Review-Stanford Summit with Stuart McGill and Gray Cook

Craig Liebenson, Stuart McGill, Gray Cook

Craig Liebenson, Stuart McGill, Gray Cook

This past weekend I had the pleasure to attend the Stuart McGillGray Cook Summit at Stanford University hosted by Dr. Craig Liebenson. I’ve allowed the information to gel for about a week as I considered how what I learned may affect my practice on a day-in and day-out basis. One of the most refreshing takeaways from the weekend was a sense of collaboration between the parties involved. What had all the potential of turning into a contentious weekend with various camps trying to defend their area of expertise, turned into a Kumbaya moment with all involved focused more on how we can combine our resources to help others rather than fighting amongst ourselves. Since I greatly respect both of these individuals and use their approaches in practice daily, I was excited to see that mutual respect on stage and in the break-outs.

Click Here to Get the DVD of the McGill-Cook Summit at Stanford!

A recap of the summit has already been well laid out by Dr. Bobby Maybee, Patrick Ward, Dave Draper and Dan John, so I wanted to focus this post on the clinical gleanings of the weekend. Let’s get solution oriented and try to build a better mousetrap shall we?  I’ll start with the pros of the FMS that all of us in attendance seemed to agree on…


FMS – allows the trainer or coach to quickly screen a group or team and take painful movements off of the training floor and put them in the clinic prior to training.


FMS – establishes a numerical rating system and nomenclature that allows better communication between rehab and performance professionals. To my mind, this is somewhat analogous to getting a drivers license and learning to read road signs.


FMS – helps bring exercise as an intervention into the clinical environment.


FMS– encourages perception of QUALITY of movement and the possible association between poor quality of movement and injury risk.



My personal feeling is that if we stop right there and the FMS never does anything else…then it has provided an invaluable service with those things above. Let’s don’t put it out to pasture quite yet though, huh? Let’s talk about what needs improvement…



Be better.

Common errors by novice users of the FMS were discussed by both Gray Cook and Stuart McGill and they both agreed that these result in problems with the FMS in general. If you’re guilty of these errors, stop! You’re making the FMS look bad!


1. Training decisions based on the summed total of the screen rather than attacking low values and asymmetries.

2. Assuming that the presence of 0’s, 1’s or low summed total score does not mean the client can’t train, you just have to be smart about how you do it. It also means you need to know if you’re smart or not. :)

3. Many novice users perceive that an adequate score on the FMS is sufficient information to load volume and intensity without further assessment.



These issues represent poor use of a good tool so better education and chats like this can help to improve that, hopefully. Now let’s discuss some of the places where the chassis the FMS is built on might need some work.


Current shortfalls of the FMS were discussed at Stanford and the concerns that came up were…

1. It does not predict injury as well as hoped. Some subgroups it works okay in, but in the general population not so well.

2. It does not account for lumbar hinging, i.e. loss of lumbar lordosis with movement.

3. It still does not account for lumbar hinging. (See what I did there?)

4. A good score on basic movement does not necessarily mean that that movement quality will transfer to daily tasks.



Dr. McGill consistently brought evidence to the table to suggest that if we are to assess injury risk then these specifics need to be accounted for:


1. Understand the biomechanical challenges, loads, and exposure variables associated with a particular task or sport.

2. Understand the available literature associated with the common injuries associated with that specific sport or task.

3. Apply specific coaching techniques to avoid potentially provocative positions, loading strategies, and exposure variables.


He showed studies he’s done (in preparation for press) that show that you can score a 3 on an overhead squat on the FMS and then still show crappy form picking up a coin from the floor and with other daily squatting and lifting movements.


So coaching of movement quality is a good idea that evidence suggests can prevent injury? I like it! So what does that look like? The demo session in the afternoon at the summit provided a glimpse.


A volunteer from the audience, Will Nassif, was 1st screened using FMS on stage by Dr. Kyle Kiesel and Dr. Mark Cheng. Will received a score of 15 with no zeros or ones. Of note, he scored a 3 on the squat test.


Gray Cook oversees FMS-ing of Will Nassif by Drs. Kyle Kiesel and Mark Cheng.

