Back In Shape Backstory: How It All Started

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One of the common questions we get is about the background and history of the program as well as our credentials. When Back In Shape began, we had a very close relationship with our small number of members. They generally knew about our Clinic and the background, so it was something that had little need covering explicitly. However, as time has gone on, many new members down the line, it seemed right to devote an episode of the Podcast to the topic.

So let’s begin…

University & The Years That Followed

Lara and I met at University, studying Osteopathy, a 4 year Masters Degree at what is now called the University College Of Osteopathy, a specialist institution in London that focused purely on the training of Osteopaths in the UK. From here, in professional life, I had the good fortune of working closely with osteopaths and chiropractors alike and working closely with spinal imaging. During this time, Lara went off to work in the exciting and fast paced startup industry in London learning the ropes of how to grow and build businesses. 

Over the years following graduation, as a newly qualified osteopath you seek to forge your path through continual professional development & education. This is where we take our pick of specialisation and what direction we want to take professionally. Some deep dive into sports injuries, others cranial or visceral osteopathy, some paediatrics and many work to be generalists, having a more simple understanding of many areas and tools. Due to the significant involvement in spinal imaging working in multidisciplinary clinics around London, there was a fantastic opportunity to deep dive into some really interesting research on spinal structure and biomechanics. I remember wondering at the time why this detail was reserved for post-graduate, when it seemed to be so fundamental to those of us helping patients with back pain. 

Over these subsequent years gathering experience, at times seeing over 50 patients a day, the vast majority of patients would have accompanying spinal imaging. Over this time there was also a gradual shift away from “hands on techniques” like the traditional manipulations as a result of experience with various innovative technologies the industry had to offer, some great, some rather disappointing. This was all in an effort to explore what would be the best way to blend the gathered experience and distill it into a process or methodology that took the best from each.

In 2017, Lara & I decided to bring our experiences together to begin The Mayfair Clinic in Cavendish Square, Central London. We created the clinic to focus on the spine, the neck and lower back specifically, hand-picking the technologies that combined best for us to treat back pain and neck pain best. These treatments were delivered alongside load bearing spinal imaging to help patients from around the UK and further afield who’d often had challenging histories of back injury and were looking for something that worked.

Building The Mayfair Clinic & Winning Awards!

During our time running the clinic and building the team, we saw everyone from the local Londoner to patients that traveled from as far as the north of England and Scotland for the unique approach we offered. As the success of the clinic grew and word started to spread, the Clinic and our approach to back pain gained National coverage in prestigious publications such as the full page feature in The Daily Telegraph in the summer of 2018 – the phones we’re ringing off the hook, and having only just doubled our capacity in the June, we found ourselves fully booked again in the September! Over the years leading up to 2020 things went from strength to strength, the clinic attracting numerous international celebrities,  high powered politicians, and even foreign Royalty.

Expanding the clinic further in the latter stages of 2019, after spending what amounted to be too long looking for a larger premises, things were going from strength to strength. The expertise was built on the thousands of patients in the years preceding the creation of The Mayfair Clinic, the result was a winning formula! We tied together excellent technologies such as Class IV Laser Therapy and IDD Therapy, rehabilitation exercises and spinal remodelling, all informed by spinal imaging; the process was being refined continually and supported by the best technology for treating back pain. 

It was the turn of the decade that things took off to another level having just completed our much needed expansion to a larger premises in November 2019. January 2020 was busier than ever and with the announcement that the clinic was a winner of the prestigious Queen’s Award For Innovation in February, things never looked better as we eagerly anticipated the Queens Birthday in April when we’d finally be able to share the fantastic news publicly.

Then the Lockdowns and Covid swept the globe. 

Everything stopped.

The Crisis Of 2020

Everything was difficult for everyone. People had no way to get the help they needed at a time when daily life had changed so drastically leaving us all practically housebound. Those with any manner of health conditions, let alone back pain, were left stuck at home seemingly without a way to get the help they needed.

Determined to move forward productively, Lara had the ingenious idea for us to run Live Q&A sessions for the public for free. We’d never done this before, and althgouh we had done shorter videos, Live Q&A, daily is quite a different beast. Nevertheless, every weekday from March 23rd that year for 150 straight episodes we showed up every weekday, for the Live presentation and Q&A, free to all on the various social media platforms.

Although this was helpful for those stuck at home with back pain, the feedback was great. It also provided a great purpose for Lara and I amongst all the chaos. Getting up every morning to do something productive, keeping the mind focused and having an audience of people from all over that we were accountable to was vital, even as you wrestle with seeing the hard work we’d spent time and effort building become gradually eroded by circumstances beyond our control.

