Adam Copeland - Former WWE Superstar

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Todd: Sitting here with Adam Copeland on May 18th 2011. Doing some questions and answers with his experiences on SOS Survival Operating System® manual therapy. Adam, how long have we been working together?

Adam: It’s going on six years now. Which I have kind of lost track of over the years, but it has been six and we initially got in contact with each other due to a half torn pec on my right side, which has since lead to multiple other experiences, and rehab, and 'therapy' - for lack of a better term - through surgeries. But that was beginning six years ago.

Todd: Yeah, it was a good time; it was good that we avoided the surgery.

Adam: Yeah, was able to avoid the surgery. It was a half tear and just through the exercises that we implemented at that time, as well as the hands-on, we were able to avoid it and get back to work within six weeks. So we cut a couple weeks off that one. That was my first experience, which lead me to any other time something happened - whether it be for maintenance, or a traumatic one-time blown Achilles or something like that - to come back.

Who could benefit from SOS?

Todd: Who do you believe could benefit from the SOS Survival Operating System® manual therapy approach?

Adam: I truly believe that anyone, you don’t just have to be injured in order to benefit from it. You know, one thing that I always tried to do and it was difficult with the schedule was just maintenance, just to maintain a good position to maintain, you know, whether it was breathing and all of those things, but just getting in to see you every three months or so just to put the body in a good position, get ready, here we go again. But I believe that anyone can benefit from it. One key to it is having an open mind, because thankfully I think I was born with an open mind, so that helped, but when you do have someone working on a completely, entirely different body part, than what you believe is effected, at first you go, wait a minute that’s not right. But once you start to see the results and you start to feel the results more importantly.  Once you feel whats happening it’s like ‘wow okay I don’t know how that just worked but it worked.’ That to me, you need no more proof. It takes people getting on the table and getting your hands on them in order to fully appreciate what that is, but I think anyone whether it be athlete, someone with a bad back sitting in a chair all day, whether it be someone with a terminal illness. Whether it’s a house wife, whether it’s a stay at home dad, whether its…I really do believe that the ideas hold true for everyone not just a performance athlete or someone who has gone through a traumatic injury. I think the principles can work for anyone.

Todd: So if someone is not experiencing pain; do you still think they would benefit?

Adam: I think so, because whether we want to admit it or not there is always something going on inside us that can be improved. And I don’t think that pain should be the trigger to go try and improve something or improve yourself. Pain is usually - by that point - its almost too late, you waited too long. It’s like your car, you don’t wait until the engine drops out, you get tune ups on it. You get maintenance done on it. But it is much more important than a car, because it is your body. Without your body what are you going to do and we lose track of that and we get stuck in the routine of our lives and neglect.  I think our bodies and what is going on inside of our bodies, we neglect ourselves. I think maintenance and just getting hands on with this, whether it be the breathing or whether it be getting in and getting things done, its just better to be ahead of the curve.

Todd: Is it fair to say that with this type of work you can actually feel the subtleties before the big ‘god smack’ if you will?

Adam: I think so, I don’t know, it was a little bit of both for me. You know when I would come in and have this massive bruise and within two hours it was gone; that for me was like ‘ how did that just happen?’ I just fell 20 feet through a table on the edge of it, and have a massively deep bruise and it is now gone within two hours, and it was not sore. So things like that, or things like the work put in for the Achilles, and any of it is work. You still have to maintain your own guidelines. You should maintain some form of diet. You should maintain these things in order for them to work, but the guidelines and the system will work for you if you adhere to at least some personal guidelines.


What makes SOS different?

Todd: What makes this approach - the SOS Survival Operating System® manual therapy - different than any other approaches of therapy that you have been through?

