I love gadgets! New, innovative, groovy – I feel special when I have a new toy to play with. I justify my pleasure by saying “Oh it saves me SO much time”, or “I can do SO much more” – but really, it’s the wow factor that gets me every time. So it is with new and groovy treatments for pain. It used to be all “leg length discrepancy” and “muscle imbalance”, now it’s “neuroplasticity” and “educational neurophysiology”. So I think I’ve stumbled upon the Next New Thing. The OOV. I attended a one day fundamentals workshop – incidentally, paid for by the University Department in which I work, so this is an unbiased review.
The OOV is a neat foam device shaped somewhat like a goose (if you use your imagination), or perhaps like an insect thorax. It’s curved side to side and from front to back on the bottom, while the top has two concave and one convex curve roughly approximating the curves of the spine.Designed by an osteopath, there are several principles the inventor and educators indicate underpin the rationale for the OOV. These are:
- Functional movement training
- Developing stability via the pelvis and deep “core” muscles, with joint mobility where this is needed (shoulders and hips)
- Developing motor control
- Establish endurance
- Refine balance
- Relaxed performance
The exercises performed on an OOV are therefore carried out slowly (almost meditatively), in time with breathing (deep diaphragmatic breathing), and with control.
Training also requires attending to feedback from using the device itself – use it with inefficient motor control and you fall off. Use it with fluid control and, over time, develop strength. The materials included in the training manual state that motor control learning requires a “closed loop feedback” process of attending to sensory information as new movements are learned. After the movements are mastered, then and only then is speed acquired. Exercises focuses on using eccentric contractions to keep movements slow and smooth – and “allows for kinetic chain sequencing to improve”, “increases cross bridge connection between muscle fibres thereby increasing strength, activates the deep muscles, stimulates the low threshold slow twitch fibres building stamina, lengthens the fascia due to long, slow and sustained load”.
The training manual also discusses myofascial slings and suggests that by training the deep core muscles (transverse abdominis, multifidus and the pelvic floor – and don’t forget the diaphragm), and the superficial units (posterior oblique, deep longitudinal, anterior oblique and the lateral muscular slings) coordination and recruitment patterns will allow for stability, strength and speed as forces generated by limbs are transmitted through the body.
Next, the manual describes several postural types. There is the so-called “ideal posture”, kyphotic-lordotic posture, flat back posture, and sway back posture – and of course, we must correct the variants so we can achieve the ideal. I’ll leave you to draw your conclusions as to the rationale for this.
Finally, there are the four pillars of movement:
- Axial elongation – for efficient spine articulation, the “safest” environment for movement, preventing compression and shearing forces, and providing the optimal position for the core muscles to work. Just by lying on the OOV, the spine is placed in this wonderful position, provided of course that you lie with your lumbar region in the right spot, which can be just an inch or so from where you may really want to lie. Efficient breathing – Axial elongation allows for diaphragmatic breathing, with the head lower than the hips which apparently inhibits the secondary respiratory muscles.
- Hip mobilisations – to develop correct posture and proper alignment begins with the feet, by dissociating the lower half of the body from the upper half, the stationary half provides stability and support so that forces are directed towards the moving half.
- Shoulder and thoracic spine mobilisation – to enhance, strengthen and extend the fluid range of movement at the shoulder which, because of our terrible working environments, seems to produce faulty movement patterns.
- Core control – as the manual says “not enough can be said about the importance of a strong core. But strength means nothing if all the muscles that make up the core are not working efficiently during movement”.
OK, so far so good. Training is based on the principles above, with the addition of balance and proper alignment, interspersing new exercises with a balance position, adding new movement patterns to increase the challenge to the nervous system (yes! neuroplasticity!), practice to develop complex movement patterns, and finally repeated practice using weights, increased repetition etc. And if you perform a new set poorly, step back a bit, reduce the demands until motor control develops.
I spent a day using the OOV. With my sensitive nervous system letting me know three days later that I’ve been using muscles I don’t usually demand so much from, I think it does what it says it does – you definitely work a range of muscles more intensely than in everyday life. It’s fun, and because of the slow pace where control is the aim, it’s achievable even for people who wouldn’t ordinarily want to “do exercise”.
What do I think of it? Well, I predict there will be classes for OOV training in many gyms in New Zealand and the world. During the workshop I heard that performance athletes (yes! the Australian swim team!) are using it, that you can rehabilitate sore backs, shoulders, hips, whatever; I learned that you must be SO careful with your back because the discs can be smashed; that posture patterns are dysfunctional; that the reason we have back pain is because of poor core stability, that we can have an unstable pelvis; that this is the way of the future. Even 70 year old women with osteoarthritis can now manage things she couldn’t do before.
