AIS

Meet your UFIT Coach - Tom Callow

From expat kid to coach of expats

Meet Tom Callow, Head of Community Fitness at the new AIS Community Gym by UFIT,  a great fitness getaway at school, where parents and teachers can do their personal training or bootcamps without having to leave the school grounds (no kids!).  Tom will also be  doing sports coaching for our children, and is really excited to working with the AIS entire community to get us all Fitter, Leaner and Stronger. 

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Tom shares with us his life as an expat kid, how it taught him the value of resilience and bring true to yourself, and his approach to coaching adults and kids. 

Tell us about where you've lived?

My dad's from the UK and my mum is Thai, and I was brought up in Saudi Arabia until the age of 13. From here my family and I moved to Malaysia for a couple years and then to the UK. My dad worked for BAE Systems and was also in the oil and gas industry so we did move around a little.

I found it great to be brought up in these different countries and be immersed in the diverse cultures. You really get a sense of how big the world is and how small you are in comparison.

For me, it left me with itchy feet to travel and work abroad. I believe you learn a lot about yourself from the different experiences you create for yourself and it gives you a better sense of what you want to do.

 
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How do you feel about joining the AIS community?

I’m really excited about it! The environment is great and I feel there is a good energy floating around. Everyone is positive which is always a plus in my book. The better the positivity, the higher everyone lifts each other up. I feel there are some great things to come with my time at AIS.

How did being an expat kid impact you personally and professionally? 

I really enjoyed growing up in international schools as an expat child and am grateful to have had the upbringing in these kinds of environments. There is a certain feel about them which I believe only international school kids really know.

You meet a lot of kids in the same shoes as you and make friends from all over the world, and get to experience a multitude of different cultures and nationalities.

In these schools, you pick up a certain mindset which is more universal. You want to achieve higher standards for yourself. This definitely helped me with who I am today and how I hold myself professionally. I always look to take on the off-beaten track. It’s a challenging new adventure for me.

One different experience when you grow up in these kinds of schools is that they are very much a bubble. Cultures do play a big factor but also it is very different to how a lot of other kids have grown up back home. Being able to adapt to these new environments and really understand who you are and where you come from helps.

 
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Moving back home to the UK had its challenges as it was a new(ish) culture and the bubble I grew up in does not exist there. That bubble we lived in allowed me the freedom to do many things, but sometimes this can be overwhelming as you can be swayed by external factors, like family, friends, new friends and social expectations.

What you may do in one country, may be looked at differently in another. You find yourself changing to suit the environment and social situations you are in, even if may not feel normal. What you want to do, may not be what you really want or what you really want to do. This boasts the question, are you in integrity with yourself? Or do you even know what your integrity is? Interesting questions which you can only answer if you ask yourself the right questions and allow yourself to not be swayed by the external factors.

I know I am not the person I am today without asking those questions.

What philosophies do you apply when you coach?

My background is Strength and Conditioning/ Physical Preparation or Athlete Development. I find that this is truly great for everyone as we are great all-round and well-educated coaches who can help develop someone’s physiological health and wellbeing. I do feel we get a bad reputation, as people who haven’t been in an elite sports environment don’t truly understand what we do or can do. We definitely help in more ways than just making people stronger and fitter.

 
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My spin or how I help coach people I believe is different from other coaches. The physical aspect is only one area in my repertoire. Of course, the physical comes into account and this stems from my past coaching experience.

I like to coach people similar to how I used to train athletes. Progressive, organised and efficient. Of course, this all depends on the needs and ability of whoever I’m coaching.

I try to make our time together fun while getting what they need and what I want from each session. Fundamental movements in a controlled manner whilst minimising risk of injury all while having fun in a spicy workout.

That, along with my dad jokes, what’s not to like?

One of the most over-used clichés in health, fitness and sport is that 90% is mental. The problem I see with this is that 90% of people spend 100% of their time on the physical and fundamental aspects related to their health, fitness and sports journey.

They often neglect and ignore the one area that ultimately separates someone who is successful and someone who is not.

What do you want to bring to the people you coach?

A results-driven approach! But what results are you really after? A person’s behaviour or mindset really intrigues me with whoever I coach. I like to understand why you’re training. Why do you want to look a certain way, perform at an elite level, lose those kilos, tone up, become fitter, stronger and ultimately take on this journey? I usually see people come in for one thing and there is always something else which is the true motivating factor.

