Posted by: charleenesfitness | October 28, 2009

Principles behind Egoscue

The Guiding Principles of the Egoscue Method

     The human body is designed to develop itself through motion. Bone, muscle and connective tissue responds to stress. Stress, specifically the body’s response to gravity and work, is what initiates the growth and maintenance of tissues, and whether they function properly or improperly. The amount and quality of the motion we experience as we grow is directly linked to the development of our musculoskeletal system.
     We have become increasingly dependent upon modern transportation, technology and automation to facilitate our tasks. Consequently, we are no longer developing and maintaining the skeleton and the postural, structural muscles that naturally support ourselves through the physical demands of daily chores. For others, we tend to concentrate on specific athletic endeavors as opposed to a balanced variety of activities.
     As a result, our musculoskeletal system is unable to mature according to design and we develop compensated structures and motor skills. Each generation shows progressive signs of deterioration at increasingly younger ages. These changes lead to anatomical dysfunction, defined as any condition in which the musculoskeletal system has not developed normally and, therefore, alters the body’s ability to function correctly. Anatomical dysfunction can interfere with the body’s ability to perform both physical and mental tasks.
     When the integrity of structural or postural muscles is compromised, the whole skeletal system is affected. The hip girdle changes its tilt, the back changes its curve and the whole body begins to compensate – creating misalignments. These misalignments lead to abnormal wear and tear in the joints. After a time, misalignment can cause musculoskeletal breakdowns, injury and pain.
     Misalignments also affect the performance of other body systems, including the cardiovascular, digestive and respiratory systems. Our bodies are designed very specifically, each system complimenting another. The internal organs are held and positioned within the body by proper alignment and movement of the musculoskeletal system. Anatomical dysfunction can change the position of these essential systems in relation to each other and in relation to gravity, thus altering their ability to do their job properly. These systems are dependent on motion. They function and interact best when we are off the couch and in a motion-enriched environment.
     The Egoscue Method® Therapy utilizes the muscles of our body through a series of individually designed repositioning, strengthening, stretching or functional exercises to treat anatomical dysfunction. Each exercise makes specific demands on the body. The exercises are designed to facilitate normal muscle function and interaction. Muscles that are functioning properly provide the body with the ability to move correctly with both efficiency and efficacy.

The Egoscue Method is a results-oriented series of programs designed to:
• Identify anatomical dysfunction and limitations
• Restore and maintain the body’s full range of motion
• Develop optimum levels of physical and mental wellness
• Promote well being through functional physical fitness
• Enhance performance of professional and recreational athletes
• Provide a method for overcoming physical limitations

Compensations and Dysfunction
     A functional kinetic chain is contingent upon the coordinated efforts and proper function of these three systems. When part of the muscular system assumes the function of a dysfunctional muscle, it is said to be compensating. Muscles become dysfunctional when their length-tension relationships become altered (e.g. shortened, lengthened, tight, and loose). This has an impact on the proper rate of contraction and sequencing, resulting in inefficient and/or uncoordinated movement.
     Each muscle has an ideal resting length at which maximum tension can be produced. The muscle length-tension relationship affects the amount of force that can be produced in a muscle. Every muscle has an optimal length at which it can produce maximal force and if in a lengthened or shortened position, the muscle is hindered or inhibited from performing its primary role.
     To sit, stand or move functionally, both sides of the body require equal demand. We call this “balance” or “functioning bilaterally” when speaking of right and left side comparisons, and “dynamic tension” when speaking of the body split from anterior to posterior. If the body, or any given part of the body, is not functioning bilaterally, the location of the body’s center of gravity is altered and causes a new, compensated, posture and function. This creates postural deviations, compensatory actions by the body, and consequently pain and/or limitations of movement.
     Compensated and dysfunctional postures result in all the body’s joints bearing weight abnormally. This alters individual muscles and muscle groups’ normal length-tension relationships from their primary roles in support and movement. The musculoskeletal system and the neurological pathways that control movement accommodate this new position adapting itself to consider this altered posture as normal despite the fact that this can cause muscle strain, cartilage degeneration, and ultimately PAIN.

For example:

     A functional muscle is designed to evenly distribute the shock that is transmitted to the joint’s sockets when the heel of the foot strikes the ground. If there is dysfunction and compensation, the shock is no longer evenly distributed; it focuses on one or two points in the socket and begins to wear away the cartilage.

     The head, balanced at the top of the vertebral column, is heavy. The neck and upper spine muscles are there to allow it to turn to the right and left and to tilt up and down, as well as to cushion the impact that is transmitted upward primarily through the vertebral column, each time the feet hit the ground. If the head is tilted forward and down–out of proper alignment–it forces the extensor muscles to support the weight of the head. These muscles then go into spasm and lose their ability to function as shock absorbers.

The Right Angle Rule of Function
     The Egoscue Method® diagram of correct anatomical alignment is used as a template for ideal posture. It helps practitioners in their evaluation of postural deviation, specifically in the identification of compensations and dysfunction. An imprint of this picture should be set in the practitioner’s mind as a measure of comparison for all assessments.

The Functional Design Posture
This simplified illustration of the human form represents proper vertical alignment of the main weight bearing joints (i.e., shoulders, hips, knees and ankles). It demonstrates the principle that the human body is intended to stand upright, bear the load of its own weight, and rely on joints that function at right angles.

Except in cases of birth defects or traumatic injuries, the skeleton is designed just this simply. When the body is properly aligned, it is positioned such that:

       The head is centered over level shoulders

       The shoulders sit directly over level hips

       The hips are firmly planted over symmetrical knees

       The knees and ankles are aligned with feet pointed straight forward If the weight-bearing joints deviate from a 90-degree angle, the body compensates to maintain balance. Such deviations from the line diagram are examples of dysfunction.

