Interview Of Dr James Stoxen DC By Chris Russell
On “RunRunLive Podcast Episode 220” April 13, 2012
Listen to the Podcast Below
Hello and welcome to the blue grass of Kentucky podcast, where the grass isn’t really blue, but it is a very comforting shade of green. From the air coming into Lexington much of it looks like a high-end golf course, without greens or sand traps. There is a meandering river that has carved itself into the landscape and you can see the layers of clay rock, the bed of some ancient ocean, on the steep bluffs. But, as you get closer to the city the bucolic scene resolves itself into the usual ordered sacks and rows of suburban sprawl that wraps around all out cities.
But I digress. This is the RunRunLive Podcast. And, for now, this is Chris your host, and we have a great show for you today.
We chat with an interesting dude, Dr. James Stoxen who will enlighten us on many interesting things from his role as doctor to performing artists, including some relevant revelations that may help you with your running, or at least your wiggling.
It’s a long interview so the other segments will probably shrink to fit – good news for you less of me talking.
Chris: You’re telling me your Broadway stories, so what’s your official role there? You’re doctor to the stars there? Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us what you’re doing.
Dr. Stoxen: I didn’t really get into the profession and say “Gee, I’d like to be the doctor to the stars”, it sort of happens organically. In the first 6 years of my practice my passion was sports.
What I wanted to be was not only a doctor for the greatest athletes, but I also wanted to train them as well. So, the best thing to do is get out there and meet them. So early on, I volunteered myself, as a doctor for any and all sports competitions, track and field or powerlifting meets, weightlifting competitions, Olympic lifting, rhythmic gymnastics, anything I could do to get myself in front of these top athletes and coaches.
I did maybe 60 national world championships before my 30th birthday. What I’ve found is that doctoring is a two-way street in sports. You have some great knowledge of anatomy and how to take care of people and some good principles, but the athletes and top coaches also have some great knowledge like plyometrics, weightlifting, technique, form, running technique, and biomechanics that they’ve learned, they will share with you.
So, while you’re doing a history, the questions you are asking are to find out what is wrong with the patient–at the same time you’re asking questions that are loading up your knowledge base on what they can teach you. And then you gain that knowledge which not only helps you treat that athlete better but you can take it with you.
Chris: Sure, yeah, I do the same thing in business. We call it “discovery”, you learn so much from your clients.
Dr. Stoxen: Yes, when you start to think that you know everything, that’s when you really figure out that you don’t know everything. So, you have to have an open mind. If you don’t, you’re never going to absorb some new information that may help the next patient or enhance yourself. So I keep an open mind.
Chris: So somewhere along the line you got invited to do not only sport events, you got contracted to be the on-site doctor for top entertainers and that sort of thing too. That’s kind of cool.
Dr. Stoxen: Well, what happened was, I think it was back in 1993. I got a call from an agent in New York that had asked me if I would go work for the Michael Bolton tour.
I said, “well how does this work” and she said, “show up at this theatre, take care of these people, and I’ll call you tomorrow”.
So I did my thing and they called me and said “well, that was really great, you did a great job, and I’d like to call you again”. Next thing I know, 130 tours later, I had worked for quite a few very well-known entertainers.
And so it’s been quite an interesting experience and it’s kinda funny that you are driving down the road and half of the songs that you listen to are your clients. It’s a great experience and of course it makes practicing more interesting, I guess.
Chris: yeah, so it’s funny because you don’t necessarily think of some of these folks as athletes, but you’re always hearing on the news “Mick Jagger hurt his back” cause they’re out two, three, four, five, six times a week for two and one half hours jumpin around on stage. So, they must get a lot of the same injuries.
Dr. Stoxen: Well, in my practice I’m not really treating ONLY injuries. Most work done on performers is done to improve performance. Touring is uncomfortable so it takes its toll on your health, energy and attitude.
Lets just say that if you’re in a tour bus, then you’re sleeping in a coffin space, which is what these spaces are. You’re talking about 12 coffin sized spaces that these people sleep in for 10 weeks in a row when they’re on tour, sometimes 2 years. So it’s really uncomfortable. You’re walking on really hard surfaces and backstage is cold at times.
There’s a lot of stress because you can’t talk to any new people. Mick Jagger can’t walk up to a 7 eleven, get a bite to eat, and have a chat with someone. It’s kind of stressful talking to the same people every day.
So, all that physical and mental stress builds up and your body breaks down.
The other thing is that you have these unusual sleep patterns. They’re in long bus rides for ten to twelve hours straight, going from one side of the country to the other. It beats you up.
