Dr. Sean Wheeler back pain expertBack Pain Expert Dr. Sean WheelerOliver Finlay is an accomplished sports performance professional, a highly educated and chartered physiotherapist with over 16 years in top-tier national and international sport, supporting elite players and coaches in achieving the highest levels of athletic success.

Based in Edinburgh, Finlay has worked with Olympic Medal winners and world champions, in addition to championship and cup winning teams, with a client roster including Team Great Britain, including during the 2012 Olympic Games, Scottish Rugby UnionPittsburgh SteelersNew York Giants, and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

Given their mutual interest in sports medicine and human performance, Finlay recently reached out to sports medicine and back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler, to discuss Dr. Wheeler's new book UPRISE, soon to be published in the United States.

"We struck up a conversation regarding a book [Dr. Wheeler] has been writing over the last seven years.

Dr. Sean Wheeler is one of those guys you wished you had known for years, had the chance to collaborate with, bounce ideas around with & learn from during subsequent conversations.  

Even in his emails, a passion for the work he has immersed himself in resonates loudly & his vocabulary is a refreshing music to the ears of those that work in the rehabilitation battlefield.

I can’t wait to read his book UPRISE, once you read the interview Sean kindly agreed to do with me, I think you might understand why."

During an exclusive interview in which Dr. Wheeler describes why he wants to change the way the world treats back pain, he shares the thinking behind UPRISE and what he hopes to achieve:

OLIVER FINLAY: How do you hope that the approach to treatment in the [low back pain] field could develop over the next ten years in light of the work you are doing?

DR. SEAN WHEELER: I hope to reframe everything that is being done in spinal research. The entire field has been built upon the flawed idea that discs just break down. We have to change that fundamental belief.

I hope to change musculoskeletal medicine with the idea that, in addition to the back, there are five other areas in your body that have to be stable and weaken quickly: the neck, shoulders, hips, ankles and feet. Subsequently, when you get an injury that lasts for more than five days, you must not only address the injury, but also address the muscles that stabilize that area.

For example, I hope to change the way we view the chairs our kids sit in. The posture we accept in our children. The fundamental strengthening of our children as they grow to prevent future back pain, neck pain, knee and hip arthritis, among other things.

Read the full interview for more insights behind the coming revolution—the revolution in medical care for low back pain.

Published in Dr. Sean Speaks

Tiger Woods getty imagesTiger Woods For the third time in his past nine tournaments, Tiger Woods withdrew from further play due to back pain.

Woods made it to the green on his 12th hole of the first round at Torrey Pines North Course before withdrawing from the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open.

As reported by CBS Sports, Woods described his difficulty:

"It's just my glutes are shutting off. Then they don't activate and then ... it goes into my lower back. So, I tried to activate my glutes as best I could, in between, but they just never stayed activated." [emphasis ours]

Woods also says about the Masters in April:

"The whole idea is to make sure that I'm ready for Augusta, so I got a lot of rounds to play between now and then. That's what we're building for..."

Based on how Woods publicly describes his physical condition, ready to compete for The Masters championship he will not be.

Here's why.

Glutes are your butt muscles. They are a key component of your body's power center, as they unleash the strength of surrounding muscle. They're especially important for athletes, because hip extension is a primary source of explosion in many sports, including golf.

To fully understand what Woods is today experiencing, 10 months ago at age 38 Woods had a lumbar microdiscectomy, a surgical procedure of the low back to address a pinched nerve, a source of pain for several months.   

With this context, Woods' explanation of why his glutes would "shut off" and not "activate", telegraphs that Woods misunderstands the orchestration of his body, according to sports medicine and back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler.

Dr. Wheeler, who knows the stresses the sport can place on the body, counts among his former patients Byron Nelson, for whom he served as physician for a brief time during 2005-06.

Dr. Wheeler offers this perspective on Woods' pain difficulties:

"With Woods, if his gluteus muscles will not fire and contract, there is an unexpected reason for his pain rather than "my glutes won't activate."

