Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Egoscue Method: The Good and the Bad

I first heard of The Egoscue Method over 10 years ago when I bought "The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion" and later "Pain Free" both by Pete Egoscue. I found the books interesting reading, but I was looking for a magic bullet and the programs seemed difficult to undertake and figure out. Upon further reading and practicing the stretches over the past year I have come to a better understanding of the program and its strengths and limitations. The Egoscue Method is basically a set of prescribed stretches that should put your body back into it's natural alignment and function. Rather than use manipulation, massage, or any other technique Egoscue strengthens the appropriate muscles which then can be used to pull your body back into alignment.

The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion: Revolutionary Program That Lets You Rediscover the Body's Power to Rejuvenate It is dependent on your understanding of some diagrams that depict different types of body abnormalities. After you figure out your body type (if you can do this) then you follow a prescribed menu of exercises (or e-cises). The diagrams of misalignments captured my interest first because the showed rotations and imbalances that reminded me of "me". I found that you had to diagnose your own body, but this was rather difficult because I was a mix of more that one type and was not fully any of the types listed. From this point you find a list of prescribed exercises listed on one page and then you have to flip through the book to find how to do each exercise. It is a pretty ambitious book and the exercises were interesting however it didn't solve any problems for me.


The next book I bought was Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain. This book also has menus and e-cises but it is a bit more specific based on the reader's need. You can find menus for hips, or knees, or any other problem areas. I suppose this is easier to read and figure out particularly when you have just one problem area. Again nothing was resolved for me when applying this book to my posture.


Last year I noticed some the Egoscue: Pain Free Workout Series DVDs. These are generic Egoscue exercises not particularly geared to any specific problem. I find both to be good stretching routines that are worth the investment if you wish to learn more about some of the stretches and to receive good instruction. Like other Egoscue products, I find them to be a valuable resource but that they really didn't solve any problems for me.

Up until last year, Egoscue had a message board. I visited every once in a while to learn more and ask questions. One thing that kept being repeated was to visit a clinic to get the right exercises and to make sure I was doing things right. I signed up for a session with a therapist at a traveling clinic. I told the therapist during a phone conversation prior to the visit that I had a couple of simple questions I wanted answered. I was assured that he would have the skill to answer my question. I basically wanted to know if I had a structural issue with the bones in my foot, knee, or hip and if the way they moved or didn't move could really be "healed" using Egoscue. I realize they are out to sell something so of course "Egoscue" should be able to fix anything, however I wished an honest assessment. Could I possibly I have a bone or joint problem that no matter how wrong I got me muscles, they would never be able to pull things right if the bones got in the way?

The visit to the traveling clinic was expensive! They young therapist was nice and he seemed to know the Egoscue protocol. He went through a logical set of steps while watching my posture walking back and forth across the room and bending. Then he set up a series of e-cises and watched me perform them. I was performing them correctly just like in the book and video so I did not learn much. What was unnerving however was our beginning conversation when he asked about me and then told me why he got into Egoscue. His friend ran the clinic and it seemed to be a good way to earn a living with the degree he had. I guess that is all fine, but I really would have appreciated meeting with someone who had "been there" and dealt with pain and imbalance issues themselves not someone who was out to earn a buck! He really couldn't answer my question except to insist that given time (and I can assume-plenty of clinic visits) that eventually things would work for me. I could tell he had no clue as to why my leg is stuck in the positions it is in with the ankle everting the foot out and the knee knocking in. If I try to straighten my knee and foot the foot is in a horrible and useless pronation.

I went home enthusiastic about trying the program. I did my e-cises every day (sometimes twice) for the little over an hour that was necessary. I felt muscles strengthening a bit but no release or fixing of my mechanical problems. I carried on for over a month and even did the "free" set of new exercises that was provided (after a phone consultation with the therapist). I was not happy that this was going to fix anything unless I was willing to commit tons of money to attend more visits with the therapist.

I decided not to go back for more exercises but continued doing the e-cises and making menus of my own to try. A lot of effort was wasted as it had no real effect on the positioning of my bones and joints and the way my leg moved. I also grew discouraged as the Egoscue website discontinued their message board. I had enjoyed reading about the success of other patients and the asking of questions but for some reason that could no longer be accomplished. One thing I did learn from the message board is that for many people the process takes lots of time (years in some cases) and is a long-term process that needs to be continued each day. I had to believe there is a better and more affordable way out their to recover my stride. Doing the exercises is also very time-consuming.

