HORSE & THINKER STRETCH
Releasing Joint Restrictions, or Strain and Counter Strain
Gary found benefit with Releasing Joint Restrictions (RJR) technique, or Strain and Counter Strain (SCS), which is a highly specialized stretching protocol developed by an osteopath, Lawrence Jones, D.O. Osteopathic techniques work to improve the alignment of the skeleton so that the bones line up better which helps the muscles to work in the best performance position possible and prevents the breakdown of the muscles and joints.
Performed in the clinic this technique is complex; however, I have worked to simplify this protocol. The reason behind why the technique works is fairly technical but I will write about that later. The most confusing thing to me is that this technique can work wonders for some people but not others.
Just as I wrote in the information section, make sure to use the scientific method, and change one variable at a time. In other words, try only adding the horse and thinker exercise to your routine and see if that makes a positive change. If you add three different exercises at the same time, then how do you know which one made you better and which one made you worse.
Pre-test and post-test
When using the scientific method it is best if you look at your findings before and after your exercise. Start with a pre-test. How does your body feel in standing or walking? How do you feel bending forward or backward? Does the shoulder hurt worse when raising the arm overhead? Does the knee hurt worse as you are standing up or sitting down? Do you have back pain, neck, head or shoulder pain that is worse when walking that improves with sitting? Or do you notice back pain when moving from sitting to standing? If you can find a movement test that is obvious, decide how bad the pain is when you make that exact movement or posture.
If 0/10 is no pain or discomfort at all and 10/10 is the worst you can imagine (needing to go to the emergency room), what is the pain level when standing or moving from sitting to standing? This is your pre-test. Next, do the horse and thinker exercise for 90 seconds to one side (i.e. horse to the right and thinker to the left). Finally, repeat the pre-test and decide if the pain level changed doing that same movement. What is the pain level in standing or moving from sitting to standing? This is your post-test. Make sure to use the same positions or activities in the pre-test and post-test. For example, if you noticed the pain in standing during your pre-test but you try to compare the pain in sitting as your post-test this would not be a valid comparison.
A good example of pre-test and post-test is to weigh yourself before eating without clothes on as a pre-test. Then work on diet and exercise. The post-test would not be valid if you then weigh yourself after breakfast with clothes and shoes on. You want to try to compare the same positions or movements when using Releasing Joint Restrictions (RJR) or Strain and Counter Strain (SCS) techniques.
Horse and Thinker Exercise
Caution: If you have had a hip replacement you have been given specific movements that you cannot make with that hip. Make sure to follow your doctor’s advice. If your surgical incision is on the back side of the hip you are not supposed to bend the hip more than 90 degrees. If your surgical incision is on the front of the hip you are not supposed to bring the leg out to the side. I will teach another way to do this exercise later.
The “horse and thinker” exercise is a specific stretch that helps to improve the pubic bone alignment, which is the lowest front bone of the pelvis. When the pubic bone is off everything above and below this bone does not line up normally and can break down joints or cause pain in the joints or muscles throughout the body. I call this position the "horse and thinker" because one leg is out to the side, as if riding a horse, and the body moves into a position on the opposite knee that is similar to Rodin's The Thinker.
I love this photo from Amazon of Toperkin Skeleton The Thinker Statues Rodin Home Decor Bronze Sculpture. I especially like the visualization of the sculpture showing the position of the rib cage twisting and tilting so it is outside the base of support of the pelvis. This is the inspiration for my titling this posture the horse and thinker.
Sitting keep your knees bent and slide one foot out to the side as far as able, then bring your elbow, forearm or if you are able, bring the nose as close to the opposite knee as possible. The “horse” is the leg out to the side, and the “thinker” is bringing elbow or nose toward the opposite knee.
Stay in this position for a full 90 seconds. It is really important to stay for the 90 seconds. If it is too difficult or painful to stay in this position, try not bending forward as far and stay as long as you can. Once you have finished this exercise, repeat your post-test and see if anything has changed. Do you have less pain in standing than you did before doing the horse and thinker exercise?
Thinker is not shown in this photo, I should be bending forward
Find the best order
Try performing this position to the opposite side. Bring the opposite leg out to the side and nose toward the other knee. Then repeat your post-test to decide if there is any change after doing it to the other side. Most of the time, I have found that performing the “horse” to the opposite side from the pain, gives the best results. For example, if you have left-sided back pain, try moving the right leg into the “horse” position and the “thinker” to the left for 90 seconds first. If you find that doing it to one side makes it feel better and doing it to the opposite side makes it feel worse, then reverse the order. Start with the one that makes you feel worse and end with the position that gives you the most relief.
I hope the Horse and Thinker exercise will reduce your pain and you will want to learn more about Releasing Joint Restrictions technique to: