least some fundamentals about it before getting into any training or functional “action”.

The moment you hear about “sending proper messages to the brain” as the justification for any physical interventions/movements – you have to run away from such methods. It’s like trying to race the Formula 1 racing car when having only the experience of riding a 3-wheel bicycle as your driving expertise. The outcome is predictable – the car is going to be destroyed soon after pressing the gas pedal.

These are just some of the main ones – there are dozens more– because for every single dilemma faced in the development of a Cerebral Palsy child –  ABR offers a counterintuitive perspective that goes against established dogmas.

I understand very well the challenges and the constraints that you are facing – not only ABR is a strange-looking therapy to begin with but it actually puts the ball on your side of the court – you are the one who actually delivers the day-in-day-out job with your own hands .

When asked by the others – “What is that you are doing to your child with all these towels and foams?” – a lot of you actually shy away from the answer, which is understandable.

It is difficult to deliver the ABR message in a concise simple-to-understand format that a casual observer would be willing to listen to.

As a parent of a child with special needs you carry a heavy burden of being the ultimate judge – after listening to the arguments coming from so many proponents of different therapies – it is still up to you to make a choice.

Sometimes I hear parents telling me “We are not doctors… ”– somehow implying that they are below, that they are not ‘professional enough’ to have a confident opinion about ABR.  My answer? – “You are not below the doctors or any other professionals who propose certain methods for your child’s improvement – you are above. At the end of the day – you are the judge who has a final say.”

It’s obvious that the more support you have to back up your pro-ABR decision – the easier it is for you to decide.

That’s the main reason why over the last year or so – I am reporting from different Fascia gatherings and  now from BioTensegrity community – pointing out the developments in the professional community that are very much in line with what ABR stands for.

If, say, 10 years ago ABR ideas sounded like complete lunacy –because fascia was seen purely as a passive structure and talking about “joint capsule” strengthening was not only impractical it was deemed impossible even at the conceptual level – today there is enough tangible evidence developed by respected professionals that the targets that we address with ABR – the fascial layers – are legitimate ones.

In fact, all of this new development in the fascia field exposes the limitations of the classic “skeleton and muscles” model , which is ‘officially’ labeled as the ‘Myotendonous model’.

 There is nothing mysterious in the term:

‘Myo’ – stands for the ‘muscle’ – as the force generating element that acts by contracting.

‘Tendonous’ – stands for the ‘tendon’ – as the single pathway of force transfer from ‘bone-to-bone’ acting across the joint as a pivot.

Respectively, the myotendonous model could also be referred as a ‘pivotal’ model, which effectively doesn’t take into account the volumes in any meaningful way.

That’s why the zombies and the skeletons in the horror movies chase hapless victims tirelessly without being bothered by their completely de-volumized bodies.

In other words, for all the so-called amazing progresses of biomedical science over the 20th century – only today we are witnessing  a beginning of a realization among the thought leaders of the field: “Gees, our bodies are not hollow… Our movements could not be reduced to pivots, levers and pulls… ”

The existent framework of functional anatomy does not incorporate the representation of volumetric human body in any meaningful way reducing it to the strings acting across the levers and pivots. Respectively, all the tools of analysis such as the Range of Motion measurements in a classic musculoskeletal assessment do not provide any meaningful ways of dealing with evaluation of volume-based movements...

So, 4 pages into my post we finally arriving to this simple statement – in order to have a chance to help your child to develop better in some meaningful way – one needs to have some guidance within the ‘human volumes’, one needs some map on understanding how these volumes interact with each other and what paths of transformations are allowed/forbidden; frequent/rare; co-dependent/ isolated and so on. Without such a map any “therapies” are no more than shamanic rituals where the words “brain” and “signals” are worshipped like idols.

As I mentioned earlier – such a map doesn’t exist not only in the toolkit of your local physical therapist or orthopedic surgeon – it doesn’t exist even in the functional anatomy.

Over the last 13 years I’ve done at least 10,000-12,000 of individual assessment of kids and adults with Cerebral Palsy and traumatic brain injuries and through these observations I have compiled tons of empirical data and was able to detect some essential patterns of how those fascial volumes interact and evolve following proper and improper mechanical loading/ stimulation.

Actually in my personal ‘books’ I mark the beginnings of ABR from the time when I finally started thinking in volumes as the primary units of analysis– it did not happen overnight obviously – but roughly this transformation completed by the end of 2000-beginning of 2001.

Call me arrogant but I can’t take seriously a person who grabs a leg, a hand or a head of a child with Cerebral Palsy, starts moving it or pressing at it, and claims “sending signals to the brain”. It’s primitive, disrespectful and outright dangerous because without the extensive analysis of what your actions do to that leg, arm or head locally and mechanically – you’d never be able to tell whether your intended ‘signal sending’ translates into ‘gently knocking at the door’ or actually ‘demolishes the house’. But in order to tell what you are doing locally – you need a proper map that will guide you through the volumes– that’s a very basic first step. 

In my efforts to make sense out of all these volumetric observations I’ve woven quite a web of underlying frameworks – borrowing heavily from non-Euclidian geometry essentials, tectonics, relativity theory, topology and a bunch of other disciplines that are usually seen as completely to human body analysis. It works pretty well for me and I am quite accurate in my predictions for the next, say, 3-5-7 steps of oncoming evolution in a particular area – but still it is a patchwork.

I was lacking deep fundamentals – a unitary base that allows anchoring all these elements together. Let alone I did not have any virtual models that allow visualizing potential scenarios of spatial transformations and I had to rely on mental modeling alone…

So in that sense the incorporation of BioTensegrity framework and the availability of tangible models of spatial evolution scenarios that one can play with – provides the potential benefits throughout the entire spectrum:

  • from more accurate assessment of how did a child arrive to a present state of deformities and structural challenges
  • to the development of the improved strategies  of where and in which sequence the existent techniques to be applied (in which sequence the fascia  weaknesses are to be addressed for the best cascade effect)
  • to the potential development of the new techniques and upgrades of the existent ones…

In short, the potential of BioTensegrity framework for improving the developmental progress of your kids is immense – although it will take me some time to integrate these frameworks into my analytical toolbox.

 Ok, I am already past the page 6 – and I was asked by my readers more than once to keep the blog posts within the 5 pages limit – so I am going to make a pit stop here and I’ll return to the issue of levels of potential impact by BioTensegrity framework on Cerebral Palsy rehabilitation with more details in the one of the next posts…

P.S. Please: leave the comments – share your thoughts. The more you say on what you are interested to hear – the more I can attune and be of help… And if there are any technical problems with video viewing – please let me know… 

P.P.S. Disclaimer: I’ve watched a horror movie once in my life – that was 21 years ago. I guess I am not tough to survive such an onslaught on my imagination… Anyway – the image of de-volumized zombies survived through all these years…