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Motion is lotion

By David Bolton Education for all 12 Sep 2019

It’s one of the mantras of NOI and we use it all the time; “Motion is Lotion”. But why do we say this to patients? What is the thinking behind it? Just to add a little scientific knowledge, to give the phrase more meaning, let’s have a look at the term “thixotropic behaviour”. According to Wikipedia, the term Thixotropy was first used by Pettefi in 1927 from the Greek word Thixis- to stir or shake- and Trepo- turning or changing.


Taking this knowledge into everyday life, most of us have probably experienced that moment of hedonism when we feel the need to spoil ourselves and be indulgent, throwing our healthy habits to the wind. On that double decker burger what better addition than a dollop of ketchup – a glass of shiraz doesn’t go a miss either. The frustration when we tip the bottle up and nothing happens! What do we do, instinctively we shake the bottle and, low and behold the ketchup flows. What has actually happened in that moment is  “thixotropic” behaviour. The action of activating the liquid by shearing the molecules of the ketchup and, the kinetic energy causes the liquid to be less viscous, more liquid and easier to flow.

The Big Question

But is this what is really going on within our patients? Are the lubricants of the joints really responding to the movement in a thixotropic manner? Maybe and maybe not but it is a wonderful image to give the patient, assuring them that they it is safe to move.

Maybe the truth of the matter lies more in protective pain mechanisms that kick in to protect us at the outset of movement and recede as the brain feels that it is safe to move more vigorously. Maybe the lotion is more the “Juices of the brain” rather than the joints. Either way I find it a beautiful mantra “Motion is Lotion”. Maybe a little knowledge  gets the juices flowing too…

-David Bolton
Consultant Physiotherapist 
Neuro Orthopaedic Institute Teacher
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  1. Good question, I’m siding with the brain more than anything! I enjoy your posts. I’m trying very hard to get clinics in Canada who focus on chronic pain to register my site ( ). Believe it or not, it is such a hard thing to find, even for someone who is “in the know.” One day I hope my site makes it easier for people to find (and learn about) what they need!

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