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- FR Lower Limb - Texas A&M University Medical staff private seminar Aug 4-7/14
- FR Lower Limb Cert - Toronto, Sept 19-21, 2014
- FRC Certification - New York @ Drive495 - Sept 27-28, 2014 ***SOLD OUT
- FR Upper Limb - Vancouver, BC, Oct 24-25, 2014
- FRC Certification - TORONTO @ Vaughan Strength & Conditioning - Nov 1-2, 2014
- FRC Certification - SEATTLE MARINERS & SAN DIEGO PADRES (MLB) Medical staff Private seminar Nov 12-13/14
- FRC Certification - ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (MLB) Medical staff Private seminar Nov 22-23/14

- FR Upper Limb Cert - New York @ PerfectStride Physical Therapy - PRIVATE COURSE - Jan 9-11/15
- FRC Certification - Portland, OR @ IMPACT - Jan 24-25, 2015
- FRC Certification - San Francisco, CA @ MoveSF - Feb 7-8, 2015
- FRC Certification - Vancouver, BC - Feb 21-22, 2015
- FR Upper Limb - Portland, OR, Mar 20-22, 2015
- FRC Certification - Connecticut @ Ranfone Training Systems - Mar 28-29, 2015
- FR Upper Limb - Chicago , Apr 17-19, 2015
- FR Lower Limb - London, England, May 2-4, 2015
- FR Upper Limb - Boston, MA, May 22-14, 2015
- FRC Certification - Dallas, TX @ Synergy Athletics - June 6-7, 2015

Seminar registration @

Dr. Spina’s interview on the Move Smart Podcast

July 10, 2014

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My interview with Justin Goodhart from for the Move Smart Podcast.


Good interviews start with good questions…and they asked a lot of good questions. We covered many topics related to health, training, and much more. We go deep on a few topics (cellular & sub cellular level)….but I think it necessary to at least have a working knowledge of this ‘realm’ in order to properly manage ones health.


The secret to health…

June 20, 2014

Originally published at

Dear patient/client,

I am writing this short message because I feel that you are owed an apology. For years you have come to us with your problems of lower back pain, sports injuries, weight loss issues, performance goals, etc., and for years you have likely been offered several different (and often conflicting) ‘solutions’ for your ‘problems.’ Each ‘solution’ offered was likely coupled with a claim that that person will ‘fix’ you the fastest….or that THEY have the fastest way or achieving YOUR goal for you. You may have heard or read claims of treatments that provide immediate cures, diets that ‘melt’ the pounds off effortlessly, assessments that ‘find’ out what your exact ‘problems’ are, or training strategies that immediately improve your performance. The problem is…they don’t exist.

The fact of the matter is that a general overview of all of the scientific evidence that has ever been published on human health strategies leads to one common conclusion:

Being a healthy human requires ongoing effort and dedication.

If you have an injury, that means that you have sustained a certain degree of tissue damage. Tissue, no matter the type, requires time to heal. Never, in the history of research has anyone been able to demonstrate a biological tissue responding in a permanent way to a single treatment input. There is no machine, technique, ointment, or pill that can change this fact. It is therefore unreasonable to expect a one-visit ‘cure,’ and it is equally unreasonable for someone to claim that they can provide it. What we can do is insure optimal healing over time which will work to regenerate healthy, resilient, good quality tissue…via ongoing effort and dedication.

If you are hoping to loose weight, diets don’t work (in any lasting way that is). It requires an increase in energy output, a reduction of energy input, and an ongoing diet of healthy, nutrient rich food. Of course there are exceptions and circumstances to take into account….but the solution for each of these requires an equal amount of the secret ingredient – ongoing effort and dedication.

How about the athlete looking to gain the edge on their competition? Well I have good news for you….there are indeed methods that can achieve that goal. The only stipulation is that YOU must approach said methods with ongoing effort and dedication.

Vitamins don’t work if taken only for a week here and there. Muscles don’t get stronger after a single training session. Torn ligaments/tendon/muscles can’t regenerate instantaneously. You can’t reap the rewards of meditation if you do it every now and again. New skills are unusable in absence of ongoing practice and repetition. These are the realities. These are the rules that govern human health and performance.

Don’t waste your time, money, and energy searching for ‘the solution’…I will give it to you right now…

Ongoing effort and dedication.


