An Interview with My Mentor: Egoscue Therapist Chris Kussoff

Everyone should have a mentor.  I was lucky enough to hang out with mine a few weeks ago.  Today I get to introduce to you the ultimate expert in “posture geekiness”, my mentor: Chris Kussoff. Chris has been an Egoscue Method Therapist for over 15 years, and is the owner of the Egoscue Method Clinic in Laguna Niguel, California. We sat down in my studio to discuss all things posture.

Why do I value Chris and his contributions so much?  Oh let me count the ways.  He is smart about the body.  He is intuitive about people.  He respects his “network” and never considers anyone competition.  His ultimate goal is to get people out of pain as fast as he can.  He collaborates with other practitioners. He embodies the character traits of a healer and gives the gift of a pain free life to his clients.

Today I am sharing with you some excerpts from our talk together.  You can watch the full video HERE if that is the format you prefer.

Zeena Dhalla:   Tell us a little about the Egoscue method. What is it and how did you learn about it?
Chris Kussoff:    It starts with Pete Egoscue’s story, Pete Egoscue being the founder of the method. He’s a Vietnam warrior; he’s a marine, and one day he was shot in the head. He went through his surgery and physical therapy, but you can imagine the kind of muscle damage and disparities that something like that is going to create. He healed from his injury but started to suffer from severe nerve pains. Doctors told him it might be post-traumatic stress. He said, “There’s really something wrong.” He found himself studying anatomy, looked at himself in the mirror. His hip was up, his body was shifted, and his knee was collapsed then. The side in pain didn’t look like the other side so he actually said, “What if I got my body balanced? What if I got these muscles over here to do the same thing as this side?” Through trial and error, he was able to balance his structure and the pain went away. From there, light bulb on and fast forward 40 years or so, here we are.

Zeena Dhalla:     Tell us more about what exactly you do in your clinic?
Chris Kussoff:   The Egoscue Method is fully formed method at this point in time where we personalize postural programs for people. Most of the clients are coming in are in pain anywhere from mild pain, to people who are on huge pain killers, their loved ones driving them in wheelchairs. We identify their posture and relate it to where we know the posture should be. Amazingly enough when you look at those two, the correlation of where their posture is out compared to where it should be, is exactly where the pain is at. Of course the key to Egoscue is looking at the entire unit of the body. The pain is not the cause of the problem, the source of the pain. So we look beyond and develop a set of exercises. We gently realign that body and of course get to a symptom-free period.

Zeena Dhalla:       How often do clients usually come to your clinic?
Chris Kussoff:    It depends on the person. It’s a minimum of once a week that we’re going to see somebody. Lately, we’ve been seeing people who are a little bit more severe, a little bit more often. Accountability can be a key factor for this. We require everybody to go home and do their exercises every day.

Zeena Dhalla:       How long does it take before you see results?
Chris Kussoff:   It various from person to person. I’ve had some recent people in with some really miraculous stuff in a couple of weeks. We’ve got a current client in there. He’s 6’5”, but now he’s down to probably 5’11”. His body is so hunched forward. Three days a week, he’s in there seeing us. Two hours a day doing his own exercises. He can now stand completely erect, pain-free but only for a few minutes, but we’ve only been at him for about three weeks. We’re talking about a spine that doctors don’t want to operate on. So they said, “We wouldn’t even operate so you go better find another option.”

Zeena Dhalla:    In your opinion, what do you think is the biggest postural problem of our society today?
Chris Kussoff:    Sitting is one of the biggest issues we see. It’s one of those obnoxious things that is starting to get a lot more publicity. It doesn’t really hurt that much in the moment, but the compounding interest of sitting day in, day out, driving to work, sitting at home and sitting in bad position can do long term damage. The impact that is has on the posture: very weak tight hips, disparage in the hips because nobody’s sitting straight. Once you combine that with, “I need to go to the gym and workout after I’ve been sitting all day”, the body is actually speeding them up to eventually breakdown. Most of the pains per se are not the product of, “Oh my God, I fell down the flight of stairs.” That is actually like 2%.

Zeena Dhalla:     What is the first thing you notice about somebody when they walked into the studio?
Chris Kussoff:    I would say, it used to be something with my final analysis of their posture but it’s really beyond that to be honest. Having done this for lot of years, 15, 16 years, the biggest factor there is the person’s mentality, their demeanor. Are they excited to be there? Is the husband, dragging the wife and vice versa and somebody doesn’t want to be there? Are they gonna be complying? Are they going do their exercises well?