Subsequently, Dr. McGill attempted to demonstrate some of the specific tasks that he recently applied to a firefighter community. One of those tasks included a loaded rope pull, hand-over-hand. In positioning Will in a good neutral spine, braced position, Dr. McGill noted an antalgic positioning in Will’s lower back as he placed his hand on the lumbar spine to palpate his movement quality in that area on set up. At this point he asked will if he had previously had a disc injury. It was revealed that he had and that he had been rehabbing it (BTW, Will gave permission for this public revelation of his status).


Stu McGill demos rope-pull mechanics to Will Nassif while Dr. Craig Liebenson and Dr. Jason Brown look on.



In the set up for the hand-over-hand rope pull, Dr. McGill repeatedly positioned and coached Will through the movement to preserve a neutral spine throughout. As an aside here, I have to take issue with my friend Patrick Ward’s ending note in his excellent recap of the weekend when he stated that McGill’s approach to movement screening is to “put the person under load and see what happens.” From my experience with Dr. McGill over the years, I can say that his history, movement assessment and manual exam are exhaustive. As Stu pointed out, this process takes about 3 hours. Patrick and I chatted about this over pints and agreed that the overall process we observed on stage was what we should all doing in good practice. Do a general movement screen to see if the person can tolerate an unloaded challenge and then observe how the controlled loading affects the system. What Stu took care to do was to assess the integrity of Will’s L-spine position prior to loading.


Dr. Mark Cheng and I take turns being a “load on a rope”.












This pointed out the biggest thing that some of us see as a problem with the current FMS. There is no screen for quality of the movement about the lumbar spine. Some might argue that that info comes out in the hurdle step or the leg raise and I might agree, but when the picture below is presented as a 3 (by definition, movement that is exemplary and can’t be improved on) then some trainer is going to assume that that gives them license to load that back in that position.

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I think I hear a train…

That back in that position might get by with that movement for a while but will likely fail in that spinal hinge sooner or later. To my mind, for durability, how you achieve the movement is more important than whether you can perform the movement. Could this gent get to that depth with a lumbar lordosis with corrective exercise? Possibly. But he may also have anatomical limitations that prevent that, like the s0-called “Scottish hip” that Stu has pointed out in the past. At Stanford, he once again brought this up in assessment of a couple of hips, pointing out that sometimes you might just need to avoid ATG squatting due to anatomy. Bottom line, squatting deeply has a point of diminishing returns past the point where you can maintain lordotic curve in the L-spine.


Below you can see what the genes and the training combined will allow in a world champion Oly lifter. My simplest recommendation would be make the 3 for the OH Squat look like Jerzy Gregorek’s below, with a well-preserved L-spine lordosis in the hole. All else is a 2 or less.
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So what are we left with from the weekend? The way I see it:


  • It seems that we need to stop short of using the FMS as a prediction tool for future injury unless further studies define subgroups with which it’s more effective.


  • Summed scores don’t offer much info unless below 14, and that might have a ± variance of 2.


  • 0’s still warrant referral for clinical eval.


  • Don’t assume that a >14 score and no 0’s or 1’s on the FMS gives a green light to load a pattern without further specific assessment. It would be great if I came up with that idea, but Gray actually did in Athletic Body in Balance some time ago.


In closing, special thanks to Craig Liebenson for organizing this party and to Gray and Stu for the time and courage to pull it off and to Laree Draper for archiving it. Now let’s get our there and help some folks!


Find McGill’s and Cook’s Methods Available for Your Clinical Use at 

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3 New Exercises on MyRehab

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Here are 3 new exercises that subscribers have requested at MyRehab. Full versions of the exercises are available for subscribers to send to their patients to help with patient education. As always, this process is easy to perform and allows you to send these videos directly to your patient’s email in-box. If you’re not yet a subscriber, you can trial MyRehab for 30 days for $1 by signing up here. Monthly membership after that is only $19.99 without contract or obligation. More info is on the video to the right of the page here

  1. YTWL-Standing:  Based on Blackburn’s rotator cuff research, this standing version requires fewer props at home using a piece Theraband. The prone version is already in the library at MyRehab.
  2. Quadruped Rock Back-Gym Ball:  This is a nice correction for loss of lumbar lordosis at the bottom of squatting exercises. Sometimes referred to as “butt winking”, this rounding of the lumbar spine under load produces the injury vector for lumbar disc herniation.
  3. Pallof Presses:  Named after John Pallof, PT, these core stabilization exercises are a great intervention for rotary instability. Standing versions on 2 legs are shown as well as single leg versions. I’ve had a lot of success using the single leg version in runners prone to overpronation and patellofemoral syndrome.

