I don’t know where this memorable and marvellous metaphor came from but I have been using it since a post grad manual therapy degree in 1985. It seems to have spread around the world. When a patient leaves the clinic if motion is lotion is all they remember, then in many cases, it is probably an adequate summary of what I want them to learn. It implicitly links movement to health and it inspires healthy imagery – I think of coconut sunblock lotion and beaches!
Motion is lotion is an example of functional knowledge – ‘know how’ knowledge that an individual can use to inform action and change behaviour. But in order to offer functional knowledge to patients, therapists need a deep base of declarative knowledge, this is the more detailed, more technical understanding of a topic – you could also think of it as content, or the kind of knowledge that you need to regurgitate to pass an exam.
The tip of the iceberg
Another useful metaphor relating to the different kinds of knowledge is the iceberg. Functional knowledge – what you need to pass on – is just the tip of the iceberg, with declarative knowledge representing the 95% or more below the water. Motion is lotion requires the deliverer to understand the beneficial effects of movement on bodily structures, tissues and fluids, as well as tissue healing and progressive loading properties, in order to deliver the nugget.
But declarative knowledge doesn’t have to stay hidden below the water line – you can be use it to power up the functional knowledge. For example you wouldn’t just blurt out Motion is lotion and leave it at that, you can juice it up by adding ‘if you can do these movements, your joint fluids will be nice and oily, you will move any swelling, get air to the base of your lung, nourish neurones, get stronger and lessen the chance of diabetes….and movement makes even more lotion’.
Consider some of the pearls of wisdom you have learnt – the complex yet necessary declarative knowledge. For example, there are no such things as pain receptors in neurones – can you see the functional knowledge which can grow out of this? Or of the knowledge that every synapse has an immunocompetent cell directing it, or the fact that the nervous system is a mechanical continuum. Are we missing the potential of turning our great store of declarative knowledge into functional knowledge?
But for now – rejoice in the lotion of motion!
Motion is lotion is Neuroscience Nugget Number 63 in Explain Pain Supercharged.