Freedom to move: Movement therapy for spinal pain and injuries

This book is available in Australasia through Terra Rosa and elsewhere through Handspring Publishing

Freedom to Move integrates applicable contemporary science around spinal movement and pain with clinical evidence and understanding gleaned from the author’s longstanding practice (as both a manual and movement therapist). It also includes further insights gained from wide ranging enquiry around spinal movement control in health and dis-ease. This includes exploration of various movement approaches – in particular Feldenkrais, Pilates and the long-term practice of yoga. The book also relates functional movement to the fascial system and the concept of biotensegrity.

The book briefly examines the relationship between healthy torso structure and functional control – and the functional connections between the spine, head and proximal limb girdles – and between the nervous, muscular and fascial systems in providing joint protection, support and control – significant in the spine due to its multi-segmented nature and richly endowed neural networks.

In particular it focuses upon the distilled basic movements that underpin healthy movement – the Key Axial Fundamental Patterns of control.

The bulk of the book’s real estate offers an informed, reasoned, practical therapeutic exercise/movement approach aimed at directly redressing the common deficits and functional movement faults found in people with spinal dysfunction. This is a neuro-myo-fascial approach to correcting movement behaviour whereby in general, restoring control of basic natural functional movement patterns not only remedies the person’s pain but also improves their general functioning and well-being. While some of these exercises may be familiar to practitioners, the suggested adjustments and fine tuning will usually not be common practice.

Exercising for fitness may work counter to building healthy patterns of spinal control in some – they develop spinal pain and injuries. Hence, the book also evaluates the rationales behind commonly prescribed exercises within the various arms of both the therapeutic and movement fitness industries – for both the positive aspects they offer in providing healthy movement – and the pitfalls which may in fact compromise spinal health.

This model of movement therapy for spinal health is applicable within all industry models of teaching movement – both therapeutic and those within the fitness industry including Pilates and Yoga – and the gyms – for prevention and promoting health as well as well-being of the spine in exercise programmes in general.



It is a fabulous book. Congratulate the author!

“Josephine Key’s Freedom to move is one of the most complete books on movement therapy for spinal pain and injuries that I have ever read. The book is extremely well organized, researched and referenced. Part A of the book starts by explaining the role of fascia, muscles, bones and the nervous system. Many books on therapy do this, but Key’s book ties it all together into how neuro-motor control happens, and she does it in a way that is easy to understand and builds the foundation for Part B.

“Part B covers the therapy aspect of people with spinal pain. Chapter 5 on Assessment and Chapter 6 and 7 that cover the exercises/movements are extremely clear. Photos and the written description of both the assessment process and exercises/movements go hand in hand and are congruent with each other. The only complaint about this book is that Part B is so clear and well organized that I can imagine that many people will skip Part A and immediately jump to the assessment and exercises/movements in Part B. The reader who jumps straight to Part B will get lots of new ideas that will benefit their clients, but the magic of the book is how Part A tells the story that will make the reader understand and be able to apply and adapt Part B to their clients. Everyone who buys this book should first read Part A twice and then they can let the magic of Part B happen.”

Staffan Elgelid PhD, PT, GCFP, C-IAYT, ERYT-200, RYT-500
Professor of Physical Therapy, Nazareth College



“The title says it all.

“Josephine Key’s latest book lays the groundwork for medical professionals of all stripes to systematically assess and treat back pain and dysfunction.  Using a multilayered approach based on the biopsychosocial model, and incorporating current research findings and the new paradigm of Biotensegrity, Key’s approach methodically builds a therapeutic framework for optimizing breath, alignment and movement.  She introduces principles, concepts and research that convincingly challenge more conventional strategies for treating spinal pain. Physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, yoga therapists, personal trainers, in fact, any practitioner using movement as spinal therapy, will discover many gems in this book.

“The book is laid out in an easily followed format.  First, Key sets the foundation for a deep understanding of the spine and causes of spinal dysfunction, then articulates a thorough assessment process that includes the identification of “Key signs” indicating typical dysfunction.  After highlighting foundational principles of movement therapy for spinal rehabilitation, and describing the fundamental patterns of the torso, Key provides an extensive compendium of movements in which these patterns initiate and guide movements in different positions and levels.  Practitioners working with back pain ranging from mild to severe will find appropriate therapeutic movements for their patients and clients.

“I fully agree with Key’s insistence on the necessity of restoring intrinsic three-dimensional movement before prescribing gross movements for rehabilitation of the spine.  The low load repatterning of these basic motor patterns re-educates appropriate motor control and activation of the deep muscular system.  I have found that the connection and relationship between the spine, pelvis and limbs is not always appreciated in rehabilitation discussions.  In addition, the value of using slow, gentle, precise micro movements is often overlooked.  While I commend Key’s utilization of distal initiation of movement to therapeutically affect spinal function, I believe that there is also value in encouraging patients to develop an interoceptive, or felt-sense, of their spine and associated soft tissue structures.  With interoceptive awareness, patients can consciously initiate more proximal movement from specific aspects of these structures.  Both proximal and distal movement initiation will have benefit, and sometimes both are needed.

“This comprehensive, evidence-based book belongs on the shelf of any practitioner working with patients or clients suffering from spinal pain and dysfunction.  Key clearly articulates the often neglected role of movement reeducation in the rehabilitation of sub-optimal motor control in alignment and movement, and presents a thoughtful model that will help many people regain the Freedom to Move.”

Leila Stuart, Yoga Therapist, BA, LLB, RMT, C-I AYT