I am a sport scientist with a PhD in training sciences and sports medicine. I have been an entrepreneur in the health care business for 25 years. Nowadays I am chairman of the board of a non-profit foundation that promotes “Strength as medicine”.
The beginning of a successful collaboration
Back in 1989, I visited DAVID in Finland and won Arno Parviainen’s support for my doctoral study at Deutsche Sporthochschule Cologne/Germany.
Arno and me agreed that I would buy the machines at production price. There was just one problem: I did not have enough money in my bank account. So I had to be creative and find a way to finance the deal. My girlfriend and I got married and we invested all the money that we received from our parents and relatives as a wedding gift to purchase two computerized DAVID test machines.
And so in the spring of 1990, the real journey began.
Intense research leads to a scientific breakthrough
In 1990 we did not have the slightest idea what the values that we measured with the devices could tell us. Therefore, in close cooperation with DAVID we first developed normative data for the major trunk and neck muscles. This was based on measurements taken from around 1,500 people who were between 16 and 85 years old. This was Phase 1.
From here, we were able to quantify and describe the muscular spine stabilization of patients, pain-free people and professional athletes (mainly football, ice hockey, track and field).
For the first time muscular deficiencies and imbalances could be measured and analyzed.
For the first time in medical history, factors like “muscular deficiencies”, “muscular disbalances” and “muscular asymmetries” could be measured objectively and analyzed scientifically.
The collaboration that transformed musculoskeletal care
Because of this research, we were able to identify human beings with severe muscular deficits in the spine’s stabilizing muscles and quantify their “stadium of deconditioning”.
Phase 2 was the development of a research-based “reconditioning program”. The major problem back then was that nobody knew how to recondition these patients in a safe and effective manner.
We conducted around 50 longitudinal studies with back and neck patients. From this, we developed a standardized therapy concept consisting of
- an initial 12 to 14 week reconditioning program and
- an ongoing prevention program that stabilizes the patients long-lasting and with minimal effort
And we acquired ground-breaking knowledge from putting this therapy into practice. Our active functional restoration program led to extraordinary patient improvements even in the severest cases. They showed what we called “broadband spectral adaptations”. This means significant improvements in spinal mobility, trunk and neck muscles strength and power capacity, reduction of pain. The program also improved mental impairment (depression, anxiety) plus highly improved well-being and daily life activities.
Our treatment program led to patient improvements in even the severest cases.
These spectacular findings shook up the medical world. Especially because we were able to win big companies (like Toyota, Deutsche Bank), television stations (like WDR, RTL) and health insurance companies (legal as well as private insurance provider) as financers of our program. In this Phase 3 we finally made the breakthrough as a science-based medical program and as a promising business concept.
All in all, we can modestly say that the collaboration with DAVID substantially changed the treatment of back patients in Europe from predominantly passive to mainly active interventions. We mutually created “a force for good” based on a genuine concern for human-beings who suffered from back and neck pain.
Arno Parviainen (left) and Dr. Achim Denner in 1993.
Promising future for musculoskeletal care
In the present period marked by digitization, world-wide interconnectedness and artificial intelligence, I believe that DAVID is well positioned. Devices with great biomechanical properties, cloud-based software for treatment guidance, data collection and reporting as well as a modern international company culture enable DAVID to be a world leader in rehabilitation solutions for musculoskeletal problems. So the future seems to be bright for DAVID and its loyal customers.
From a scientific point of view, we have to rediscover and reinforce the unique feature of human-beings: the erect posture of man. All major human movements (walking, running, lifting, pulling, pushing, dancing …) are made in upright posture with feet on the ground. And the body always acts as an integrated unit consisting of 656 muscles.
We have to open this potential for our patients by additionally training them on their feet. In my opinion, the next revolution in active functional restoration is the systematic integration of ground-based three-dimensional exercises with handheld loads. I’ve already developed a quite sophisticated approach. But that’s another story.