10 Things I learnt From 10 Days With Diane Jacobs

Across the end of March and the start of April I spent 10 days straight with Canadian physiotherapist Diane Jacobs, who was in Australia to teach her DermoNeuroModulating (DNM) workshop, which I attended.

Twice.

The first event was held in Noosa, Queensland. It was hosted by Robin Kerr at her recently sold practice, Alchemy in Motion.

The second event was held in Melbourne, Victoria. It was hosted by me at the lovely Parkville hotel The Larwill Studio.

Each event started with a 3 hour lecture by Diane, which covered the theoretical foundation of her work, and was then followed by 3 full days of teaching the manual techniques and clinical reasoning outlined in her book.

I also spent a few days before and after the Melbourne workshop hosting Diane – we went to the zoo, some local pubs and restaurants as well as the Shrine of Rememberance and the National Gallery of Victoria. She even got to have lunch with my mum!

I thought the course was fantastic, overall one of the best courses I have attended, and definitely the best manual therapy course I have attended.

50 Years Is A Long Time

Diane is the same age as my mum. I won’t say what that is exactly (not that I think she’d mind), but she has been in practice for almost 50 years.

Her first years were spent in a hospital setting, which almost turned her off the profession. In fact, she did leave for a short while, but she found her groove, and has never looked back (mostly).

I think anyone who has lived a life, worked thoughtfully and experienced many interactions with people is worth listening to and learning from, and Diane proved me right.

Not David Letterman

In 2013, I took a visceral manipulation course. It was interesting, but implausible. I’d say that Diane’s explanations make more conceptual sense.

One of the benefits of the course was the location – it was in New York City, and while I was there I went to a recording of The Late Show With David Letterman.

His Top 10 lists were great.

I’m not sure I’m of that calibre, but here goes.

NEW YORK – APRIL 24: Dave reads the “Top Ten List” on the Late Show with David Letterman, Friday April 24, 2015 on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images)

On Life

Life mostly works itself out over time. We worry about things we can’t control very much (like outcomes in manual therapy) and cause ourselves a lot of bother, but it mostly works itself out.

On Work

Being a manual therapist is a peaceful way to make a living.

On Not Knowing

It’s okay to not know something, and it’s okay to have a story that may be somewhat, or even entirely inaccurate, as long as you acknowledge it.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.


Richard Phillips Feynman 

On Listening

At the Noosa workshop, Diane asked the group if anyone had neck pain, as she was about to demonstrate techniques targeting the occipital nerves.

A man in his sixties volunteered, and she asked him about his pain.

What followed was a 40 minute implicit demonstration of how to listen to someone (not just a patient). Diane seemingly made him feel as they were the only 2 people in the room with her facial expressions, body language and most importantly, her quiet attention.

I really think we need to start considering listening as an intervention itself

Alison Sim

On Manual Therapy

It’s non-specific and n=1 and that’s completely okay.

Additionally, manual therapy can be optimal when it is used for certain presentations (and not very good at all when used for others).

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“For the treatment of pain, manual therapy is always OPTIONAL, but it can be OPTIMAL” – Diane Jacobs ~ So when is manual therapy likely to be optimal? According to Diane, when pain is: ~ ▪ Localised/discrete ▪ Changes with movement/position (ie mechanical) ▪ Changes with distraction ~ Manual therapy is not likely to help (resolve the condition) when: ▪ There are multiple sites of pain that are likely to be the result of central sensitisation ▪ Conditions like fibromyalgia and hyperpathia (basically anything which is highly centralised) ▪ Most (but not all) neuropathic pain ~ I think there is a dearth of research looking at indications and dosage for manual therapy, and as a result (and due to the non specific nature of manual therapy), a lot of research into effectiveness is poor and doesnt help clinical practice. ~ What are your indications for manual therapy? (if you don’t use it, don’t comment, as I know the arguments against, I’m interested in arguments for) ~ #integrativeosteopathy #osteopathy #physiotherapy #massage #manualtherapy #myotherapy #chiropractic #clinicalreasoning

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On Interoception

Often Diane would ask someone if they had pain in the region she was about to demonstrate techniques for.

One thing that really stood out was how she always wanted to get people aware and thinking about how their body felt, rather than the labels and diagnoses they’d been given.

“Does anyone have a sore back”

“I do”

“Tell me about your sore back”

“I had a disc injury”

“How does that feel?

On Beer

Dark beers are her favourite, but The Damned Pilsener by HopNation in Footscray was pretty nice as well.

On Lifespan

It’s mostly genetic.

People try all kinds of things to live longer, but it’s mostly down to genes, and maybe stress.

On Asymmetry

Asymmetrical structure is normal, common and completely okay.

Habitual asymmetrical use of our body is possibly a predisposing factor for mechanical pain.

  • Sleeping on the same side every night
  • Curling up in the same position on the couch all the time
  • Crossing arms/legs the same way all the time
  • Standing with your weight on one leg
  • Carrying bags/children on one side

Her rationale is that such sustained postures/positions/movements relatively tension and shorten the same neural tissues in the same way over time, impacting their fluid dynamics.

Better awareness leads to better use of our body, which leads to feeling better in our body.

On Diagnostic Errors

Everything is a type 1 error (when it comes to musculoskeletal pain diagnoses).

Most of the pain problems we see in clinical practice have been given structural or biomechanical labels.

Yet, often neither changes when the pain resolves.

Or on the other hand, many people walk around with these structural or biomechanical changes and experience no pain.

She is very comfortable with simply calling something “pain”, treating it conservatively and if it improves, not pursuing it further (she will refer for investigations if it doesn’t and she suspects pathology).

DNM: Just Another Acronym?

Manual therapy is full of acronyms and techniques.

Does DNM bring anything different to the table?

Yes.

DNM isn’t about the techniques, which are lovely, but often just rebadged osteopathic techniques.

DNM is about the clinical reasoning process in manual therapy.

It is about considering the role of the nervous system in pain.

It is about understanding what we can affect with manual therapy (nerves, the most excitable tissue in the body), and what we can’t (muscles, fascia and joints – at least not directly).

DNM was the first approach to manual therapy I came across that not only considered the skin (the only thing we can touch), but the physiology and potential therapeutic effects of treating the skin.

There are no rules for DNM techniques – it’s jazz, not classical music.

It’s not copyrighted.

It’s not a business.

It’s simply one woman’s interpretation of the literature on pain, physiology and manual therapy.