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Before and After, Happily Ever After?

By: Marty Morales

Before and after photos of a cartoon character

Years ago I used to have a tripod and camera set up in my office. I would take pictures of clients before their Rolfing® session and then after their Rolfing® session. Side view, back view, front view, I did them all. I would share them with my clients and it seemed to be working out well for a bit. But then I met a client who went through the series with me. She was dealing with back pain so the series focused on that.

As I was taking the pictures (from what I can recall, this was years ago) I don’t remember seeing a noticeable difference. Her back pain, however, did get better over time.

At the end of the series, I shared the “Before” and “After” pictures with her. She took a look at the pictures and exclaimed, “Ugh! I don’t like how I look!” Mind you, her back pain was pretty much fully gone by then. This made me think about the purpose of taking pictures and sharing them with clients and I decided right then and there to stop taking pictures.

Now, I know that pictures are very catchy and look good on social media, but I think we need to take a beat and think about the true purpose of taking “Before” and “After” pictures. If our goal in working with clients is to bring about pain relief or greater mobility, or a better sense of body awareness, is any of that going to show up in an “After” picture?

Sure, someone can look straighter or look like they have better posture, but are they in less pain? Do they embody a more functional way of moving? We don’t know and we can’t make a positive correlation between better posture and less pain. I know some practitioners take pictures showing before and after difference in ranges of motion and I think that’s interesting, but I mostly see static postures as the choice of photo stills.

The other issue I have with pictures is that they don’t offer up a dynamic view of the client. When I do gait analysis, it’s just that, analyzing gait, not static posture. So many things happen in gait (movement) that don’t happen in static posture and we miss all that if all we’re looking at is how someone is standing. People also live their life in movement, why would I attempt to treat a client just by looking how they stand?

The late great Monica Caspari would say in class, “Happiness is more important than perfection” and her voice echoes in my mind sometimes when I think about this topic. Taking pictures and trying to make the “After” picture look better than the “Before” picture is more about attempting to make things “look” perfect, not so much about making sure the client is happy and feels better.


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