On a complete tangent, one of the fond memories of this tumultuous time, was how tranquil London was, something that had never before been experienced and likely never will again, silence on the streets, no hubbub or congestion. 

As you might have guessed by now, unfortunately, the clinic was not to survive, and the doors were closed permanently that Autumn. 

Leveraging Our Unique Experience With Back Pain

Over the years The Mayfair Clinic was in operation, we had seen a lot of people in real trouble, rarely would we see someone who’d “just hurt their back” for the first time. We had first hand experience of people dragging themselves into the clinic on crutches after being “shipped” into London lying down in the back of their car. We had many patients with significant injuries to the lower back, patients post surgery and all manner of severe medical interventions which had proven unsuccessful, pick one, we’d seen it! Even seeing our share of patients who’d taken the daunting step to try more severe steps such as spinal stimulating implants and nerve ablation in an effort to find some solution for their back pain. 

Through this, our analysis and our treatment was always the major draw, but rehabilitative exercises were a must. Just how important these exercises were however, remained to be seen so clearly.

Fast-Forward to 2023, we have seen that arming an engaged patient with education and information, as well as a robust exercise regimen is just as effective, and perhaps more so, in getting patients back’s “in shape again”. The reason we know this, is that we know the conditions that many of you coming to the program struggle with. We know that many of you have tried other options without success, much like our patients in the clinical days, the current NHS here in the UK simply wasn’t able to provide relief as it’s just not good enough. Judging from what we heard from the international patients, things weren’t always that much better elsewhere.

It was through the experience we’d developed this unique perspective of how your backs work, and how they fail, and how they fix.  Your average osteopath might see the actual spinal image from a patient a couple of times a week or month, physiotherapist’s probably not even that. They simply don’t have the frame of reference for what they can know, and what they cannot know. In short, they don’t know what they don’t know and rely on a physical examination to infer things which they are unaware a physical exam couldn’t possibly tell them! 

Seeing so much in the way of spinal imaging over the years, and having it married to patients allows you the humility to realise what you are unlikely to know from a physical exam alone, and therefore you set about producing strategies to help people knowing this. Hence why the Back In Shape teachings, especially in the early days, often run so counter to previous things you have been told by the practitioners you might have seen.

Simply put, this understanding has been developed with a greater level of clarity and detail than your typical Osteopath, Physiotherapist or Chiropractor.

Back In Shape’s Success

What continues to be surprising to us, however, is just how well our members are doing with the program. We know the conditions of your spine as many of you share it with us on our Live Q&A and on the Virtual Consultations we’ve done and continue to do. We know the challenges you face, and are overcoming, with the program alone! 

Had you told us this 4 years ago, that these kinds of results were possible, I think we’d have been reluctant to take that gamble! You mean we wouldn’t have to invest 10’s of thousands of pounds in the best possible technologies we could find not to mention the sky-high central London premises costs!?

However this approach is not for everyone, many people (not you reading this obviously) want to pass their back pain over to someone else to “fix” and we saw this in the clinic from time to time, people would follow their treatment schedule fantastically, for the most part. When we looked at their rehabilitative exercises adherence on the other had, well, it left something to be desired.

And yes, we could see what was, and what was not being done!

You see in spite of the background we have, the analysis we did, the technologies we used, the rehab we prescribed… We know that back pain cannot be fixed by anyone other than you.

Back pain, no matter your diagnosis, is a “you problem”. 

The sooner those with back pain or sciatica come to this realisation, the better, and this was something in hindsight, we simply weren’t strict enough with, in our clinic days.

For those who have the discipline and the commitment to get better, The right back health education, exercise prescription and ongoing support along the way, helps you address 100% of the hours of your day, week, month and year. 

Treatment on the other hand, no matter how great it may be, only impacts 0.5% of your day, assuming you were having daily one hour treatments that is! Granted in clinic we would always do our utmost to provide the education, and support outside the treatment room, but when you’re running a busy clinic, this is simply not possible.

This simple reality is perhaps one of the major factors that allows our current way of helping those with back pain to be so effective.

Overall, it has been a fantastic journey full of highs and some lows too, however, we are always learning, developing our understanding, replacing and updating our frames of reference. From the feedback of many of you reading this, our awesome Back In Shape Members, we will continue to grow and do more to help you on your own Back In Shape Journeys ahead. 

Thank you for all your support, and we hope that this gives you a little more insight into where this has all come from!

Only some of the publications we’ve been featured in over the years

A Blast From The Past:

November/December 2019 shortly after moving into the new premisis

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  1. Mike and Lara, your openness and trust in complete strangers is awesome. Your professionalism and the clarity with which you deliver your well thought out programme is an inspiration. You deserve all the success you’re getting. Thanks for sharing.

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