As an Osteopath, I believe in approaching problems by exploring all the potential influential factors and seeing patients as people, not just anatomy or problems to be solved. After listening to multiple colleges discuss the success they had found when using the Joanne Elphinston JEMs approach, I decided I had to learn some more, and these are my thoughts.
JEMs is an all-encompassing approach to understanding movement and what it means to move beautifully. As movement is affected not only by the physical components, such as muscles, joints, or the external environment, but also emotion, beliefs and even stress.
The first part of the course demonstrates the importance of the interaction between patient and practitioner. Patient and practitioner beliefs and emotional state are highlighted as key areas to consider as they can affect their pain experienced and potential treatment outcomes.
Patients are not passive in treatment and every individual is the expert in their own body. Therefore, patient feedback and insights are invaluable to understanding and managing their concern. Communicating using a story telling explanation style allows patients to step into the process of co-creating the next chapter of their story. This is also helpful to practitioners as they are more easily able to adapt the rhythm of the session to the patient’s capacity on the day (this will sometimes be calming and other times energising), allowing more space for the patient to form their thoughts and contribute to the process.
The second part of the course was focused on enhancing our observation skills and exploring management approaches. This included reviewing relevant anatomy, understanding common presentations of movement disorders, and learning strategies to examine, explore and manage. The key difference with the JEMs approach is that you are not simply giving exercises to strengthen or stretch a muscle, but you are giving the patient tools which allow them to explore and alter their movement pattern. The most effective and efficient movers are not the ones who do the same exact pattern of muscle on contraction every time, but those who have variability and are able to adapt without hesitation, restriction, or fear. This allows us to become more resilient and efficient with our bodies. It must be said that JEMs is not an approach to replace manual therapy (that is often expected when visiting an osteopath), but to enhance the analysis and management approach.
The hardest and most invaluable part of the process for me was having the confidence to explore and implement these new skills with my patients. Initially like with all new skills I was anxious about ‘getting it wrong’ however because this approach is patient lead, I found the more power I gave my patients, the more confidently they were able to spot, explore and modify movement patterns, that previously I would have struggled to address with traditional exercise and manual therapy techniques. Not only that, but because they felt the change whilst completing the exercises in the session, they were also more consistent with practicing them at home. This in turn lead to increased confidence, agency and a result that has not only improved their symptoms but addressed the underlying cause.
To conclude, this course has opened my eyes to a new and more fun way to analyse and address movement, which seems to be helpful to a lot of my patients. However, like all manual therapy tools, there is no one size fits all approach and it’s about finding the approach which works for each individual patient.