Read an Excerpt
This is a book about our bodies--yours and mine. We are different in height, weight, and possibly gender. But our common possession is the body's inner power to heal itself and to be pain free. By choosing those two words as my title, I am celebrating our mutual good fortune. I am also making a promise that I know you can keep.
Being pain free takes personal effort and commitment. It doesn't come from a pill bottle, a surgeon's knife, a brace, or in specially designed mattresses, chairs, and tools. The thousands of men and women who in the course of a typical year visit my Egoscue Method Clinic in San Diego, California, know it, or they soon find out, and I watch them transform their lives as they rediscover the joy and health that had seemed lost forever. While each client is dedicated to stopping chronic pain in one form or another, they are all taking the easy way out. The easiest, really.
The following pages show you the way. It does not involve high-tech medicine or elaborate physical therapy routines. You won't need to buy special equipment or consult cadres of experts. In the first three chapters, I review how the human body is designed to maintain its own health throughout a long lifetime. Episodes of pain are aberrations that can be easily treated if the body is permitted to do its work. Unfortunately, many of us don't understand even the most basic features of this magnificent "machine."
Following this overview are eight chapters, each dealing with a specific chronic pain condition. You have probably already looked at the table of contents. I reverse the usual order and go from foot to head: sore feet, ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, neck, and head. The chronic pain chapters are set up to give you a quick and thorough briefing on what's happening in that part of the body when it hurts. After each briefing, I offer a series of exercises designed to alleviate the causes of pain in that body part. My friends at the clinic have nicknamed them E-cises, for "Egoscuecises," to tease me for my near obsession with fine-tuning them as therapeutic tools. What started as an inside joke has taken root, and that's what I call them in this book. The E-cises are arranged in menus, and are easy to do and extremely effective. To guide you along, I provide detailed instructions and many photos.
Next comes a chapter on common chronic pain problems relating to popular sports and recreational activities, and finally a concluding chapter that, among other things, offers an overall conditioning menu of E-cises for your use once your chronic pain symptoms abate.
A Quick Guide to Using Pain Free
An author probably should not presume to tell a reader how to read a book, but I will risk it anyway in the interest of making this information as accessible as possible. My guess is that you are in pain or have been in pain recently. Take the time to read the first three chapters, which give you valuable background knowledge. I'll explain how a serious deficiency of "design motion" is causing your chronic pain symptoms and how easy it is for you to remedy the situation. Then quickly flip through the rest of the chapters to get a look at the boxes and breakouts that present key concepts in capsule form. Finally, turn to the chapter that focuses on your specific condition. My hope is that you'll eventually read the book straight through, but I realize that stopping the pain may be paramount in your mind. If I had to choose one additional must-read chapter, it would be chapter 7, which deals with hips. The condition of our hips plays a central role in combating chronic pain throughout the body.
I'll take one more unusual liberty as an author by making this statement: Pain Free won't do you much good if you just read it. Information is fine, but action is far better. When practiced both in the clinic and at home, the E-cises in this book yield a ninety-five percent success rate. Yet the Egoscue Method conquers chronic pain only because those who are suffering are empowered with the means to heal themselves--and they use that power. Those among the five percent who are unable to find relief using the Method often do not have the time or the inclination to take action; they do the E-cises sporadically or not at all.
I urge you to use the E-cises. They look simple, but they are calibrated to pinpoint specific musculoskeletal functions that have been compromised by a variety of factors. The E-cise menus are arranged sequentially to address each component of a particular chronic pain symptom. Therefore, you should do the menu in the order it is presented; by picking and choosing E-cises at random, you risk interrupting the sequence. Likewise, if you have active pain, do not shop around in this book for something you think might work. Stick with the menu for the body part where the chronic pain is occurring. If an E-cise is specified for one side of the body, always repeat it on the other side, even though it may be harder or--as is the case many times--it doesn't seem relevant to the pain symptom.
I believe in goal setting and planning. When it comes to managing one's health, the old maxim "Those who do not plan, plan to fail" is particularly true. Even so, people who wouldn't dream of doing business or providing for their families until they had a clear set of objectives and a strategy for achieving them, make major health decisions without knowing what they want, how to realize it, and what the real costs will be.
With the Egoscue Method, I ask new clients what they expect to get for their money. Is it pain relief, enhanced athletic performance, or a good night's sleep? There are many legitimate answers. In turn, I tell them what we can do, how much it will cost, how long it will take, and what they will be expected to do. If I don't keep my end of the bargain, the client gets his or her money back. The guarantee is in play from the very first visit. If the client is hurting and doesn't feel better on leaving, the visit is free.