The likely answer is that his glutes are fatigued, in other words, they are incapable of contracting properly."

For an iconic athlete as vibrant and physically strong in so many ways as Tiger Woods, how is this possible? After all, Woods hits the gym often for strength training, with an obsession for weightlifting.

Dr. Wheeler explains:

"For Tiger Woods, as with most everyone athlete or no, the answer to solving his pain woe is counterintuitive

Strength training will NOT improve his recurring low back pain problem.

Instead, based on the pain he describes, Woods should redirect his efforts to circulation training®.

Circulation training, rather than strength training, is needed to improve the endurance of his gluteus muscles, which we label bracing muscles®."

Why is circulation training necessary, and what is it?

The answer should prompt us all to unlearn what we know—and what we believe—about our bodies and back pain, letting go of our assumptions to learn a new way of thinking about pain, in particular low back pain. 

Dr. Wheeler offers a primer revealing the answer:

"Bracing muscles, compared to what we label action muscles®, each perform as their name implies.

Action muscles move—they prompt action—wherever located within your body.

Bracing muscles stabilize—they brace—without moving the body structure they are intended to support whether, for example, your spine, neck, or feet continually throughout the day

Each of these two types of human muscle offer different performance characteristics requiring different care throughout one's lifetime.  

Action muscles are maintained and, if desired, made even stronger through strength training, by use of movement and resistance.

In contrast, as bracing muscles provide all-day stabilization, they require the constant flow of energy achieved through blood flow. Maintaining this blood flow to the low back and gluteus bracing muscles, through circulation training, becomes ever more important as these muscles must maintain their endurance—and bracing capability—as blood flow naturally begins to decrease to our spinal discs as we age, typically in our mid-30s. 

The differences come into sharp relief: 

"Strength training is about pumping iron and building muscle mass for action muscle power. 

Circulation training is about pumping blood for bracing muscle endurance."

Every human being needs both strength training and circulation training for a healthy, sustained life.

Yet, in today's medicine, too often circulation training is overlooked and the obvious benefits not embraced—by physicians, health insurance carriers, and patients. 

Bracing muscle endurance is the single most important key to achieving freedom from back pain, pointing to the counterintuitive answer of how Tiger Woods can be liberated from his chronic low back pain:

Rather than strength, Woods must build endurance in his bracing muscles—those of his low back and his glutes.

For the lumbar spine and gluteus bracing muscles to contract—and brace—they must possess ample endurance.

The importance of the gluteus bracing muscles is that they stabilize the hip. If these muscles fatigue, the hip is unstable. 

psoas-musclePsoas MuscleIF these bracing muscles lack endurance, action muscles spring into—what else?—action, to compensate for non-performing gluteus and low back bracing muscles. As Woods' nearby action muscles—in this instance psoas [soh-uh s] muscles—are likely very strong given his strength training habits, these psoas action muscles attempt to compensate for his lethargic bracing muscles.

Psoas action muscles cross the hip joint, on both sides left and right, and attach to the lumbar/low back region of the spine. Because of where the psoas attach to the low back, when forced to compensate for weakened bracing muscles, psoas action muscles can go into spasm and cause back pain.

Says Dr. Wheeler:

"If the psoas action muscle spasm, the bracing gluteus is unable to contract, as the two muscles compete. The result creates an inescapable, repeating cycle similar to traversing the impossible Penrose stairway; one may ascend or descend the stairs forever yet end up back at the same spot every time.

Fatigued gluteus bracing muscles cause psoas action muscles to spasm which cause the gluteus not to contract, leading to less endurance of the gluteus bracing muscles, repeating the cycle.

Without breaking the cycle, the consequence is sustained low back pain."

But again we are talking Tiger Woods, he with access to the world's best strength training equipment and trainers. Why would his psoas action muscles be forced to compensate for his low back and gluteus bracing muscles?

There could be many reasons, but the most likely is Woods' back surgery of 10 months ago at age 38. 

Woods seeming propensity to focus on strength training benefits his action muscles, yet without sufficient post-operative, restorative circulation training as he ages, Woods' bracing muscles are likely unable to properly perform.