June 12, 2014

If you consider ‘a’ muscle to be a single unit that produces one specific function you are grossly underestimating the complexity of its structure.

A muscle is more than ‘a’ muscle as all of the units that make up the structure (myocytes) can themselves be considered ‘muscles’ in their own right, each 12_29_0producing the exact function independently as does the whole. Namely, they draw tension into the connective tissue elements which surround them. From this perspective, each individual sarcomere can also rightfully be thought of as an independent ‘muscle’ whose protein components interact on the molecular level to tension their endomysial encasements. Thus ‘a muscle’ is more accurately thought of as a general name given to a group several thousand functioning structures. Each of these structures produce slightly differing angles of pull and thus create differing angles of tension affecting movement production.

When we test for the strength of ‘a muscle’ this concept must be remembered…especially in lieu of the well established “specificity principle.” Based on this principle, a muscle can generate a good amount of force at a particular angle, but then fail to produce the same force when the testing angle is slightly altered (approx 15 degrees). Thus the angle of pull selected by the test cannot be used to make conclusions as to how the general ‘muscle’ is functioning. One can only conclude that the specific testing angle demonstrates weakness.

This concept must also be considered when considering the overall function of a muscle…if there actually is ‘one’ to speak of. Most of these assumed functions are based on the directionality of the muscle fibres when observed from a gross tissue perspective (I won’t add the complexity of penniform muscle here). However, when one contemplates function based on the 3-dimentional nature of the structure (taking into account differing lines of pull/tension), the complexity of the actuator (neural input), and the seemingly infinite angles of motion that can be created, one must stop and ask themselves if we have enough information, and/or mental capacity, to claim any advanced understanding.

FRC certification with the Houston Rockets S&C staff June 5-6

May 24, 2014

Honoured to be certifying the strength & conditioning staff of the Houston Rockets in Functional Range Conditioning in a few weeks…

H Rockets FRC

On movement complexity…

May 22, 2014

“One of the most commonly seen features in human movement is motor variability. Several attempts at the same task ALWAYS lead to different patterns of performance, including kinematic, kinetics, and patterns of muscle activation.” (Latash 2002)

In other words, with consecutive attempts at solving a motor task, each rep involves unique, non-repetitive neural & motor patterns. Often referred to as “repetition without repetition.”

Movement is not a well defined plan. Its more chaotic than that.

Movement is an intent (or goal), carried out by an ongoing process of adapting to variables. The number of potential variables is far greater than we can account for via movement assessment/observation.

Shoes were NOT part of the evolutionary process…

April 30, 2014

“The further humans stray from what they were naturally selected to do…the more their health suffers.” 

An entire industry has been built on trying to treat and/or “prevent” foot pain and dysfunction in humans. We are constantly being told that our feet need ‘support,’ and our arches need to be ‘maintained.’ Products abound with promises of decreased pain and increased comfort (soft shoes, athletic shoes, orthotics, etc.). The problem is however that the ‘cures’ that are offered are to a large extent contributing to the cause.

It is thought that the evolution of Homo Sapien bipedalism began approximately 4.2 million years ago. In contrast, the first shoes are believed to have been used only 10 thousand years ago (by the most generous estimation). What does this fact tell us? From an evolutionary perspective, footwear was invented only a moment ago!

“Shoes were NOT part of the evolutionary process” 

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Tips, Facts, and Questions:
– Orthotics do not prevent your arch from ‘dropping’…no matter who made them, or what they are made out of

– If you have children, DO NOT allow them to wear shoes when it isn’t necessary (at home, playing in the yard, etc). The more the foot is challenged to function, the more it adapts to those challenges…and the better it functions.

– Encourage your kids to pick things up with their feet. This will build foot strength, dexterity, mobility, and function….all of which will contribute the longevity.

– Socks dampen the sensory feedback information that your foot is ‘collecting’ from the ground…this in turn will likely decrease the sensitivity of the feedback system over time.

– Did you ever wonder why if you have a knee, shoulder, or back problem, therapists manually treat the problem…and then assign exercises to improve the function of the body part….yet if you have a foot problem, many simply give you an orthotic (aka. a brace)? What would happen if we treated back pain this way?

– Having ‘dropped arches’ is not a diagnosis. Many of the worlds best functioning athletes have ‘dropped arches.’ Further, there are many, many examples of people with flat feet who never have foot pain or dysfunction. Static position of anatomy is much less important than how the anatomy moves.