Adam: With any other therapy that I have been through, it’s been almost a structured guideline. It has been almost a lower body guideline, and it has been on a sheet of paper, and it has been bullet points and it doesn’t change from injury to injury, whether it be a pulled groin, to a torn Achilles, to a torn ACL. That to me doesn’t make any sense.That to me is the medical community being so structured and stuck to their guidelines and not being able to look outside of what the possibilities - not only what the human body holds but can be accomplished - by focusing on the actual area while working on other body parts. But not just a strict set of…squats, or treadmill, or ride the bike. It just is so strange to me to have such a structured guideline and not stray from it at all, when a lot of the time it does not seem to be working, or it doesn’t seem to be speeding up any kind of process.

With this it is outside the box, you are constantly moving, constantly exercising, your constantly working on your breathing. It doesn’t just go straight to the body part, the body part will heal with the help of blood flow, with the breathing. It’s just, it’s interesting. I remember our first visit, you were working on my left hip and my right pec was torn and I couldn’t grasp that because I was so brought up in these structured guidelines of what physical therapy is supposed to be. But the results to me were proof. And once I understood some of the ideas behind it, it makes complete sense. Its just a lot of the time people can’t wrap their mind around something they haven’t been taught for the last 20 years. If its something different, something outside the box people tend to be afraid of that, and if they can’t put a label on it they tend to be afraid of that. Everyone needs a label it seems. That is one thing, I know, we have talked about. There is no label for this, and it’s hard to label this because it’s so many things. Its exercise, it’s breathing, it’s blood flow, it’s diet, it’s so many different things wrapped into one package. Whereas with any other kind of therapy I just ended up going and running on a treadmill and then doing leg curls or leg extensions, and then getting ice and limping home.


Comparing SOS to other Modalities

Todd: Have you ever experienced any other type of techniques, like the SOS Survival Operating System® manual therapy? Have you ever had massage, acupuncture, chiro any of those? How would you compare the techniques or approach, the techniques especially, that I am using in regards to some of them?

Adam: Well I mean I have had all those things acupuncture, massage, shiatsu, you know, you name it, over the years I have tried it. What I have found with a lot of that, is either it is a Band-Aid or it is like a massage, it isn’t really anything but a nice way to relax. With this it goes to so many different levels and you can feel the levels that it goes to, which was always interesting to me. I can feel things shifting, I can feel my digestion changing, I can feel nerves trying to run away that are locked and locking things in place that need to be worked on in order to release that nerve. I haven’t encountered anything that does that, a massage doesn’t do that, acupuncture doesn’t do that, chiropractors don’t do that. I found it completely different than anything else I’d encountered, which is intriguing to me. My dogs are fighting as you can tell.

Todd: (Laughs)…how many other therapies have you experienced that actually did any other work in the ribs?

Adam: I don’t know if I have ever actually encountered any that do. And that’s one thing that makes it initially so strange and your body wants to recoil, because it is an area that doesn’t get worked on. It’s just pounded on in every day life, but never actually accounted for.


Changes in breathing ability

Todd: What changes did you experience with your breathing ability?

Adam: Well it definitely went up. You know we had briefly touched on breathing when coming back from the Achilles. We tried implementing strictly nose breathing to get to deeper levels of the lungs, which I do think helped coming back from the injury so quick and helped me be prepared to come back to the job from a cardiovascular standpoint, because that can be the hardest part. But with this week I implemented the breathing techniques that you have been teaching and I started out with I think ten breaths, which after I think five I was in panic mode. I could not wrap my mind around this; it didn’t make sense to me.

Then throughout the days, learning the rhythms and realizing that the world won’t come to a screeching halt, I can actually keep going. Whether it be using shoulders and hips, opening almost like an accordion and was able to at this point max out at 250 and I think I had more in me too. It was a very, very interesting feeling. It felt like water was running through your body, between your skin and your muscle. I think that is the best way to try to explain it. Invigorating. Loads of energy afterward. Then tried nose breathing with the same structure, but through the nose, was able to get 133. I think it was the most awake I've felt in probably a year - just hyper aware. I think I said it appeared like everything was an HD, 3D movie. So it was very eye opening, because when you first hear about the process you think, ‘hmm, I don’t really get it,’ and in order to fully get it I needed to do it, break through that panic barrier and start getting into a little bit more deep water to fully appreciate what the breathing does and what breathing can do for us.


