Stalinist Sciatica

As well as murdering millions Stalin also messed with scientific progress when he ruled Russia.
You probably haven't heard of Nicolai Bernstein. He was a self-taught genius who invented biomechanics and pioneered the study of human movement.
One of my heroes.
It is unbelievable now, but even physiology was political in those dark days. Bernstein's work conflicted with that of Stalin's golden boy Ivan Pavlov ( of Pavlov's dogs fame).

Summary of the argument:

Pavlov thought human all movements stem from simple pre programmed reflexes.

Bernstein discovered that when you repeat the same action, you achieve it in a different way each time.

Such "repetition without repetition" cannot be a pure reflex. But back then Pavlov had god-like status and Stalin's support. You don't argue with Pavlov!

A string of critical articles denouncing Nickolai appeared during 1948 and 49. The end for his career came after a highly critical editorial in the Communist paper Pravda in 1950.He was lucky to escape with his life and his freedom. Many others didn't

But he was silenced.

We missed a huge leap in understanding movement, because of Bernstein's suppression. We are stuck with simplistic ideas of mobility that owe a lot to Pavlov. I believe that if Bernstein had been able to publicise his ideas in West, we would have a far more advanced understanding of back pain today.

So if you want someone to blame for your sciatica, blame Joseph Stalin.

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Philip Hambly

Osteopath at the Osteopath Centre from 2008 till present

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