– I have yet to see a plantar fasciitis patient in my clinic who had the ability to control toe/foot movement.

– There is a warranted fear in the manual medical community that wearing a back brace will lead to the muscles of the low back weakening over time due to disuse. Why do we think that the feet would not respond the same way to orthotics?

– Barefoot training is a PRIVILEGE …not a right. If you have been wearing supportive shoes all of your life, and then decide at 35 to just start wearing ‘barefoot’ shoes…you will get injured.

– If you are prescribed orthotics for a foot condition…your first goal should be to train your foot in order to get out of them asap.

Your feet are the first, and best functioning ‘shoes’ you will ever own….and if you care for them, they will last your entire life.

For those who haven’t seen it, here is the link to a youtube video that I posted a while ago that discusses this further and demonstrates some BASIC intrinsic foot activation strategies (this is by no means an extensive list of drills…it is just a starting point):

Here is a video of my good friend Dewey Nielsen demonstrating a slightly more advanced foot training drill:


Functional Range Conditioning (FRC)® certs scheduled with the training staffs of the Arizona Dbacks, Seattle Mariners, and San Diego Padres…

April 25, 2014

For the past few years Functional Anatomy Seminars has been fortunate enough to work with the medical staffs of several MLB organizations certifying them in the Functional Range Release (FR)® tissue management system.

We are now excited to announce that we will be working with the training staff of several of them certifying them in the Functional Range Conditioning (FRC)® system. We believe that with the addition of FRC® methodology, we can make major improvements in the overall movement, mobility, and agility capabilities of their players, as well as address some of the ongoing issues with injury prevention of commonly aquired soft tissue injuries in Baseball.

This is what certified FR & FRC practitioner Neil Rampe had to say about the incorporation of both systems for player management:

“FR & FRC has helped create a more well rounded healthcare and performance continuum within our organization that empowers each athlete to take ownership of their health, well being and performance through the system’s sound scientific principles. The system’s use of intrinsic directional force allows our athletes to gain, maintain and most importantly OWN newly available and usable range of motion which ultimately translates into confidence on the field of play.” 

Neil Rampe M.Ed, ATC, CSCS, LMT, PRT
Manual & Performance Therapist
Arizona Diamondbacks

Two upcoming certifications will be taking place in Arizona this November…

dbacks poster

“Functional” Exercise??? What do you mean? …

April 22, 2014

Two of the most common questions that I am asked on a regular basis (likely due to the names of the seminars I teach) are “what is functional anatomy,” and “what is functional movement.” On the surface these seem like reasonable questions that should have relatively easy answers. For example when considering the first question one might simply say that functional anatomy describes the “function of anatomy.” Or I suppose you could also say that it outlines the “anatomy used as one functions.”

What if you were asked as a follow up question “what is the most important part of human anatomy?” This question seems more difficult because there really is no single answer. In fact, to answer the question one would need to demand more information as it would depend entirely on the specific function that the ‘anatomy’ was performing at a particular time.

Similarly the question “what is the most important function?” poses a similar problem. The most important function is the one that is needed at a particular time.

How about the second question? What is functional movement? The answer would be that functional movement is movement that achieves a certain function. What then is/are the most functional movements? Again, to answer this question we would require further information as the ‘functionality’ of a movement depends entirely on the goal that it sets out to achieve….




The Strength Coach Podcast – New episode featuring Dr. Andreo Spina on Functional Range Conditioning (FRC)®

April 7, 2014

Episode 143 – “Hit the Gym with a Strength Coach” – Dr. Andreo Spina ofFunctional Anatomy Seminars, which includes Functional Range Conditioning or FRC.  I spoke to Dr. Spina about FRC, his definition of mobility, how does FRC differ from some of the other movement based programs and much more.



Exercise, Manual Therapy, and the Endocannabinoid System: Why we’re all inherently potheads

March 27, 2014

by Dr. Andreo A. Spina

Have you ever heard of the digestive system? The lymphatic system? How about the muscular and nervous systems? Of course you have. Science has been studying them for years, making breakthroughs in our understanding of their inner workings that have lead to advancements benefited humanity in ways we now take for granted.

