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Phillip Beach

Your feet are as important to you as your face and hands – they are all part of that embryological structure called the Wolffian ridge. One of the keys to helping low back pain is to rehabilitate your feet.

Interview with PHILLIP

Why Wellington, New Zealand?

Originally I’m from Australia and the southern hemisphere has always been home. After 24 years in London the time was right to return. This small city has everything to offer: art, landscape, diversity and most importantly the time I've needed to develop the ideas I’ve been playing with.

Where did the idea of the contractile field originate?

I’d been working on the idea for many years, right from my osteopathy undergraduate days. I was interested in the different approaches to try and model movement – not that I knew it was called that then. I was looking for systems that linked muscles to other muscles – it was obviously how the moving body worked.

Why the study of acupuncture ?

I wanted a conceptual widening of my field of view. Osteopathy was a biomedical paradigm – interesting - but I wanted a more cross-cultural perspective of manual therapy. The history of it appealed to me; the relatively fixed nature of the acupuncture points; and the 2000 years of empirical clinical insight. The rote learning of the meridian points was challenging and I always suspected the Chinese must have arrived at their understanding of the meridian map via a methodology that has been lost over time.


The Chinese maps suggested to me that I should situate the sense organs in contractile fields. This was a conceptually novel suggestion. Embedding the sense organs – well that idea then took me to the concept of body plans and how vertebrates are made up. This is what led me to realise how our basic neuroarchitecture is built around patterns that have not changed for 500,000 years. It was valid to think about muscles and these particular sense organs at the same time.


When I was working on the Chinese acupuncture meridial map I was looking at the the electron microscopy of a developing limb bud.

One hundred years ago when they were first using light microscopes studying these limb buds they were describing the bud as having pre-axial and post-axial borders; borders between the ventral surface and the dorsal surface – at the top and bottom. I realised the Chinese had placed lines on either side of these borders and had conceptually linked those lines together. They were saying these two lines were linked across this border.

Some years previously I had read an article from New Scientist magazine called Border Control. It was about how every single cell in your body has a bi-laminar lipid membrane and that was the control between the inside and the outside of the cell. This is when the idea came to mind that the Chinese were possibly trying to control borders by placing these lines on either side.


The late Professor Brian Goodwin for his conceptual approach to valuing the whole organism – looking at the organism as a distinct emergent level in the biological heirarchy.

And Professor Serge Gracovetsky – he wrote The Spinal Engine in which he took an evolutionary perspective of the spine and developed what he called the ‘critter’ and the spinal ‘gear box’ that showed how the lumbar spine behaved when it was flexed or extended. I was very impressed by his work.


I encourage people to value the floor. As far as possible I avoid chairs and at home always sit on the floor. I also practice getting up and down from the floor.

Feet are as important as your face and hands – they are all part of that embryological structure called the Wolffian ridge – and shoes deprive your feet of sensation. I have trained my feet so that I can walk across reasonably rough terrain. Walking on roughish ground is fantastic for the intrinsic muscles of the feet. One way to alleviate low back pain is to rehabilitate your feet.


Both a website and a book on archetypical postures and the Erectorcises. These ideas are universally applicable to all people, all ages, and cultures. They are not yoga – they are part of humankind’s birthright. I think that it is an important concept if we are going to tackle endemic back pain.