Thursday, July 12, 2012

Five Seconds with Leon Chaitow

It is rare that I mention specific authors or practitioners in my posts, simply because I am a big believer in the formulation of one's own philosophy and central belief system as opposed to blindly adhering to a single person or single philosophy.  However, in the evolution of one's own central philosophy, it should be understood that the exploration / examination / absorption of other positions and approaches are essential in the formation of a valid, intelligent, and responsible position of your own. 

The reality is that gaining access to the "elite" in any professional field is a difficult challenge.  They are often in high demand, extremely busy, or on occasion too self-absorbed to bother with inquiries from anyone who doesn't fit within their perceived status level.  Although obviously very busy and in high demand, I can conclusively say that Mr. Leon Chaitow is definitely not self-absorbed and is very generous in sharing his extensive knowledge and experiences with anyone.  It is likely that our exchange will go unnoticed to him, but my recent brief exchange with him will remain with me as a refreshing gesture and serve as an example of responsible and intellectual conduct. 

Leon Chaitow is a now semi-retired naturopath, osteopath, and acupuncturist with over 40 years of clinical experience.  He is also Editor-in Chief of the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.  He is also a prolific author who has written over 60 books on natural health and alternative medicine. 

It is indeed a pleasure to get feedback from such a well-known figure, therefore I have decided to post the (very brief) exchanges that occured over the last 2 days regarding a couple of his recent musings and which lead to the publishing of my previous post. Although some of our philosophies do not entirely align, it is obvious that his input is valuable and most certainly will shape future formulation and investigation.  Enjoy!

Chaitow Post:

More on Breathing: Did you know that the physiological consequences of hypocapnia (low CO2 due to shallow/upper-chest breathing) include:
Reduced cerebral blood flow
(approx 4% per mmHg) SEE IMAGE BELOW (with thanks to Peter Litchfield) Cerebral vasoconstriction
 Coronary vasoconstriction
Gut smooth muscle constriction
Reduced placental perfusion
 Bronchiole constriction
 Cerebral and myocardial hypoxia (O2 deficit); vasoconstriction and Bohr effect
Cerebral hypoglycemia
 Magnesium-calcium imbalance in muscles
Ischemia (localized anemia)
Autonomic arousal, sympathetic discharge
 Reduced buffering capacity...and more.....In this image, O2 availability in the brain is reduced by 40% as a result of about a minute of overbreathing. In addition, glucose critical to brain functioning is markedly reduced as a result of cerebral vasoconstriction. See: Laffey, J. & Kavanagh, B. Hypocapnia, New England Journal of Medicine. 4 July 2002

Gavin Broomes Greeting, Mr. Chaitow. i am a practitioner who works primarily with disorders of movement and posture...most of which are individuals and children with Cerebral Palsy. In the overwhelming majority of these children, the thorax is underdeveloped and lacks proper elasticity and thoracic volume. In addition, there is a profound dysfunction of respiratory mechanics which is most commonly characterized by paradoxical breathing patterns. Although the answer to my question is likely quite intuitive, how much do you think this structural distortion and dysfunction contributes to an increase in the negative response in the brain as described in your post on breathing?

Leon Chaitow Profoundly, I would say...but while structural work can obviously make some changes to the restrictions, the barrier to progress comes with the difficulties associated with communicating and teaching better breathing habits

Gavin Broomes Indeed. I think my main philosophy would be that the structural improvement can serve as an effective catalyst in the ultimate response (therefore success) to teaching better breathing habits...a symbiosis of sorts. briefly, would you consider this to be correct or is your view somewhat different?

Leon Chaitow that's precisely how I see it...enhance structure and the possibility of functional improvement is markedly improved

Chaitow Post #2
 In recent postings I have tried to highlight some of the general effects of breathing pattern disorders (BPD). In this posting my focus is on emphasising the direct link between BPD and pelvic pain and dysfunction.
EXTRACT FROM CHAPTER 9: "Breathing & Chronic Pelvic Pain: Connections and Rehabilitation Features": FROM: Chronic Pelvic Pain & Dysfunction: Practical Physical Medicine. Chaitow L Jones R (Elsevier 2012) For more on this book, and chapter headings go to:

<<<<With structural and functional continuity between the diaphragm, pelvis, pelvic floor muscles (PFM), quadratus lumborum, psoas and organs of the retroperitoneal space it suggests that structures of the abdominal canister require assessment and, if appropriate, treatment, in relation to pelvic dysfunction. SEE ILLUSTRATION BELOW SHOWING SOME OF THE STRUCTURAL CONNECTIONS TO THE DIAPHRAGM, INCLUDING PSOAS AND QL WHICH MERGE WITH IT.
Grewar & McLean (2008) indicate that respiratory dysfunctions are commonly seen in patients with low back pain, pelvic floor dysfunction and poor posture. Additional evidence exists connecting diaphragmatic and breathing pattern disorders, with various forms of pelvic girdle dysfunction (including sacroiliac pain) (O’Sullivan & Beales 2007) as well as with CPP and associated symptoms, such as stress incontinence (Hodges et al. 2007). Similarly Carriere (2006) noted that disrupted function of either the diaphragm or the PFM may alter the normal mechanisms for regulating intra-abdominal pressure (IAP).
The presence of dysfunctional breathing patterns which influence pelvic function (McLaughlin 2009) and pelvic dysfunction which influences breathing patterns (Hodges et al. 2007) therefore suggests that rehabilitation of the thorax, pelvic girdle and pelvic floor will be enhanced by more normal physiological breathing patterns. This can be achieved through exercise, breathing retraining, postural reeducation, manual therapy and other means (Chaitow 2007, O’Sullivan & Beales 2007, McLaughlin 2009).>>>>

Gavin BroomesVery interesting. It seems like this is a degenerative cycle that simply perpetuates itself (breathing dysfunction influences pelvic function---pelvic function influences breathing dysfunction). As a point of treatment strategy, there are alot of schools of thought on "where do you enter into this cycle" to resolve the problem. Although addressing both (if possible) is an intuitive approach, I am leaning more towards the "structure is function" philosophy...meaning that the architectural weakness of the pelvis (from a biotensegral perspective) is more of the catalyst for the breathing dysfunction. Although each case is highly variable, what is your opinion on this general philosophy? You do state that the rehabiitation protocol can be enhanced by improving physiological breathing patterns...which I concur with...however, I was curious as to your views on the issue of my position on the structure is function perspective and where to "enter the degenerative cycle". Cheers!

Leon Chaitow
I agree with your inuitive comment of working in both fields simultaneously Gavin - In my own work rehabilitation exercises are given along with educational material - and from the outset structural mobilisation, toning, rebalancing etc commences. I am not totally sold on "structure governs function", because I've seen enhanced function restore structural integrity. However, I've also seen structural restrictions prevent functional progress until modified....

 Well, there you have my 5 seconds with Leon Chaitow.  Hopefully there will be more opportunities to interact with him in the future.  



  1. Very interesting. I couldn't agree more. I can relate to so much of this. Excellent post and interview. Most appreciative.

  2. Great information!!! I really appreciate for this great piece of info. Thanks.

    1. Greetings Barbara! I am glad you liked this brief was a very pleasant and refreshing surprise to get access to such a well respected practitioner. I see from your website that you are positioned well within the rehabilitative domain as well...very glad to have your feedback! Please feel free to exchange some of your experiences and philosophies with me at any time. I have always had a small fascination with acupuncture and am actually looking more into philosophies from the east. Your feedback would be very valuable! Best regards! Gavin