Egoscue is a postural therapy designed to eliminate chronic pain without drugs or surgery. Founded by Pete Egoscue in 1978, the Egoscue Method focuses on a series of gentle stretches and exercises to correct misalignments in the musculoskeletal system of the body.
The core belief behind Egoscue is that pain, whether acute or chronic, is the result of misalignment in the body as it loses its correct posture. When the body works with gravity to find realignment through Egoscue, comfort will increase and pain will decrease naturally. Personally, I’ve used the therapy for back pain relief and consider it another effective natural remedy for joint or bone pain.
What Is Egoscue?! History & Interesting Facts
Since the Egoscue Method was first founded by San Diego–based anatomical physiologist Pete Egoscue in the 1970s, it has spread widely. There are many Egoscue Certified Practitioners across the United States and around the world.
According to Mr. Egoscue, pain is not something to be feared: It is something to be understood. He says that typically, pain is the body’s way of telling us that we are physically off balance. For example, our weight distribution isn’t 50–50 left to right and we’re not “vertically loaded,” meaning our head isn’t sitting squarely over our shoulders and our hips all the way down through the knee and ankle joints. This leads to weight not being evenly distributed on our feet and our feet not pointing straight ahead.
Such misalignments and uneven distributions lead to pain in some areas of the body, if not multiple areas of the body. He advises that people should not to fear that pain, but rather listen to it and respond. Pete Egoscue has published multiple books on Egoscue over the years, including The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion: Revolutionary Program That Lets You Rediscover the Body’s Power to Rejuvenate It (1993), Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain (2000), and Pain Free Living: The Egoscue Method for Strength, Harmony, and Happiness (2011). Mr. Egoscue has 25 clinics worldwide (there are other Egoscue clinics that are not directly connected to Mr. Egoscue).
The body is intricately connected, so all of its systems and subsystems are interrelated and interdependent. When one part of the body is not working as it should, there can a domino effect in which other areas of the body are thrown off. Some common postural integrity issues today include a change in the curve of the back and a forward tilt of the hips, which can result in neck, shoulder, back, knee and/or foot pain.
In addition, the internal organs rely on proper alignment and movement of the musculoskeletal system to function correctly and efficiently for us. For example, if the upper back is rounded, it can restrict the amount of oxygen taken in, which compromises the respiratory system.
Another example of how musculoskeletal misalignment affects the organs is when the digestive system is compressed by the rib cage, which can result in the way we metabolize food being slowed down. Pain is more likely to occur in an environment of misalignment and misuse. The body functions best when everything is aligned. Egoscue directly addresses misuse and misalignment of the body.
As society has become more and more sedentary, there is a greater need and demand for Egoscue since a common result of a sedentary lifestyle is musculoskeletal dysfunctions and compensations. A huge portion of this sedentary lifestyle and its ill effects can be attributed to the number of people who must work at a desk looking at a computer for hours upon hours each day. It is extremely common that people will spend over 40 hours per week sitting at a desk (more if they also spend time at a desk on the weekends!).
Two of the most common upper-body issues associated with computer users are protracted shoulders and a head that is too far forward. (1) The upper-body pains resulting from these desk-inflicted issues can include headaches as well as neck, shoulder and back pain. While an ergonomic workplace can help with decreasing the negative affects of working at a desk, even ergonomics cannot decrease the hours many of us spend sitting (or even standing) still at a desk or yield carpal tunnel relief. Therefore, simply put: Egoscue can be helpful to anyone with a sedentary occupation or lifestyle.
Exercise for people today often tends to concentrate on specific athletic endeavors for a set amount of time rather than moving throughout the day. While daily exercise for specific time intervals each day is certainly beneficial to the body, incorporating movement, such as Egoscue exercises and exercise hacks, throughout the work day can reap even more full-body benefits.
A newer area of research is focusing on “inactivity physiology,” which identifies the unique health consequences of too much sitting that are distinct from the health consequences of too little exercise. (2) When it comes to health, it is starting to look like it is not just about how long each day and how many days per week you exercise, but it is also key to evaluate the amount of time you spend sedentary. Egoscue highly encourages a lifestyle that incorporates more movement into daily life.
The Egoscue Session
If you go into an Egoscue appointment, you should ideally wear comfortable light-colored, workout-type clothing. By wearing light clothing, a practitioner can better see your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles, which will help to make a better assessment of your current alignment.
After an Egoscue therapist conducts a thorough evaluation, including a postural assessment and gait analysis, the client then receives a series of stretches and exercises (called E-cises) that are chosen to correct the postural issues and any pain that has been resulting from those issues.
At times, exercises can seem strangely chosen because they do not seem to relate directly to the area(s) of pain. However, an Egoscue therapist is trained to know the muscles of the body that might likely be improperly used as a result of a client’s area of concern. By addressing the muscles that are substituting or compensating for other muscles, they return to performing their appropriate functions. If pain is resulting from a postural or musculoskeletal misalignment, then Egoscue exercises help all the muscles to perform their appropriate functions and, in turn, relieve pain.
