Is physiotherapy a ponzi scheme?

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I bought the book How To Become A Supply Leopard by mobility expert Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD to try and undo all the damage I’ve done to my body from gruelling sports and too many years of working on a laptop.

Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance
  • Kelly Starrett, Glen Cordoza
  • Publisher: Victory Belt Publishing
  • Edition no. 0 (04/23/2013)

This wasn’t by choice, is was by necessity as it got to the point where my body wouldn’t let me sit down any longer. I felt trapped inside a tight postural box and didn’t know how to get out.

What I did know, on past experience, was that seeking external help was not going to save me. Over the last decade I’ve paid thousands of pounds to three physiotherapists, one chiropractor and one cranial osteopath that only made my problems worse. So how did all this start?

I’ve always been active, playing tons of racket sports as a kid and into skateboarding and in-line skating, snowboarding and skiing. In 2005 I got into what’s called slide skateboarding which is a downhill discipline where you get your hands on the ground to create a slide which brakes and steers – it’s pretty grueling, putting almost all your weight onto an externally locked out arm. Check out the video below.

From this I developed acute tendinitis and it hurt to move my arm but rather than using heat or compression to deal with the swelling (which I didn’t know about at the time) I just tried to let it heal naturally. It didn’t and I resulted in having numbness in my fingers and a burning sensation in my elbow that kept me up at night. I went to see my first physiotherapist who said that I had a ‘sloppy shoulder’ and that I needed to do strengthening exercises. She sent my on my way with a powerstretch band and some exercises to do. This didn’t work.

I then went to a second physiotherapist who said that I had ‘stretched my nerve’ and that I needed to free up the nerve sheath by stretching my arm out. That made it worse. I then went to a third physio who asked me to straighten my elbow fully and I realised I couldn’t. He said that I needed to prepare myself for the likelihood of developing acute arthritis in old age and that I should come back for more sessions.

I was left having to try and figure out what the hell was going on. I was 26 at the time and there was no way I was putting up with that prognosis. I put my left arm up against the wall and realised I couldn’t rotate internally (clockwise) – it just wouldn’t go. I had lost either the motor control or my internal rotator muscles (none of this I knew at the time) had shut off. I stared at my arm and willed my shoulder to rotate until it finally woke up and did, a very bizarre experience. I went back to the third physio to see his reaction and he was stunned.

So what the hell is going on here? Do physiotherapists not understand the complex ‘system of systems’ as Kelly puts it or are they just trying to do enough for you to return, promising you incremental improvements for £30 a time? None of them looked at the relationship between my wrist, elbow and shoulder. Nor did any look for any tight tissue that could be limiting shoulder range. In fact one of them didn’t even give me his full attention, taking on two patients at once to presumably maximise revenue, walking between rooms.

According to google search, a ponzi scheme is ‘a form of fraud in which belief in the success of a non-existent enterprise is fostered by the payment of quick returns to the first investors from money invested by later investors’.

In my experience, physiotherapists are non-mobility enterprises propped up on the quick payment for mediocre returns by a larger and larger pool of unsatisfied customers.

Thanks to Kelly’s book I’ve now figured out how to get out of my short range of movement. I’ve freed up my sticky first rib with the end of a broom, unglued the rest of my ribs by smashing through my intercostal muscles with a hard ball, smashed through my thoracic spine with a hard roller mat to get flexibility back and smashed through my anterior shoulder (pecs) to restore glide to my overhead movement. This has given me back full external rotation in my rotator cuff which means that my shoulders can now sit down at the back of the socket where they should rather than at the front where they are for most deskbound people. The upshot is I’m feeling a ton better and more relaxed.

In the modern world we live in a shoulder forward, internally rotated position, sitting at a desk, driving, texting, eating sitting down. And don’t get me started on sitting, I really do agree that it’s the next smoking.

It’s been a liberating and enlightening process. You don’t need others to heal yourself, only someone to show you the way.

Last update on 2019-08-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

About the Author Jeff Brushie

On a lifelong mission to unbreak myself :)

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