by Katie B. Davis/staff writer
For years Bill Schultz had pain in his lower back, at times debilitating.
At the age of 45, roughly five years ago, he scheduled a procedure to have his lumbar disc fused in hopes it would at best take away, at least minimize, his pain.
Schultz, however, has yet to have the surgery.
“One of my orthopedic surgeon friends took me to a (chiropractor) who was making a garment in his garage,” Schultz told The Shelby Report. “It was a zip-up garment. He put Velcro on it and then he would take elastic straps and do a balancing of the body, the upper body—the shoulders the neck, the spine and the hips—by attaching these Velcro straps. (The garment) took my pain away and I was intrigued. Four to six weeks later, to shorten the story, I was on the road to recovery, I never had the spine surgery and I’ve never had a problem since. I went out and bought the product from this guy and I patented it.”
Thus Alignmed was born, along with a line of athletic/orthopedic clothing branded as Evidence Based Apparel.
Alignmed’s Posture Shirt is designed to improve posture and reduce muscle fatigue while pulling and tilting rounded shoulders back into an upright position.
Our intention is to help workers work better, be healthier, and in all of it, be more comfortable.”The shirt uses what the company deems “neuro-bands” with precise tensions at specific spots to stimulate the nerves that control muscle movement.
—Bill Schultz, Alignmed
The technology, even in a raw form, had worked on Schultz, taking away his chronic back pain. The question was, however, would his now patented and more formal line of clothing work on everyone?
“In the world of medicine, it’s not enough to say that this thing helps me; you have to prove it. You have to have clinical data,” said Schultz, who is the founder and president of Alignmed. “There was no clinical evidence whatsoever on this kind of garment—it’s non-rigid, it’s not a brace.”
Researchers at the Steadman Philippon Research Institute in Vail, Colo., put the shirt on test subjects and observed as their bodies’ alignment adjusted itself. The Lexington Clinic in Kentucky found improved reaction time in test subjects wearing the garment. The Kerlan Jobe Sports Medicine Clinic in Los Angeles found measurable increase in shoulder strength in test subjects.
“These are not compression garments,” Schultz said. “We don’t believe in that and don’t want to be that. If you have an imbalance or you have poor posture and I put a compression garment on you, I’m simply wrapping a bad package, I’m not making it better.
“Up to this date…there were hypotheticals and theories, but not proof—hypothetical would be acupuncture, for example. But if you were able to put a needle in the bottom of somebody’s foot and you could see a movement in the spine, you would then have evidence. We watched the body adjust itself and measured it. It happens in millimeters, but the big deal is that it happens at all.”
While athletes such as the Vail Mountain Ski Patrol, the Kansas City Royals and the U.S. Olympic team are among the notable test subjects for Evidence Based Apparel, Schultz is adamant that his company’s product wasn’t designed for athletic purpose.
“We’re not building this thing for athletes. Athletes are probably 1 percent of the population on a good day,” said Schultz, who invested $4 million in Alignmed, half his own and half from private investors. “We’ve never been about that, but more about testing extremes.
“The biggest target that we believed could benefit from this is the workplace environment, specifically those who work at computer terminals and those who lift or reach, use their upper body.
“You create imbalances when you sit at a computer and your shoulders go forward and your head goes forward and we tilt our pelvis. We’re forming ourselves…it’s almost like a bad workout.”
Recently, Southern California grocery workers have discovered the clothing and are wearing it at work.
A janitor at an Albertsons store, according to Alignmed’s CFO-Marketing Leila Samoodi, was so taken with how his body adjusted and subsequently felt after a trial run with the Posture Shirt that he contacted the grocer’s corporate office campaigning for its use companywide.
And according to both Samoodi and Schultz, the Evidence Based Apparel is ideal for cashiers who are not only on their feet day in and day out, but hunched over scanning items on a register.
“Our products are the only products that create an anatomical change while eliminating pain,” Samoodi told The Shelby Report.
“The specific tensions in our Posture Shirt cue the body, cue the muscles, to fight imbalances (in the body) that have been created,” Schultz said. “If I go to the gym to work out or I go to yoga, I’m specifically trying to make my frame better. If I go to work and I lift boxes or I stock shelves and I don’t do it right, I am creating imbalances that are going to affect me that day, that week and for the rest of my life.
“Our intention is to help workers work better, be healthier, and in all of it, be more comfortable.”
But don’t expect to find Evidence Based Apparel popping up at your closest Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Sales have doubled every two months since the Posture Shirt became available to the public, even though business for the product is done solely online.
“The trend, anywhere from where people shop at Christmas to whatever, is online. Companies like Zappos and so forth are doing millions a day,” Schultz said.
“We want to do it online because we have to customize you. We call our service department ‘balance coaches’ because they’re trained.”
To the original garment, the Posture Shirt, Alignmed has added the S3 System, which optimizes scapular motion and improves rotator cuff strength, and a Knee Support System.
As to what the future holds, how about a diet shirt and a scale that is capable of measuring each appendage separately?
“I believe in patients’ empowerment,” said Schultz. “Good posture is the key to good health. Headaches and neurological disorders can be caused or enhanced as a direct response to postural strain.
“The garments are not just an alternative answer to those who have pain and muscle imbalances around the spine and joints. By keeping the body in alignment it will perform more efficiently.”