Biotensegrity. What is it and should I care?

Biotensegrity is a hot topic at the moment. The original concept came from Dr Stephen Levin, an America orthopedic surgeon who wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what he was doing. His interest in spine mechanics led him to study dinosaurs and he felt that the biomechanical model he had been taught, based on Newtonian physics, was unacceptable to him and his search for a new model led him to an architectural concept of tensegrity, introduced by Kenneth Snelson and Buckminster Fuller in the 1960’s

Biotensegrity became a model of the structure of our bodies and how they move and react to the world around us. The basic structure of a biotensegrous unit is the Icosahedron. Dr Levin and others such as Graham Scarr have described how the Biotensegrity model fits with the structure-function relationship in human biology.

To give a very rudimentary explanation of Biotensegrity, we take the Icosahedron which is a polyhedron with 20 triangular faces and 5 faces meet at every vertex. The Icosahedron is one of the regular platonic solids and if you use this link you can see a GIF and 3D model that you can explore further https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icosahedron

Biotensegrous structures are made of smaller biotensegrous structures so that every part is an individual unit and also part of the whole, to make this example more simple, we will look at the body as a single biotensegrous unit. Tensegrities are a balance of compressed struts connected by tensioned cables as per the model below

Patrick Moloney Injury Clinic. Biotensegrity. Biotensegrity model
A biotensegrity model, with compressed struts and tensioned cables

In our bodies, our skeleton acts as the compressed struts and our muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia are the pre-tensioned cables.  When functioning in an optimum way and with no external forces applying, all struts are equally compressed and tension is uniform in all cables.

This is fine in a theoretical model, in reality, there is always a number of forces, internal and external, acting on the body. When we stand up, our mass is acting on the ground and the ground exerts an equal and opposite force on our body. Under a biotensegrous model, that force is absorbed by the body and spread throughout. This makes sense if you are a 100KG man standing on one leg or doing pistol squats or a ballet dancer on point. 

To simplify further, when an external force is applied to a biotensegrous unit, the whole unit adapts to absorb that force. Conversely, when the force is removed, a biotensegrous unit returns to its neutral position.

From a treatment point of view, this means that when an injury causes an adaptation in the body, excess or errant tension will be present. If we can locate and remove the source(s) of that errant tension and release it, the body will return to a state of balance. Obviously, we don’t exist in a vacuum, so good quality movement is also required to restore this balance. Therefore, any manual therapist that is not encouraging their client to move more, even though some pain sensation may be present(assuming you have ruled out further injury) is not giving the best advice to their client, from a Biotensegrous point of view anyway.

This is the reason behind my Feel Better, Move Better, Get Better philosophy, a treatment in clinic will make you Feel Better and release some, if not all the errant tensions. You must keep moving and when you feel better, it’s far easier to Move Better and the combination of treatments in clinic and this movement is what will make you Get Better

To book your appointment, contact Patrick on 086 152 7646

Patrick Moloney Injury Clinic

Feel Better, Move Better, Get Better

Sources:

Biotensegrity. The Structural Basis of Life. Graham Scarr ISBN978-1-909141-21-6

Biotensegrity.com-  http://biotensegrity.com/ Website of Dr Steven Levin and his publications therein

Kenneth Snelson website –  http://kennethsnelson.net/

Wikkapedia- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icosahedron

Wikkapedia- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platonic_solid