FMS Library on MyRehab is Now Expanded

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We’ve added many new exercises from the FMS Library to the MyRehab Library for our subscribers to use! If you want to see what those look like, a representative channel of full videos from MyRehab is below for a limited time. The rest of the FMS library can be seen by MyRehab subscribers. Those that are not yet savvy to the Functional Movement System (FMS) can learn more at the link here.

To learn more about MyRehab check out the video in the sidebar to the right of the page.

The video channel below will be active until January 31, 2014. If you come here after that and want to see the content on this channel, contact me directly at and I’ll give you the password.




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Got Planks?

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 5.41.02 PMSeveral subscribers to have requested a few more Plank variations for their patient education. The most recent upload for the New Year fleshes it out nicely. Peel back intros, like Kneeling Planks progress up through more familiar ones that do more to incorporate some frontal and transverse plane challenge. Take a look at the channel below to see the newest additions to the site, including a few other odds and ends that users requested. I’ll leave this channel up for all to see until Jan 7, 2014. If you’ve come to this post after that, you can see this content if you trial MyRehab for $1 for 30 days to see if it helps you with your patient instruction for corrective exercises. If you love it, the monthly cost is only $19.99. Cheers!



More New Exercises on MyRehab!

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 7.07.37 PMOver Christmas, I managed to squeeze in some more editing and MyRehab subscribers will find the exercises below on Monday morning! This batch collects some of the missing favorites of Dr. Craig Liebenson from his seminars and also starts the library from Evan Osar’s book Corrective Exercise Solutions to Common Shoulder and Hip Dysfunction. Many more are still in the editing room and I’ll post here again as they are ready. Once again, the channel of videos below will be available in full for non-subscribers to view until Jan. 7. After that, you can trial a subscription to for 30 days for $1 to see how it helps to speed your clinical work and improve outcomes. After that, the monthly cost is only $19.99. Happy New Year!



Hamstring Strength & Coordination:

  • 2 legged gymball curls
  • 1 leg gym ball curls

T4 Mobes

  • Active Prayer Pose
  • Lewit’s Wall Assisted T4 Mobe

Hip Activation/Mobility/Centration

  • Clamshell
  • Resisted Clamshell
  • Reverse Clamshell
  • Closed Clamshell


  • Basic Push up with cues for painfree performance

Thoracopelvic Cannister Maintenance

  • Wall Bug Progression-Extension Bias
  • Wall Bug Progression-Pelvic Lift

New DNS-Inspired Material on MyRehab

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There’s a boatload of new exercises currently on the editing table which will be released to MyRehab subscribers over the next several weeks. Those that have taken some of the DNS coursework will be happy to find supine 3.5 month old to 10 month old Bear Crawl progressions represented. You can view those full videos in the video channel below until January 7, 2014. If you’ve come to this post after that date and want to see what that material looks like, consider a 30 day trial of MyRehab for $1. If you like it, the monthly subscription fee is just $19.99. Keep an eye out for upcoming releases featuring the excellent exercises represented in Evan Osar’s book and from the coursework of running injury researcher Irene Davis. Remember as well that ISCRS members receive 50% discount on their MyRehab subscription! Be well.




Research Review-Check Out Those Hips!

A recent paper from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN (Yuan et al, 2013) appeared in the American Journal of Sports Medicine which brought to light that screening the hip range of motion (ROM) in young athletes might be worthwhile to identify problems that might be in that athlete’s future. Yuan, et al found that a simple modified flexion/adduction/internal rotation (FADIR) impingement test in asymptomatic athletes was able to pick up early stages of cam type of femoracetabular impingement (FAI). Specifically, they assessed 226 athletes for internal rotation deficits by flexing the supine athlete’s hip to 90 degrees, and then applying adduction and internal rotation. They also received the impingement test which was essentially the same test with hip flexion performed to endrange. 19 of those athletes (8%) demonstrated IR <10 degrees and 34 of 38 hips in those athletes demonstrated <10 degrees IR-ROM. Only 18 of those hips had pain with the impingement test. Of those with positive findings, 13 chose to participate in the study. A control group of 13 was chosen from normals from the the original N=226 cohort and both groups received Xray, MRI, and a subsequent manual exam.