You’ve got 115-170 people on an average tour. They’re unloading trucks with big pieces of steal to build the stage or putting big racks of guitars up on ramps and pushing them up. Somebody is going to get stiff and somebody is going to get hurt.
So, if you’re working a tour, you’re working twelve hours a day from–lets say 4:00 p.m. to 3 or 4 in the morning. And you’re just doing constant body work to tune people up, as well as taking care of injuries because, injuries don’t stop when you hit the tour, right?
Chris: Right, that’s so interesting. So, do you find that some of these folks who are on tour have figured out that if they do a little bit of proactive exercise, they’ll end up having substantially more endurance and toughness?
Dr. Stoxen: Yes, you know for instance, Anthony Field, the founder of the Wiggles, children’s entertainment group, did minimal exercise while he was on tour for the first 20 years. Of course, we put an end to that when I started working with his tour in 2004.
First, I worked with him to help put his body back to a more normal state alleviating the pain and resetting his human spring mechanism.
What I told him was, “we need to get together an exercise program”. so I put together a booklet of training exercises . I flew out there and showed him how he could get a pipe backstage and put it up backstage and do hanging ab exercises.
Then, I showed him how he could run in various patterns such as zig zag and circle runs to develop his muscles. All of the exercises could be done from any where he wanted. It could even be a hotel. Eventually they hired a full time trainer to travel with them.
Chris: Is this the ‘Wiggles’ guy? I don’t know much about the ‘Wiggles’.
Dr. Stoxen: Right, well if you have a child who was between one and seven years old in the last 20 years in the United States or Australia, and you don’t know who the wiggles are, you’ve pretty much been living under a rock.
They have a hit television show that goes out to about 100 countries. They also have a live concert that they do for 7 months out of the year. Over a million people each year buy tickets to see this live show.
Chris: It’s very physical too, right? They’re doing a lot of jumping around and dancing, right?
Dr. Stoxen: Well, originally when I first started working for them, they were doing some dancing. Simple dancing, but not really acrobatics because anthony is kind of the leader of the group.
He was very broken down with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia. He had all this inflammation from head to toe that kept fueling this clinical depression that set him back emotionally. So, he was just happy to get the shows over with.
They do two shows a day unlike other people. So, it’s kind of grueling to do two shows a day. And they’ll do four shows on weekends.
In fact, in 2004, they sold out 13 shows in a row at madison square garden in one week.
Chris: So, you fixed this guy and you wrote a book on the process of getting fit?
Dr. Stoxen: Well, actually, in 2007 I had given him this powerpoint list of exercises to do, plyometrics.
“Where did you get this from” he said. I said, “Well that’s a book i’m writing”. He said, “I want to write a book”. I said, “alright, I’ll help you write it. What do you want to write about?”. And he said, “I want to write about how you helped me”.
I was kind of shocked, because that has never happened before. I didn’t think it was a very big deal at the time.
So, he wrote the book with Greg Truman. I had to work with Greg to give them an idea of how this approach that I used to help him worked. It is called the Human Spring Approach.
Chris: And this is where we’re get back into running. This stuff goes into the current thinking on minimalist or barefoot running, and treating it as a spring as opposed to a lever. What was your epiphany there?
Dr. Stoxen: This all came about organically.
The way that this all came about is I was working with a man by the name of Ed Coan who pound for pound was the strongest man in the world. Squatting 950-1,000 lbs. in competition. He is an unbelievable athlete that people admired all around the world.
I remember watching him do these squats in the world championships and saw his face turn blue and his blood vessels exploded in his back.
I thought to myself, ‘what a massive amount of weight to put on your human body’! He was corkscrewing into the hole. I thought what we should do is start from the bottom to release every muscle in your body from the bottom up. That was back in 1986.
I was not so sure what I was doing at the time, but it worked. He broke world records 6 years in a row after that and did not sustain an injury even with that heavy lifting.
At the time I was doing this with him I thought why not do this with my patients?
They should have the best care as well. People would come in with herniated discs or saying they needed surgery. I would start from the bottom and work my way up giving them the maximum improvement that I could give.
If you look at a disc it’s actually a compression spring when your foot hits the ground the weight above the disc actually compresses the disc and changes it’s physical shape. It stores energy with the deformation process within that disc.
When you lift the foot off of the ground it releases the pressure off of the disc and releases the energy back into the system. So that is the definition of a spring. In fact the entire body does that when you impact with the ground.
