Occasionally people ask me how and why I became such an ardent disciple of Travis Perret and The Egoscue Method.
Those questions mostly occur after I have penned an article about Perret, Pete Egoscue, and their methods for conquering chronic pain without using medical and pharmaceutical means.
After I posted a blog about Perret's work with Brent Chapman on Feb. 14, I decided that I should finally spend some time answering those questions by creating a blog that delineates how and why I became a devotee of Perret and The Egoscue Method.
Thus what follows is a short history of the hows and whys of my relationship with Perret and Egsocue's methods, and how they have made me a better angler.
My wife, Pat, and I are in our seventies. During the past decade and a half, an astonishing number of our friends, acquaintances and family members have had hip and knee replacements, as well as back, shoulder, elbow and wrist surgeries.
It has almost become a fad. For instance, one of Pat's bridge-playing acquaintances told her that he and his wife have had five hip and four knee replacements, and he hinted that they expected that another replacement might be in the offing.
After our friends have endured the grueling aspects of the surgery and weeks or even months of physical therapy sessions, some of them are still bothered with pain and use assorted pharmaceutical products to dull it. Eventually some of them begin to worry about how these pharmaceutical items can wreck havoc with their internal organs. For instance, it has been reported numerous times that some everyday pain-killers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can cause acute liver failure.
We also noticed that surgery didn't significantly improve our acquaintances' sense of well-being and nimbleness. Therefore, we couldn't understand why anyone would opt for surgery. And across the years, our anti-surgery perspectives were doubly reinforced when we read front page stories in the "New York Times," such as the one that appeared on Dec. 28, 2011, proclaiming that "artificial hip failures [are] expected to cost billions," and the other one, which appeared on Feb. 12, 2011, focused upon problematic hip implants on Feb. 15, 2011.
Coupled by what we witnessed and read, we gradually came to the conclusion that we wanted to avoid surgery and pain killers. Because we have always had minor proclivities to be health-food and alternative medicine advocate, it seemed to be an intuitive decision.
During the 1990s, however, when we were in our fifties, we occasionally consumed an aspirin or two or even some other over-the-counter pain-relief medication to mollify our knee, back, shoulder, elbow and wrist pains. At times, my pains were somewhat chronic. Therefore, I took a few more aspirins and ibuprofens than she did.
The rudimentary stages of our transformation began shortly before the turn of the millennium. At that time, our youngest daughter was living in Austin, Texas. She was an active yoga practitioner, and several of the yoga instructors that she knew were afflicted with a variety of chronic pains. To these instructors' chagrin, their yoga exercises couldn't tame these pains. To alleviate them, the yoga instructors relied on the therapists at The Egoscue Clinic of Austin.
Upon hearing this story about yoga instructors using The Egoscue Method rather than yoga postures for conquering various musculoskeletal pains, we were intrigued. It provoked us to think that it might be a way for me to quell some of the pains that regularly afflicted my body after I spent many hours fishing.
During one of our trips to Texas, our daughter also introduced us to Pete Egoscue's book entitled "Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain," which was published in 1998. During that visit, I was in the midst of a battle with low back pain. So, I read Egoscue's chapter entitled "Backs: Close Up on the Far Side." Then I did the exercises on pages 120-123, and it tamed the pain a bit.
For the next few years, however, I just dabbled with The Egoscue Method as a pain remedy. In essence, I didn't have the patience, diligence and discipline to spend 40 minutes or so a day doing the exercises that would totally quell the pain.
My half-hearted approach to the Egoscue Method began to change when I started working on an article about the various pains that tormented anglers. Straightaway I was stunned by all the pains and medical procedures that tournament anglers endured. In my attempt to find an alternative to surgery and pain pills, I spent a lot of time e-mailing and talking to Brian Bradley of San Diego, California, and V.P. of Therapy Protocol of The Egoscue Method at The Egoscue Clinic of San Diego.
Bradley told me that procedures such as epidural steroid injections, cortisone injections, and Platelet Infusion Therapy don't correct the problems that anglers suffer with their backs, shoulders, hips, elbows and knees. He described them as mere bandages that hide or mask the pain but don't address the problem. According to Bradley, "the site of the pain isn't the source of the pain," and those injections are administered at the site of the pain. The Egoscue Method, however, focuses on the source of the pain.
From all of the telephone conversations and e-mail exchanges with Bradley, I began writing in 2004 about Pete Egoscue and his method for conquering chronic pain, and those words eventually appeared in In-Fisherman magazine in February of 2005.
