By Evan Mahoney
Stretching as Philosophy
“Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure.” Inscription on the gate to the Garden (school) of Epicurus.
It may do well to imagine stretching as part of the goings on in the Garden of Epicurus. We should not rely on how Epicurus may be understood today, as one who takes pleasure in gourmet delights. The search for pleasure and avoidance of pain may have been achieved through more spartan means than what we would imagine. Overeating and inactivity lead to ill health, suffering, and pain, behaviors certainly counter to the theme of Epicurus.
Avoidance of pain is a fundamental basic law, so obvious, so easily unacknowledged. Epicurus raised an eyebrow to this insight and built his life and philosophy around it. Somehow I imagine (and maybe have seen in science film or class) an Amoeba recoil from the poke of a microscopic needle. Now imagine that amoeba moving through a maze of needles protruding from walls as it runs through the gauntlet of life. Pain serves as a stimulus to move one forward upon the proper way, to achieving destiny.
We humans have a remarkable tendency in our youth to flirt with pain, embrace danger and risk to our bodies and lives and pay the suffering consequences of our decisions. In our seasoned maturity, experience, and age some of us know well enough not to seek out, nor desire pain resulting from frivolous diversions and impulsive behaviors.
Experience teaches us to walk the path, avoiding painful stimulus. But the path of pain also leads us to our destiny. At least in my life it did. Two painful episodes crystallized my entrance at two critical junctures in my acupuncture career. The first was a long standing illness which I overcame through introduction as a patient into acupuncture and then through the study, practice, and meditation of acupuncture’s principles. The second was my entrance into the acupuncture doctoral program at my school, of which I was accepted under scholarship to work and study in a busy pain management clinic in the heart of Koreatown, Los Angeles.
I tell in my “Eliminate Back Pain – Hang from a Tree” book of my first episode of prolonged excruciating lower back pain as I began my clinical residency treating patients undergoing the exact same thing I was experiencing. In hind sight it is quite funny too me. I recall one moment entering a treatment room when my foot caught on the carpet which caused me to curtly “yelp” out in pain, silencing the intake of the doctor and patient as they and all the faces of the interns turned towards me. I shrugged and continued in silence. Other times, I would stand next to a patient lying incapacitated in pain on the treatment table. Empathizing with them and surprising them, I would say “I too have what you have”.
Much of what I learned there and in private practice specializing in the treatment of pain revolves around the simple premise that stretching is the answer to most cases of pain. The clinical techniques I have written about are acupuncture interventions for stretching the muscles. Acupuncture is an excellent tool (if performed by a well trained and qualified practitioner) for achieving muscle pliability and flexibility. During my doctoral program we practiced VST acupuncture and Korean Kinetic Acupuncture which fundamentally stretch the muscles and bring about a host of physiological benefits.
It is from these techniques which I created the “Dr. Evan Mahoney Fountain of Youth Stretching Series”. These innovative self stretches are the crystallization of my own experiences in pain as well as seven years spent in the treatment and specialization of pain and pain management during thousands of patient treatments using acupuncture and stretching as the tools of intervention.
My “Kinetic Decompression Stretch for Lower Back Pain” which I also call “Kinetic D Hanging Back Stretch” is simply a miracle for the life changing experiences it has offered my patients. It is simple and basic. We did this as kids hanging from tree limbs, yet as adults it sloughed away. It is a true fountain of youth exercise. It is the one and only back stretch that really needs to be performed. All the rest are secondary. I have used it and taught it to elderly patients and it has given them a new lease on life. A life they may never have expected to be pain free again.
Pain is discouraging. In the midst of pain one wonders if they will ever recover. X-rays, MRI’s, and some doctors may confirm a person’s worse fears by giving them a discouraging diagnosis. It is psychologically and unnecessarily damaging for many patients. Studies confirm that 30 % of the population (some studies suggest as high as 70%) have some form of spinal abnormality such as herniated/ bulging disc disease, irregular curvature, or stenosis. But amidst such high numbers of spinal abnormality there is not a corresponding number of people in active pain. In other words spinal abnormalities are asymptomatic. Meaning there is no pain or problems associated with them. In other words spinal abnormalities are actually normal. Let this be encouragement!
The stretches I have created and write about in “Hang from a Tree, Eliminate Back Pain” and “Dr. Evan Mahoney’s Fountain of Youth Stretches” book series are simple, basic, and innovative. I have seen them deliver 80 year olds (and all ages) from toe and feet pain. Many more have gotten relief from back pain and saved themselves from surgery, or have used this to overcome pain that lingered after unnecessary surgery was performed. I can only imagine the avoidance of Achilles Tendon tears that could have been avoided by prominent athletes had they engaged in more than half-hearted calf muscle stretches.
The “Kinetic D Hanging Back Stretch” offers a multitude of stretches for the hips and back in the hanging position. Imagine doing stretches, while at the same time decompressing the spine? It is great. It offers everything the inversion table accomplishes and more. It is the poor man’s version of the “Vax D” treatment. Try these exercises for yourself. Make your life more pleasant. Then you will understand “Stretching as Philosophy”.
Dr. Evan Mahoney
Ebooks available at Amazon Kindle
Eliminate Back Pain – Hang From a Tree
Dr. Evan Mahoney Fountain of Youth Stretching