“STEPtember,” Egoscue, and Cerebral Palsy

I recently learned about really cool challenge that the folks Down Under are doing. It’s called STEPtember, and it’s a challenge to the entire country to take 10,000 steps every day in September. They’re holding the challenge to not only get people up and moving, but (more importantly!) to raise money and awareness for Cerebral Palsy (CP).

While Egoscue doesn’t have any association with this organization, I think it’s pretty cool and wanted to draw attention to the cause. I’ve worked with clients with CP before, and it’s remarkable to see how their body can change!

For those of you unfamiliar with CP, it is a condition that impacts brain and nervous system functions, such as movement, thinking, seeing, etc. Lesions on the brain impact and impair muscle function.

To give you a brief anatomy lesson, muscles can be split into two groups: tonic and phasic. Tonic system muscles are your “flexors”–similar to when you’re in the fetal position. These muscles flex, adduct (bring something closer to your body), internally rotate, etc. These muscles and their function are innate. You don’t have to think about pulling your hand closer to your body after you place it on a hot burner…it just happens. Quickly. Another example would be when a first-responder arrives on a crash scene where a driver is unconscious. Typically, the unconscious driver is in the fetal position–the protection position. The body just does it naturally.

Conversely, phasic system muscles are the “extensor” muscles. They extend the body, abduct (taking something away from your body), externally rotate, etc. The actions require of phasic system muscles are either learned, or they’re not. In folks with CP, their phasic system hasn’t learned its job.

But, the cool part is that it can be learned!

One CP client in particular I was working with was a teenager girl. Her mom contacted me in an attempt to prevent her daughter’s 5th surgery to lengthen her Achilles/heel cord. She was a toe-walker, and her heels never touched the ground when she walked. In addition, her knees were constantly bent, and she was pitched forward in her upper body. These are all typical tonic system positions. Her muscles were constantly in a flexed and shortened position. Here are her “Before” photos:

Left Before


Back Before

As most of you know, we at Egoscue are focused on the position of the body, rather than the condition of the body. I wasn’t focusing on her CP, but I instead was paying attention to her load-joint alignment. In the pictures above, you can see how forward she is of the gravity line from the side view and how off-center she is from the back view. I knew that if the position of the body changed, the condition of the body would change. When proper stimulus is placed on the body, it has no choice but to change.

After just a few exercises I asked her to walk around, and HER HEELS WERE TOUCHING THE GROUND! Her body was finally getting the needed extension mechanism to get her heel to the ground. While she wasn’t hitting the heel first in the gait pattern–she was walking toe-heel instead of in heel-ball-toe manner–her body was able to extend and let the Achilles lengthen. Looks like she just prevented surgery #5! Needless to say, she thought it was pretty cool, and her mom was ecstatic!

Her body was functioning differently, because it was positioned differently. Check out her “After” photos:

Left After

Back After

Notice the difference of her left knee position on the side view! She’s MUCH closer to the line and less flexed. Also, from the back view, notice that we can now see her hands. Her shoulders and upper back have changed position, and her body is starting to “open up” and tap into the phasic system muscles.

For those of you battling CP, don’t lose hope! Remember that you can impact your condition! If you have Cerebral Palsy, I would encourage you to download our Four Free E-cises. I want you to do them for a week, in order, and then email me an update at nashville@egoscue.com! If you live in Australia want more info on how Egoscue can help you, you can connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

As always, let me know if you have any questions, and keep taking those 10,000 steps!

QUESTION: What have you been told about your CP diagnosis? Do you believe your condition can improve?