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Calling out the bullshit, horseshit… all the shits

By Timothy Cocks Lost in translation 06 Jul 2017

This is really good

Bullsh**t About Posture Causes Pain and Suffering

My MRI revealed a spondylolisthesis. Various health care professionals told me to stop impact, avoid arching the back, take care with bending as disc herniation was also present, reduce activity, and strengthen my core because it was weak and my spine was unstable, even though I was a Pilates teacher who did Pilates every day. One physio told me I was ‘broken.’

…So let me get to the point. I didn’t get a wheelchair. I kept searching. I found hundreds and hundreds of people with stories like mine. I found movement teachers, trainers, physiotherapists, researchers and clinicians —  some with world class reputations at the cutting edge of neuroscience, pain science, the nervous system and movement — who understood the body differently. A spondylolisthesis did not have to mean pain. I was not broken. My core was not weak. My spine was robust and strong, not unstable. I learned that my habits, had in part contributed to my pain. I had been following advice to sit straight, stand tall, stabilise, draw in the belly, splint my broken back. I was scared to bend, squat, or move quickly, so avoided it. My breath was shallow and ragged. I was scared about the future. This ongoing fearful situation had ramped up my body’s defences and jacked up the tension in my nervous system, splinting me more than the exercises I had been doing.

Some of the advice I had been given, the words that had been said, the beliefs I had taken on from society, magazines, and through my own learning had turned out to be nocebos —noxious messages with a detrimental effect on my health and well-being — that kept me locked in a prison partly of my own making.

The constant co-contractions, the fear, the movement avoidance — these had been huge factors in the pain experience. I learned about pain, the brain, movement and the nervous system. I learned to let go of my belly and back, and create space in my body; move with fluidity and ease; breathe fully into a soft, yielding belly; slouch and relax at the same time. I learned that I could contract my muscles with control, but also release them FULLY; that I could bend safely; squat in a relaxed way without ‘proper form’ and technique; run, jump; ride a bike with a rounded back. I learned my spine and body were strong, and that I could get better.

A picture of a cat giving absolutely no shits about ‘good’ posture

Sporting horseshit

Sportspeople are notorious for spouting horseshit about injury, rehabilitation and sport, and it seems the more elite the athlete the more bullshitier the nonsense. A recent case in point that really shitted me:

State of Origin 2017: NSW captain Boyd Cordner consults energy healer to prove fitness for decider

Boyd Cordner has sought treatment from an inner Sydney energy healer – recommended by NSW legend Wayne Pearce – in a desperate bid to prove his fitness for the State of Origin decider.

Cordner used the session to complement his around-the-clock care from Roosters medical staff, who have worked overtime to help their co-captain be fit for the Suncorp Stadium showdown.

The straight-laced 25-year-old resorting to alternative healing techniques shows the measures he is prepared to go to in a bid to lead NSW in next Wednesday’s Origin decider, billed as the biggest interstate clash in recent memory

On Farrow, Cordner said: “He’s just an energy healer and he doesn’t really work on you, but he did some work on Wayne and it helped him. It’s hard to explain. It sounds weird explaining it, but sometimes they touch points and other times they’ll just put their hands above [the affected area].

The danger, as I see it, when high profile sportspeople spout horseshit like this, is the credibility (albeit vacuous) they lend it – “If an elite sportsperson is doing it, then [insert exotic name of bullshit technique here] must be real; must work; must be worth the hundreds of dollars per session”. People who experience persistent pain can be desperate for help – especially after they’ve been fed a constant line of bullshit about their pain-causing-posture and broken core; desperate enough to waste hundreds of dollars for an hour of having their bio-electrical-energy flow restored and their ‘wellness balanced’.

Calling out bullshit, horseshit, or any other kind of shit is the responsibility of every up to date clinician and therapist (especially when it is in our own backyard!).

-Tim Cocks








Melbourne 18-19 November Pain Plasticity & Rehabilitation


  1. At least healers are generally offering a positive message, whereas the vast majority of physical therapists and consultants are still offering negative, harmful bullshit.When the knowledge is so firmly out there that we are creating iatrogenic effects, it is shameful and we will lose credibility and rightly so. Currently I would say unless you have a brake or raging sciatica stay away from medics and self manage.

    1. I disagree with your first premise (positive message), but wholeheartedly agree with the second and third (harmful bullshit, iatrogenic effects and shameful). The fourth (stay away) is saddening to me as it could be quite simple to change this.
      The challenge with self-management is that it does not occur in a vacuum – it takes place in the sea of bullshit that the health and medical industry has constructed, hence it can become a Catch-22 to try and avoid all the shit!
      My best

      1. Hi Tim Thank you for replying. Yes I am saddened also but it is a reality, we currently are overall harming rather than helping I would argue, as despite all these good people reading your blogs are converts, I would say about 95% are not.
        Of course things will (and have to) change, but not yet as much as we would wish it to be so.
        If you have time please read this article on magick by respected psychotherapy researcher Scott Miller on introducing magick into psychotherapy- its very stimulating thought.

  2. We dont help ourselves in the elite sport space. I remember completing a course aimed at sports physiotherapists and I questioned why they were teaching kinesiotaping given its lack of evidence of effect and likely dependency for performance and the response was ‘in sport whatever is going to give an athlete that extra one percent even if its just psychological is worth it.’
    To which I resoonded, perhaps we should focus in proving to athletes that they’ve done the work and their bodies are resilient and received crickets.

  3. armedwithphysio,

    Great name! Wish I had thought of it. I wonder if anyone ever reads any of this stuff.

    Much of this would not occur if some defense was offered or even asked for. Oh, I forgot, one percent “improvement” is enough to justify anything.


  4. It seems humans are inclined be believe weird things. And then exert considerable effort to debunk these weird beliefs. I recently heard the quote “The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”

    Perhaps this is an extension of Charles Spurgeon’s “a lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on” (1859) which, in turn, might be inspired by Jonathan Swift’s “falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it” (1710).


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