On the message board Pete Egoscue was sometimes called a "genius" by his followers. I would gather that having him work on you and observe your gait and patterns would be a very worthwhile opportunity. I am sure he would be able to do the pinpointing of specific problems and finding the right exercises to get my posture returned to normal pretty quickly. The fee for the clinic that I paid should have earned me some time with the man himself. However, having a "trained" therapist follow a script and protocol soesn't seem like the wisest use of my money. I think the method has tremendous merits but it almost seems marketed as a way to earn money from some well heeled clientele. I am just not that person!

I do think his books are a worthy read and I would certainly encourage anyone struggling with an injury or going in for surgery on the hip, knee, or other problem area to read his books and give his method a try first before going under the knife. It does seem that plenty of people achieve success with this method. The videos are a worthwhile and well-thought out stretching routine too! I would avoid the clinics unless you have time and money to spare. I have even recommended the books and program to my mother-in-law.


I have  found two other resource books that describe and outline programs and exercises similar to the Egoscue program. One is a take-off by a former Egoscue person and is similarly called The Pain-Free Program: A Proven Method to Relieve Back, Neck, Shoulder, and Joint Pain. The other has plenty of exercises written in menu forms for common alignment problems and is called Posture Alignment. It is probably the simplest and easiest of the books to follow and implement. Many of the exercises are the same or similar to Egoscue which makes it easy to create your own menus. They are all good additions to your sport library and just may help you recover your stride.






40 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that you should consider going to another clinic. I also had a similar occurrence at the NY clinic where a young technician was just there because it paid and the hours were pretty good.

He also had the nerve to switch the order of the exercises prescribed by "Pete" - the computer program used to assess the pictures.

However, I ended up purchasing a few of the web-consultations and have since had great results. I was in terrible pain, am only 25, and used to be extremely active, but was reduced to "old-man" status when I was diagnosed with sciatica.

The exercises have been a godsend and I haven't stopped doing them daily -- even though the pain stopped months ago.

Keep at it, get some different exercises from a different clinic, and get better. They have a bank of 400 exercises, and I've yet to find a philosophy that teaches the same thing.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Buy the book "Somatics" by Thomas Hanna. It's a system of neuromuscular re-education and helped as much or more, for me at least, than did the Egoscue method.

Anonymous said...

I devoured Pain Free and did the Ecises. Limited success. A much better book and program, IMO, is "Three Minutes to a Pain Free Life", by Joseph Weisberg. I also found much more benefit (don't laugh, please) from "The Shaolin Workout" by Ming. Aside from the Buddhist/martial arts stuff, his stretches are EXCELLENT and CLEARLY DETAILED. Those two books and programs much more beneficial than Egoscue. Ego's theory is impressive, and some of his exercises like 'Static Extension' do help my SI joint problems. But aiming for alignment just doesn't provide the pain relief that stretching properly does. Just my opinion.

Jim Hansen said...

Anonymous,
Thanks for the book recommendations. I will have to check them out.
Jim

Anonymous said...

The Egoscue Method is definitely a long-term process. Some changes are immediate, while others may take quite a while. Have faith and keep at it.

Anonymous said...

Working with an Egoscue therapist is much better than doing random e-cises on your own. An experienced therapist will have seen dozens of people with your same body and issues and will know exactly what e-cises will untwist you, and in what sequence to provide them.

Anonymous said...

what about trying pilates with a certified instructor? that will balance out your muscles and fix your alignment.

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks for the comment about Pilates. I have never tried that. Currently I am going to a Physical Therapist who does something called Postural Restoration. I have been 5 times so far and it is doing what I thought Egoscue was supposed to do when I tried it. The PT is targeting my musclular imbalances and giving me exercises that so far have been remarkable and use my muscles to shift my body and bones back into proper alignment. Here is my current post on PSI http://recoveryourstride.blogspot.com/2009/12/finishing-year-with-new-approaches.html I am surprised at how quickly my body is responding.
Jim

Linda said...

