Anvil or Hammer

Z-Health Session 1: Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on June 10, 2008

Yesterday I had my Z-Health appointment. I went into the appointment skeptical.

Mike met me my apartment. He’s an outgoing guy, not particularly large but obviously compact. He competed in the strongman contest I had to drop out of. Given the weather we’ve had lately, I think I got really lucky.

He ran me through a long serious of questions. Questions about training, injuries, lifestyle. He was interested in some things that seem odd but had an explanations. He wanted to know about dental work and old injuries, ones that I have nearly forgotten. This is because, as I understand it, z-health operates off the theory that when you have damage to the body, especially damage that does not heal 100% naturally on is own, the believe, the body perceives the scars, dental work or implants as a foreign threat and may still respond negatively to them.

Then Mike ran me through what I will call the parlor tricks of z-health. Now, I’m sure z-health trainers wouldn’t like me calling them that but it’s kind of how I view them. He showed me video of a client who had an injuried shoulder. You see the client struggle with a moderate weight dumbell. Then he told me he did some z-health stuff on the guy and showed me a second video of the guy blasting through the weight. Even the guy looks surprised. I didn’t think Mike was lying or anything, I’m just skeptical and I think perception and the brain are powerful and deceptive tools.

Parlor trick 2 was to have me lay on the ground, Mike placed his hands on the outside of my right leg, then asked me to resist him pressing my leg back to the start position. He easily overpowered my leg. Then he did a little manipulation on my foot and we repeated. I felt stronger but again, I’m a skeptic. We went through the maneuver several times, he alternated between doing the z-health move to strengthen or weaken me. It felt real but I’m a skeptic. I was getting a more positive feeling about this z-health thing but so far I viewed it as just tricks.

Now the real session began. Mike videoed me walking, repeatedly and each time he seemed to gather a little information about what he needed to do next. For the first major portion of the session, he ran me through a full body workover. In z-health this meant doing specific movements with each joint. There were enough of them I couldn’t remember them all if I had to. Some of them reminded me of stretches we all do naturally when we are waking or warming up, not the kind that you are taught to do by coaches but the kind you would see anyone do naturally. Some of the other movements seems to have no real purpose but Mike had specific goals for them and seemed to know what he was doing.

He kept recording me walking. I had to admit I felt looser and lighter as we went on. Still the skeptic, I figured it was just because this was the most thorough movement program I have had in a while. Then Mike came back to a challenge I had offered him. This was about 45 minutes to an hour into the program and I had assumed he had forgotten about it or was trying to not go down that road.

In email I had offered Mike a challenge by which I promised he could impress me. Since before I started getting treatment, I have been unable to cross my left leg onto my right to put my shoe on (placing the foot on the opposite knee). It’s literally been months and it really has not gotten any better with therapy. I told Mike that if he could return that range of motion, I would be impressed.

So he asked that I show him this movement that I couldn’t do. I was able to comfortable go further than I had efore but the top of my foot was still a good four inches from the top of my knee. I told him it was better and he replied that it wasn’t good enough. So we went into about 20 minutes of work that focused intensively on this particular motion. Each time showed more progress. I got to the point that I could momentarily place my foot on my knee. I was ready to call that good. He did a few more movements and sure enough, I could place my foot on my knee. As I had said I would be, I was very impressed.

Having spent over an our with me and having convinced me that Z-health has a place in a legitimate recovery maintenance program Mike went about setting up a program for me. He came up with a few exercises but rather than throw me some exercise names I wouldn’t be able to replicate, he emailed me two pages of detailed text that contained my exercises.

Before I wrap up, I want to mention that the good feeling and calmed sciatic nerve didn’t end when the session ended. As the evening went on I continued to feel relaxed, pain and nerve issue free. We ran some errands, drove around, took the long way home and I enjoyed it. I have to say that after my PT session today, I almost felt like a some of that had comfort and calm had left me. I used Mike’s Z-health to bring it back. The traction is important but seems to stress my body too. The two together are almost certainly more potent than either by itself.

As I said earlier, I was skeptical going into this session. The claims of Z-Health are pretty fantastic at times. I think most of those claims are from the parlor tricks of Z-Health which look cool but can easily be over stated or misunderstood. I do believe that, based on my session yesterday, that there is a place in anyone’s recovery program for Z-health. I also think that Z-health can do a lot to help with those little nagging owwies we all get.

I do believe that real injuries: tears, ruptures, sprains, breaks and herniations, do need medical treatment. Mike would not have been able to do his job three weeks ago. I would not have been able to participate in the session in the necessary ways because of the pain then. I’m glad that I got a proper diagnosis, it allows me to know my limitations as I progress back to normalcy and that is the most important thing. But, I see Z-health staying with me as I continue to rehab my body.

So, yeah, there is something to z-health. I would encourage any “healthy” trainee to look into it. I would also recommend that anyone give z-health their consideration as they rehab any future injuries, after they get to a point that any pain or real physical limitations are manageable on a daily basis.

9 Responses to 'Z-Health Session 1: Review'

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  1. Scott Styles said,

    Glad the session worked out well for you. Anything that improves pain free range of motion is a good thing. I’d be interested to know what your PT thinks of the specific Z-health exercises.

  2. Chris Rice said,

    I bought the Z Health DVD program a couple years ago and felt it did help even though it seems just too easy and simple to do anything really. It did help – more that I ever expected it to, it doesn’t have any of the “tricks” etc on it of course – just a “workout” of motions etc that to a weightlifter – hard style trainer seem almost worthless – but as you say – do result in progress beyond anything I expected. Good Luck with it and keep us up to date please.