Once one loses endurance in the bracing muscles of the low back, a 180 in 180® is required—a 180 degree refocus in how to care for your back—requiring 180 days to unlearn what you think you know about your body and low back pain, and to develop the good habits needed to restore bracing muscle endurance.

Woods must give himself adequate time which, depending upon his schedule and focus, could be as much as 180 days to restore his low back and gluteus bracing muscle endurance.

Knowing what he means to the world of golf, we trust Woods returns to form soon, after his low back and gluteus bracing muscle endurance is restored.

[Tiger Woods image credit: Getty Images, Source: CBS Sports]

Published in NEWS + DISCUSSION

Watch as sports medicine and back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler introduces a new medical termBracing Muscles — and why understanding the function and care of your Bracing Muscles is so important in the treatment of chronic back pain, and how caring for them properly achieves back pain emancipation.

Based on an examination and critique of established medical practice, Dr. Sean Wheeler's new bookUPRISE, offers a new understanding of the body as the finely tuned instrument it is – as not only your body, but as your Body Guitar, and a medical innovation to achieve back pain emancipation.

Bracing muscles located in your low back play a crucial role in this emancipation, to assist you in reaching pain freedom.

Dr. Wheeler's new understanding of treating chronic low back pain required the creation of new labels in aid of understanding. A glossary of this new terminology appears here.

Published in Dr. Sean Speaks

Dr. Sean Wheeler back pain expertDr. Sean WheelerSports medicine and back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler has long been obsessed with pain. How pain, and its absence, affects behavior, competitiveness, and quality of life.

Drawing upon more than a decade of specialized training, patient treatment and medical experience, Dr. Wheeler came to a breakthrough realization of how to effectively treat patients with chronic low back pain.

This realization is the topic of his soon-to-be published book UPRISE.

In his own words from UPRISE, Dr. Wheeler describes his moment of realization:  

A year or two after finishing my pain management fellowship and while practicing sports medicine, I was slated to give a lecture to a large group of physical therapists one weekend.

In preparation for this lecture, I was poring over research papers when I came across an article that caught my eye. It wasn’t the main point of the article that caught my attention; it was an aside that piqued my interest—how most people develop a lack of blood flow to the lumbar spinal discs in the vertebrae by age 35.

This fact gave me pause. It stuck with me, and for the rest of the week I found myself returning to that article. I couldn’t get it out of my head. It kept me up at night. One thing in particular was bothering me: why was there no blood flow to the discs? There had to be a reason the disc was set up this way. After all, there’s no part of the human body that is supposed to move that doesn’t get great blood flow.

I was mulling this over in the car on my way home from the office one night. It was maybe nine o’clock in the evening, and after a long day at work I was fatigued. Maybe it was something about being fatigued and having trouble seeing the road—the contrast between the headlights and the darkness was hard on my eyes—that put me in a trance and allowed me to think more clearly, but something clicked. 

It was suddenly so clear. The discs. The reason discs don’t get ample blood flow is because they aren’t supposed to move.

The problem isn’t that they move too much in some people—it is that they move at all. The lack of blood flow to the discs indicates they are supposed to remain stable. That is what separates those with discs that break down and those with discs that don’t—the former are unstable because the discs are moving.

Moving discs also mean that the discs are heating up. Anything that moves heats up. The parts of your body that move also have blood flow to take that heat away. If there is no blood flow, you can’t take the heat away, and the disc breaks down.

This was my Aha! moment—almost a spiritual realization—that forever changed my thinking about back pain.

And how to effectively treat it. 

Read more soon in Dr. Wheeler's new book UPRISE, or reserve your advance copy at the link.

Published in Dr. Sean Speaks

Shelley Lewis PTShelley L. Lewis, MS, PT Shelley L. Lewis, P.T., is a Director of Physical Therapy, overseeing a staff of 16 physical therapists at four outpatient clinics in greater Kansas City. Early in life Lewis realized how much she loved the study of human anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, a love later pointing to her career. 

