History of the chains method
From the first years of private practice, I was confronted with demands from athletes requiring precise diagnostics and rapid results.
Mézières Training with Françoise Mézières and Philippe Souchard.
Both of these training programmes, osteopathy and Mézières, while pursued in parallel, gave rise to a certain polarisation. Were we to caricaturise them, we might say that, Mézières was “all about muscle,” while osteopathy during that time was “all about articulations.”
Although the teachers from both camps were remarkable, their respective propositions were tangential at best.
Mézières could not bear to speak of problems that were not related to muscles while the osteopaths tended to disdain them.
Nevertheless, the bright side to such sectarian attitudes was that the teachers in these programmes they strove to substantiate their logic and practice.
Let us now review the programmes concerning the muscular chain during that period.
• The posterior chain. Mézières
Historically, Françoise Mézières was the first physiotherapist to develop work on chains. Her proposition was decisive. She is the “mother” of several methods deriving from her teachings.
Mézières proposed solely a rear chain extending from head to toe. This rear chain was limited to extensor muscles. The other muscles were left out of her presentation and her writings. Yet, observing how she worked, we could see that she intuitively went much further, treating the muscles of the rear level as well. A pioneer on this treatment path, her theoretical assertions lagged behind her practice.
• The Struyf-Denys muscular and articular chains.
Subsequently, a colleague, Godelieve Struyf-Denys, proposed a more complete organisation with several chains that she called = the muscular and articular chains.
The meridians of Chinese medicine provided a support for her. She selected the muscles of her chains according to the pathway of the meridians. The great virtue of this proposition was in broadening the scope of the study of chains by proposing for the first time posterior as well as anterior chains. Yet upon closer analysis of her proposition, I was unable to fully adhere to her ideas due to issues surrounding anatomical and physiological coherency.
• Souchard’s Global postural re-education – GPR.
During this same period, Philippe Souchard had to set himself apart from the Mézières method. He advanced his own method that he called GPR. As with the others methods cited, it is interesting, yet its overall coherency is not fully apparent.
I decided to develop courses on:
• the organisation and treatment of muscular chains that I first designated as Myotensive Axes, and,
• the organisation and treatment of the skull.
The Director of Studies was quite surprised by this choice, given the opacity of the relationship between the muscles and the skull. Yet this choice arose from the certitude that I had acquired that the skull is an integral part of the body which must be intimately concerned by the dynamics of chains.
While I was incapable of explaining why in 1979, that was a part of the challenge that I decided I would overcome in the years following:
• revealing the organisation of the muscles in a chains system;
• revealing the relation between muscular chains and the skull.
To understand my approach, the following observations must be taken into account:
After my training, the functioning of the human body governed by a system of muscular chains became abundantly clear. Dissatisfied with the ideas advanced by my colleagues, I could not content myself with simply criticising – I had to find and propose another model.
There is a striking, most fearsome moment prior to undertaking such a mammoth task that all writers have experienced. Writer’s block, staring into a pad of blank sheets of paper. Realising that, with a blank sheet of paper, one is free to write whatever catches one’s fancy, I knew I had to avoid getting lost in intellectual endeavours.
For the purpose was not to make yet another new personnalised proposal.
The project was the following: “if chains really exist, it is only through the full respect of anatomy that we should bring their existence to light.”
It was a simple question of “reading anatomy.”
We thus assert that chains are ultimately, “the pleonasm of functional anatomy.”
In order to unveil the chains, we needed an access code, a compass, so as not to get lost. I found such a compass in a book entitled, “Motor Coordination” (Coordination Motrice, Ed. Masson) by Piret and Bézier (two Belgian women physiotherapists). In this book, the authors speak of a muscular organisation built on a straight system and a crossed system. This principle triggered something within me and I rushed to try to confirm whether the muscular organisation was a natural part of these longitudinal (straight) and oblique (crossed) lines.
It was indeed a revelation to discover that muscles are linked together in such circuits in perfect continuity of direction and level.
The details and the originalities of anatomy find their simple justification in the “functional linkage” of muscles. Some muscles thus reveal their true role.
Yet another anecdote: in moments of suffering acute writer’s block and haunted by the spectre of failing to defend my intellectual hypothesis, I chose to “provoke anatomy” by extending the direction of the chain onto areas I had not yet analysed.
Then I thought, “if the chain system exists, anatomy must confirm the continuity of the pathway by having muscles that ensure the exact extension.” This premise was confirmed at every step.
From head to toe, this “compass” has never disappointed me. Even the muscles in the eyes as well as the muscles for temporo-mandibular articulation fit perfectly within these circuits.
During this research period, it was by pure serendipity that I had the opportunity to treat a series of high-level athletes who had received some rather grim diagnoses.
These different challenges made me plunge even deeper yet into the analysis and treatment of chains to be able to demonstrate the different problems that had arisen among these international players. My office had become a true laboratory for testing my ideas.
Meanwhile, preparing my courses required that I clarify my know-how. I now realise that ever since that time an on going synergy has developed between my practice and my teaching activities, with each one nurturing the other.
Teaching requires the greatest clarity, precision and legitimacy possible. The course must be backed up by supports which impose rigour by their construction, practice and writings.