Warning: I am skeptical of any new thing. After seeing so many variations over the years I’ve worked in pain management, particularly within the musculoskeletal world, I guess I’m a bit wary of fads. Here’s the thing: While I think the OOV functions well as an option for exercise, and novelty can be a good thing to maintain motivation, let’s not inflate the potential. Buzz words like “motor control”, “neuroplasticity”, “core strength” are going to have grab. The exercises, many based on Pilates, will be familiar and yet challenging on the unstable platform of the OOV. BUT the basic assumptions that:
- there is one ideal posture and lordosis is associated with back pain and disc degeneration (Been & Kalichman, 2014; Murray, Dixon, Hollingworth, Wilson & Doyle, 2003; Nourbakhsh & Arab, 2002)
- backs are fragile and must be coddled, particularly the discs (Bakker, Verhagen, van Trijffel, Lucas & Koes, 2009; Claus, Hides, Moseley & Hodges, 2008; O’Sullivan, O’Keefe, O’Sullivan, O’Sullivan & Dankaerts, 2012);
- core stability and motor recruitment are at fault in back pain, therefore they need to be retrained ( Laird, Kent, & Keating, 2012)
- that myofascia can be effectively stretched (Scleip, Dureselen, Vleeming, Naylor, Lehmann-Horn, Zorn et al, 2012; Turrina, Martinez-Gonzalez & Stecco, 2013)
are, I think, arguable. I particularly dislike the language associated with the reasons for developing core stability – that backs are easily damaged, that great care must be taken to avoid damage, and that a critical reason for back pain is either lack of core stability or pelvic instability. While these notions are logical from a biomechanical viewpoint, they don’t accommodate natural bony, ligamentous and muscular variations (how many clavicle variations have been identified?), they omit the nervous system, and they fail to include the active, dynamic and ever-changing, self-regulating, homeostatic human systems involved.
Consider the OOV as an adjunct, a toy, a nice way to introduce movement to people who are fearful of movement. Use it to vary an exercise routine. Have fun with it. But please don’t base your back pain rehabilitation on the idea that this device is the bees knees.
Quick addendum: GREAT critical questions about a ten-year follow-up of strengthening vs flexbility exercises with or without abdominal bracing – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25271520; the original article is http://journals.lww.com/spinejournal/Abstract/2014/06010/Ten_Year_Follow_up_of_Strengthening_Versus.2.aspx
Bakker, E. W., Verhagen, A. P., van Trijffel, E., Lucas, C., & Koes, B. W. (2009). Spinal mechanical load as a risk factor for low back pain: a systematic review of prospective cohort studies. Spine, 34(8), E281-293.
Been, E., & Kalichman, L. (2014). Lumbar lordosis. Spine Journal: Official Journal of the North American Spine Society, 14(1), 87-97.
Claus, A., Hides, J., Moseley, G. L., & Hodges, P. (2008). Sitting versus standing: does the intradiscal pressure cause disc degeneration or low back pain? Journal of Electromyography & Kinesiology, 18(4), 550-558.
Kirilova, M., Stoytchev, S., Pashkouleva, D., & Kavardzhikov, V. (2011). Experimental study of the mechanical properties of human abdominal fascia. Medical Engineering & Physics, 33(1), 1-6.
Laird, R. A., Kent, P., & Keating, J. L. (2012). Modifying patterns of movement in people with low back pain -does it help? A systematic review. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 13, 169.
Murrie, V. L., Dixon, A. K., Hollingworth, W., Wilson, H., & Doyle, T. A. (2003). Lumbar lordosis: study of patients with and without low back pain. Clinical Anatomy, 16(2), 144-147.
Nourbakhsh, M. R., & Arab, A. M. (2002). Relationship between mechanical factors and incidence of low back pain. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 32(9), 447-460.
O’Sullivan, K., O’Keeffe, M., O’Sullivan, L., O’Sullivan, P., & Dankaerts, W. (2012). The effect of dynamic sitting on the prevention and management of low back pain and low back discomfort: a systematic review. Ergonomics, 55(8), 898-908.
Schleip, R., Duerselen, L., Vleeming, A., Naylor, I. L., Lehmann-Horn, F., Zorn, A., . . . Klingler, W. (2012). Strain hardening of fascia: static stretching of dense fibrous connective tissues can induce a temporary stiffness increase accompanied by enhanced matrix hydration. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 16(1), 94-100.
Turrina, A., Martinez-Gonzalez, M. A., & Stecco, C. (2013). The muscular force transmission system: role of the intramuscular connective tissue. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 17(1), 95-102.