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Balanced Body COREterly

Spring 2016

From the Studio

The Oov: Optimal Axial Elongation

by Daniel Vladeta, DO

My journey started over 20 years ago.

Working with patients, movement was integral in my practice. I also saw that it was essential to have them do regular exercises at home to help the manual therapy changes hold.

However, after spending time showing the exercises and explaining how to do them, many patients came back and showed me something totally foreign to what I had taught them. Or worse, they did nothing because they weren’t sure how to do the exercises correctly.

It was really important to me to create Axial Elongation, and I was using rolled-up towels for this purpose. From there I started to think of other ways to support the spine in Axial Elongation. This led to creating prototypes cut out of foam to lie on, which put the spine in Axial Elongation.

After several prototypes I really started to think about what I was doing. Placing someone in a static position, even if that position was perfect for that user at that point in time…was wrong! I also realized that any time we lay someone on something flat and static to initiate movement, was wrong.

Our brain makes millions of micro adjustments every second we stand and move. All of our tissues are in a co-contracted relationship when we stand. Lying on the ground or on anything static means that the nervous system doesn’t need to make those micro adjustments, and the tissues in our body don’t need to have a 3D tension relationship to do this.

So I realized I needed to create something different, with material that is dynamic. I hunted around and found that this didn’t exist. Life took over and I eventually ended up in the Medical Device world, where I learned a lot about devices. I didn’t let go of my dream of creating a device for movement therapists, and worked on creating a geometry that modeled the mechanics of the spine.

My “ah-ha!” moment with the geometry came in Amboise in France, and Da Vinci’s last home, where I saw how he created his inventions using 3D geometries. I was inspired by this and realized I needed to use the Fibonacci Ratio to create the geometry that would lead to the design of the Oov.

So my thought process was this:

  • The Oov has 3 curves to support the natural curvature of the spine.
  • The pelvis is to be supported under the sacrum and positioned up off the ground, creating an “open loop” for the pelvis and enabling it to move in all 3 planes while lying on the Oov.
  • The base of the Oov is curved both longitudinally (allowing Axial Elongation) and laterally (activating pelvic rotational stability in the user).
  • Most of the support is under the lumbar spine, and the least is under the thoracic spine, encouraging the most amount of movement.
  • A slight decline in the Oov encourages gentle decompression of the intervertebral discs evenly throughout the spine. Placing the head below the hips also means that the user can’t use their secondary respiratory muscles, triggering diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Scapular cutaways in the Oov allow the scapulae to move freely. Scapulae are like the knee caps of our pelvis, and the slings originate at the scapulae, creating force closure. Can we train lumbar pelvic stability with the scapulae on the ground, not initiating force closure of the SIJ through the slings?

Only a material with specific mechanical properties will work with the above design protocol. The Oov needed to be made of a highly resilient material, engineered to compress to roughly 50% of its volume, and then to push back against the user. The material must move and stretch in all 3 planes, to accommodate varying heights and weights of users. It took 3 years to be able to develop and consistently manufacture the material.

And how can we break a rigidity strategy on something rigid? So the Oov had to be:

  • Comfortable
  • Supportive
  • Flexible
  • Dynamic
  • Unstable
  • Proprioceptive

And using the Oov would need to:

  • Require minimal or no instructions or cueing of clients on the device, It’s a self-correcting tool.
  • Automatically allow for segmental movement of the spine.
  • Just by laying on it and doing nothing, it would still be doing something to stimulate core muscles and balance.
  • Facilitate movement, so the person using it had to learn to control that movement (true motor control).

The Oov was born.

Oov product photo

Now what to do with it…??

I started visiting my peers with the Oov, and got an introduction to Mark Comerford, an Australian PT who has a Masters course in the UK. He was instrumental in clearing up the concepts of what we need to do on the Oov.

What are we going to move, stabilize and control? Each exercise we created had those 3 things as their foundation.

Many of the early protocols we developed were for rehabilitation. However when I met Tom Roman, of Roman Pilates, we started creating movements based in Pilates. David Pugh, a PT for the Australian swimming team, started creating sports-specific programs for his swimmers. And finally, Anthony Carroll helped show creative ways to apply the Oov to mat Pilates. All of these have led to our comprehensive Education offerings:

Level 1: Oov for Pilates
Level 2: Oov 3D assessment and Rehabilitation
Level 3: Oov Manual Therapy

Meeting Brent Anderson of Polestar Pilates was instrumental. Sharing a very similar philosophy, Polestar has provided a platform to host our education, which is essential for practitioners to get the most out of the Oov.

Meeting Ken Endelman completed the puzzle when Balanced Body agreed to distribute the Oov.

The Oov is now in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada, with Europe to launch in April. Asia and South America to follow! In Australia and New Zealand, many professional sporting teams, the Olympic teams, and thousands of practitioners use the Oov.

We are working with thought leaders in each of their sports, to create sport specific programs with the Oov for swimming, golf, tennis, kayaking, soccer, baseball, cricket, rugby, basketball and more.

We also have many studies looking at 3D assessment protocols, musculo-skeletal responses, changes in movement mapped by 3D motion tracking, cortisol level changes with breathing, and changes in our motor cortex by using the Oov.

My dream is to develop more devices, used in therapy and movement, and also to co-design with some of the great minds I’ve been lucky enough to meet along the way.

The journey continues!