Breathing exercises: Being able to inhale for 4 minutes

Todd: When you did the breathing, you first started at 10, and currently we have achieved 250. What is the biggest significance of that?

Adam: Well I think the easiest way to try and relate to it and for people to get a better grasp of it is to look at it in terms of time. People understand time. So with 10 breaths, I maybe made 20 seconds if I was lucky. With 250 and stopping to reset but without exhaling, looking at probably 4 or more minutes. That’s a long time to not exhale and do nothing but inhale, not just hold your breath but in-hale. So when you look at it in that respect its kind of mind boggling, in a matter of 3 or 4 days to be able to get that range in your lungs and throughout your body. And I think that’s how people would relate to it best and understand it best.


State before getting treatment

Todd: What were you experiencing before we started on May 11, 2011?

Adam: I had been experiencing a lot of neck pain, but it wasn’t just my neck it was down into my left arm, some numbness and tingling in my hand, nerve pain down through my tricep; and from working with you realized that it was nerve pain. So that’s one thing I have been able to kind of decipher is the difference of the pains since we have worked together. Whether it is muscle or it be fascia or nerve. So for myself I have been able to pin point okay this is nerve pain, this is muscle, and this is joint, what have you. But with this one it became a constant ache that just didn’t go away. It almost made me want to close my left eye as I kind of walked around and tried to get through every day events and chores and especially at work. So it became really difficult and had a bit of a scare at work when both arms went numb, and I think that was the big red flag for everyone, which then after that got an MRI, which showed I had spinal stenosis in the C4 above the fusion that I already have in my neck and some osteocytes. Because of that I was experiencing these symptoms. I really wanted to avoid surgery, I've had 3 surgeries over the years and I really wanted to avoid that, and I knew that if anyone could relieve the pressure whether it be the nerve pressure or the pressure on the spinal cord that it would be you.

Todd: Thanks Adam. Did that dull ache affect your sleep or your range of motion in your arm?

Adam: It pretty much effected everything I did, just because it was constantly there. Whether it was just in social settings sitting there eating dinner trying to maintain a conversation without working through the nerve pain in my arm or just wanting to grab ahold of my neck and try to knead the knots in it. So it greatly effected my work. I’d get back from matches and my arms would be trembling uncontrollably, which I know is a symptom of the stenosis, which I tried to write off as I have a traumatic job and I am 37 with a plate in my neck, but I think in the back of my mind I knew it was something a little bit more involved than that. It really effected everything, it effected day-to-day, it effected closing the back of my jeep, it effected lifting my dogs into the jeep, it effected walking my dogs, so pretty much everything. It was kind of a constant dull throbbing ache it wasn’t like biting on a piece of tin foil with a cavity, but it was definitely there and it did effect my sleep because when its throughout the day when it is that kind of constant pain it is going to go through the night too, and it did.



Todd: What other injuries have we worked on together?

