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  • Foto van schrijverPieter Derycke

An ecological view of musculoskeletal health.

Many physical therapists (and their teachers and researchers) treat their patients as if they are machines. This purely mechanical view has repeatedly been disproven.

An alternative proposal is seeing the human organism as a garden, for instance like the gardens of Versailles. They are very beautiful, have an impeccable design and seem complex. It is not easy to maintain these gardens. It takes knowledge and muscles, and a plan. But at least there’s a plan, a structure, a fixed step-by-step way to do it. It affords a certain grip, a certain control.

I don’t think this view is optimal either, I even think it’s delusional. I understand it, sure, I tend to do it myself! But gardens are a reduced version of nature. In reality, people are more like a forest, a swamp, a mangrove, or a coral reef. These biological systems are truly and breathtakingly complex. But they are also self-organizing and self-maintaining. That is, if some ecological requirement are met.

Although at first, this view, while making sense, does not seem to offer any therapeutic advantages, on the contrary, it makes the subject even more difficult…

But once you truly understand it, you can start looking for those ecological circumstances that make the system thrive. If you provide these conditions, or change the current ones in the right directions, you will reap the benefits from this approach: a healthy system that is capable of dealing with the complexity of the world, an adaptive system ready for change, an antifragile system asking for challenges.

Of course, the ‘human-as-ecosystems-view’ is only a metaphor, and has some limitations…

What are the ecological conditions that make us humans thrive, make our bodies strong and healthy, our minds resilient and our spirits joyous?

This is probably the most important underlying question in my search as a therapist, and in my teaching. You can probably guess that evolutionary biology provides the framework for thinking and tinkering.

You’re a therapist or trainer and want to learn more about this ecological view of human health, and more specifically, musculoskeletal health? Why don’t you come to one of my lectures and courses? More info on (1)

Thanks for reading! Cheers,


(1) Due to the coronavirus, there are no confirmed course dates. But there's an lecture/workshop on natural running coming soon. Live for the physical therapists of Deinze (20/10/2020) and an online 'powertalk' via SmartEducation (1/12/2020).

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