Shortly after those first words appeared in print, more words about The Egoscue Method were posted on In-Fisherman's website.
The In-Fisherman magazine story that focused on The Egoscue Method examined the array of chronic pains that burdened Mitch Looper, who is a masterful angler from Hackett, Arkansas. It was noted that Looper was able to tame his pains by following the routines outlined in Egoscue's book. During that time, Looper reported that he felt the best that he had felt in years. Subsequently, however, Looper failed — for a number of reasons — to spend the time to execute the exercises that would keep the pains at bay. Thus, many of his pains returned. Looper is a case study of why it is important to work continually with a routine that Egoscue calls maintenance exercises after the pain subsides. Then when another pain erupts, it is essential to do the exercises that will conquer that particular pain, and then return to the maintenance exercises once that pain has been vanquished. In short, conquering pain is a never-ending process for many of us.
Several months after the In-Fisherman magazine article appeared, Travis Perret, who was the director The Egoscue Clinic of Kansas City, and I crossed paths via the telephone. After that we engaged in numerous telephone and e-mail exchanges — especially as we worked together to write a column for the outdoor page of the Topeka Capital Journal on January 10, 2006.
On St. Valentine's Day of 2006, Pat and I gave ourselves a joint present. It was an appointment with Perret at his Egoscue Clinic.
He began by examining the way we walked, which he called a gait analysis. He also scrutinized our posture and alignment, searching for muscle imbalances, which can cause wear and tear on the joints and bones.
He saw immediately that my shoulders and neck were in a state of flexion. The position of my right shoulder blade was different than my left. My left hip was higher than my right. My right arm, elbow and wrist hung differently from my shoulder than my left arm, elbow and wrist did. My right foot was everted.
In sum, my musculoskeletal system was out of whack, and that was why I was plagued by pains in my low back, right shoulder, right elbow, right wrist, right hand and occasionally in the left elbow.
Pat's left shoulder, left arm, left ankle, and hips weren't properly aligned.
Initially, Perret gave me 11 exercises and Pat 10 to do daily for a month.
From March 14, 2006 to June 22, 2006, he gave both of us four more series of daily exercises. One of my series contained 15 different exercises. One of Pat's consisted of 12. The last series was more rigorous than the first, but they were all geared to improve our flexibility, muscle imbalances, and body alignment.
Throughout all of these series of exercises, he implored me to work on getting my shoulder blades down and back on a consistence basis.
After working with us for six years, telling me incessantly to work on getting my shoulders back and down, we are essentially pain free. But that is not to say that pain doesn't occasionally erupt in our 71 year-old bodies, affecting our shoulders, knees, backs, hips and necks. When it does, Perret either creates a series of exercises that eradicates those pains, or he advises us to do one of the series of that he created at an earlier date.
In addition, to our occasional shoulder, knee, back, hip and neck woes, he created exercises that tackled plantar fascitis, heel spurs, headaches and dizziness.
I haven't had an aspirin or other pain medication since mid-May of 2009, which was when I was waylaid with some intense TMJ. When the TMJ erupted, Travis gave me eight exercises to do twice a day, and within two days, the TMJ was completely tamed. Since then, it has erupted twice, but those eight exercises tranquilize it.
Despite all of Perret's guidance and my daily exercises, I must confess that it wasn't until the summer of 2011 that I was finally was able to get my shoulder blades back and down, which reveals how long it takes to counteract 65 years of abuse that I gave my body before I crossed paths with Perret.
In short, it is not a quick fix. For six years, I have spent about 30 to 45 minutes every day doing the exercises. There were spells when I did them three times a day. During this time span, I have failed to do the daily exercise only four times. Now as I approach my 72 birthday, I feel better physically and mentally than I have felt my entire adult life.
Nowadays Pat plays tennis three to five times a week. I fish three to four times a week devoid of pain. And Pat goes fishing with me every once in a while.
We are also blessed with a sense of wellbeing that we have never experienced before, and we attribute that to being free of pain and not having to rely on pain medication that often clutters and blurs one's mind. What's more, I think that sense of well-being has made me a better fisherman. In fact, Perret says the better an angler feels physically, the better he will feel mentally. And the better he feels mentally and physically, the better he can fish.
As I reflect upon my six years of seriously working with Perret and The Egoscue Method, I can honestly say that its effects have been far more important than any of the fishing tackle, marine equipment and angling theories that I have used since I started fishing in 1947.
(1) Anglers who are interested in talking with Travis Perret can contact him at 913-424-9354. His website address is http://exercisetherapykc.com/.