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Author says motion is path to pain relief

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Peter Egoscue

Peter Egoscue

Grandma's advice was always: Eat less, move more . . . and sit up straight, don't slouch.

Turns out her advice had more medical truth to it than people realize.

In this increasingly motionless world, people move less, eat more and, very often, are off balance. This is especially true of the younger generation, said Peter Egoscue, founder of the Egoscue method of non-medical pain relief, a best-selling author and radio talk-show host.

A result of living in this motionless world, he continued, "is pain . . . too many people today believe pain is a normal feeling. There are children today who are in chronic pain and don't know it. The older generation has a memory of living with no pain. Young kids today, especially teens, do not have a memory of 'pain, no pain.' They don't talk about it. They simply believe pain is a part of life."

The secret to better health is motion, movement of any kind. During the developing years, from birth to the 20s, motion builds muscles and joints. Everything in early life — crawling, running, walking, skipping, throwing and catching a ball — is intended to build skeletal muscles used to keep the body in balance.

When the motion is interrupted, the body becomes "posturally dysfunctional." Which, he added, leads to restrictions in movement and/or pain.

"I hear this all the time: 'I'm so active, so involved in all kinds of things, how did this happen to me?' People confuse being busy with being active and using the body to its full capacity. It happened because no one is educating people about postural requirements of the body. They think if they have pain they're sick and if they don't then they're well. That's not so. Also, they don't listen to the warning signs. They wake up with a stiff neck and attribute it to something they did the day before and go on with life," he said.

"The biggest task we face is getting people to change their minds from 'What's wrong with me to what's my body trying to tell me.' It's much worse in the younger generation than it is with older people. It's much easier to correct problems with people of my generation, and I'm 62, than it is with younger kids, especially teenagers."

He explained that when he was young, kids developed the way nature intended.

"We crawled when we were very young. . . . We went out in the morning and didn't come in until Mom was at the door yelling because it was getting dark. We were involved in all types of activities," he explained.

"Today, we've interrupted this development. We strap kids in a car seat and drive everywhere. We encourage kids to walk early because we believe kids who walk early are smarter, and at a young age we put them before a computer. We now have pre-pre-schools for kids because we're told that without pre-pre-schools our children will be behind. It's all well-intentioned, but kids are not developing the way nature intended. There is no motion."

Some kids also tend to specialize or focus on a single sport.

Back in 1989, Jack Nicklaus gave credit for his return to golf after a potential career-ending back problem to Egoscue. Today, Egoscue has a contract with PGA of America to clinic players, among them Johnny Miller and Mike Reid, on his theory of physical function.

"Jack was in my office one day and spoke to a young man who intended to make golf a career. Jack asked the boy what activities he was involved in and the boy said golf — only golf. Jack told the boy that when he was young he did everything — baseball, football, hockey — and that it all helped his golf game. I don't think the boy grasped what Jack was saying," he explained.

"We encourage kids to participate in all sports, not just one. Everything and anything, and hopefully without parental supervision. This way they can learn what they are passionate about, not what parents think they are good at."

A Nebraska volleyball coach with whom Egoscue has been working has stopped recruiting top volleyball players because they come to him with a history of injuries.

"He's looking for functional kids who are good athletes, and then he turns them into volleyball players," he added.

Egoscue has also found over the course of his career that non-athletic children encounter more physical pain than do those involved in activities, and he's also found that the more activities a child is involved in, the fewer problems are encountered in later life.

Ogoscue was an officer in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, was wounded and was told he would face a lifetime of mobility limitations.

He said he started to pay strict attention to the anatomy of the human body, in particular to simple exercises to help his posture. Once be began to feel better, he had other injured Marines approach him. Eventually it went from being a hobby to a lifelong profession.

Today, he has 20 Egoscue clinics around the world, has written four best-selling books, including "Pain Free — A Revolutionary Method For Stopping Chronic Pain," and hosts a Saturday morning radio talk show that draws more than 1 million listeners each week. His newest clinic opened in Park City this year and is being operated by a graduate of the Egoscue school, Kyra Ryan.

In the Egoscue clinic, the healing process begins with a postural diagnostic sequence of tests and evaluations. The individual is then placed on an individualized program of simple stretching and strengthening exercises.

"We haven't invented anything (with exercises). Most of the exercises have been around for a long time. Some involve yoga. But it's not what you do, it's why you do it and the sequence in which the exercises are performed. Remember, our goal is not to treat the symptoms but get after what caused the change in postural symmetrics."

Which, he said, involves returning the body to its original blueprint — the standing, normal anatomical position.

There are, he explained, two simple tests he gives to determine if the posture has something to do with pain:

1. Rate the pain on a scale of 1-10. Then, pigeon-toe the feet with toes touching and tighten the thighs. Does that change the pain?

2. Stand normally and interlace the hands behind the head. Pull the elbows back as far as possible. Does the pain increase or decrease?

If either of these positions changes the pain, then it's a good indication that posture has something to do with the pain.

"We are the most health-conscious society in the world. We have more gyms than any other country in the world. And yet we continue to not pay attention to the dictates of our metabolism. We continue to look for quick answers, the magic bullet that will take away all our pains.

"But it doesn't happen quickly. We need to learn how to eat and what to eat and restore our posture so we can turn on those muscles that require energy and help us maintain our correct posture."

And, as he explained, the secret rests in motion — any motion.

E-mail: grass@desnews.com