 
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The question you need to ask yourself is what is your mission?

Without clarity, there is no conviction. Allowing me to understand your ‘deeper why’ will ultimately help me help you further. Asking these deeper why questions allows me to help someone take their ship with a 360° view and focus on that 1° direction without hitting rocks in shallow waters or get stuck in the currents which will take you off track of hitting your goals.

People make decisions based on their emotional feeling which is then backed up by rational thinking. What tends to happen with this is that if you truly do not know your direction, at some point down the line far or near; you are going to fail. Your subconscious thought process with no clarity will make the decision for you depending on the external factors. And this isn’t just external factors to do with your physical appearance or sporting capacities but this affects your life, family, relationships, work and so on. How you are in one area of your life has a knock-on effect on other areas of your life. If you don’t have that awareness, your actions will not have the effect you’re really looking for. How I am looking to help is to help you recognise when/ if you’re still directionless and looking 360°, then redirect you back to that 1° of direction.

What’s your approach to training adults? What do you like most about training adults?

I enjoy coaching adults. A very early trait I see in every adult is that they are set in their ways already. Not all but most are. People don’t like change unless their way of life is threatened. We’ll look at health or lifestyle in this case.

Many people have a preconceived judgement of you already made up in their mind. How I train adults is to break down these barriers both physically, emotionally and mentally. Having coached both sides of the field has allowed me to pinpoint what people need to work on. I find that the physical really brings this part out of someone. A primal aspect.

From a physical point, it depends on their lifestyle and sporting background. What kind of injuries have you had, what sports did you play and what level? Do you spend most of your time sedentary or have a physical job etc. These factors allow me to have an understanding of where you’re currently at and what I believe is necessary to allow you to look, feel and move well.

 
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I coach from a movement based approach. I have a certain set of principles that make up a holistic approach which can easily be progressed or regressed depending on the person. Usually, no one person is the same so an individual approach works best. Sometimes a small tweak can make a big difference per person.

Emotionally and mentally, if people have true integrity and are held accountable, you force yourself to up-level. That’s what I enjoy about coaching adults. Seeing themselves come together from something they thought wasn’t possible. Physically, emotionally and mentally.

What values will you bring to the kids with their sporting and personal development?

A question I like to ask is have you ever known someone who was just so good at something? Sport or anything else and they were on the path to becoming someone great and someone who inspires people around them? And then they fall short. They don’t make it.

In my years of coaching, I’ve seen a few athletes out of the many who make it to a professional standard. With each of those athletes who did make it, they had one trait which separated them from the rest. This wasn’t how physically, technically or genetically gifted they were.

It’s about mentality. A resilient mindset which doesn’t allow the bad or negative to affect them. The awareness of what is trying to drag them down and the action steps they need to take to make sure they stay on top of themselves.

I see so many kids who need a different level of guidance in a way which isn’t par say the ‘normal route.’ Our challenge is to teach them certain tools which allows them to navigate through all the ups and downs that come with life.

The social, family and school (even work) expectations and to understand what they really want and not what someone else may want them to be. And if they don’t make it? Become the 5% as I like to call it. What then?

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How did you differentiate between teaching kids to adults? And what are the similarities?

The way I teach kids is actually pretty similar to teaching adults. Depending on the age of course. Physically, I look to teach kinesthetic awareness, also known as ‘muscle memory.’

Here we look at FUNdamental movement skill development. Their ABCs or agility, balance, coordination and speed mixed in with general strength and callisthenics (body weight) as an easy way to explain it before moving onto Athletic Motor Skill Development which is basically relearning and refining basic movement patterns.

 
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A few examples are learning the basics of technique gym/bar work, movement preparation, hypertrophy/ strength training, working on specific weaknesses and muscle imbalance correction.

I usually find that while kids pick this up easily, adults have to come back and re-learn these patterns after getting used to a certain way of living. I even found this to be the same with fitness models!

How do you like working with entire families?

I’m really happy to be enmeshed in a family environment. Being able to coach the parents, teachers and kids gives me a whole picture of how the kids are growing up. I’d like to see the same opportunity that was given to me, given to the kids.