Systems Interaction
     As discussed previously, all the body’s systems function interactively. Their ability to function normally, however, depends to a large extent on postural alignment and the body’s ability to move. The nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, respiratory, metabolic and immune systems are all dependent, to a large extent, on musculoskeletal function.

For example:

     Postural alignment dictates the position of the internal organs, blood vessels and nerves. Their position in relation to gravity is particularly important if the direction of flow and the volume of fluid are altered. Their position in space in relation to each other is also critical.

     The cardiovascular system responds to and maintains its functions through movement. Adequate blood flow is essential in providing oxygen and nutrients to working muscle tissue.  

     Numerous neurological disorders are symptomatic of musculoskeletal dysfunction. The absence of normal receptor information can lead to disuse, muscle atrophy and eventually loss of function.

The musculoskeletal system is controlled at one level by the voluntary nervous system.
     Motor pathways descending from the cerebral cortex carry messages about our intended movements to the spinal cord level. These messages are then integrated. The complex process of sensory-motor integration ultimately controls what movement actually takes place. The motor units that innervate the muscles involved with the movement will cause the designated muscles to contract or relax.
     Our posture is controlled at a different level. Although we can affect our posture consciously, our alignment is generally controlled involuntarily. Neuromuscular interaction and muscle function are dependent upon input from receptors. Information from receptors is received by the central nervous system at the spinal cord level. This input concerning joint position, muscle length and muscle tension is constantly being transmitted and how the body stands or moves is based on this information. The central nervous system will accommodate to certain types and levels of input, setting a new baseline to be interpreted as normal (whether it is or not). If the input is above a certain threshold level, a reflex response is often induced. Designed as protection mechanisms, reflex responses can also cause muscle spasms, pain and muscle damage. This negative type of response occurs most often when a compensated and dysfunctional individual tries to perform movements to which the body is not accustomed.

Applications to Sports
     The potential benefits of innovative techniques, advanced technology and new training methods cannot–and do not–compensate for dysfunctional athletes inability to perform to their full potential. As we are stimulus-response creatures, the need for an environment rich in stimulus becomes greater for those looking to enhance their ability on the field, court, pitch or pool. If we depend too much on controlled environments and limited stimulus in designing training programs, we miss the boat and do a disservice to the athlete.
     Many — if not all — of the motor skill deficiencies that plague recreational and professional athletes are manifestations of dysfunction that can be corrected. Dysfunctional athletes find it increasingly difficult to develop and improve their skills under traditional training methods. Traditional and high tech methods do not address anatomical dysfunction; in fact they accelerate the process. Training must involve bilateral demand. Using machines makes this nearly impossible to gauge. During the effort to accomplish a task, our body will compensate any way it can. If it is our intention to improve the maximum quadriceps torque output on a Cybex test, we will engage the abdominals, hip flexors and anything else available to meet our goal. Training specific muscle group function and reminding the body of the normal recruitment patterning remove anatomical dysfunction.
     Premier athletes can be dysfunctional. Talent, skill and ability in a specific sport by a specific individual can overcome many dysfunctions. In fact, many of the most gifted athletes are incredibly dysfunctional. Their bodies have developed sport specific compensations. Unfortunately, physical performance does not tolerate dysfunction. That is why, over time, so many athletes lose their skills and/or end up playing in pain. They get taped up, braced, numbed and electrically stimulated so their body can tolerate the activity. Their training programs are not designed to promote longevity.

For example:
     A dysfunctional right hip changes the mechanics of the knee and ankle when the foot strikes the ground. The joints lose their right angle function and stability just long enough to blow out an ACL or sprain an ankle.
     Often, an athlete can move to one side more effectively than to the other. This isn’t by accident. A body will move better TOWARDS the dysfunctional side. The functional side provides better stability and strength to initiate quick movement. (Think of the advantage for an athlete to understand this!) If an athlete’s dominant shoulder is dysfunctional they can quickly develop symptoms. Typical examples are rotator cuff injuries in baseball players or chronic tennis elbow.

     Thousands of people are in pain. Thousands more cannot live their lives in the manner to which they are accustomed due to the discomfort. Their muscles have forgotten their basic training. Therapy focused on parts of the body rather than on the body as whole will not restore its function or solve the problem. The body functions as a unit; there are no unimportant parts. Providing temporary symptomatic relief through the use of drugs, therapeutic modalities, manipulation or surgery will not cure the cause of the problem. In most cases, the cause of the problem is anatomical dysfunction.

The Egoscue Method utilizes five principles in its approach to rehabilitation of injuries.







     Each of these principles involves a series of exercises that will be discussed later. The key point to remember is that The Egoscue Method® is a process. It is not a quick fix. It requires work on the part of the client. Ultimately, the individual becomes responsible and empowered to make decisions for their own health.


Charleene O’Connor                                                                                          


  1. Hii…

    Really informative article !!

    I have a question… while performing egoscue ecises such as “hooklying knee pillow squeezes”…. how do we place our pelvis….

    I mean in any hooklying position … do we have to put pelvis in neutral …. if so then what does term “neutral pelvis” is related to egoscue…

    In Pilates neutral pelvis means …. both ASIS( two bony hip bones near belly button) and pubic bone should be on the same level…

    So my question is …. in egoscue while performing any ecise in hooklying position… do we have to make sure that our pelvis is in neutral??? Means both ASIS and pubic bone are on the same level??


    • Hello Nicky, No your pelvis is not in neutral and your abs are not engaged. BUT you need to make sure your feet are perfectly straight and in alignment.

      • Ok great …. thank you so much for your prompt reply….


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