A book review of Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain by Pete Egoscue.
Pete Egoscue, the author of Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain, calls himself "The Posture Guy". He reports a 95% success rate in helping people relieve their pain permanently using non-medical methods. In addition to being the author of four books, he has clinics world-wide, offers traveling clinics, offers on-line and video assessment and services, and is the host of the syndicated talk radio show Pain Free.
Egoscue graduated with a degree in Political Science. After being wounded in Viet Nam, Egoscue called upon his athletic knowledge of the human body to develop a method for relieving his pain. Considered to be an "anatomical functionalist" or an "anatomical physiologist", Egoscue has used his experiences to create the "Egoscue Method" for living a pain-free life.
Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain is composed of three overview chapters, eight chapters allocated to chronic pain conditions in specific body areas, one chapter aimed at improving peak performance during sports and leisure activities, and a final chapter dedicated to pain-free maintenance through overall conditioning exercises. The chronic pain chapters starts with a description of why pain occurs in specific body areas and ends with stretches to help alleviate the causes of pain in that body part. The body parts covered include the following: the feet; the ankles; the knees; the hips; the back; the shoulders; the elbows, wrists and hands; and the neck and head.
Egoscue states that he is providing the tools needed to empower those who are suffering pain to heal themselves. Those who plan to manage their health, set goals, and use the tools provided will enable the body’s inner power to heal itself and be pain free without taking pills, undergoing surgery, using splints or supports or special equipment.
Egoscue’s premise is that chronic pain is a form of high-priority communication that the body is not receiving adequate motion. He states "The body is a motion machine. The bone-levers and the muscle-pulleys make that perfectly clear. They account for sixty percent of the body's weight. We may have a high purpose, but physical movement, hand over hand, one foot in front of the other, is how we accomplish it….Motion is absolutely crucial to the body's operations and overall welfare." According to Egoscue, pain is a warning of danger, and the danger is acute motion starvation.
An Example - Egoscue's Opinion on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Egoscue states that hand, wrist and elbow pain is caused by disengaging the shoulders and disrupting the load-bearing capacity of the body. The exercises he recommends for the wrist and hand, and specifically for carpal tunnel syndrome, are designed to reestablish the link between the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder; release and reposition the hips, and bring the hips, shoulders and head into alignment. These are full-body exercises (the wall clock, supine groin stretch, and air bench) that do not target specific hand and wrist movement. An understanding and knowledge of the anatomical linking is needed to appreciate their significance.
Egoscue's writing style is simple and direct. He supports the information he provides with interesting anecdotes and case histories. As you read the book, you get the feeling that he is there talking directly to you. I feel he does an excellent job of describing the impact of life's activities on our posture and health.
And although I agree that most chronic arm pain tends to be postural in nature, a 95% recovery rate using any single method sounds almost too good to be true. In addition, I tend to disagree with his statement that ergonomic redesign of the workplace borders on fraud. Perhaps the cause of the pain is postural in nature, but wouldn't improving ergonomics help to eliminate some of the postural changes in the first place? Even though the cause of the pain may be addressed with Egoscue's "E-cises", chronic pain leads to secondary body changes that may need to be addressed as well.
The healing of chronic pain, musculoskeletal injuries, and repetitive strain injuries is a complex issue. It is worthwhile to consider a variety of interventions. In spite of Egoscue's claims, one therapy alone cannot be the cure for the variety of physical injuries, the diversity in body types and reactions to injuries, and the emotional and social complications that arise from having an injury.
Overall, this is a worthwhile read for those in chronic pain. It will take dedication and commitment to perform the stretches as instructed (as long as 45-60 minutes of daily stretching in the morning is recommended). But for those whose pain source is truly postural in nature, this book may take them to the next level in healing. The stretches won’t hurt (when performed as described) and may certainly help. However, the true "revolutionary" value of the Egoscue Method may come from the individualized assessments provided by skilled technicians that target each person’s imbalances rather than from a more generalized exercise program outlined in a book.
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.