I also like to teach some experiences and life lessons from one expat kid to another which is outside of school and elite athlete programmes. Experiences which will aid their development to adulthood. I’m looking to bring a truly holistic approach to AIS.
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17 UFIT highlights of 2017

And just like that, 2017 is done! We're excited about what the new year will bring - but just before moving on, can't help but reflect on what an amazing year 2017 has been.

There have been so many highlights and exciting developments over 2017 - far too many to mention - and here we've chosen just 17. 

We thank our wonderful community of clients, partners and friends for your amazing support and congratulations to all of you on reaching your personal goals and milestones over the year. We have loved working with you and are really excited about getting you Fitter, Leaner Stronger next year.  Stay tuned as we continue to pop up in exciting new places in SG and beyond!

Opening of UFIT Orchard gym, with UFIT's 50 staff

Opening of UFIT Orchard gym, with UFIT's 50 staff

Team UFIT dominates team events  

Team UFIT dominates team events  

Fitness Fest mass workout for 1,000s

Fitness Fest mass workout for 1,000s

England rugby pro Dan Norton coaches UFIT kids

England rugby pro Dan Norton coaches UFIT kids

Launch of UFIT Performance in Hong Kong and Vegas

Launch of UFIT Performance in Hong Kong and Vegas

The expansion of Bootcamps team WeFit

The expansion of Bootcamps team WeFit

UFIT  heavyweights at mass staff workout

UFIT  heavyweights at mass staff workout

Singapore's Fittest CrossFit PT Couple at UFIT

Singapore's Fittest CrossFit PT Couple at UFIT

UFIT appointed in-house LinkedIn gym provider

UFIT appointed in-house LinkedIn gym provider

Continuation of UFIT staff professional development

Continuation of UFIT staff professional development

Amazing personal milestones reached

Amazing personal milestones reached

Launch of Personal Training @ UFIT Tanjong Pagar 

Launch of Personal Training @ UFIT Tanjong Pagar 

UFIT Bootcamps wins Best Outdoor Class award

UFIT Bootcamps wins Best Outdoor Class award

UFIT Clinic awarded Asia's Best Rehab Facility award

UFIT Clinic awarded Asia's Best Rehab Facility award

UFIT Clinic opens 2nd branch at one-north

UFIT Clinic opens 2nd branch at one-north

UFIT Retreats welcome guys at Phuket Retreat

UFIT Retreats welcome guys at Phuket Retreat

And Mok and Maire our physios win half marathons 

And Mok and Maire our physios win half marathons 

And that's a wrap for 2017 -  now with nearly 100 staff.

And that's a wrap for 2017 -  now with nearly 100 staff.

Lose weight with Clean & Lean

The UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge is much more than a controlled diet program. It's a major milestone towards a changed lifestyle. It will enhance the detoxing processes in your body, introduce you to better ways of eating and better food choices, and help you become leaner.

Importantly, as you begin to enjoy the taste of real food and the feeling of it in your body, you will develop new eating habits before you know it. We are creatures of habit after all. 

Our most important guiding principles are to base our food intake on fresh products, as close as possible to their natural state. It includes lots of vegetables, good sources of proteins, good fats, limited carbohydrates and no refined sugar whatsoever. On top of that we encourage you to challenge yourself with physical activities and fun fitness.  

Photo: Sofia bon Foster

Photo: Sofia bon Foster

Photo: Vincent Chan

Photo: Vincent Chan

The changes you see in the UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge are amazing. After overcoming sugar withdrawal symptoms and detoxing side effects such as tiredness, grumpiness and headaches, you will suddenly feel so much better.

YOU WILL START NOTICING THESE IMPROVEMENTS IN YOUR WELLBEING AND APPEARANCE:

  • Your blood sugar levels will stabilise - Drastic changes in blood sugar levels are caused by excessive consumption of carbohydrates, which in turn are responsible for food cravings, drops in energy and mood swings. At first, when we reduce our carbohydrate intake we might feel tired, hungry and grumpy, but after a few days once the sugar levels are low and the body has the opportunity and ability to use fat storage to create energy, all the symptoms will have disappeared.

  • You'll feel less hungry - You will control your food intake and the food will not control you!

  • You'll have much more energy throughout the day - Stabilised energy all day long, without massive energy drops and need for stimulants.

