A Hard Habit To Break

If, like me, you’re old enough to remember that God forsaken song by Chicago of the same name, then my attempt at lowering the age of my target audience is failing dismally!

Ah well, I guess I should just concentrate more on blogging about health than worrying about my age…

A recent article in the New Scientist (Why can’t I Stop?, 2 August 2014) discussed the newest thinking behind how OCD develops.

The article reminded me of how our brains work to develop habitual patterns which, from an evolutionary point of view, gives us a great advantage. Habitual patterns allow our brain to perform clockwork actions with very little brain power,such as the act of riding a bicycle. This frees up the RAM we need to think important, non-repetitive thoughts, or higher level thinking.

As with many other things in life, there’s a payback to any evolutionary advantage. In this case the obvious one is that we can develop bad habits as well as good ones.

It isn’t by any means a new concept that a purported reason for the development of musculoskeletal pain, including back pain (as well as other conditions, such as the once common office workers plague of RSI) can be explained by the development of bad movement patterns. These can be patterns that we use on a day-to-day basis, such as how we do the washing up, how we walk or run, how we swim, or how we cycle. These movement patterns, be they good or bad, tend to be called engrams.

I have tended up to now to take a broad based approach to back pain that I feel may be coming from aberrant engrams, generally feeling that it is the asymmetry of movement that we do regularly that contributes most to our pain.

So I have tended to recommend that patients spend one day out of every week doing everything in the opposite way than they normally do. For example, on that day everything that is normally done with the right hand should be done with the left, such as opening a door, picking up a mug… and things like sitting on the sofa with feet always tucked under and to one side, should be reversed. Whether I am right or not, this sort of approach appears to help in most cases of back pain.

However, through this series of blogs I intend to explore the subject, and to answer the following questions:

1. What is an engram?

2. How do we develop movement patterns that can hurt us?

3. How do we assess engrams, and how can we discover whether they’re good or bad? 4. How quickly can engrams be changed

5. How do we change an engram for the better?

6. Exactly what sort of problems can be helped?

I’m sure more questions will turn up over the next few blogs, and I will revise these questions as we go along.

I would also really appreciate people’s knowledge of engrams, so if anyone reading this has any experience or views, please do let me know, I’d be very interested to hear them.

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