With over two decades of experience in treating patients with pain, Lewis has this to say about sports medicine and back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler, and Dr. Wheeler's soon-to-be-published book, UPRISE:

In UPRISE, Dr. Sean Wheeler changes the way we look at back pain and musculoskeletal pain. As physical therapists, there has never been "one way" to treat back pain, but often we traditionally focused on 4-6 weeks of stretches, strengthening, and modalities. Instead, Dr. Wheeler focuses on incorporating long-term stabilization into functional activities and sport.

As a result, the diagnosis has changed, the prognosis has changed, even the vocabulary we use with our patients has changed. For example, we now speak of Bracing Muscles in need of Circulation Training. There is no more "core".

This refreshing physical therapy-centered model relies not only upon sports medicine and pain management doctors, but encourages collaboration with other healthcare professionals to offer the patient a period of pain relief, which then allows us to begin the stabilization—or Circulation Training—process. UPRISE offers a fundamental shift in the mind-set of treating back pain sure to impress and influence patients, medical providers, and healthcare insurance carriers worldwide.

Lewis received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology—Exercise Science from the University of Nebraska, and was awarded her Masters of Science degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Kansas Medical Center School of Professions. 

Building on earlier praise for UPRISE from experts such as the alpha doc to professional athletes Dr. James Andrews, Hall of Fame Coach Bill Snyder, credited as Architect of the Greatest Turnaround in College Football History, award-winning Television Writer and Producer Lynne Litt, and Dr. Marc Valley, who advocates that the healthcare industry — from medical insurance providers to doctors themselves — become familiar with its teachings, UPRISE will soon add a powerful new understanding to the medical treatment of chronic back pain.

Look for Dr. Sean Wheeler's new book UPRISE soon, and reserve your advance copy at the link.

Published in Praise for UPRISE

RosietheriveterWith the advent of each new year, many of us make resolutions to improve our lives and careers. The most common of these typically involve health-related goals such as losing weight. The next most common might be a goal to advance one's career.

While we tend to separate career goals from health goals, in reality there is overlap. If setting career goals, then you may want to think about getting healthier too. Why? Because new evidence suggests healthy-looking individuals are perceived as better leaders, even over intelligent-looking people, according to this report in the Harvard Business Review:

The evidence comes from a study led by Brian Spisak at VU University of Amsterdam and published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. The study asked participants to judge leadership potential by looking at faces. Why examine our reactions to faces? Because they lead us to make snap judgments about other people.

To quote the paper, “Qualities such as facial femininity can have a significant impact on who followers endorse as a leader in different situations because these visual signals can serve as a proxy for latent behavioral potential.” Facial femininity, for example, can signal tendencies to befriend or collaborate. Likewise, perceived age can be used to estimate wisdom or experience. 

And how is good health manifested in one's facial appearance? 

As acknowledged in WebMD, if you are among those suffering from low back pain you know the effect is more than physical. Chronic back pain can profoundly effect your mood, and just about every other part of your life:

"Chronic pain is something that interferes with every aspect of daily living. You can't concentrate -- you can't remember things as well. It affects your appetite, it affects your sleep," says Robert N. Jamison, PhD, associate professor in the Departments of Anesthesia and Psychiatry at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston.

People in constant pain may worry they won't be able to work or go about their daily activities. With all of that stress, "It makes sense that people get depressed, anxious, and irritable," Jamison says.

In other words, unhealthy and un-leaderlike.

Back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler sees the effect of back pain upon his new patients every week. Which is why he set out to apply new thinking to old medicine.

The result is his soon-to-be-published book UPRISE, which will soon add a powerful new understanding to the treatment of back pain. For leaders, and everyone.

In this excerpt from UPRISE, Dr. Wheeler points to your right to reclaim your inner rock star:

Have you ever sat near a really good musician while they  are performing and been blown away by their artistry? You feel pulled in, transported to another place by the music they are able to produce, the feeling they are somehow greater than themselves because of the emotion and passion they are able to share with their audience.