I just created a blog on blogger to look for people who are working with Egoscue so that I can have someone to talk to about how it's going. I am 65 years old and retired last spring so that I would have time to work the problem and recover flexibility in my right leg. I believe the practice of Pilates (and other long years of misuse of my body) caused my hip flexor to go into flexion and not release. The hip flexor is holding my right leg in flexion. I have been working with the Washington, DC, metropolitan area Egoscue clinic since May of last year and am amazed. I call my blog "bodreconstruction" because that is, indeed, what is happening. I am being reconstructed. It took years for my body to fall out of shape, and it may take a while longer to recover it, but I believe I'm getting there and may achieve the goal this year (maybe even this spring!). All of my hard work is, of course, in lieu of having a surgeon cut my body up and put it back together and declare it repaired and yet nothing is repaired. There isn't a pill for this problem. You either do the work and win or don't do the work and continue to fall apart. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I was 67, retired and playing quite a bit of softball when my left hip began really bothering me to the point that I slept with an ice pack on it and thought seriously of giving up softball. My daughter put me on to Egoscue's "Pain Free" book. I bought it and, after reading it, thought there was no way these exercises could help my hip. However, I had nothing to lose so I began doing them every day and within a week, I was playing, but still with some pain. I was amazed at the progress in such a short time so I kept doing them and still do them religiously every day. I have no hip pain whatsoever and also do the back exercises for a chronic bad back. I tell my fellow players about the book whenever I hear them complain about pain. I realize this sounds like I'm one of Egoscue's relatives but it is truely amazing what these exercises have done for me.

Paul Maresca

Anonymous said...

Several years ago I had surgery on my rotary cuff area of my left shoulder. My Orthopedic surgeon sent me to therapy to regain use of my arm, but I made little or no progress. My daughter got me an appointment with Egoscue and within a month a made fabulous progress doing ecises recommended. My surgeon was so impressed that he wanted to know where the nearest clinic was located so he could refer his other patients. He said, "This is exactly what you need" and recommended to my insurance company to pay for the sessions. I have made other progress but it takes time just like any thing you do that is worth doing. Anonymous

annielight said...

Have any of you women out there been successful using the egoscue method for bladder prolapse?
Or any other method?

Anonymous said...

I have had a lot of knee pain, and it was progressively getting worse.
In five weeks of Eqoscue exercises I am close to being pain free. 90% of what I do as a Yoga Teacher is virtually pain free. I do the exercises at least 30 minutes a day sometimes 45 minutes a day. It has been worth it. This is not magical stuff but requires dedications to strength muscles that need immediate attention. This method has been a blessing for me.

Angela said...

I would highly recommend seeing a Rolfer who can address both the structural and functional aspects of your postural and gait issues with both hands on and movement education methods.

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks Angela..
I did do the whole rolfing series a few years ago. It didn't solve my problems. I also tried Feldenkrais. I am awaiting surgery for labral tears in my hip. I am hoping they can fix something in there while doing the surgery as there has always been something wrong with the way that hip fits or moves in the socket. Rolfing was great, but it didn't fix a joint that doesn't work right.

Anonymous said...

"I decided not to go back for more exercises but continued doing the e-cises and making menus of my own to try"

That is exactly why it is not working for you. The entire premise of the method is the sequence of the exercises. The fact that you're "making menus" of your own up is why your results are not there! Go visit Pete in San Diego and he will fix you.

Jim Hansen said...

Hi Anonymous,
If I were a very rich man, I would have pursued a trip to San Diego year ago to see Pete Egoscue, but I am not, so that is not possible.

I have a labral tear in my hip that I will be getting surgery for in August. I only hope that the doctor can fix something that is wrong with the way the hip moves or doesn't move in the socket (impingement or bone) when he is fixing the tear.

I am not sure any type of therapy could fix something wrong with the bone that I have been told is probably why I could never fix that hip no matter what method of fixing it that I tried. It is more than just a muscle problem.
Jim

Justin Hamade said...

Just started reading your blog so not sure if you mentioned this already but I had pretty good success with my knee/foot gait issues with a ART chiro.

I think with any health care profession you have to find a good person and the method they use does not make them good or bad.

Unknown said...

I have been in knee pain for some time. It's become so bad that I can't do any squats anymore, even going up and down the stairs is painful. I have now been doing Egoscue e-cises with a therapist for 7 weeks, but I have only seen a very minimal change in my pain. She gives me different set each time and I do them everyday for 45-60 mins in the hope that one day I'll feel better and can go back to my regular exercise routine. So far, still waiting in hope. But the pain is still there.

Jim Hansen said...

anonymous,
I can't tell you that Egoscue can or can't help your knee pain or know how long it will take if it would. From my experience posted here from awhile back, I was told it would fix me. It never would have, as I found out this year that what I had was a torn labrum in my hip as well as a build up of tissue that changed the way my hip worked. Egoscue would never have fixed that, my underlying problem. Only arthroscopic surgery could do that and I had the surgery in July and am well on my way to recovery. If something doesn't work, keep looking for answers till you get relief! Good luck!

Jim Hansen said...