Zeena Dhalla:     Very interesting. What about the physical qualities. Do you notice the gait cycle first? Do you notice how they’re hunched over?
Chris Kussoff:   I am certainly also looking for all of that. One client I’m seeing, he’s really bent forward. Last couple of times, I’ve assigned him to another instructor in the clinic, but I’m watching him, I’ve noticed his ankles are extremely collapsed and it’s turned out. I’m making my initial assessments if he walks by and just out of the corner of my eye.

Zeena Dhalla:   You touched on the mental element, just a little bit in your previous answer. Let’s talk about that. Is that a huge key to success in terms of getting people from the pain to pain-free?
Chris Kussoff:      Yeah. Unfortunately we’re a lot of times the last stop for people. We’re seeing people after they’ve tried so many things and when they potentially might have to do surgery. There’s a lot of, “Am I ever going to get well?” You know, they’re disheartened; they’re depressed. Their commitment level, “Oh great, here’s another guy telling me I can get well.” Connecting with that client, supporting that client, getting that client to believe there’s hope in the end, that’s the biggest component.

Zeena Dhalla:    How do you get people to comply with their exercise routine? Do you have special tips or techniques?
Chris Kussoff:   Part of it we’ve learned several years ago is that being with a skilled Egoscue Therapist costs money (we are not insurance based), so that’s one factor. If I give you homework and you’re not doing it, you are essentially throwing away money. We also make the exercises simple to do at home. I actually get a commitment on day one: “Okay. I truly believe that I can help you and get you well. This is what I need from you: exercise every day, can you do that? Can you get in here when I need to see you? I need you to call me with questions. This is not a ‘you commit and don’t bug me thing.’ I’m going to be mad if you don’t call me.” We have pretty good compliance. We also invite every one of our clients to come in as often as they want to do their exercises in the clinic. We try to give a good energy in the clinic so it’s a place where people want to come.

Zeena Dhalla:      Let’s say someone wants to go to the program with you. Four, five months later they’re pain-free. What do you recommend for them moving forward? Exercise, working out, gym work out?
Chris Kussoff:   It all depends on what they’re interested in. Our best plan for getting someone to be active is finding something they really enjoy. From there the idea is that with the Egoscue body we’ve created with the alignment; with the lack of pain; anything is possible.  Biking is big around here and is not the greatest. If you’re going to do it, do a little bit of Egoscue before and make sure you get your body out of the biking position immediately after.

Zeena Dhalla:    If you have one exercise or stretch that you could get someone to do every day, anybody out there to combat the whole sitting posture thing. What would it be?
Chris Kussoff:     So I will pick something that’s going to be enticing to people: static back. Lying down on the floor, scoop your butt into your couch, put your legs up and just lay there. Let your whole spine sink, settle into the core and let gravity start to work for you. Chris Statis BackIt’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty addictive. You’ll like feel stiff and achy and wow. You’ll feel like a turtle on its back and the whole thing starts to settle and release just lying on the floor. Suddenly you haven’t done a lot of work but you’ve impacted your posture tremendously and maybe do something else. It’s easy. If anybody can do it, you could do it, I guess almost anywhere. I’ve done it camping…
Zeena Dhalla:      Hotel rooms.
Chris Kussoff:      Airports.
Zeena Dhalla:      Wow airports.
Chris Kussoff:      You’ve got to be okay with the dirty floors. Try the clean airports.

Zeena Dhalla:  Where do you think the posture industry is going?
Chris Kussoff:  Egoscue has a Stanford study that’s studying posture and pain in Egoscue. They are realizing that surgeries are not as effective, long term they are not effective. They’re not real solutions. The medications are overboard. We’re going to see posture exercises become a lot more mainstream. Offering people permanent solutions for the problems and more effective solutions. We’ve seen it even in the two or three years we’ve know each other, more buzz is out there now. There are articles every week. There are more people talking about it. There’s a lot of cool stuff on the rise.

Zeena Dhalla:  Well thank you very much for being here Chris. I really appreciate your time. I‘ll be sure to include your contact information on the blog so people can get a hold.

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