We all have this power. Our inner rock star.

Maybe this power is demonstrated in how we do perform in our work, in a goal we set for ourselves, or the way we treat others, which inspires others to be better than themselves. One person can change the world, but it is so much more difficult when your life is out of tune, when your lumbar spine, your back, your Body Guitar®, does not allow you to pluck the strings of your life song.

Achieve back pain liberation and reclaim your inner rock star, to achieve your uprise.

Learn how soon, in the showered with advance praisenew book UPRISE.

[Image from Networked Leadership]

Published in Medical Research

Kansas State University Coach Bill SnyderKansas State University Coach Bill Snyder With the College Football Playoff complete and the 2015 National Championship game now entered into sports history, another significant story emerged during the week's run-up to the Championship Game, centered on Kansas State University Head Football Coach Bill Snyder, now Hall of Fame Coach Bill Snyder.

Snyder, selected for the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame Induction Class of 2015, is credited as The Architect of the Greatest Turnaround in College Football History, demonstrated in this video presentation prepared by the Kansas State University Athletics Department.

As another Hall of Fame football coach, Barry Switzer, once stated about Bill Snyder: 

"He's not the coach of the year, he's not the coach of the decade, he's the coach of the century."

With a meticulous approach to his craft and his 16 goals for success, Coach Snyder continues to impact the lives of his student-athletes and so many more.

Here's what newly inducted Hall of Fame Coach Bill Snyder says about Dr. Sean Wheeler, and Dr. Wheeler's soon to be published book UPRISE:

“Coaching Sean as a student-athlete in our football program at Kansas State University allowed me great insight into his capabilities. This very precise, well-written, and passionate book, written for the benefit of others, does not surprise me. UPRISE is meaningful and eye opening.”

Now with Coach Snyder's insights, building on earlier praise for UPRISE from experts such as the alpha doc to professional athletes Dr. James Andrews, award-winning Television Writer and Producer Lynne Litt, and Dr. Marc Valley, who advocates that the healthcare industry — from medical insurance providers to doctors themselves — become familiar with its teachings, UPRISE will soon add a powerful new understanding to the medical treatment of chronic back pain.

Look for Dr. Sean Wheeler's new book UPRISE soon, and reserve your advance copy at the link.

Published in Praise for UPRISE

Body-Guitar-book-F-V4bMarc A. Valley MD, is the respected Medical Director of CIRCE Medical Services in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where his clinical interests include minimally invasive spinal surgery, cancer pain, and neuropathic pain.

Dr. Valley says this in advance of the publishing of UPRISE, a new book by sports medicine and back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler: 

"UPRISE is a wonderful book. Filling an important void in patient education options, it focuses patients on ownership of their condition as well as offering a firm basis for self-directed rehabilitation. I also recommend this book for the practitioner who coordinates patient care as well as insurance caseworkers. UPRISE is an important addition for anyone interested in pain management."

Dr. Valley received his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from the University of California, and was awarded his medical degree from Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California. He is a member of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, the International Spinal Injection Society,  and the International Neuromodulation Society

Following on earlier praise for UPRISE from the alpha doc to professional athletes, Dr. James Andrews, and from award-winning Television Writer and Producer, Lynne Litt — Dr. Wheeler's new book UPRISE will soon add a powerful understanding to the treatment of back pain. 

UPRISE will be published in early 2015. 

Published in Praise for UPRISE

back pain expert Dr Sean WheelerDr. Sean WheelerSports medicine and back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler has long been obsessed with pain. How pain, and its absence, affects behavior, competitiveness, and quality of life.

Drawing upon more than a decade of specialized training, patient treatment and medical experience, Dr. Wheeler has come to a breakthrough realization of how to effectively treat patients with chronic low back pain.

This realization is the topic of his soon-to-be published book UPRISE. The book itself serves as the launch for a larger discussion to prompt effective change within the healthcare industry—among medical practitioners, health insurance providers and those millions each year who suffer from chronic low back pain.