Justin, just noticed your comment now. When ART did not work for me last summer (with a good therapist) I knew I had to pursue the torn labrum angle. I was right and the ART therapist finally agreed that it may have been my problem since everything he tried did not work. As I mentioned above, I was right, and I have had a happy and so far successful surgery. I am on the recovery and am much more enlightened about all the therapies out there so that I can handle future aches and pains.

Jesse Imgrund said...

Egoscue is not magic but simply a science based on the the bodies clear design structure. Pete has developed this based on pure science and the evidence developed in our bodies muscle and bone structure. There are many ways to grow a garden but there is only a few components that will give you the ability to grow. Pete has never made any claims of fame but simply has shared the obvious and inherent truths of our bodies design function. Truly seeing Pete, thinking like Pete or seeing an Egoscue therapist who thinks like Pete would have benefited you greatly. It's not how Pete thinks, how you think, or how the therapist thinks but what Pete thinks. What Pete thinks is not something he came up with but simply something he understood and has been helping to affirm and or reveal this understanding to countless others. The bodies is what it is and was made to do what it was made to do. The e-cises done accordingly along with a lifestyle of hunter gatherer type motion will transform your body as a whole and keep you from experiencing laberal hip tears. Muscles simply move bones period. If muscles are not used and their kinesthetic senses interacting on a daily basis they begin to breakdown and pain, dysfunction and injury are the only warnings to keep the body from giving up, giving in and failing. It is pretty simple, Pete has made it simple to understand, and therapists who think like Pete make it simple to understand that you don't need us once you are attune to your kinesthetic senses it is between you, your body, proper motion and diet. The Egoscue method is empowering the human body to heal itself as our God given design was meant. Pete did not create it he simply realized it and is expounding it to others. May you listen to your body and live a pain free life! Jesse Imgrund

Anonymous said...

I was recommended the Pain Free book for my migraines. I did the neck e-cises and my migraines are mostly gone with maybe only 1 a year, usually related to stress which I hold in my neck. I went to a clinic for knee pain - I could not walk up and down stairs without pain and within 6-9 months I was pain free! As I've ramped up my workouts and other issues have cropped up, Egoscue has allowed me to work through them and continue my fitness routines!

Anonymous said...

There is a book; Liberating the Body: Movements that awaken the inner Self, by Tony Crisp. This is a really old book, published in 1993, and has wisdom about the human body rarely seen in Americans. You can read his bio on Amazon or his website, which is http://dreamhawk.com/tony-crisp/biographical-information/.

I explored "The Egoscue Method" book when it first came out, the same year, 1993, and found some interesting suggestions which have been useful, but Pete seems to think that structural issues in the human body can be fixed by mechanics, as if our pain could be fixed like the drive train of a car.

I have also studied "Somatics" by Thomas Hanna, and neuromuscular re-education is a good thing also, however, I would say this...I have been working in the pain relief field for thirty years, and I've never seen two human individuals who were alike. There is no ROUTINE that you can do that will take away your pain.

That's what Tony Crisp figured out too, and nearly twenty years later, I can't even seem to find my Egoscue book on my bookshelf at all. But Tony's book not only handy, it is etched in my mind, and I practice his approach to moving every day.

To witness what is possible in the human spine, you might enjoy watching this you-tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gd7FWYp-jQ
Intrinsic Movement.

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I am exploring Somatics through Martha Peterson's video and books. Her writing is clear and her descriptions of the exercises are easy to follow. Her website is http://essentialsomatics.wordpress.com/ Her book is Move Without Pain

Unknown said...

I appreciate this link! I viewed the inside of the book, then bought and devoured it... Quite a few concepts in her toolbox are GREAT!!!!!I have a very Aikidoish orientation though, so that training gives me a certain non-traditional perspective on life for sure. I find that "Moving In Harmony with Pain" is what actually releases pain. I think its great to move with dynamic ease, but to "move without pain?" pain is such an intelligent messenger. I really enjoy your blogging; Thank You!

Jim Hansen said...

Thank you for your comments and I am glad you found Martha's book to be valuable.

Anonymous said...

I think with any excercise its more muscle than it is of bone. You were concerned of bone issues so in expecting someone to know about that was out of their education. As a bodyworker people are always asking to diagnose and I think, you came to me to do what a doctor should be doing for you?
Like anything especially when doing it on your own based on books and dvd's the results aren't always the same being young or old your information can be different it all depends on experience.
I am 37 now and when I started I was 20 and for years people were surprised about how young I was but was blown away but how much I knew.
I am glad about this article because I have been considering to add this under my belt given every client I have has been asking for suggestions to do after the massage and I have been teaching them yoga poses to help them get stronger.... in a way I was kind of hoping someone would say this is a scam but have yet to find anyone who really in the end didn't say after months of trying it didn't say don't do it.

