Evolution Has a Lot to Answer For

by Mel Cash - Jan 6th, 2020

I can admit to having very little formal education in human anatomy. I didn’t get on well with school when I was a kid and lost interest in biology when I had to learn about the Amoeba (I’ve still never met one!). It was not until I was in my 30’s and started my massage career in the mid-1980’s that human anatomy became an important and fascinating subject to me. But in those days, massage training only covered anatomy on a very basic level (unfortunately it still is in some places) but I desperately wanted to understand more. So instead of learning what teachers thought I should know, I had to go out and discover what I needed to know for myself. And this was all based on my desire to better meet the real needs of my clients. And it’s been a great learning adventure.

When I started this journey the first thing that influenced my understanding was my awareness of evolution (I’m a fan of Charles Darwin and I’ve even visited the Galapagos Islands). The human body has evolved into what we see today and every part of it is there for a reason. It has all evolved to meet our lifestyle needs in the best and most efficient way. Or has it? In our lifetime we can only see a snapshot of evolution and it won’t stay this way forever. There could be some structures in the body that we don’t use as much as we once did and they could be evolving out. At the same time undoubtedly new changes will be slowly evolving in. After more than 30 years this fundamental understanding of evolution is still helping me better understand human anatomy and how it functions.

Our big problem is that evolution is an incredibly slow process but our lifestyles can change very quickly. For millions of years we Homo-Sapiens lived a simple foraging and hunter gatherer lifestyle with very little change. The evolutionary process could keep pace with the gradual changes and slowly adapt to make us better able to thrive in our environment. The modern society we see today only really got going about 15,000 years ago, starting with the agricultural revolution. Since then our lifestyles have been changing at a rapid pace which evolution cannot keep pace with.

Throughout history we have seen technological developments, like the industrial revolution, cause drastic and sudden changes to lifestyles and work practices. This has never been more so than with the computer which took over the workplace in little more than a decade, and the result has been dramatic. Now millions of people spend 8+ hours a day, 5+ days a week doing sedentary jobs sitting behind a computer performing a limited range of repetitive movements. But evolution hasn’t prepared us for this, we are still better suited to a more active hunter gatherer lifestyle. Sitting behind a computer or standing in a shop for most of your waking life is not what our bodies want to do and this leads to aches, pains and injuries. They usually start off as minor issues which, without good treatment or some sort of corrective exercise, can develop into more chronic or serious problems which in turn have a wider effect on lifestyle and general health. 

So a pain-free life seems to be impossible for most people living in the modern developed world despite (or maybe because of) all the labour saving devices we surround ourselves with. This also means that as therapists we often cannot achieve a real cure because the client has to go back to work and repeat the process which causes the problem. But I suppose this also means that we will never be out of work.

Coming soon! More articles which follow on from this theme.

If you like this, you may be interested in the live performances by Mel and his amazing team of tutors at LSSM. For more information, see https://www.lssm.com/

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