Who is Pete Egoscue? He is a former U.S. Marine officer who was wounded in action while he was fighting in Vietnam. His injury led to chronic pain, which limited his activity level. It was because of his battle with chronic pain that he began to search for a way of becoming pain-free that did not involve surgery or medications. He decided that he did not want a life filled with pain to become his “new normal.”
Egoscue studied anatomical physiology after spending several months in rehab. Of course, his rehab was a result of the war injury he suffered. Because he did not want to become reliant on pain medications or undergo invasive surgery, he developed several exercises – E-cises – and wrote several books. These include “the Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion,” “Pain Free at Your PC,” “Pain Free for Women” and “Pain Free.” Each book covers chronic pain and developing strategies to deal with or reduce the level of pain.
Here is a quick and handy description of the Egoscue Method of exercises or E-cises developed for those who suffer from chronic pain. First, you should understand that these E-cises have been adapted from a series of exercises, stretches and yoga poses. Egoscue developed some from his own experiences with chronic hip pain and his lengthy rehabilitation program.
One E-cise derived from an exercise is the abdominal crunch. Another is the “ air chair” or “air bench.” One stretching E-cise is the “static back,” in which you lie flat on your back as you rest the backs of your thighs against a solid object. This object should be tall enough for you to rest your calves against it as you are lying down. The “downward dog” comes from yoga. Spread your feet hip-width apart and bend down at your waist. Press your hands on the ground and “walk” your hands, palms down, so that your head is close to the ground, your legs and arms are straight and you are stretching the backs of your legs. Your heels should be as close to the ground as possible. This E-cise helps stretch your body, which may help bring your skeleton and muscles back into alignment.
This leads into the basis for the Egoscue E-cises: Bringing the body back into balance and alignment, which helps relieve much of the pain you are experiencing. Think of how you responded to an injury: You limited your movement of the injured area, which led to the pain spreading beyond the immediate area of injury.
If you have CRSD or RSD, the limb that was injured continues to show several symptoms, such as swelling or edema, a whitening of the skin and extreme sensitivity to unusual stimuli. When you begin working on the E-cises, you begin bringing your body back into balance, which may help you address your CRSD or RSD pain – and reduce the level of sensitivity you experience.
Egoscue has developed the “load-bearing joints” theory – that is, he states that the ankles, shoulders, knees and hips are load-bearing joints which should, ideally be in alignment. His book, “Pain Free” contains about 40 E-cises that he developed to return your body to strength, balance and flexibility, particularly in the four load-bearing areas. His book is organized to describe several different body areas – The neck and head, elbows, wrists and hands, shoulders, back, hips, knees, ankles and feet. Reading farther through the book, you start to learn about the E-cises, grouped by different sports, such as swimming, golf, running, gymnastics, tennis, ice skating, volleyball, weight training and many more.
Depending on your physical condition, you may experience different bodily responses to some of these exercises. Your body’s response may not be the same as another person’s body response. In other words, static poses, such as “downward dog” might help increase your rate of breathing and your blood flow to different areas of your body. Thus, while you may believe that a “posing” E-cise may not be doing much to increase your level of endurance, you are actually benefiting much more than you believe.
You may also feel pain relief because these exercises and poses actually stimulate endorphin production in your brain –this is the “feel good” – neurotransmitter produced in your brain. Your body also responds with increased secretion of adrenaline, which works to reduce the pain you are feeling.
Depending on the exercises you select to address your chronic pain, you may begin feeling pain relief after only a few E-cise sessions. For instance, if you develop leg cramps, some of the leg stretches in the “Pain Relief” book might help you develop fewer leg cramps. If you have not exercised for a long time, you may develop good results more quickly.
These E-cises also improve blood flow to your limbs, which may be beneficial for many types of chronic pain because the tiny capillaries begin to recover. It’s important to mention that a healthy, nourishing diet, low in sugars and starches, may also contribute to an improvement in your pain level once you begin the E-cise program.
Because these E-cises improve blood flow to your limbs, which is very beneficial for CRSD and RSD patients, the tiny capillaries begin to recover. It’s important to mention that a healthy, nourishing diet, low in sugars and starches, may also contribute to an improvement in your pain level once you begin the E-cise program.
The “Pain Relief” book is organized by body part E-cises, sport E-cises and maintenance E-cises. You can try out all 40 E-cises, then choose the ones that target your body’s pain and develop your own program. It is best to do so with input from your doctors. They can show you where your body is misaligned and too tight.
If it helps you to organize your E-cise program into exercises that depend on your activity, you can group them into sitting E-cises or standing E-cises. Look at these different body positions so you can choose the E-cises you need: Lying on your side, lying on your stomach, lying on your back, kneeling, sitting and standing. As you can see, the exercises you select are dependent on what you are doing.
Many individuals with CRPS or RSD have contacted me mentioning that they did the Egoscue E-cises regularly and found it beneficial. With CRPS or RSD, the limb that was injured may continue to show several symptoms, such as swelling or edema, a whitening or a purpling of the skin and extreme sensitivity to unusual stimuli. When one of our limbs hurts, we have a natural tendency to limit the movement of the injured area which can lead to stress on other areas of the body. Some people felt that doing the Egoscue method helped to bring their body back into balance, which helped them with their overall pain and reduced the level of sensitivity they experienced. Check out the book Pain Free
One thought on “Chronic Pain, CRPS, RSD and Pete Egoscue the Author of “Pain Free””
I’m the clinic director of the Egoscue Clinic in Austin, TX. I started with Egoscue years back as a client. Since we opened our clinic in 2003, I’ve worked with several clients with varying levels of RSD. If someone asks me if Egoscue can ‘cure’ or resolve their RSD, my answer is that I don’t believe RSD is postural in origin, and I don’t think we are the answer to RSD’s full resolution.
Now that said, what I DO see is that to the degree posture is compromised, that will literally take the RSD experience and amplify it, make it worse. Now the individual is dealing not only with the RSD, but the increased friction and inflammation that one experiences using mispositioned joints. Anything we can do to help these folks find ways to move that they can symptomatically tolerate is a very good thing for the reasons the article above states.
If I can answer anyone’s questions about Egoscue, I’d be happy to do so. Feel free to email me at the Austin clinic. If you are on a journey that includes dealing with RSD/CRPS, I wish you all the best.