How about the endocannabinoid system? Have you heard of that?  If your profession has nothing to do with the biological sciences, I would expect the answer to be no (save a few individuals).  Don’t feel bad however, I have asked this question to many health and medical professionals that I have taught over the years and have received many a blank stare or look of confusion.

ths-ecs-for-ths2-1024x753What if I were to tell you that this biological system permeates the entire human body with receptors located in skeletal muscle, the digestive tract, adipose (fat) tissue, and throughout the peripheral and central nervous systems (including the brain)? Again, you would question why this system is not studied, discussed, or even mentioned in most in physiology/health classes.

What if I were to tell you that the Endocannabinoid system (or ECS):

–   Helps regulate the central control of energy balance

–   Helps regulate metabolic processes (including storage)

–   Plays a key role in the maintenance of bone mass

–   Regulates intestinal motility

–   Promotes/regulates sleep

–   Is involved in neuromodulation and immunomodulation in the immune system

–   Is involved in modulating insulin sensitivity

–   Is involved in the regulation of pain signaling

–   And much more

In fact Dr. Michael Beigel (Faculty of Medicine – The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) has said that the ECS is “involved in ALL physiological processes that have been investigated.”  As a result, working with the endocannabinoid system has been successfully utilized in the treatment of:

Obesity, diabetes, symptoms stemming from cancer, atherosclerosis, Multiple Sclerosis, Glaucoma, Infertility, Neuropathic Pain, Neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Dementia), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Menstrual cramps, Neuralgias, Insomnia, Anorexic wasting syndrome, chronic pain, muscle cramps, anxiety, nausea, inflammation, AIDS related weight loss, Tourette’s syndrome, tremors, dystonia, Epilepsy, Arthritis, depression and other mood disorders, alcohol and opiate addiction, etc. (there are many more).

….Can I sneak in its possible involvement in cognitive function and creativity?  Schafer and colleagues (2011) reviewed literature and concluded that its activation leads to connecting seemingly unrelated concepts, an aspect of divergent thinking considered primary to creative thinking.

At this point I assume many are in disbelief. You are likely wondering how such an important bodily system that permeates the entire body, plays a vital role in physiological functioning, and as the potential to treat such a wide variety of ailments and diseases has not received further attention and/or recognition.

Well, now I’m going to tell you why.  Its because the endocannabinoid system is stimulated by cannabinoids. That includes those that are produced by our bodies (endocannabinoids), and those released while smoking, or otherwise consuming Cannibis (exogenous cannabinoids – aka. “Marijuana,” for those who know it by the popular, inaccurate name).

  • ENDOCANNABINOIDS – cannabinoids produced by our bodies
  • EXOCANNABINOIDS (Exogenous cannabinoids) – cannabinoids contained in the cannabis plant

Now I am not an Oncologist, nor an Internist for that matter.  My specialty does not deal with the treatment of several of the conditions that I mentioned above.  I am a manual therapist, physical conditioning, and sports specialist. As such, I am not writing this piece to highlight how research into this system, and its activation through exogenous cannabinoids (cannabinoids introduced from outside the body often through smoking or ingesting the cannabis plant) is proving beneficial for conditions outside of my scope of practice.  I am writing it to highlight the involvement of this extensive bodily system in manual therapy and exercise as a result of being activated by the endogenous cannabinoids.

When treating patients for musculoskeletal conditions such as lower back pain, neck pain, headache, osteoarthritis, sports injuries, etc., using manual therapeutic approaches, two of the main goals are to reduce pain, and remodel soft tissue structures.  In the scientific literature, much time and effort has been put fourth in attempts to understand the mechanisms behind how treatment techniques can contribute to these goals.  We now have some understanding about the role of several bodily systems including the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, endocrine system, and the myofascial system. What about the endocannabinoid? Can this system also contribute? Preliminary research suggests that it can indeed.  As noted by McPartland et. al in 2005 and 2008, the effect of soft tissue manipulation on the ECS affects fibroblast remodeling (and hence soft tissue remodeling), dampens cartilage destruction (thus preserving joint health), diminishes nociception and pain, and even reduces inflammation in myofascial tissues. This has been shown to occur specifically in subjects with chronic lower back pain following soft tissue therapy as per Degenhardt et al. (2007) who identified a significant alteration in the concentration of several circulatory pain biomarkers lasting for up to 5 days post-treatment.

  • Thus soft tissue therapy may act through the ECS to:

              o   Change tissue structure

              o   Preserve joint health

              o   Reduce inflammation

              o   Decrease pain

If physical manipulation by a manual medical practitioner can stimulate this important system, how about physical manipulation by way of movement and training? Does the ECS play a role in exercise?  Research on this topic suggests that it does indeed.