Does this sound like buying an appliance from a reputable dealer, or laying out the terms of an important business deal? Comparisons like that couldn't please me more. Any vendor of health care, mainstream or alternative, who isn't willing to stand by the product must be treated with the utmost caution. They shouldn't hide behind science, expertise, or complexity. If the tough questions aren't asked, shame on you, the consumer; if they're not answered, shame on us, the supplier. Ducking and dodging have the same universal meaning, whether the product comes with four worn tires and suspiciously low mileage or is bristling with terminology that no layperson can understand. As a consumer, the less you know, the more you should worry that the product may not work as advertised. Many common musculoskeletal treatments don't work as advertised; that's why patients find it so difficult to get straight answers to their questions, starting with "Why does it hurt?" They often get probablies, maybes, and chances ares. Even a direct answer to a question about the cause of joint pain--cartilage loss--smothers in a blanket of vagueness when patients ask a follow-up question: "Why is there cartilage loss on the right side and not the left?" When it comes to health care, it is imperative to ask and keep asking the same nuts-and-bolts questions that you would ask in any straightforward consumer transaction.
In addition to being grounded solidly in this consumer-knows-best philosophy, the Egoscue Method's E-cises, by suppressing pain symptoms, eliminate impulses to buy products for which patients probably have no need in the first place. If a surgical procedure or drug regimen is designed to eliminate pain, but exercise therapy has already eliminated it, why bother with the surgery or drugs? "Because," you're likely to be told, "the pain will return." That's correct, it will return. But the most basic question of all is, Why should it return? The answer lies at the heart of the entire Egoscue Method. Unless treatment addresses underlying musculoskeletal dysfunctions, pain relief can be only temporary. Nobody wants to hurt, and nobody should have to. But eliminating the pain symptom is only the first step. Without going to the next one, the muscles will continue to tell the bones to move in ways that violate the body's design. That's why the chronic pain will return.
The only product that's worth investing in is a fully functional musculoskeletal system. It's no luxury but rather a basic necessity that's within everyone's reach.
Pain Free--His Way
Several years ago, I had an appointment to see a prospective new client at a condominium he was using in one of those luxury complexes that have become a standard part of new golf course developments. A tournament was scheduled there, and he was one of the players. When I arrived, the man was coming out his front door at the top of a flight of stairs. He was leaning on the arm of a young man, his oldest son, and was obviously in extreme pain. As I started up the stairs, he noticed me and said, "Sorry to have you come all this distance, Mr. Egoscue. But I'm on my way to withdraw from the tournament. My back is killing me." I said I didn't think it would be necessary and convinced him to wait until after he tried the Method. He was skeptical, but despite the pain, he was a model of patience and courtesy. He turned back to his apartment, helped by his son.
Today, the very weekend that these words are being written, the man, my friend Jack Nicklaus, is playing in his forty-second U.S. Open. He is the oldest player to ever qualify. Jack took action, and he continues to take it every day--as I hope you will.
Not long after our first meeting, Jack Nicklaus noticed a fan following him along as he played in various major tournaments. The fan was very recognizable because of a severe limp; he almost dragged his legs from hole to hole to watch the play. Jack went over to him and gave him my phone number. The fan, Gary, had had a stroke three years before. He came to my clinic after undergoing the standard physical therapy protocol for stroke victims. That protocol usually offers a set number of sessions--often it's six weeks--after which the physical therapist evaluates the patient's physical and mental faculties to determine the extent of permanent damage. At that point, the assumption is that the patient has made all the progress he or she is likely to make. In making this assumption, however, the therapists aren't cruel; they encourage the person to work on their own, but they are eventually discharged and the treatment ends.
This had been Gary's experience. But his walking and balance were still extremely poor, and he still had trouble moving his upper limbs. After three years, even these functions were beginning to deteriorate. He was dying a slow death. When I first met Gary, I asked him if he thought the stroke had caused brain damage. He hesitated, knowing that that is the common diagnosis for a person in his condition. But I encouraged him to answer, and he said emphatically that there had not been brain damage.
"Why can't you move, then?" I asked. All he could do was shrug. I told him to forget the stroke and concentrate on doing the job at hand--restoring musculoskeletal functions that, for whatever reason, had been lost. At the clinic we had him do a set of E-cises: static back presses, knee pillow squeezes, isolated hip flexor lifts (all of them included in this book). His walking quickly improved. The next day, as we talked, I noticed that his hand was clenched in the classic clawlike manner of a stroke victim.
"Open your hand," I said.
"I can't. Haven't for three years."
I gently took him by the arm and raised it over his head. "Now open your hand." And he did.
Gary had more work to do, but he did it and reversed the "permanent" stroke damage.
The point of this story--and of this book--is that we can solve many of these "permanent" problems by refusing to accept the view that age, accidents, or disease routinely triumph over the human body's natural legacy to be pain free.