You’ve got to try this experiment. The next time you see a flock of birds sitting on wires or on a tree, get close and teach them how to fly. Use your arms to demonstrate how they should flap their wings in order to effectively lift themselves off. You will amazingly notice that some of them will start to fly; clearly demonstrating the effectiveness of your intervention. You may feel good about yourself with the self-satisfaction that if it wasn’t for you, those poor birds would be helplessly sitting and not flying for a lot longer or perhaps even for the rest of their lives. You may also confidently believe that no other intervention could have possibly helped those birds fly. It is clear as day, you taught those birds to fly and that is thanks to the highly tuned arm flapping techniques that you learned at this amazing course.

I certainly hope that you can see the sarcasm in the story. When I graduated from PT school, I was eager to take every post-graduate course I could find and was always amazed at how effective the techniques were when I enthusiastically applied what I had learned the next day. After a while, I would be disappointed when the same techniques failed to consistently work anymore, so I’d move onto the next course; McKenzie, Manual Therapy, Mulligan, neural mobilizations, soft-tissue work, motor control retraining, breathing, mindfulness meditation, pain science education, etc. I thought I would eventually find the magic approach.

I am now humble enough to admit that I mostly do nothing other than empower my patients to get better, not much more than when I teach birds to fly. The truth is that just by my presence, the birds are more likely to fly, never mind the fact that I am enthusiastically talking, jumping and flapping my arms in front of them.

I am fascinated by clinicians who so confidently claim and truly believe that their intricate manual therapy, needling or soft-tissue “release” skills, is what helps their patients recover. Do they truly believe that if it wasn’t for them adjusting, needling or releasing their patients, they would have never gotten better?

In the meantime, try teaching birds how to fly; it’s an amazing experience. Even better, do this with children… you’ll have a laugh :o)

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