Alignment therapy may help back pain

May 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Back pain is one of the most common reasons people miss work or see a doctor. Now a Marin County personal trainer is teaching a way to alleviate back pain and other joint problems with a method she used to bring her own body back into alignment.

At 40, personal trainer Leslie Mueller is running faster than she did on her track team in college. She's competing in triathlons and winning. She credits her peak physical condition with something she first learned about from one of her clients -- alignment therapy.

"When I discovered that he could actually change his alignment with these other techniques, I was intrigued and wanted to find out if it worked for him at 77, what could it do for me," said Mueller.

That discovery ultimately led her to develop what she calls a collection of subtle exercises to stimulate muscle groups that are sleeping.

"So in therapy, you can target those muscle groups and get them to wake up and come on to support the posture, so that its balanced from right to left and front to back," said Mueller.

They are changes she charts with before and after photos of her clients. Jocelyn Knight started seeing Mueller about a year ago.

"I didn't know I was so out of kilter until Leslie put me up against a wall and I looked in the mirror and I was like, 'Oh, you're off,'" said Knight.

She also teaches her TriAlign method twice a week in the North Bay.

"I throw every exercise at them that I know will address different ways that the posture becomes out of balance," said Mueller.

The key is the exercises should be done every day, from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the person.

"I make exercise like eating and sleeping," said TriAlign client Tom Boughton.

Boughton relies on about 15 alignment exercises a day and says he's seen the payoff.

"It has just brought me back to a physical balance that I haven't had since I was 6 years old," said Boughton.

"You wouldn't believe this, but within six months, I didn't have back problems. I didn't have knee problems, I got back into my running," said TriAlign client Larry Goodman.

Goodman is another believer.

"I can run to the top of Mt. Tam, I'm able to do the things that make me feel good...at 63," said Goodman.

"Seeing a lot of patients and taking care of sports medicine problems I definitely think posture and alignment is really important," said Dr. Anthony Luke, director of primary care sports medicine at UCSF.

Dr. Luke says strategies like Mueller's make sense.

"A lot of these are just different types of treatment principles. Like you think about yoga and pilates, a lot of them have the same concepts, tai chi, a lot of movements, and always focusing on posture," said Dr. Luke.

Classes help, but Dr. Luke says an active home program is key and Mueller's followers agree.

"To this day, I wake up every morning and I do an hour of these exercises and that sets the tone for the day for me," said Goodman.

"I can fix myself, that's the cool thing," said Knight.

Bringing balance to life.


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