Anonymous said...

I also read "Pain Free" and did the exercises religiously to no effet whatsoever. Also, I visited a clinic and the therapist wanted to sell me thousands of $ of therapy, but I saw red flags when the things he told me conflicted with what's in the book. As I investigated further, I realized the Egosuce Method has never been researched to validate it's claims, just a bunch of ancecdotal claims by Egoscue in his books and by some people who have used it. That to me doesn't make it a "proven method". As a matter of fact, at this point, I starting to think it's just another scam out there designed to take money from people desperate for a cure to their physical issues.

Jim Hansen said...

I think some people can definitely get relief from Egoscue work, but it is time consuming and you are letting gravity try to fix things. I would go for a more movement based approach. See my comment above related to Somatics. I am currently working with activating muscles through MAT (Muscle Activation Technique). We have found one muscle in particular (the TFL) that I cannot activate so it is inhibited and leading to a lot of posture, gait, and pain problems. My latest post is here: http://recoveryourstride.blogspot.com/2012/10/muscle-activation-technique-seesion-3.html Since that last post (3rd session) it feels like a missing part has been placed back into the side of my hip as I now seem to be activating that muscle as I walk. No therapy is perfect and each helps different problems, but no amount of stretching would have got that muscle to work. I know because I have tried for years.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Egoscue method should be taught as a continuing Ed course for PT's and practiced by those with education of human anatomy and evidenced based practice.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experience, I used to race downhill skiing and have had knee.pain on and off dor years. I had both of my knees replaced last year and during my second surgery I had a heart attack. The knee pain and leg pain was only 25% better after both operations! I was getting ready to go back in and have tissue expanders when I was introduce to Egoacue. I have started the exercises and have my first appointment next week. I canceled my surgery. I am doing much better.

Patt Gavin said...

I'm curious, have you had your surgery and how are you getting along now?

Patt

Jim Hansen said...

Patt, I am doing much better post surgery. I still have a lot of imbalance issues from running on that bad hip for years, but they are being worked on and slowly improving.

Anonymous said...

I'm someone who has "been there". My right foot was crushed in a car wreck and is now fused with zero flexibility. For years, I walked with one foot facing forward and the wounded foot at a complete right angle, facing out to the side. Because of that, I developed serious chronic knee, ankle and hip pain. Egoscue has completely resolved those issues. Yes, it took several months to resolve the disfunction, and yes, it takes doing the exercises every day, but the pay off of being pain free is so worth it.

I've referred several friends to Egoscue clinics, all with wonderful successes...avoiding surgery for sciatica, carpal tunnel and knee replacement. The clinics are pricey, but worth every penny. The seemingly minor adjustments they make to how I do the exercises makes all the difference in whether I get the results or not.

I'm a true believer simply because for me, the Egoscue method has worked. Having suffered debilitating pain for two decades before I found Egoscue, I would no more fail to do my Egoscue menu than I'd fail to floss my teeth. Some things are just worth the effort.

Jim Hansen said...

That is a great reference. Congratulations for getting things fixed as things don't fix on their own!

Anonymous said...

I had 2 in person sessions and then phone consults for 6 months to address my plain old osteoarthritis of the hips/loss of cartilage situation (I am 60 years old). After 6 months of 1 hr/day ecises I have to say I am pretty much in the same place as far as pain level, use of cold packs at night, pain level at night, walking range, incidence of sharp pain, frequency of limping. I've been told to give it a year. I asked for some testimonials from clients with similar age/condition who stuck it out but none have been produced. I have to wonder, are there any? Is this possibly a situation Egoscue really can't address? After 6 months of no net gain, this has become faith based rather than evidence based which I find unacceptable. Thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Most of these posts are from 2008. Well 6 years later ... what's going on with the pain now?

Bikehound said...

Found this page while looking for Egoscue towers in the UK (impossible to find without huge shipping costs)and hadn't realised there were negative thoughts around the Egoscue approach. Tim Ferris originall put me onto it - if it's good enough for a super experimenter like Tim then there's got to be something in it.
Thanks for some informative reading though.
Charles

Jim Hansen said...

Anonymous said...
Most of these posts are from 2008. Well 6 years later ... what's going on with the pain now?

I had arthroscopic hip surgery for a torn labrum which seemed to be the root of all my problems. I feel much better, still working on trying to run, but ride an ELliptiGO bike a lot 7000 miles in 13 months)!