The mass or the force of the landing impacts into the kinematic chain or what I call the 7 floors of the spring. It stores energy within that mechanism then releases that energy reforming back to it’s exact original shape.
We call this in physics, ‘elastic deformity’ instead of ‘plastic deformity’.
Dr. Stoxen: I was looking for a title of this book I was writing and I looked up the word ‘spring’. I found all of the engineering definitions of spring.
WHAM, thats when I got the epiphany.
Because if you find it is proven in physics for 300 years, how two objects collide and how they are able to absorb and rebound from the forces of the impacts through these spring mechanisms. The human body and the earth are objects that collide.
How do they sustain 250 million impacts with the ground without getting completely destroyed is because either they are built with a spring between the two colliding parts or one of the parts is actually an integrated spring itself.
That is when I figured out the human body was a spring mechanism and not a lever system. Lever systems can’t protect you from 3.6 million impacts with the ground. This is an average of how many impacts we have each year with the earth.
Chris: So even with the lever system your still transferring the energy in the basic physics it’s just more abrupt.
Dr. Stoxen: Lever systems can’t protect you from that many collisions. A lever system is not a protective mechanism. It’s also not a recycling mechanism.
Chris: yes that’s my point. There is a conservation of energy in the spring that your not going to get on a direct impact.
Dr. Stoxen: Right, the way you can prove it is with mathematics and thats what we would like to do. We would like to use principles in mathematics to prove that a model is either a. a lever system or be a spring mechanism.
So if I say that I want you to go up on your toes as many times as possible doing toe raises. You could probably do about 100 until your calves start to scream and you get tired.
If you weigh 180 lbs times 100 thats 18,000 lbs of force that you are lifting with your muscles and if you decided you wanted to run a 10k thats 6,000 impacts with the ground times 180 it’s probably close to 4-5 million lbs that your body is resisting.
So how can you explain like 20,000 or 30,000 vs. 4-5 million before you give out with exhaustion.
It’s because the body doesn’t ambulate through muscle contraction as much.
It’s assisted by the muscle contraction but primarily it’s ambulating through bouncing off of the ground or spring mechanisms rather than muscle contracted lever systems.
Chris: So how do you take your science based hypothesis and apply it to practical running form?
Dr. Stoxen: The way you apply it is through Hooke’s Law Of Physics.
This states that the deeper that the spring is able to depress or deform itself the more force it can protect you from and the more energy it gives back. Thats the recycling of the energy as well as the impact force that the human body can withstand.
You can also look at Newton’s simple law it’s mass times acceleration equals the force. So the mass never change your body is always the same weight.
When you running and you apply hooke’s law you will be able to run faster. If you spring mechanism isn’t able to withstand the forces of the landings then thats when you will run into injury.
With multiple impacts of the landings that greater than what the spring can handle.
Chris: Is your point to condition the spring mechanism with specific stretches and exercises specific to that knowledge of the spring mechanism?
Dr. Stoxen: The exact formula is number one is to release the tension on the spring mechanism so it can take up a deeper or greater force of the landing. so essentially what your doing is a gait analysis to determine if the body is bouncing off the ground or banging into the ground.
The nuances between those two is it sort of bouncing?
Can we get it to bounce better?
If it’s banging then we should stop running because the force of the landings will start to deteriorate the mechanism causing muscle spasms in the body that actually stiffen the spring even more making the ability to take up the force of the landings more difficult.
What we know is the human foot and ankle has 33 joints.
The mass is spread across these 33 joints to allow a smooth impact with the ground. If anyone of those 33 joints are locked or stiff then we won’t be able to absorb the force of the landing as well. Part of the examination is to do a little wiggle test or what we call ‘joint play evaluation’ of all 33 joints of the foot.
What I have found is that the metatarsal cuneiform joint and the ankle mortise are where the majority of the locking occurs. Or the middle of the arch foot mechanism in the mid foot area mostly the second and third toe. So if your wiggling your toes, you can look at the second and third toe and see if they are stiff or locked. You can apply deep tissue techniques and stretching of the foot in three dimensional space. As well as adjustments.
When I do adjustments of the foot just like your spine or knuckles, the joints actually make a cracking noise like adjustments of the back. You can also feel a release of tension in those joints that is immediate after the adjustments.
Step 2 is to strengthen the spring suspension system. If you google image tibialis posterior or peronial muscles your going to find that these muscle attachments or origin and insersion. They actually attach on strategic points around the metatarsal cuneiform or the mid foot and they loop around the ankle bone to the attachment underneath the calf area and they actually suspend the arch from above.
The foot is actually a suspension system. When the weight is applied to the foot on impact it stretches the suspension muscles like an extension spring. Storing energy in the extension spring.
When you push off it releases that energy and hopefully you can maximize the efficiently of the mechanism by getting it as elastic as possible. So you take advantage of tendon energy release through the snap back.
Chris: Right because your tendons are kind of springy anyhow
Dr. Stoxen: Well the tendons are what gives you the most efficiency, speed and power. Thats what the scientists in Russia, specifically Yuri verkhoshansky determined in his research.
Many have duplicated this research by studying impact times with the ground doing depth jumps and plyometric type movements where the least amount of impact time creates a greater tendon and connective tissue strengthening as opposed to a shorter impact time which causes a plastic deformity of the tendons rather than a strengthening.
By strengthening the suspension system it will be able to handle more impacts. Greater amounts of force.
Step 3 – is putting impacts into the mechanism. This is where some medicine would disagree with this. They don’t understand that the body is a spring. Athletics collide and have mis understandings.
That is that doctors sometimes say that running is bad for you and obviously barefoot running can’t be good for you. It just doesn’t seem right. and that you shouldn’t do aerobics and this type of thing.
So how is it possible to have one school of thought that says plyometrics is the ultimate way to strengthen this impact resistance mechanism then doctors on the other hand say it’s wrong.
Thats where the misunderstanding about human spring will clear up these mysteries. That says that if the human spring mechanism is in tact then impacts are good because once you take up the impact into the mechanism you’ll have that normal adaptation response which makes the mechanism stronger but if the mechanism is locked or stiff then the force of the landing when you take it up into that stiff spring mechanism then it causes more of a bang force into the body. you have a reverse adaptation because the body does not like it and goes into spasms and further locks the mechanism and it gets worse.
So thats where the human spring model of approaching the body clears up a lot of mis understandings between medicine and sports.
Chris: Okay that is deep. Give me two things with the layman level in 50 words summary of what your proposing people do for their health and how can they get more information on what we have talked about?
Dr. Stoxen: People need to be careful on what advice they are given. It should be based on principles not what they think is right. If you are putting a cast on your arm or any binding device on the body then the part is not able to move the way it was engineered to move. That will only cause abnormal motion, stress and strain, wear and tear on the body, release of inflammation and of course aging and pain.
If you bind the device or body part then you won’t get the positive adaptation response that makes the body part stronger.
So if your trying to barefoot run but your wearing a binding device on the foot it’s just like a kid taking a cast off a broken arm and then trying to do arm curls.
You just won’t be able to do it. If your going to try to barefoot run you will need to release the spring mechanism completely.
I spend 30 minutes a day before I go out for my run ensuring my mechanism is released so I can take maximum force into my body while barefoot running say 6-7 miles at 3/4 speed.
If your wearing shoes all day the shoes will alter your foot. Even if you have a perfect spring and put a binding device on your feet all day standing for 10 hours at your job the spring will have to be stretched and released. The maintenance is required in order to prepare your body for the sport.
Form and Technique is essential. If your a gymnast on a balance beam 4 feet off the ground trying to perfect your form and technique so it gets better. Your not listening to music, or talking to your friends or looking around the gym. Your paying attention to what your doing and your on the balance beam with your bare feet.
It’s the same thing with barefoot running. You have to pay attention to what your form and technique is about. Practicing every step to make sure the memory of that movement is stored in the brain so that your technique does not get off track this will prevent injuries.
My team is loading up 300 video tutorials from lectures I have given around the world. Anyone can tap into them. They are 1-3 min clips. On a coffee break you can watch them. They are all free and you can learn from everything we are talking about here today in clips and you can take as much as you want in.
Chris: Where can we find them?
Dr. Stoxen: www.teamdoctorsblog.com There are video tutorials to release the spring and interviews with ultimate fighting champion Andre’ Arlovski, Pit Bull from the UFC, slow motion videos of barefoot running, interviews with tykwando champion, Christian Medina, who used barefoot running as a way to prepare for the olympic trials. There is some great content there and if you like it comment on it or reach out to me with an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, sign up for the updates to see new content we are putting on. I’m really excited about it.
Chris: I can tell your very passionate about what your learning. That is great! I am going to have to let you go as we have run out of time.
Dr. Stoxen: Thank you so much for the interview and yes i’m passionate about it. Your doing a great thing the interviews are very good.
Chris: Thank you very much and we will see you out there.
Dr. Stoxen: Thanks a lot and talk to you soon