Adam: Well, initially, the way we met and what we first started working on was a half torn pec and it was involve. There was hands on and there was exercising and then there was more hands on to make sure everything was in working order. From there, I eventually completely tore my left pec and we worked again on that. Got that good and ready in three months as opposed to the 4-6 that they talked about and could have been more if I was in Toronto and able to come more often. The big one though, the one that I think shocked and surprised everyone was the complete tear of my Achilles tendon, which if you have never done it, it is the biggest tendon in your body. You don’t realize how much you use it until it’s gone. How involved it is in, not just what I did for a living, but in everyday life. It was guesstimated that I would be out anywhere from 9-12 months to the end of my career, because it happened to me when I was 36 years old. So 36 with a fairly traumatic and very physical job - it is not like I’m just sitting in a desk chair - it was doubted whether I could come back. I personally never doubted it because I knew we would get down to brass tax and we would put the nose to the grind stone and get at it. That is exactly what we did once I did some promotional trips and blew my foot up to where it looked like a water bed, we got together and finally started working through the adrenals and got the blood flow going, which I think was very important to the healing process because the blood was trapped in there and it wasn’t moving and it was stagnate. So with the work through the adrenals it caused the blood to move again, and then from there we were talking like 8-hour days – I mean we were working. It was wake up, hands on, make sure everything was in a good position, then it would be go to the ring, try and adapt to what I was coming back to, then it was go to the gym and try to manipulate exercises that would cause my foot to have to work. Single leg - you name it - everything single leg with a lot of cables and things that…balance exercises, plyometrics, a lot of ball work, which not only strengthened the core but really forced the foot to get back to working, because it wasn’t awake for so long, it looked like a dead foot, and essentially I guess it was. So through all of that, through the hard work and wind sprints, and pools, and backwards on treadmills, just some really interesting exercises, that were actually in a strange way fun because they were outside the norm.

One really eye opening instance for me, and I already knew what you could do and the different procedures and everything. But initially the WWE wanted to send me to a regular PT. So I went and I was standing there doing the same exercises as a guy who worked in an office and tore his meniscus. We were doing the same things and I just thought to myself, well this is not right. I completely blew my Achilles, I have to get back to a very athletic endeavor, and this guy is going to sit at a desk. No knock against him, but we are going for two completely different things and we are doing the same exercises. That is when I told myself this is not going to work. It may work due to my own going outside the box, but it won’t work in 6 months, it won't work in 3 months, it won’t work in…who knows how long it will take if ever. And what we were able to do is get it back to where I could get back to work in 6 months. Which completely blew everyone’s minds because they had either written me off completely or written me off for at least a year. So that for me, if there is ever a testimonial that people need to look at, that’s it to me, because I was right back in the frying pan within 6 months of Achilles tendon – complete Achilles tendon surgery.

Todd: I remember us watching some footage of your matches and then we had to try to figure out some exercises for you and then I had to try them, to see what we could do about that. Everything ended up being single leg that we had to do in order to challenge the foot, not avoid it. Then we had to work through the knee always making sure that your balance was good and your stability always before power, and how did you feel about how that worked?

Adam: Well that’s one thing I realized is that my balance, core, and stability are much more important than power. Sure you need some power, but to me especially with that kind of injury you need to get those essentials back that we can take for granted sometimes, and so I enjoyed it.  It was very difficult. But my balance coming back from an Achilles was probably better than it was before. And in 6 months after having an Achilles surgery that shouldn’t be the case. But what we also did was work the other leg hands on because my other glute was holding and having to work for the bad leg for all those months that I was in a cast or that I was on crutches. So we made sure not to neglect that because that glute, and that hamstring, and that leg had been so overworked that it needed attention too. The exercising was directed and geared toward the injured leg, but the hands on, and this is what would be lacking from any other kind of - for lack of a better term physical therapy - would not have even addressed the issue of the other leg, which I found very important because my other leg was fried from those months of picking up the slack for the other one.


Changes experienced during treatment

Todd: What words best describe the changes you feel during the treatment? Such as the blood flow, body temperature, mindset.

Adam: Well I mean the blood flow, whenever you worked with the adrenals, you can feel it in your limbs, especially in your legs, and you can feel the rush of blood into the core. Breathing is much more relaxed. Everything is much more relaxed. I find mindset-wise as I have said sometimes I just completely drift off and I am done, especially with work through the neck. It’s very serene. I don’t know of any other technique that in the middle of the day completely wide awake within 5 minutes I can be asleep. So it puts you in a relaxed state, to leave your body open, the muscles relaxed to be able to get to the deeper levels and issues at hand. So I think it is important that it can get you there so you can really feel what’s going on and what needs to happen and what needs to be fixed. Because you know, with the guard up and the muscles clenched it can be difficult to do that, but pretty quickly and with more sessions your body starts to adapt and accept what is going on. Because – like anything – initially there is that almost fear, but it goes away within the first session in 5 minutes and you go, 'oh okay, this is good I like this.'