Exercise induces changes in mental status, pain levels, sedation, anxiolysis (anxiety levels), and a sense of wellbeing (Dietrich & McDaniel 2004).  Many of these changes have been attributed to the “endorphin hypothesis” which was thought to, for example, produce the “runners high” (which I am sure many of you are familiar with).  However, research on the exercise-endorphin connection has produced equivocal results.  One of the main issues is that endorphins are too large to cross the blood-brain barrier (meaning they are not ‘allowed’ to leave the blood and enter brain tissue to produce the effect).  In recent years, several prominent endorphin researchers including Dr. Huda Akil and Dr. Solomon Snyder, have publically criticized the hypothesis noting that it is “poorly supported by scientific evidence” and that it is a “myth perpetuated by pop culture” (Kolata 2002).

  • Blood brain barrier:  The protective barrier surrounding the brain that filters undesirable material from entering brain tissue.

What then is creating this effect? Recent findings show that exercise increases serum concentrations of endocannabinoids, suggesting a possible explanation for a number of these mental, and physical changes.

  • Both endogenous cannabinoids and plant cannabinoids are allowed to cross the blood brain barrier freely.

To begin with, there is a large body of scientific literature documenting that exercise suppresses pain, induces sedation, reduces stress, and elevates mood (Dietrich & McDaniel 2004). It can also induce ‘Flow states’ (Csikszentmihalyi 1996) whereby the participant becomes so immersed in the activity that they have an altered perception of space and time. Similarly, a large body of evidence also demonstrates that the consumption cannabis, or marijuana, produces almost identical effects including sedation, pain reduction, reduced anxiety, euphoria, enhanced sensory perception, a state of silent introspection, altered time perception and feelings of wellbeing.  This results from the fact that the psychoactive constituent of cannabis, Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) exhibits a high affinity for the CB1 receptor, which is densely expressed in brain regions implicated in the control of emotion and cognition (Glass et. al 1997).

  • Both endogenous and exogenous cannabinoids function by the same mechanisms.  The brains receptors accept both.  Exercise increases our bodies’ production of its own cannabinoids.  Therefore theoretically the state that one claims to achieve during running, the “running high,” is equivalent to a mild plant cannabinoid induced high.

In addition to these mental changes, research also demonstrates the effect of ECS activation on creating various beneficial physical effects.  For example, research looking at ECS stimulation has demonstrated its necessary involvement for the refinement of movements needed for coordinated locomotion (Steiner brain cannabiset. al 1999).  This stems from the fact that the highest concentration of the CB1 receptors in the brain are actually found in regions that control motor behavior and movement. This means that the majority of cannabinoid receptors are in the area of the brain that controls movement.

Further, activation of the ECS may also produce beneficial peripheral effects (effects outside of the brain/central nervous system) leading to other adaptive responses to exercise including vasodilation (increased blood vessel size allowing for increased blood flow), and enhanced respiratory function facilitating improved breathing during exercise (Hillard 2000, Calignano 2000).


As noted above, I wrote this simply to highlight the potential involvement of the endocannabinoid system in manual therapy, and its seemingly strong involvement on the mental and physical effects induced by exercise. In so doing, I hope to spark the interest of those in my field so that continued efforts are made through research to further understand how the ECS mediates the effects of manual care and exercise, as well as to potentially learn how to better manipulate this system to benefit our patients/clients.  I am personally very interested in knowing if it is possible to activate the endocannabinoid system prior to exercise, or if it is possible to increase the responsiveness of the receptors.  For example, could meditative practice do it?  (Those who achieve meditative states also describe incredibly similar experiences.  Perhaps meditation also acts on the ECS?).  I am also interested in the mechanism it plays in teaching movement tasks to my training clients.  Further, as a manual therapist, I am interested to know more about how this system is involved in tissue healing and remolding, pain modulation, and neural rehabilitation.

At the moment, research on this topic is still in its infancy because of the difficulties involved in conducting studies including governmental regulations, as well as fear on the part of the researchers of being deemed ‘fringe.’   As social beliefs continue to change for the better, I hope that manual therapists and exercise specialists follow in the footsteps of oncologists and spend time learning about and understanding this often forgotten physiological system.

“True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.”

–   Karl Popper

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