During a session, an Egoscue therapist will coach a client through his or her personal menu of exercises, but a key to success with Egoscue is continuing to practice your menu on a daily basis. A menu of Egoscue exercises generally takes anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. The time it takes to see results from Egoscue varies from person to person. Some clients often see improvement after just one session. There is equipment that can purchased for Egoscue exercises, but most of the exercises can be performed using items found in the home (such as a wall, pillow, etc.)
An example of someone who has benefited from Egoscue is Bethany Hamilton, the young surfing champion from Hawaii who lost her left arm in a tragic shark attack in 2003. After losing her entire arm, balance and strength training including the Egoscue Method have been a crucial to Hamilton’s return to the world of professional surfing. (3)
Under the care of Dr. Dustin Dillberg, Hamilton was given a menu of Egoscue exercises to practice daily, which were designed to deal with the spinal misalignments and decrease of balance that resulted from the loss of her limb. (4) An example of a specific postural therapy exercise conducted by Hamilton is the “wall sit,” which entails putting her back against a wall with her knees bent at a 90 degree angle with weight aimed at the heels of the feet. This pose is held for two minutes.
6 Benefits of Egoscue
Egoscue can benefit anyone experiencing pain in the neck, shoulder, back, hip, knee, ankle and foot. Plus it can help naturally treat arthritis, scoliosis, spondylosis, spondylolisthesis, sciatica, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, disc degeneration, and a variety of other chronic pain symptoms as well as those trying to improve their posture for their general health and/or performance in sports.
Some of the most common benefits of Egoscue include:
1. Improved Posture
Ideally everyone should have good posture without trying. In other words, our natural posture should be correct posture. Egoscue helps to appropriately align the musculoskeletal system and gives exercises to improve your posture, which becomes optimal over time.
2. Less Pain
By identifying the cause of the problem rather than just focusing on symptoms, Egoscue can quickly decrease acute or chronic pain and often end it all together. When it comes to joint pain, joints do what muscles tell them to do — so when muscles become imbalanced through specific action or inaction, the joints become compromised and lose that full range of motion, often resulting in a loss of mobility and pain.
Egoscue can help to regain that full range of motion and naturally reduce joint pain. In general, Egoscue improves posture, which can decrease pain throughout the body, especially the back.
3. Avoidance of Surgery
People who have success with Egoscue often avoid very costly surgery and a lengthy recovery process. Specifically, back and knee surgery can be avoided by improving posture and alignment. For example, pressure on your back can be increased by 50 percent just from leaning over the sink incorrectly to brush your teeth. (5)
By improving posture, pressure is taken off of the nerves in the back, which reduces back pain. Once pain is reduced or eliminated, surgery is no longer needed. Another good reason to try Egoscue before surgery is that studies have shown that the outcomes of knee surgery are no better than those after a placebo procedure. (6)
4. Long-term Improvements
Once correct alignment is achieved and an effort is made to continue exercises, improvements are very long lasting. A body appropriately aligned is a body that is more likely to have all of its systems working optimally.
Of course, the right diet and lifestyle are also key to success. With the appropriate nutrition, weight management, stress reduction, and elimination of unhealthy habits (smoking, excessive alcohol intake, etc.), Egoscue can enhance well-being into old age — maybe even into the longevity enjoyed by folks living in the blue zones.
5. Anyone Can Benefit
Regardless of age or athletic ability, anyone can benefit from the postural improvements that come from a successful Egoscue protocol. Egoscue exercises are relatively easy to remember and easy to practice at home or on the go. There are also many exercises that can be practiced by disabled individuals. By restoring postural alignment and function, quality of life can improve for anyone practicing Egoscue.
6. Better Balance & Athletic Performance
Better posture equates to better balance, so there is a direct improvement in balance once posture is improved through Egoscue. (7) In addition, as a result of improved muscle balance the body will be able to perform more effectively while putting in less effort.
Relationship to Other Therapies
Many Egoscue clients, for whom pain may have been a chronic or recurring issue for considerable time while they sought out various therapies, often also practice yoga and/or pilates, use Ayurvedic medicine, and see chiropractors and/or massage therapists in conjunction with practicing their daily Egoscue exercises.
Yoga, pilates, chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy all share some similar principals with Egoscue and are very complimentary to Egoscue exercises. Focusing on proper breathing while conducting Egoscue exercises is a key part of helping the body to realign. For example, it is extremely common for people to breath with their shoulders rather than with their diaphragm. This type of breathing can create or increase misalignments in the body, so proper breath work goes hand-in-hand with successful Egoscue treatment.
Possible Side Effects and Caution
If you are looking to try out Egoscue with a certified practitioner, there are many practitioners in the U.S. as well as internationally (including Canada, Japan Mexico, Sweden and the United Kingdom). When practicing Egoscue without a certified practitioner, one must be mindful to follow instructions carefully so that exercises are done in a way that promotes healing rather than creating further issues.
Most Egoscue exercises are easy to follow from written instructions or video format, but the specific positioning of the body for each exercise is absolutely key to receiving optimal results. As with any physical exercise, it is important to pay attention to how the body reacts so that pain is not encouraged or increased.
Egoscue is not designed to be painful, but it is natural to feel some stiffness after some of the exercises and maybe even as you walk around the first few days, but that stiffness is most likely the result of reengaging long dormant muscles. If any pain worsens or persists after Egoscue exercises, consult a medical professional.