  • You'll have more energy during your training sessions - Once your body is trained to create energy from fat storage, it can do it faster and more efficiently, prolonging long term energy throughout your training sessions.

  • You will feel more balanced emotionally - Mood swings are often affected by our sugar ups and downs. At the beginning of the process, the limited carbs might lower your serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter responsible for our happiness. However, when your body gets used to lower sugar consumption you will experience a much more balanced emotional state.

  • Your weight will drop - At the beginning of the process your weight loss will be mainly due to loss of fluids, as carbs attract fluids. After a few days you will experience real weight loss, mostly from fat storage.

Rob, before and after Clean & Lean 16  - he lost 11kg - the first time  in over 15 years he weighed under 100kg                                     

Rob, before and after Clean & Lean 16  - he lost 11kg - the first time  in over 15 years he weighed under 100kg                                     

  • You'll lose body fat and become leaner - Once insulin levels drop, the body will burn fat to create energy. We aim to lose body fat as opposed to losing body mass.   

  • You'll notice your skin is clearer and your eyes brighter and whiter - You might experience some skin rashes during the detox period, but once this phase is over your skin and eyes will shine.

  • You'll experience improvements in your blood lipids and blood pressure - Lower triglycerides, higher HDL cholesterol for example.

  • You'll learn more about your body - The clean diet will help you eliminate foods that are suspected to cause indigestion, gassy stomach, heartburn or any other problems. It is a good way to learn which foods suits you the best.

Photo: Melanie Lim

Photo: Melanie Lim

Sweat it out Sunday at Tanjong Beach Bootcamp

Sweat it out Sunday at Tanjong Beach Bootcamp

Finally, at the UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge, you'll meet great people and form a supportive team, sharing ideas, recipes, difficulties and achievements.

You'll also have a set deadline to achieve your goals within, and get great ideas and support from our community via the closed community Facebook page.

This will help you to be accountable and stay on course, and eventually help you achieve your goals.  

There is no better way to kick-start your new year than with the UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge - starting Saturday 13 January! Sign up right here.

Getting triathlon ready

Triathletes face the daunting challenge of training for three disciplines - swimming, cycling and running. To do well they need to master all three forms of exercise and use all major muscle groups effectively in a single race.  

And after all that swimming, cycling and running training, a fourth element, strength training places the triathlete at a huge advantage. It makes their entire movement system stronger to make them a better all-round athlete - faster for longer and more powerful - whilst reducing fatigue and injury as they race their way around the course. 

This worked well for Gavin Mortlock, who has done strength training for the past four years with UFIT Orchard Personal Trainer Nathan Williams  to prepare him for his busy triathlon schedule. Gavin has scored podium places at all his events this year and qualified for major international championships. We asked him to tell us more about his personal training and how he did it ...

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What led you to training at UFIT?

I asked an old football teammate (Darren Blakeley) for advice when I injured my back some 4 years ago. He recommended the UFIT physio Stephen Greenan, who in turn recommended I do Personal Training with Nathan post the initial treatment to focus strengthening for injury prevention.

How has Nathan helped you prepare for your training, races and recovery? 

Nathan and I discuss what races are coming up, what we need to focus on for injury prevention and how to augment the triathlon specific training I do (swim, run, bike). We build some periodisation into the training to match race schedules and mix up the exercises based on what training I am doing outside the gym.

I really appreciate the thought he puts into the personal training he has me do and working with him every week for 4 years means that he understands how I respond to sessions and therefore how to tailor the training.

GAVIN'S RACE RESULTS, BY CATEGORY

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How do you prepare physically for your races?

I leave the thinking around this to the professionals. I have a triathlon coach who is based in Australia. He sets me a program to follow that we discuss weekly. Each session is recorded and future session adjusted based on the data. I find being accountable to someone for completing the program they set, and being able to discuss training, nutrition and racing with a pro, really useful. He also adjusts my sessions based on travel commitments and helps set realistic goals and expectations.

 
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How have you balanced your strength training with Nath with ALL the running / cycling / swimming?