Recruitment for Yuan, et al, 2013.

Significant findings included:
  • Mean alpha angle on MRI was 44.3 in the control group and 58.1 in the study group.
  • 86% of those asymptomatic hips with clinical signs in the study group demonstrated abnormal findings on plain film Xray.
  • >2/3 of the study group had MRI demonstrated pathology vs. 1/3 of the study group. The more accurate MRA assessment was not ok’d by IRB for pediatric population.


The final paragraph is excerpted below, which asks some important questions we need to answer in future studies:


“As more information about the natural history of FAI becomes available, it will be important to understand how and why the pathoanatomy of FAI leads to future hip injuries in some patients. Specifically, if there is a way to easily screen for those with reduced hip clearance, does counseling those patients on avoiding activities that require forced hip motion to the extreme reduce the development of symptomatic FAI or even OA in the future? Currently, we do not recommend any sports-related or activity modification based on the results of a ‘‘positive’’ screening examination result. This study, however, provides new data that can be used to compare future longitudinal natural history studies. Obviously, the data on the natural history of FAI are necessary before definitive recommendations regarding activity modification for the adolescent athlete can be made, such as avoiding ballet or playing as a goalie in hockey.  Additionally, there is probably a little role for prophylactic surgery. However, our findings suggest that a simple hip examination may have utility as a screening test in asymptomatic patients to detect the hip at risk of future pathological changes secondary to impingement during high-risk activities.”


A few other questions came up for me in my review of this material. I’ve included those questions and links for those that are interested in chasing this out a bit further.


1. How do post surgical FAI hips fare in kids, adolescents and adults?-(Philippon 2008, Philippon 2009) Pretty good…if you ask a surgeon.


2. What’s the current thinking on most effective clinical exam for the hip? (Martin et al, 2006) A test cluster is suggested but has not yet been thoroughly researched.


3.  What are the methods of assessing the alpha angle in the hip?
From Taunton on OrthopedicsOne reference site, on AP Xray or MRI, “the alpha angle is formed by a line drawn from the center of the femoral head through the center of the femoral neck, and a line from the center of the femoral head to the femoral head/neck junction, found by the point by which the femoral neck diverges from a circle drawn around the femoral head.  At present, the upper end of normal is an alpha angle of 50 – 55 degrees.” Serbian researchers (Andjelkovic, 2013) recently described a newer method of radiographically assessing the alpha angle on plain film.


4.  What other studies implicate the alpha angle in hip pathology? (Beaule, 2012) Makes one wonder if heavy back squats and ATG cueing in those squats is a good idea in adolescents.


5.  If high alpha angle indicates structural predisposition to hip pathology, what exercise and/or rehab can we suggest for our patients?


  I really like the combo of DNS-influenced exercise progressions that Jeff Cubos, DC put together on his blog.

In closing, several studies have suggested that in young populations, the presence of FAI in young active patients is likely to lead to significant osteoarthritis in later years.(Ganz, 2003; Tanzer, 2004; Wegner, 2004) In older populations the jury is still out.  Hartofilakidis et al in 2011 performed a retrospective study and tracked 96 asymptomatic, middle-aged hips with radiological evidence of FAI and found “…that a substantial proportion of hips with femoroacetabular impingement may not develop osteoarthritis in the long-term. Accordingly, in the absence of symptoms, prophylactic surgical treatment is not warranted.”



Yuan BJ, Bartelt RB, Levy BA, Bond JR, Trousdale RT, Sierra RJ. Decreased Range of Motion Is Associated With Structural Hip Deformity in Asymptomatic Adolescent Athletes. Am J Sports Med. 2013 May 22.

Philippon MJ, Yen YM, Briggs KK, Kuppersmith DA, Maxwell RB. Early outcomes after hip arthroscopy for femoroacetabular impingement in the athletic adolescent patient: a preliminary report. J Pediatr Orthop. 2008 Oct-Nov;28(7):705-10.

Philippon MJ, Briggs KK, Yen YM, Kuppersmith DA. Outcomes following hip arthroscopy for femoroacetabular impingement with associated chondrolabral dysfunction: minimum two-year follow-up. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2009 Jan;91(1):16-23.

