WORDS MATTER…the language you use and the claims you make are more important than ever. With the internet at our fingertips, there is a wealth of information available BUT also misinformation.

So I’m not going to talk about the obvious anti-vax propaganda here but actually in more simple terms, with claims about the body and exercise. When we talk to colleagues or clients we need to think first; what are we actually stating as fact and are we using sweeping generalisations?! I’m a fan of plain speaking and direct language but on top of that we need to make sure we are being understood. It irritates the hell out of me when people reply to invitations with “I might try to make it” when what you mean is “no thank you”. Just irritating, say what you mean and everyone knows where we stand! In the same vein, I make sure I’m not using too much technical language when explaining things to my clients if they haven’t asked for it, and always follow up by asking “does that make sense to you”? I’m also not afraid to say “I don’t know” when I don’t! 

My partner speaks amazingly fluently in English even though it’s not his first language but sometimes misunderstandings can cause problems because of our understanding of the words we use or the framing of our thoughts.

So back to work-related matters… I saw an ad for a teacher training course recently and challenged a claim that “exercise prevents future cancers”. It may seem like something that you have seen before but what would an average person understand by this? The OP clarified that what she meant was that, quite correctly, exercise reduces the risk of cancer BUT it certainly cannot prevent it happening altogether which is what was literally being said. This difference is crucial.

When treating someone with a disc injury, we need to stop using terms like “slipped” or “gone”. This issue is also not diagnosed from anything other than a scan. You absolutely cannot be 100% sure what’s happening without one, so I encourage people to say “it’s likely that…” or “it’s possible that…” until we know!! I’m seeing someone this week who was “diagnosed” with this apparently just from the GP touching their back!! This person then stopped exercising believing that this was the case and thought that because it’s uncomfortable, resting it was best in the absence of any proper medical care.

When exercising, we need to stop spouting anatomical nonsense (I’m looking at you too #yoga teachers!). Twisting movements DO NOT “wring out the lungs” and you do not need to flex an ankle to “protect the knee”. Telling people they need to do certain things to “protect” an area suggests that failure to do so will cause huge damage!! Like suggesting a SIJ can be dislocated by not enough abdominal engagement in a little up-dog, it’s absolute madness. Yes, this was something I’ve had said to me as if I’M the crazy one and don’t even get me started about some of the rubbish I’ve heard about not laying on your back/right hand side when pregnant… tut.

The same with working with chronic conditions, not everyone has the same symptoms or needs. Another comment I challenged recently was an assertion that “people with AS should only do very limited and gentle spinal rotation”. Well that’s bollocks (I didn’t say….!) but I did ask why they thought that. It came down to only personal experience in the patients they had worked with BUT it’s just an incorrect generalisation. What they could have said was “the people I have seen struggled with rotation”. That would be fair enough but to make a statement about the condition that doesn’t apply to everyone may make people fearful of certain movements if a ‘professional’ said to be careful! WORDS MEAN THINGS!

Anyway, if you are new to a practice or have an injury then, yes, you need careful instruction, maybe some specialist help and supervised rehab. We don’t need scary, inflammatory language which makes people feel fragile, generalisations or misinformation. Make sure you can explain yourself and back up those claims!