Pain can be a complex phenomenon, and complex systems are often nested. That means the system as a whole is composed of smaller subsystems, which are also composed of smaller subsystems and so forth. The reason this is interesting from a practical perspective is that each nested system provides a different level from which we can attempt to explain and treat pain.
Some recent research from the lab of Vania Apkarian has led some very smart people to wonder whether he has discovered the “Holy Grail” of explaining pain – the precise factors that cause some people to develop chronic pain and others to recover.
Unlike drugs, orthopedic surgeries can be sold to the public before they undergo any rigorous testing to ensure they are safe and effective. Thus, millions of surgeries for knee, shoulder and back pain have been done without the support of any research to confirm they actually work. Recently, a significant amount of such research has been completed, and it has found that many popular surgeries work no better than a placebo. And yet many of these surgeries are still done, at the rate of hundreds of thousands per year.
I just came across a very interesting article linked by Diane Jacobs on Facebook titled All Tip No Iceberg: A New Way to Think about Mental Illness. Diane said that this might also be a good way to think about pain. I agree! Here's a brief summary of some of the ideas in the article.
I have been a bit negligent in updating this blog recently but I have an excuse - I'm hard at work on a new book that I hope to complete by this fall: Playing with Movement: Simple Solutions for a Complex Body.
Like the first book (A Guide to Better Movement), the general goal is to help people move better and feel better through application of practical science on pain and motor learning. But the subject matter in this book is far more expansive and ambitious.
According to very smart guy Dan Dennett, we use very different kinds of thinking tools to predict the behavior of different systems, depending in part on the system’s complexity. In this post I'll describe three levels of analysis described by Dennett that we can use to understand the body: the physical stance, the design stance and the intentional stance.
What’s the difference between a guru and an expert? The dictionary assigns the two words the same basic meaning: someone with a high level of knowledge in a particular field. But the term guru definitely has an unwholesome connotation. People respect experts, but worship gurus, imagining they have totally unrealistic levels of knowledge and power. In the context of science, that's a problem.
Predictive coding is a hip new model for perception that I have been studying lately. In some ways it is very common sense and intuitive, and in others it is very challenging and mind expanding. I see it as a useful bridge between conventional ways of thinking about perception and something completely new and different. Here’s a post describing what I’ve learned that I find interesting and practical
I recently finished the above-titled book by Frans Bosch. It's one of those books where you do a lot of underlining. It's also one of the best books on movement I’ve read in a while so I decided to write a review and (rather lengthy) summary of the some of the ideas I found interesting.
There are various models used to understand pain. I often see debate as to the relative merit of these models, which is a good thing. But what I think is not such a good thing is when people argue that because a model has a certain flaw or limitation, it is fatally deficient.
Pain and movement are pretty complicated right? In a sense yes. But in another sense no. Pain and movement are not complicated, they are complex, which is a different animal.
Imagine you are Elon Musk trying to send a rocket ship to the moon. What sort of thinking process, analysis, modeling, research, predictions, and methods of control would help solve this problem? How would that process be different from solving the problem of say, raising a child?
A baseball player walks into the batter’s box. He shifts weight from front foot to back while circling the bat. Rotates his right heel into the ground. Orients his gaze to the pitcher while pointing his bat to center field. Slowly swings his bat three or four times to an imagined contact point with the ball. What’s the point of all this seemingly useless motion?
I recently watched a short talk by Andy Clark, a philosopher of mind who studies how humans perceive their bodies, control their bodies, and interact with the environment in a meaningful way. (Short summary of Clark’s ideas - these three seemingly different functions are basically just One function.)