Andjelković Z, Mladenović D. Measuring the osteochondral connection of the femoral head and neck in patients with impingement femoroacetabular by determining the angle of 2alpha in lateral and anteroposterior hip radiographic images. Vojnosanit Pregl. 2013 Mar;70(3):259-66.

Klaue K, Durnin CW, Ganz R. The acetabular rim syndrome. A clinical presentation of dysplasia of the hip. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1991 May;73(3):423-9.

Martin RL, Enseki KR, Draovitch P, Trapuzzano T, Philippon MJ. Acetabular labral tears of the hip: examination and diagnostic challenges. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2006 Jul;36(7):503-15.

Ganz R, Parvizi J, Beck M, Leunig M, Notzli H, Siebenrock KA. Femoroacetabular impingement: a cause for osteoarthritis of the hip. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2003;417:112-120.


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Case Study-Lateral Elbow Pain through a DNS/Functional Lens

Elbow Treatment 1.0

Lateral elbow pain (lateral epicondylitis, AKA tennis elbow, radial nerve entrapment syndromes) is a frequent presentation in our clinic March-May as folks who started a weight routine for a New Year’s resolution begin to ‘crash and burn’ as poor form leads to tissue failure in the extensor tendons for the wrist. Nirschl described a surgical technique in the 1970s which was highly effective at relieving this condition. Common current wisdom is that the putative cause of pain is related to the commonly observed granulation tissue associated with the ‘mobile wad of 3′ extensor tendons. Co-morbidity we frequently see in clinic may include entrapment neuropathies and Miller and Reinus, in 2010 provided a nice review of those. While this is interesting from a structural perspective and helps to inform manual therapies addressing this condition, it is not the thrust of this article. Let’s examine lateral elbow pain from a functional point of view.


Elbow Treatment 2.0 

Borrowing a page from the Joint by Joint approach, the elbow is a hinge joint somewhat analogous to the knee. The literature suggests that many of the maladies of the knee can be addressed by working on strength and mobility around the hip. Similarly with the elbow, we see a stable joint complex surrounded by comparatively more mobile shoulder and wrist joints. Consistent with Joint by Joint, poor mobility in the inherently mobile joint structures will lead to the body “asking for” more mobility in a stable joint complex, in this case the elbow. Often using this approach and working through shoulder mobility and stability we can have a great impact on the long-term function of the elbow. In the last several years this approach has been quite useful in reducing treatment time and improving outcomes in this condition in our clinic. Typically we would focus on improving scapular mobility often using Stecco’s manual therapies to assure appropriate scapular retraction and protraction. Upper thoracic joint mobilization or manipulation was also quite helpful in improving overall shoulder mechanics by improving mobility in the scapular thoracic articulation and in the thoracic spine in order to spare the glenohumeral articulation. A patient in our clinic today provided an excellent example of an even more modern approach integrating DNS principles with the joint by joint and manual therapy methodology.

Elbow Treatment 3.0


SR, a 35-year-old public safety officer, presented with left lateral elbow pain which began insidiously over the past several weeks. Eight weeks before he had started a self-improvement project involving weightlifting using a four day split. Prior to that it had been several years since he had engaged in regular weightlifting. Significant prior history included several incidents of shoulder injury and near dislocations on the affected side. Painful ADLs included reaching for the milk in the back of the refrigerator, lifting a coffee cup, opening a heavy door or gripping the handlebars of his mountain bike. In the gym, patient found benchpress, and overhead pushing and pulling exercises to be provocative.


Objective Findings

In standing, left arm was inwardly rotated and the humerus was palpated in an anteriorly displaced position in the glenoid. Shoulder abduction, external rotation and extension were painlessly limited in active range of motion. Palpation over the left lateral epicondyle of the humerus, passive left wrist flexion, resisted left wrist extension, and strong handshake all produced pain at CC. Strong handshake produced 6/10 severe pain. Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) assessment revealed rib flare, apical breathing pattern and poor ability to pressurize the thoraco-pelvic canister. Spinal segmental extension restrictions were noted in the thoracic spine. ULNNTs were negative and Spurling’s suggested no radicular involvement.



A structural diagnosis of lateral epicondylitis was rendered with functional contributors including:

  • poor IAP/respiratory pattern per DNS protocols,
  • poor shoulder mobility leading to overuse of the stability-loving joint complex per Joint by Joint approach.