There are two main things we do:

  1. Nathan pointed out to me that triathlon training was all straight-line focussed – so in our personal training we do the opposite and focus on torsional strength and stability. Sounds counterintuitive but the logic is that being stronger through a range of motion means that I am able to hold a static cycling and running position far better
  2. Nathan has added in high intensity & weight/low volume exercises to help build strength without the fatigue associated with higher reps.  For example he has me on the aerodyne bike (chunder bike) or the sled at the end of each session. Nathan referred me to research that highly recommends adding high intensity/weight training into the program because muscle loss and reduced bone density rates increase with age. Both of these are best addressed through high intensity and weights rather than long, slow training.
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HOW HAS NATH PREPARED YOU MENTALLY FOR YOUR RACES?

Training is a physical challenge, racing is a mental challenge. 70.3 races last around 5 hours so you have plenty of time to find yourself in dark places, and time to come out of them too. The training I do with Nathan at UFIT is all about building confidence through preparation. Being fit, strong and injury free is the best way to establish the confidence to perform.
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Confidence is established by doing the personal training with Nathan, because knowing I have done the work provides the confidence that I will race well. If I am  anxious I will go back and review how much training I have done, even comparing it to previous races.

Goals is about setting realistic expectations based off the training. I keep this simple and limited to one or two things and my goals focus on the process not on the result. For example my running is weaker than my bike or swim so my goal for the run is to start with good form, build into the run managing my pace, then try and get “lost” in the zone – in other words don’t think, just relax.  I keep cycling through this mantra of Form/Pace/Zone throughout the run. This means I focus on the process, letting the result take care of itself.

Composure means not rushing and being able to adapt to changing circumstances – DON’T PANIC!  If I drop a water bottle, think my way through the impact and what I can do. This might mean backing off the pace to limit dehydration. Being composed to me is being calm. I use a simple (perhaps silly) trick if I feel this slipping away – I smile (a genuine smile, not a grimace, gritted teeth smile) then my head lifts, my shoulders relax and I actually think more clearly and I am more composed.

What do you enjoy most about your training with Nath?

Turning up at 6am every Wednesday ready to go for 4 years takes a huge commitment from both client and trainer – Nathan gets it, and is always well prepared. His commitment provides me the necessary incentive not be late, or miss a session, or just go through the motions once I am there. I would never be as efficient or effective training on my own, Nathan’s knowledge, expertise and commitment means the results I get from training are worth far more than the cost of a personal trainer.

What’s coming up next after such a huge racing year? How do you keep going between race break periods?

Break periods???  I’ve discovered through painful experience that I need to train consistently rather than take a break and start up again.  I may adjust intensity or frequency, but I need to maintain consistency across all disciplines even when not racing.  The reality is that training for triathlons if often far more enjoyable than racing them, racing hurts!  Not having a race coming up means I can train with a “just go out and have fun” approach rather than completing the session with a focus on the goal of the session.  That in itself is a break.

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How do you fit all this PERSONAL training and racing in with a busy life? 

I train mainly in the mornings on week days as I can control the time I start work much better than the time the work day ends. This takes some discipline to establish the routine, but once it is a routine it is easier to maintain.

I have a “low family commitment environment” each weekend as my wife, son, dog, etc live in Sydney. This has its pros and cons obviously, but allows me some quality training time on the weekends. My wife is an exercise physiologist and is incredibly supportive, although I do wonder if it is because she knows the more training I do the less chance there is that I am out on the lash.

Is there anything about Nathan that surprised you or you would like to share with us?

A lot that surprised me and nothing I can share.

And over to Gavin's trainer Nathan WILLIAMS:

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Training Gav for the past three to four years has been an awesome experience for me. It's great for me to work with such a fantastic masters athlete - and Gav doesn’t look a day over 54!

As he mentioned, 6am every Wednesday we have both turned up consistently to work towards small, steady goals. During this period, I've learned a lot about the art of Triathlon and tried to apply as much of my knowledge of relevant strength and mobility training into each training program.

Firstly, the injury prevention focus worked well and that allowed us to really move forward with increasing strength, particularly in the lower body and posterior chain. We have spent a lot of time on bodyweight mastery and I believe warming up every session with exercises like strict chin ups, L-sits, handstands, pistols squats and bridges have been paramount to building a solid base and are an important part of his training.

