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What is ELDOA?

ELDOA is a very unique system of exercise that was invented by an osteopath named Dr. Guy Voyer. After the proper warm up and and progressions, each stretch is held for 60 seconds. Intense, but controlled effort is required to hold the pose. It may feel like the longest minute of your life, but the length and relaxation felt after, and the benefits are worth it.

ELDOA is a french acronym that roughly translates in English to LOADS: Longitudinal Osteo-Articular Decoaptation Stretching.

A longitudinal line goes from one end of an object to the other rather than across it from side to side.

Osteo means relating to bones. An articulation is where two bones meet for the purpose of movement.

Decoaptation means opening or creating space.

ELDOAs are postural exercises you can do yourself with the primary goal being to create space at particular joints in the body. The benefits of a daily ELDOA practice include:

  • improved in joint mechanics

  • increased blood flow

  • reduced pressure on the discs

  • a reduction of pain

  • spinal disc rehydration

  • better muscle tone

  • improved posture and a sense of well being and awareness

Dr. Voyer spent years studying and traveling to seminars on back pain. He found that the primary cause was compression either just from gravity or from a sudden impact or accident. For many people as they age there is an increase in aches, pains and stiffness. Whether due to stress, inactivity or some other cause, this gradual decrease in space for the joints to operate can lead to poor circulation and nerve function as well as pain. The loss of height typically associated with old age is due to a loss of volume in the shock-absorbing vertebral discs of our dynamic, multi-purpose, main pillar, the spine.

The joints of the spine that allow for movement are called the, ahem, Zygapophyseal Joints. Of all the joints in the body, those of the spine could be the most important ones to keep from getting compressed because this is where our nerves branch out from the spinal cord. Nerves are the physical part of our nervous system, the complex network of nerves and other cells that sends information to and from our brain so all of our parts can move and function properly.

Imbalances of the spine and restrictions in the myofascia can hinder nerve function

Muscles have origin and insertion points on the bones, but the connective tissue or fascia links the muscles into complex chains across multiple joints. Muscle and fascia work as a unit and are often referred to as "myofascia", and a series of muscles linked together by fascia is sometimes called a fascial chain or fascial line. In his book, Anatomy Trains, manual therapy expert Thomas Myers mapped out 12 primary fascial chains he dubbed the "myofascial meridians". However the total number of myofasical chains in the body is still unknown, currently numbering in the thousands. Long story short, the network of fascia in our bodies is a complex system that innervates every part of us just like the nervous system and the cardiovascular system. It is of critical importance when it comes to movement and many other aspects of our health yet the fascia is generally ignored by most of today's exercise systems.

Each muscle is like a dynamic structure that contracts to create movement between its points of attachment, but is also constantly under a varying amount of tension that changes dynamically as the muscle works in harmonious cooperation with all other muscles. Literally everything in the body is linked together by a fascial web that is of great complexity and efficiency of movement.

Some examples of Tom Myers' myofascial meridians

Dr. Voyer gained an in depth understanding of the construction of the body during his career as an Osteopath (Osteopaths are like a chiropractor for your fascia even though the name makes it sound like some sort of bone murderer). He discovered that if we arrange the myofascial chains of our body in certain positions and create strong, longitudinal tension across the whole fascial network, then we can target specific joint segments and create space there.

Each "ELDOA" is designed to create space at specific joints that tend to get compressed over time due to stress, tension or injury. The limbs and everything below the targeted area are arranged so that one side of the joint is held stationary. All the fascial chains of the limbs and everything above the target area dynamcially reach in the opposite direction. There is an ELDOA for each joint segment of the spine with the goal of bringing new hydration to the disc and creating space at the Z-joint.

ELDOAs utilize the principle of "closed packed" joint positions where the ligaments are pulled tight and accessory motion is minimized. To get a more intuitive understanding of how this works, try the following:

- Reach one arm out in front of you, keeping your arm straight, palms facing each other.

- Open your hand wide and bend your wrist back.

- Rotate your hands to the outside until your fingers are pointing toward the ground or as far as you can go without straining. Relax the shoulders and think of turning from the hand.

- Now, keeping your arm straight, raise it over your head

- Notice how it feels. Then gently try the same thing with your arm rotated inward and notice how that feels.

When the arm is rotated "externally", to the outside, the ligaments and other fascia are stretched and tension can be felt from the shoulder to the fingertips. The closed packed position is the position in which the joint is most stable.

All the ELDOAs have very detailed instructions for the arms, legs, hands, feet, spine and other areas. Very close attention to form is required. It is important to only hire a trainer or join a class with someone who is certified. It would not be impossible to learn them solo, but there are not a lot of resources out there yet and learning new exercises from a book or video is tricky, especially when it comes to each of our own unique imbalances and tight areas. Some of the videos and articles current out there seem to also contain information that is not correct.

Participants sweat through an ELDOA group class at Legacy Sport & Wellness Centre in Dallas, TX

The best sources for home study might be a book called The Permanent Pain Cure by Ming Chew PT and a series of videos created by a youtube channel called Mind Pump TV. I dabbled in ELDOA using these materials for about a year before taking the course and now drive to Toronto weekly for group classes. The specific cues and details given by an experienced ELDOA practitioner are important for improving the brain's cortical or motor map that enables us to coordinate movement and sense where we are in space. If you are like me and have spent a lot of your life sitting, then you probably have postural distortions and imbalances in your body that have become normal to it. It takes work, but one of the benefits of ELDOA is that it helps your brain to create a more accurate cortical map so your body can stand and move with better efficiency.

Once you learn the exercises well enough to practice on your own you can become your own best therapist as Dr. Voyer would say. As always consult your health care provider if you are unsure in any way about trying a new exercise program. ELDOAs are very safe but there are some contraindications.

If you live in a major city like Toronto you might be in luck and have several choices for group classes and private training. I serve the Durham Region and parts of Northumberland County. For more info call or text 905 809 3624 or email!

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