We decided to begin with DNS-informed protocols first to see if patient would be able to correct most of his own condition utilizing functional corrective exercise. We decided that afterward we would address joint and myofascial components as deemed necessary.


Patient was instructed in diaphragmatic breathing while maintaining rib tuck position and long spine. That pattern formed the basis for all subsequent exercises. We then trialed dead bug, wall bug and foam roll progressions and the latter 2 were within patient’s functional pain free range. In short as Dr. Craig Liebenson would put it, they were the most difficult exercises the patient could perform excellently. To see Dr. Liebenson apply this approach you can check out this video. To assist with thoracic extension while providing  a closed chain weight-bearing position for the affected joint complexes patient was coached in modified Sphinx exercise. Before manual therapy was applied, a mid-treatment audit was performed as a handshake test. With firm grip patient smiled widely and noted that he only had  1/10 severe pain in the lateral elbow. Objectively, the strength of the grip was quite a bit more robust.








Subscribers to may view the above videos by clicking on the images.

Manual therapy included prone manipulation of the T4 segment into extension as well as prone combo manipulations of the upper ribs. Glenohumeral rotation mobilizations were provided in internal and external vectors through abduction and flexion ranges of motion to aid in joint capsule mobility. Graston technique was provided using gua sha  type rapid stroke movements proximal to distal to improve blood flow and oxygenation of the extensor muscles. This concluded the treatment portion of the first encounter. Total amount of contact time for this established patient with new presentation was 30 minutes. A posttreatment audit was performed as strong handshake and patient had 0/10 severe pain in the lateral elbow and his grip strength was markedly improved.  He received emailed exercise prescription follow-up of all of these exercises from  He was scheduled for a return visit in one week which will likely consist of manual therapies per Stecco protocols to improve scapulothoracic mobility and joint centration of the glenohumeral articulation.  typical follow-up exercise at that time will likely be closed chain DNS exercises such as Tripod Sit and  Bear Crawling and Therabar Eccentrics.



Previous blog posts here outlined the rationale for addressing the deep spine stabilization system and respiratory pattern in this case. Below is the graphic that shows how those dominoes stack up.


According to DNS theory, the hypertonic upper trapezius represents an adaptational motor program for shoulder stabilization. In the absence of an adequate punctum fixum with a well functioning deep spine stabilization system, lower trapezius and serratus anterior are unable to stabilize the scapula against the chest wall. The upper trapezius is then placed into a primary role to stabilize the shoulder girdle by “plugging it in” to the cervicothoracic area. The resultant alteration in biomechanics pitches scapula upwards and forwards in the shortening of the pectoralis minor and internal rotators. The hypertonicty in these muscles in turn de-centrates the humeral head in the glenoid. While the clinician and manual therapist can positively impact the course of care with manual method alone, adding this kind of foundational corrective exercise dramatically decreases the treatment time and improves the overall musculoskeletal health of the patient. Much of this exercise work can also be provided by a heads up personal trainer who has learned these techniques, but the trainer should have a DC or PT help on the pain management end. Better yet, those trainers who are familiar with DNS assessment techniques for their work, can help avoid having their clients on the disabled list where they can’t train at all.

I will try to follow up with this patient on the blog in future posts. In the meantime, consider for excellent patient/client oriented videos for the correctives shown above as well as many more to help with your functional exercise instruction. Click on the link below to learn more!


Nirschl RP, Pettrone FA. Tennis elbow. The surgical treatment of lateral epicondylitis. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1979 Sep;61(6A):832-9. PubMed PMID: 479229.

Miller TT, Reinus WR. Nerve entrapment syndromes of the elbow, forearm, and wrist. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2010 Sep;195(3):585-94. doi: 10.2214/AJR.10.4817. Review. PubMed PMID: 20729434.

Powers CM. The influence of abnormal hip mechanics on knee injury: a biomechanical perspective. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010 Feb;40(2):42-51. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2010.3337. Review. PubMed PMID: 20118526.

Strunce JB, Walker MJ, Boyles RE, Young BA. The immediate effects of thoracic spine and rib manipulation on subjects with primary complaints of shoulder pain. J Man Manip Ther. 2009;17(4):230-6. PubMed PMID: 20140154; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2813499.