Gav has great knowledge of his body and how it responds to every training scenario and that has allowed us to continually improve without any clear side or backward steps. His results for 2017 were phenomenal (4 wins and 2 second places) and I must admit I’m quite proud each time I get a text from him after each race weekend because I know I’ve contributed a small piece to that result and I look forward to the successes in 2018.

MRI scans - are they necessary?

As a physiotherapist in Singapore, I see two things very often: patients with back pain, and patients with recently acquired MRI results (usually the same people). Why? Well, the prevalence of back pain in Singapore is often because the patients have combined a high pressured, desk-bound job with a lack of exercise and movement in their daily lives.

And their envelope containing their MRI results?  This is usually because the first thing their doctor has done when they reported back pain is to send them for a scan to see ‘how bad it is.’

This is because in Singapore, as in most of the world, MRIs and related high-tech imagery have ballooned into a multi-million-dollar industry to both the providers and the referrers. Indeed, in the United States last year, Medicare paid out over $14 billion dollars for MRIs alone.

 
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The problem is that most patients and many doctors still perceive MRIs as an easily accessible commodity that will provide the answers as to where the pain has come from, and therefore the solution to getting rid of the pain. However, this relies on two massive assumptions:

Assumption 1:   MRI scans are always accurate

The Truth? MRI scans are surprisingly difficult to read, and different radiographers looking at the same scan will often report different findings!

Assumption 2: MRI scans’ findings are always related to the problem

The Truth? Issues found by an MRI scan are often completely misleading, can have nothing to do with the pain you are feeling, and can be a completely normal part of ageing.

Let’s dig a little bit deeper.

So how accurate are MRI scans?

A very recent study conducted by Herzog et al, published in the Spine Journal in April 2017 assessed the accuracy of MRI imaging and reporting, by asking a 63 year old patient with current pain, and a long history of lower back problems to visit ten different MRI centres in succession, and get a report from each one.  The results?

1 Patient

10 MRI Scans

49 different ‘issues’ reported

0 of these ‘issues’ seen across all 10 scans.

This is a scarily clear demonstration that MRIs are not the clear snapshot that patients often believe that they are.

So why is there a difference between different MRI centres? First of all, like with physiotherapists, you can get good, skilled radiographers, and you can get inexperienced or under-skilled radiographers.

Secondly, just like your TV and computer, imaging technology is constantly changing and improving. So an Ultrasound or MRI machine from 10 years ago is going to be very low quality compared to a machine produced in the last two years.

Finally, an uncomfortable aspect of the medical industry: many doctors now own their own imaging machines, and will charge a premium for potentially unnecessary scans to ‘confirm’ their diagnosis. Is there anything a patient can do about this? Not much besides trusting your doctor to refer you to a trusted imaging centre, and hoping for the best.

Are MRI scans even relevant?

In most cases, no. A large systematic review conducted by Brinjikji et al, in 2014, assessed the MRI findings of 3,110 people with No Reported Back Pain. The findings? A significant number of these perfectly fine people were found to have problems, issues, or ‘degradation’ within their spines, which became more common as they got older.

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One third of normal, healthy 20 year olds have ‘degenerative’ signs in their lower back! And two thirds of perfectly healthy 50 year olds were found to have disc bulges! So what does this tell us? Spinal changes are a NORMAL part of ageing. Disc changes are a NORMAL part of ageing. And more importantly, negative changes in your spine are not always associated with pain.

Does this mean we should just throw all MRI machines in the Singapore River, and never speak of them again?

Of course not! MRI machines are an important diagnostic tool, but should not be used alone to figure out where your pain is coming from. They should be used as one element of a thorough assessment by your physio or doctor to figure out what is wrong with your back (or shoulder or knee), and figure out the best treatment strategy moving forward. As the physiotherapy expert Adam Meakins succinctly says, ‘Treat the Man, Not the Scan.’

The good news for you as a back pain patient in Singapore (or anywhere else in the world)?

Even if you have MRI findings that say that you have disc bulges, disc degeneration, and all sorts of issues going on – it is not a death sentence, and you do not need to go under the knife to ‘fix’ the problem!

Find yourself a good physio (quick plug: we have great ones at the UFIT Clinic), or a good doctor (ask us, we know many!) and complete your assessment with them to see what other factors might be contributing to your pain, and what we can do together to get you back on your feet, and back to being fit, healthy, happy and pain-free as quickly as possible!  

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