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‘Dem Links’: The Value of Anatomy in Manipulation

I will start with a song which is a play on the spiritual song ‘Dem Bones’.  If you really want to get into the mood, here is a YouTube link for inspiration.

Andrew Taylor connected dem fascial links

Andrew Taylor connected dem fascial links

Andrew Taylor in the American Mid-West

Now hear the word of the Lord

The plantar fascia’s connected to the crural fascia,

The crural fascia’s connected to the fascia lata,

The fascia lata’s connected to the IT band…

And of course the song continues.  More than 140 years ago the founder of osteopathic philosophy, Andrew Taylor Still, was preaching the importance of the fasciae with all of their links and their relation to heath.  More so, he was passionate about the ability of men and women to manipulate the body such that the fascia was able to allow health to return to the body by way of proper blood supply, drainage and innervation to each and every part.

My spin on ‘Dem Bones’ could be sung for hours if each of the fascial links in the human body were included.  What is the point you may ask?  In the spirit of AT Still, only when the anatomy of these links can be found on the tip of the tongue can one studiously apply physical manipulation and rehabilitative exercise.  We spend long clinical days with our client’s anatomy in our hands, an intimate knowledge of that anatomy seems to be a logical first step.  As my osteopathic mentor, Guy Voyer, once told me “Osteopathy is easy, once you know the anatomy”.  I have taken those words very seriously and found them to be true time and time again.

Pause for a moment and test yourself now if you want.  Start to sing the song and add fascial links (direct relations if you can) until you can’t continue at the normal speed of the song.  You should easily be able to reach 100 different links, if not, I may be able to help.

For a moment, back to the song, the second verse actually: time to disconnect some parts.  Really the second verse is simply the reverse of the first but replace the connected with disconnected and to with from.  Now, that is easy to sing but hard to actually do.  If you were fortunate enough to do human dissection during your undergraduate or professional education, fantastic, but wouldn’t it have been nice to have the years of clinical experience under your belt and in your hands to create the links necessary for studious manipulation?

Here’s where I think I can help: in 2011 I was finishing up my osteopathic studies in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and still felt I needed more to reach that ‘90% of all anatomy before entering the clinic’ that I had read in one of AT Still’s books.  Handcuffed by a lack of real anatomy resources I decided to shut down my growing practice to a single day per week so I could complete a Master of Science degree in Anatomy & Cell Biology.  For certain that would get me to that 90% and beyond.  Naïve, I know.  I did gain much during my studies at Queen’s University, but it was still a good 2 years of dissection before I could say I obtained AT Still’s marker.  That’s my story, what about others?

Part of my Masters research was to survey all of the chiropractors and physiotherapists in Ontario, Canada as well as all of the osteopathic practitioners listed with the Canadian Federation of Osteopaths and see what their opinion was regarding the confidence they had in their anatomical knowledge leaving school.  A bit sad to say, but the results showed that 22%, 32%, and 42% of those professions (I’ll save the embarrassment by not identifying which profession represented which percent) were not confident in their anatomical knowledge leaving school.

If I honestly reflect upon myself, I would have to put myself in that category up until the time when I started to dissect.  Knowing that I was not alone in my frustrations, after my graduate studies concluded, I founded and still run the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Human Dissection Experience, or CAM – HD Experience at Queen’s University at Kingston in Ontario, Canada.

The CAM – HD Experience allows practitioners of the CAM professions to re-enter the anatomy lab accompanied by their clinical experience to rediscover anatomy by way of an open dissection curriculum.  What is an open curriculum?  Think of it this way, the CAM – HD Experience supplies the world-class facilities, the specimens and the technical know-how, while the students supply the objectives for the dissection before undertaking that dissection with their group.

After 3 years of running these dissection courses I have confirmed several times over that I am not alone in my desire to study anatomy, not with the cut along the dotted line methods seen in many dissection manuals, but with a desire to see the anatomy from the context of clinical practice.  This is exactly what the CAM – HD Experience is designed to do.  If you are interested in taking your clinical knowledge of anatomy to the next level by combining your clinical experience with the experience of human dissection, I hope to see you at the next CAM – HD Experience in the Summer of 2016.  Check out for more information or feel free to contact me at

Back to the song…

The fascia of Charpy’s connected to the pharyngobasilar fascia,

The pharyngobasilar fascia’s connected to the sinus of Morgagni,

The sinus of Morgagni’s connected to the…(fade out)…

Craig Harness MSc, PhD(c), RMT, DO(Q)

CraigCraig Harness is a Lecturer of Anatomy and Founder of the CAM – HD Experience at Queen’s University at Kingston in Ontario, Canada with an extensive background in the fields of both Anatomy and Osteopathy.  He completed his Massage Therapy Diploma (Sir Sandfor Fleming Colege), a Bachelor of Science, Human Sciences degree (Athabasca University) and his Masters of Anatomy & Cell Biology (Queen’s University) with a focus of professional anatomy education for members of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine streams.  Craig completed his Diplôme d’Ostéopathie with Guy Voyer at the Académie Sutherland d’Ostéopathie du Québec where he also holds the position of professor.  Along with operating his private practice and the CAM – HD Experience, Craig is currently completing his PhD dissertation in the Experimental Medicine field of specialization at Queen’s University.