DNS in a Functionally Oriented Clinical Practice

“If breathing is not normalised – no other movement pattern can be”- Karel Lewitt

In recent conversations with students in my office and with colleagues curious to learn more about how Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) works “on the ground” in practice, I have attempted to bring together an overview that can be readily understood for these folks. Full disclosure…at this point (2-17-2013) I have completed DNS training through the “C” level of clinical practice and “Sport” courses 1 &2. This level of training does not qualify me to be an instructor in the DNS system, so all of my musings here should be taken with a grain of salt and are trumped by those who have received those more advanced qualifications. Therefore, think of this post as my own personal musings as I attempt to integrate the work into my sports-injury/rehab-focused practice of chiropractic and take what you will from it. The graphic below was my attempt to explain the flow of common musculoskeletal injury and dysfunction through the DNS lens. Below that, we’ll examine each of these points so that we can see how this pattern recurs with our patients. In future posts, we may refer back to this post to help frame specific Case Studies.


1. Apical Respiration-When Stress Somatisizes

One of the primary tenets of DNS is the importance of breathing stereotype. The effects of inefficient respiration carry over to other disciplines of health care such as cardiology (1,2,3), gastroenterology (4), pain management (5) and psychology (6) as well. In the DNS model, breathing patterns that are high in the chest, rapid and shallow (apical) can result in altered position of the diaphragm. (7)

CONCLUSION: Patients with chronic low back pain appear to have both abnormal position and a steeper slope of the diaphragm, which may contribute to the etiology of the disorder.


2. Disruption of Native Spine Stabilization Strategies

Using the muscles of the ‘deep core’ (multifidii, transversus abdominis, pelvic floor and diaphragm), spine stabilization can occur via improved intra-abdominal pressurization. (8,9)  This video by Gray Cook, PT speaks to this topic from a tangential viewpoint.


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3. Adaptation of High Threshold Stabilization Strategies

When optimum stabilization strategies are not available, phasic muscles typically used for prime movement are used to both move and to provide alternate stabilization strategies. These strategies for movement often result in joint de-centration which leads to less-than-optimal performance. If loads are too high, too intense, or too frequent joint degeneration and tissue failure may be the result. Charlie Weingroff, DPT speaks to this below.

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4. Structural Adaptations of Myofascial Elements


Langevin also proposes a central sensitization component in this paper, modeled on conversations with Lorimer Moseley.

Langevin and other researchers have shown that the fascial remodeling occurs in those with chronic low back pain (CLBP) and that the lumbodorsal fascia of those with CLBP is 25% thicker than in controls. (10,11)   The presence of  ’tunnel syndromes’ involving superficial neurology has been well described. (12)  Janda’s Crossed Syndromes spoke to inhibition of agonists in the presence of shortening of antagonists. This pattern was later updated by Gray Cook and Mike Boyle and is now referred to as the Joint by Joint Approach. As synergistic muscles are re-tasked to shoulder the load left by inhibited muscles, remodeling of the muscle can change its texture, pliability and result in fascial remodeling in the involved muscles. This may also result in superficial entrapment of local superficial nerves and result in local neuralgia in the absence of joint or muscle injury. This point in the process is where manual therapy has the most direct impact and allows bodyworkers an in-road on understanding and treating patients using a functional approach.


5. Tissue Failure/Degeneration and Diminished Performance

Langevin et al. Reduced thoracolumbar fascia shear strain in human chronic low back pain. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2011, 12:203

Langevin also theorized in her paper on thoracolumbar fascia,

Possible explanations for reduced thoracolumbar fascia shear strain during passive trunk flexion in LBP include abnormal patterns of trunk muscle activity and/or intrinsic connective tissue pathology.” (13)  

In the DNS model, we may see common injuries develop around the hip, knee, shoulder and elbow in response to the aberrant loading of those joints in these scenarios. Rather than structure-focused treatments to address the site of pain, practitioners assess movement and stabilization strategies and address those non-painful dysfunctions to effect long lasting beneficial changes. Similarly, in the FMS model, we screen for asymmetrical movement patterns and correct the non-painful dysfunction.  These last 2 areas we will save for further explorations with case studies to demonstrate the clinical applications of the combined structural-functional methods. We will also show those corrective exercise interventions featured on




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