  3. Mike said,

    Thanks, I’m glad it seems to be helping too. My PT has been pretty open but ambivalent about anything else I have come up with. She seems to believe that I’ll listen to my body enough to not do things that hurt or seem to damage me. I kind of get the impression that she views any commercial product (mobility, z-health, wobble boards…) as being outside of her scope of practice. She pretty much leaves me to my own devices with the occasional thought on what to watch out for if I’m doing something and it may be going wrong.

    I have seen that video and I quickly marked it off as a waste of time. After my experience yesterday, I intend to revisit that. Something else you and I have talked about quite a while ago, I’m thinking about taking a few tai chi classes during my recovery period. I think getting some balanced, complete range of motion movements in, without weight or force, may be good for me.

  4. Mike said,

    EDIT, apparent;y a comma and a parenthesis is a smiley, as you can see in my reply to Scott. I just thought I would mention it cause that is a really odd use of a smiley if I had done it intentionally.

  5. No. 6 said,

    I find one phrase a bit hilarious in all of this–the phrase about any old injuries, scars, etc., as being perceived as “foreign threat” that the body responds negatively to. I find that really weird, since many physical adjustment mechanisms the body has (although not always are implemented perfectly) are pretty remarkable all on their own.

    I got the impression from your session that z health takes a few repetitive training philosophies directly from Alexander technique. Alexander technique as well as Barbara Conable’s philosophies about “body mapping” do not view the body and its reactions in a negative light–they realize that reactions and compensation for any injury or shortcoming happen for very legitimate and real reasons to keep a body’s functionality in place. Alexander technique allows performers like John Cleese to use his body’s oddities (the ministry of silly walks, for example) and unique physiology to their advantage, while at the same time promoting health (his impeccable posture), as opposed to viewing the body’s reactions as an enemy of some sort, to be overcome.

    Just thinking out loud, since I have some familiarity with Alexander from the occasional class and seesion here and there from pursuing performance–that’s all, since I didn’t read your post until today. Mike Y did have some valuable exercises, though, and I will be interested to see what comes out of your next session.

  6. No. 6 said,

    My laptop shut down when I was doing a bit of editing, so I didn’t make something in the previous post clear: I get a bit of an impression from z health that a body’s reactions to injury are viewed negatively, whereas Alexander and Conable’s systems don’t necessarily hold tha view.

  7. Mike said,


    I’d agree the bit about looking into really old injuries was a bit odd. This is the part of the session that really gave me the impression that whomever created this system was really trying to take an Eastern system and wrap it in western language. The Z-health folks talk a lot about nerves, as if they were what it was based on, yet your nerves aren’t going to be terribly concerned with years old scars. In my case, I have some broken teeth that did not break off low enough to impact the nerves, so that my nervous system would care. A truly neurological approach would be more concerned with diet, I would think, that with ancient boo boos.

    The outcome of the session was good overall, but like doing martial arts or yoga, you have to decide what you buy into. Many yoga practitioners have great outcomes without knowing the difference from on shokra(sp?) and another.

    I don’t know much about Alexander technique but aside from the philosophical part of z-health, they do have some similarities. They are both about returning a body that is slightly out of whack to a “normal” state. My impression of Alexander technique is that it is more about getting the bones lined up and the rest will follow. Z-health seems to be more about getting the nervous energy balanced out and the rest will follow and physical therapy seems to be more about getting the muscles sorted out and the rest will follow. Interesting how there are some many different approaches to the same problem out there. Some work better for some people than others and some have their pet areas in which they are stronger but really, they are all trying to head the same direction.

  8. No. 6 said,

    Alexander technique doesn’t work with the skeletal system, alone. Conable’s interpretation does start with the “six points of balance”, if a person was getting evaluated for overall alignment.

    I’ve known a few keyboard players (pianists and organists) who get diagnosed with carpal tunnel, due to extra stress in their wrists and hands due to bad technique. They’ll go to a doctor for actual medical treatment for the carpal tunnel, but there is an aspect of technique re-training that needs to occur (if the patient is capable of playing ever again), and some Alexander practitioners do specialize in working with musicians to help re-train muscle movements. If I hypothetically was a pianist who tried to create more “force” in my sound by only using my wrists and hands, they would tire over the long-term, and some damage would definitely occur. Part of the re-learning technique would focus on using arm and shoulder movements to create the desired sound, and a system of tension and release would come into play, rather than permanent tension. It’s not primarily skeletal–it’s not an osteopathic or chiropractic background, but posture can come into play for many Alexander students.

  9. Joe said,

    Z-health is based upon proprioception or joint mobility and the feedback mechanisms in the body. Joints continously send signals back to the brain on positioning.

    Scott Sonnon’s, Intuflow and Pavel’s Super Joints follow these principles of of neurology. The common denominator is motion drives life. These SMALL movements have to do with joint positioning and neurological timing.

    Quite often times the PRIME MOVERS are too fast on the scene and the joint stabilizers are too late causing abnormal joint positioning or punctum. Shirley Sarhmann, PT is a great resource on this phenomenon.

    One could also read Stuart McGill’s work, Gray Cook’s work or Gary Gray to understand even greater principles.

    Alexander technique is a DIFFERENT principle as is FELDENKRAIS METHOD.

    All of these things mention have something to offer and the “better than” scenario is not the comparasion but how Z-health can be a beneficial strategy at improving mobility and cleaning up OLD problems.

    One can check out Carson Boddicker’s site on how an old/dormant/non-healed SILENT ankle injury can cause global postural distortion patterns.

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