Postural gymnastics and treatment of back pain
published in March - April 2019 - in Il Fisioterapista - issue n.2
Alessandro Serenelli, Angela Marchese

This article reviews the various techniques included in the vast chapter of so-called postural gymnastics and their use in the treatment of back pain from the beginning of the 20th century to today. A common feature shared by all the techniques examined is that they were developed based on clinical observation and only later was a theoretical rationale sought to validate them. This research has been accompanied by and often conducted together with the research into the cause of back pain, a cause that, especially in chronic diseases, still remains difficult or impossible to identify in the vast majority of patients.
Following the lesson of Michel Foucault, in the present paper we highlight how the theoretical and practical development of postural methods and the research into the cause of back pain, which all arose first from clinical observation, cannot be separated in their evolution from the socio-cultural context in which they occur. It can hence be said that the medical opinion is intrinsically linked to the socio-cultural context in which it occurs, as well as is the patient’s experience and the patient’s awareness of their pain, and that the analysis of the history of postural gymnastics and of their use to combat back pain can help us to understand the “mental attitudes” of both therapists and patients.