To ensure the continued existence of the logic of this development, it quickly became necessary to organize these ideas into books so that these new propositions would not be deformed or misunderstood. Further, writing a book is a new step towards the truth and honesty, in which we expose all of the facets of our proposition, while exposing the book to the criticism of our colleagues. It is a necessary passage if we are to see if the work is “on the right track” or if it will “stand the test of time.”
As I write these lines in 2011 and after a professional review, the eight written works on chains have passed the test with flying colours.
Meanwhile, the treatment of some patients in my practice led me to discover the programming of highly aberrant chains, as with for example in the case of scoliosis, thoracic deformations, antalgic postures, adhesive capsulitis, deflection of the knee, subluxated patellas, club foot, modified foot arches, etc.
What logic was behind these deformations? What logic could explain this apparent anarchy of muscle tension? Did we have to content ourselves with wanting to straighten out deformations that often resisted? The trauma cases could be readily understood. The others, however, all the chronic cases, these were more obscure.
Wanting to “straighten out the patient” is part of an authoritative approach and relatIvely “blind.” The postures resulting from this strategy call for elongation and/or stretching. These are powerful postures intended for making the muscles “release.”
Prior to attempting to straighten or balance a static position, the most important question looming is, “Why doesn’t the patient have a good static posture?” There is always a reason.
I realised that you cannot simply tell the patient, “your spinal column hurts because you have poor posture. I will straighten you out,” because, if a patient’s static posture is very disturbed, they have in reality adopted the “most ingenious and intelligent static posture for dealing with their internal problems.”
“We acquire the static posture that we can, not the one we want,” (Dr Patrick Tepe).
Hence the work carried out in order to uncover the, “deal,”the relationships existing between the muscular chains and the visceral organisation.
It was growing ever clearer to me that the visceral level (intra-cavity) could govern any chain when it is the seat of tensions or suffering.
This new stage led me to understand the nature of cavities.
The “container-content” relationship became obvious. It was the support for in-depth development of the chains method. “Container-musculoskeletal-visceral content.” By extension, the “container-content” relationship applies to the psychosomatic relationship that is actually a psycho-viscero-somatic relationship. Tensions arising at the psychological level penetrate the body through the visceral level to finally somatise on the musculoskeletal level.
Let there be no mistake, our skill is situated solely at the level of manual treatment of structural somatic tensions. Tension released from musculoskeletal and visceral chains will logically have repercussions at the psychological level. Thus freed from somatic tensions, the patient will derive greater benefit from the treatment through analysis and restructuration performed by the psychologist or psychiatrist.
As Director of the College of Osteopathy, I realised the need to provide instruction on training programmes concerning chains in an independent setting where I would be able to create all the necessary conditions for developing the Method.
During this period, I invited a friend, Bernard Pionner to join me. We share a similar background, having completed our osteopathy studies the same year as well as the Mézières training during the same period.
Having shown him the new developments in the method, he immediately wanted to take part in the training programme. Since then, we have continuously worked as a team. Over the years, some forty teachers have joined us.
Establishing the relationship with the visceral chain.
The relationships between the musculoskeletal system and the visceral system were clearly defined. Yet we still had to structure the visceral practice so that it would respect the same logic and coherency of the chains method.
Michèle Busquet-Vanderheyden deserves the credit for this major development in the Method. It was she who developed the description, the examination and the treatment of the visceral chain.
First of all, at the level of the cavities: abdomino-pelvic (volume 6-2004).
This was followed by, at the level of the cavities: thorax-throat-mouth (volume 7-2008).
In the course of our daily discussions in the office, during treatments, in class, when writing our books – all of these moments form the basis of our observations and of the synopses we need to foster the development by emphasising, “just common sense.”
Joint biomechanics, in its different compensations, can only be understood when we ponder the restrictive influences of the visceral chain.
The propositions dealing strictly with joints at the pelvic level, in the spine and lower limb now appear obsoletes. This calling into question proposed by the Method is a manifestation of the integration of the visceral chain into the musculoskeletal organisation.
Integration of the neurovascular chain.
This is a natural part of the concept of chains that displays its very own functional requirements.
I became aware that the remarkable work of our Australian colleague, Buttler, was above all concerned with the treatment of peripheral neuromeningism, but he had not developed the primary parts of this chain, i.e., the neuromeningial intra-cavity visceral chain and the central neuromeningeal chain at the cranial level.
Developments in the Method regarding the visceral chain and the skull facilitated a pragmatic approach to these major areas.
Since the meningeal structure is always accompanied by the vascular structure (the vasculo-nervous bundle) this neuromeningeal chain was called the neurovascular chain.
Yet, on going development of a method must not lead to its dilution. A method naturally evolves towards a better synthesis inasmuch as it scrupulously respects anatomy and physiology.
Great maturity acquired over many years was required prior to being able to approach paediatrics. Some remarkable work was done by Michèle Busquet-Vanderheyden. The bases found in volume 8 provide practitioners with the keys that unlock the secrets of the logic underlying infant treatment.
The author offers training in the presence of a paediatrician and a psychologist. It shall certainly boost progress in the years to come in this field where ultimately, babies leave no margin for error. They require nothing less than excellence on the part of the practitioner.