Dr. Wheeler believes so deeply in his realization—his new approach for the treatment of chronic back pain—that he has created an entirely new way to talk, think and take action about back pain. As an aid to prompt a long overdue revolution in chronic back pain treatment.

In his own words, read Dr. Wheeler's Introduction to UPRISE:  

We've had it wrong.

For decades, the healthcare industry has insisted that while they understand chronic back pain, there is no treatment that reliably achieves long-term relief.  For years, I was part of the medical profession that believed, practiced and even preached that understanding. 

As a doctor, I marched in lockstep with my colleagues as I explained the lack of treatments offering permanent relief to patients suffering from chronic low back pain.  Both my colleagues and I saw no other options, beyond repetitive treatments offering varying degree of short-term relief.

After years of treating patients focused with my obsession to understand pain, one night after a long day at my clinic I was alone in my car driving home, puzzling out yet again what was I not seeing.  A whisper in my ear became the inspiration for challenging my long-held assumptions, and those of my colleagues.

From that moment forward, gone was the old way of thinking about the human body.  Gone was the old way of thinking about how to work out, how to move through the day, how to fully live life in our own bodies.  Gone too was the notion that nothing could reliably relieve chronic back pain.  My thinking underwent a dramatic shift.

This book reveals that shift, a fresh way to treat back pain.  This new thinking requires new labels—a new and simple vocabulary—as a prompt in aid of truly understanding your body, to properly care for it, and to see it as a beautiful instrument performing the music of your life, enjoyed by you and by others.

My whisper of realization is the inspiration for a new understanding of your body as the finely tuned instrument with which we are born and grow into—as not only your body, but as your Body Guitar®.  As with any musical instrument, when out of tune the result is often unbearable noise, rather than sweet music.

Also introduced is Tune Me®, the new medical orchestration for your Body Guitar, and the Action Muscles® and Bracing Muscles® controlling your Body Guitar.  

Tune Me is a revolution for you.  A revolution in caring for your lumbar spine, your body, your Body Guitar, to achieve your liberation from chronic back pain.

To achieve liberation, a revolution requires an uprising.

Achieve yours.


Because we now have it right.

Look for Dr. Wheeler's new book UPRISE soon, or reserve your advance copy at the link.

Published in Back Pain Relief

UPRISE: Back Pain Liberation, By Tuning Your Body GuitarSports medicine and back pain expert Dr. Sean Wheeler is not alone in seeking back pain liberation for chronic back pain sufferers.

For example, Dr. Haleh Agdassi, a rehabilitation doctor with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California, sees back and neck pain so frequently among computer users that she refers to the condition as “Silicon Valley syndrome.” 

“There’s no magic bullet out there for back pain,” she says. “That can be overwhelming for patients. It’s an anxious, vulnerable crowd — they’re looking for solutions.”

By one estimate, lower back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In the United States alone, costs relating to the condition are estimated to cost more than $100 billion a year.

In the same story quoting Dr. Agdassi, over a year and a half ago The New York Times wrote of Esther Gokhale, a "posture guru" in the Silicon Valley and author of the book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back.

Ms. Gokhale [pronounced go-CLAY] believes people suffer from pain and dysfunction because they have forgotten how to use their bodies.

As the Times notes, Ms. Gokhale is not the first to suggest that changing posture is key to a healthy spine. Practitioners of the Alexander Technique and the creators of the Aplomb Institute in Paris similarly help clients find more natural and comfortable ways to position themselves. Pilates and physical therapy can improve posture and bring awareness to it. A handful of companies, like Lumo BodyTech, now sell personal posture monitors, offering smartphone users constant feedback about the way they hold their bodies.

In his soon-to-be published book UPRISE, Dr. Wheeler will reveal that while good posture is important to achieve liberation from chronic back pain, true relief for sufferers will come only when medical professionals and healthcare insurors embrace a new way of thinking about about how back pain is caused, and how it may be relieved, for patients everywhere.

The UPRISING begins in early 2015.

Published in Back Pain Relief
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