I have always been fascinated by mechanics and loved working with people so Physiotherapy was an obvious destination for me.
In 2000 I had a “Wow” moment with a patient who had neck and shoulder pain for the previous two years. This started me on the journey of specialising in this fascinating area.
Over the years I have seen how almost all problems we experience in the neck and shoulder are caused by our posture, our movement habits and how we spend our days.
I have also seen how all this is becoming so much more prevalent, to the point where poor posture is becoming “normal”.
During the first lockdown, I had a moment to see things from a different perspective, both physically and metaphorically.
I saw a problem a that I wanted to solve and that in solving this problem, we would be able to solve a lot of other problems. So I went into my workshop and started experimenting.
I thought what I ended up with might have some value for some people, until I used it myself, when I had another “Wow” moment!
I experienced a dramatic change in my own postural balance and freedom of movement that the Balance Wedge can make and knew that this is what we need, not only to treat a wide range of problems but also to keep us moving well in the Information age.
Michael O'Reilly - Creator
Put very simply, most of us are prisoners in our own bodies.
The less we move, the stiffer we get and the more our myofascial (muscles and soft tissue) straight-jackets tighten around us.
The image below illustrates the (simplified) forces acting in one of the 3 planes of movement and the effects of movement imbalance and the stiffness that usually follows.
We should be like a building where the top floor is directly above the foundation, moving freely around this centred position with all forces equally balanced.
Instead, as we spend most of our days in static forward slumped positions, the building that is us gets forwards tilted.
This is not a problem if we spend short periods of in this unbalanced position and then rocking back to a centred / balanced posture. Indeed we need to be moving like a pendulum around the centre position to keep out muscles and joints happy and healthy.
This is however not the case for most of us in the Information Age, forward slumping is the order of day. The top floor is no longer above the foundation, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
As time goes by we start to stiffen into the imbalanced position, meaning we find it ever harder to straighten up.
At the front the myofascia (muscles and soft tissues) progressively shortens, like ratchets slowly but surely tightening down. While at the back, the joints of the spine and rib cage progressively stiffen into flexion (forwards bend). This is like wedges (not the good ones!) progressively working their way forwards, preventing the joints from straightening up.
Together these ratchets & wedges create an ever more restricted and imbalanced system.
The result of this our systems get trapped in imbalance, causing strain and pain in a number of areas.
This usually presents as neck and upper back pain, shoulder/arm pain, headaches and even dizziness. Over time, as detailed in the explainer video, this causes more severe postural changes, joint wear & tear and declining mobility.
In order to address this progressive, creeping imbalance, we need to "Release the ratchets and remove the wedges". As we are experiencing this problem on a regular basis, we need to apply the solution on a regular basis.
As it turns out, the solution is a Wedge (the good one!). The unique design of the Optineck Balance Wedge gets gravity working for us, rather than against us.
The positions and alignment that the Wedge enables allows for regular and effective stretching of the anterior myofascial structures at the same time as promoting extension and mobilisation of the thorax (spinal and rib joints).
This removes the barriers that prevent us from achieving an upright, balanced and sustainable alignment (posture), helping us regain free and floaty movement.
The saying goes that we are all 100% disciplined to our current set of habits and a habit is something that we no longer think about. Our habits shape and form our lives. This is particularly true from an activity and movement point of view.
Most of us, whether we are aware of it or not, have well-established habits of interacting with screens. While this is out of necessity for most of us, it is a habit none the less and this is having a profoundly negative effect on our bodies.
We therefore need a way of correcting this imbalance on a regular basis, we need helpful habits of restoring balance.
Exercise is generally only effective when it is performed regularly and consistently.
In order for an activity to become a habit, it must be accessible, it must be easy and it must be immediately rewarding. If it doesn't tick these 3 boxes, our will power will eventually fade and we stop the activity.
The Optineck Balance Wedge ticks these 3 boxes, making effective correction accessible, easy and immediately rewarding, facilitating the creation of a helpful habit.
Herein lies the power of the Wedge, it make regular exercise easy. Once the bio-mechanical rebalancing is a habit, our systems take real strides towards freedom of movement and therefore sustainability.
When carried forwards over the weeks, months and years, the Balance Wedge habit has the power to keep us moving better for longer.
"I am always a little reserved when it comes to work related gadgets and tools, especially those that are new. I needn't have had any concerns. The Wedge has become standard within my treatment and exercise repertoire and the evidence, from patient feedback, is strong.
The Wedge is a sleek looking device, which appears very simple in its design, however the benefit gained from its use is much more complex. I have treated upper quadrant patients for over 20 years and have used various techniques to improve thoracic mobility, including exercises, rolled towels, rolled magazines, tape etc. None have proved as effective or as easily applied as the Wedge.
The Wedge allows perfect alignment of the spine in a relaxed position where the user does not feel as if they are lying flat. It gives fantastic proprioception of spinal movement, and together with a flow of simple exercises allows release of the anterior chain, and mobilisation of the spine, gently allowing natural correction of posture, and off loading those "hinge" areas.
I use the Wedge to treat all my upper quadrant patients, and to run through some simple exercises, after which many ask where they can purchase such a device. A huge percentage of patients who walk away with a Wedge after their appointment report continued use and can feel the ongoing benefits.
I have had great success in treating neck pain, shoulder impingement, and other upper quadrant conditions in much shorter time frames than usual, much to the delight of my patients. I use the Wedge within my Pilates classes, and all my clients have enjoyed the benefits of the mobility they have gained from using it.
The Wedge is definitely something you need to try in order to realise how and why it is effective. If you are a cynic like me, then this is for you!!"
"The Balance Wedge is lightweight and brilliantly innovative in design and concept. It's use is supported by clear and thoughtful guidance which can be referred to online.
It is effective at helping to counteract the effects of flexed postures through our daily lives.
I enjoyed simply lying on it and once relaxed, naturally inhaled more deeply – wonderful at the end of a busy day!
I’d be proud to have developed such a useful, versatile and well thought out product and would love to share information with other like-mined people who I think would find it helpful.
I would 100% recommend the Optineck Balance Wedge to families (students and parents/carers) and am grateful for trialling it."
"In my opinion, the Balance Wedge has a similar affect to hands-on Physiotherapy treatment for the upper back, in that it helps to mobilise the multiple joints in the thorax when combined with the prescribed exercises. This has proved invaluable in my practice as patients are able to maintain gains achieved with hands-on treatment as part of their home self-management.
I also use the Balance Wedge with all my Pilates clients. In fact all my regulars have been so impressed with the results achieved during our sessions that they have bought one to use at home to help maintain their spinal mobility.
I have repeatedly seen significant objective improvement in stiff flexed upper backs - from teenagers to octogenarians. The benefits gained in mobility have helped to improve posture, relieve upper back pain and improve neck and shoulder girdle mechanics.
I have been a Physiotherapist for almost 30 years so I have seen a lot of different types of equipment come and go. Based on results observed with my Physio patients and Pilates clients I can honestly say that the Balance Wedge is highly effective in helping to gain and maintain Upper Quadrant mobility and thereby optimise mechanics through this region.