Amazing Day spent exploring drivers of movement dysfunction…

 In Classes

We all have amazing days, and I had one recently which I thought I would share.

Pilates and the introduction of the ISM approach

Several years ago Jenny, a talented physiotherapist who taught a course at my studio in Poole introducing me to the concept of ‘drivers’ of dysfunction in relation to specific movements or ‘tasks’, and it changed how I thought about my clients and how I corrected them. Was it possible that if I corrected a part of the body which was not a ‘driver’ in that movement, that I could create another torsion between the actual ‘driver’ and what I was correcting? To give an example of this as it relates to the teaching of Pilates have you ever corrected your clients feet in footwork and then felt the need to then correct up the chain as correcting the feet made the knees roll in or a pelvis lift? It is possible that the feet are not the ‘driver’ for this movement pattern so, if this happens, you may be fighting the body in that movement. As a Pilates therapist and someone who feels the need to keep learning I know I have gaps in my knowledge and assessment capabilities, so I asked Jenny if she would consider mentoring me through areas that I did not know which include cranial work, visceral, and better assessment of individual rib rings.

She said yes and now I have the great privilege of being mentored her with the blessing of Diane Lee. Jenny was the first physio in the Uk to have qualified as an Integrated Systems Method (ISM) practitioner with Diane and her then partner Linda Joy Lee. The ISM is a method developed and taught by Diane (a world-renowned physiotherapist) from Canada and Linda Joy Lee (another amazing physiotherapist) who dared to look beyond the point of pain and started to look more closely to determine what was causing the issues their patients were experiencing. The ISM system seeks to resolve the cause, or the driver of their dysfunction referred to failed load transfer. Simply put it is a whole body approach just like Pilates.

The ISM method assesses the whole body to try and identify what ‘drives’ a dysfunction during a specific ‘task’. The definition of a task would be a particular movement such a stand to sit, or taking a step. The task also relates to how our brains have one strategy for one movement and a completely different strategy for another movement. When assessing clients, it is possible to see many torsions and dysfunctions. The ISM theory is that for each relevant task there is a specific ‘driver’ or issue that once addressed influences all the other dysfunctions in a positive way. The body is too integrated and connected for there to be disorganisation without reason.

The driver in the context of ISM is task-specific so that the body can have multiple drivers for different tasks. A task is determined by the individual and their symptoms, and it is something that is meaningful for them. A simple example would be someone whose symptom is back pain that comes on after walking. For this individual, the meaningful task for them would be walking, and this is further broken down to taking a step so a step forward becomes the task used to assess where the driver may be.

We spent my amazing day assessing my Pilates clients alongside Jenny. I chose clients I felt I was either struggling with or that were interesting. I was not let down, and by the end of the day, Jenny ad myself had identified several cranial drivers, one visceral driver and several rib drivers as well. She talked me through the placement of my hands and through various techniques, and we were able to make noticeable changes to those individuals by correcting their drivers related to their task that either caused them pain or movements they found difficult. We went through the day without a break, and I was mentally and physically exhausted but extremely excited by my new knowledge.

Upcoming 2 day course with Jenny Cardew May 5-4, 2019.

She has been given Diane’s blessing to run another weekend course for me next year. If you are a Pilates Therapist or a manual therapist and are interested in learning the foundations of drivers of issues in the body join Jenny on this two-day course to be held in my studio in Ferndown, Dorset May 4th and 5th 2019.

You can request to book this course by emailing us at

Hope to see you there I guarantee a couple of amazing days.

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