Todd: Did you notice a change in your body temperature? In your feet, arms, hands, legs?

Adam: I’ve found that a lot of the time your feet and hands will get cold, and you can feel the heat rising out of the area being worked on, while leaving the hands and feet. We were working on my nerves through my triceps and my hand of the arm being worked on was ice cold. The other hand wasn’t. So that was really interesting to see the cause and effect and how the blood flow affects everything and where the blood goes to on an area that is being worked on.

Todd: Did you notice when I was working on an area that was sensitive before I did the adrenals and before the change in blood flow, that it wasn’t quite as sensitive or not even sensitive when I went back to revisit it?

Adam: Well what I found is with the adrenals it calms you and puts you out of that fight mode. That fight or flight mode and puts you in a relaxed state so that your body can get the work done that it needs to get done. It opens everything up, it loosens everything up for a lack of a better way to put it. I think it takes away the denseness and it takes away the armor you build up around your bones and everything through everyday life, which some people may say they want, but with that comes injuries. I can vouch for that first hand.


How long did it take to feel changes?

Todd: What changes did you experience as we started working together when I got here on May 11? Was it virtually instantaneously, did you feel relief or did it gradually have to take its toll?

Adam: Well it was gradual only because it was a long period of time that I was holding the injury and in turn holding the pain, because your body, as we have talked about, wants to guard against it, so your body clenches without even realizing it. So what we had to do over the days is find different body parts that were holding, and that were caught and try to relieve the nerves all through the body. Okay so it may be the nerve pain in my triceps and it may be pain in my neck, but there are other areas that are holding to compensate for that. So you have to gradually find those and relieve those in order for the pain in the neck to be relieved. It’s all interconnected, I mean it’s our body, so you know one thing I quickly learned is that if I have pain in my neck it could be related to a tight right groin. So there was relief but I knew that we were in for a bit of a haul, I knew that it would take work. You know any time that I have had an injury kind of to this extent, there is going to be some pain involved and there is going to be work, and I look at the pain as work to get to a point where I can now turn my head and I can look up again without getting an instant headache, and I can lift things again, and that’s just within a weeks time. But I also knew, okay, it is possible, I think, to get it - depending on the injury -within the day, but I knew this one was going to be work just because it had been so long that I had been holding this injury.

Todd: Did you find it surprising that when I was working on your pec tendon or maybe in the ribs that the tricep would go tingly or the fingers would go numb?

Adam: Well we’ve had enough experience together over the years that I learned not to be shocked whenever I felt something going on in a different part of my body when you were working on another part. You know five years ago I was like, ‘what was that, what just happened?’ Now I am not really surprised by anything. Still dumbfounded by it, but not shocked. If that makes any sense? When I feel you going into a nerve in my ribs and I feel my hand go cold, I don’t go into panic mode, I realize that is part of the process.


Changes to overall health

Todd: How has SOS Survival Operating System® manual therapy changed your overall health, not just on the professional level but also on the personal level?

Adam: I think I found a much more peaceful state. My everyday activities, and affairs and things like that…I don’t get stressed. It still happens every once and a while, that’s just human, but I found I am in a really good place and I do attribute a lot of it to the work we’ve done, because I know now tools to be able to go ‘okay, step back,’ breathing techniques and really just find a different place rather than get stuck in that grind that everybody gets in. Whether it’s sitting in 2 hours of traffic or the boss at work or whatever it is. I’ve also chosen surroundings where - you know - very serene settings, which just adds to my overall not only physical well-being - but mental well-being.  It’s a nice place to be.

Todd: Have you noticed any difference in your walking pattern, digestion, any of that stuff?

Adam: Well my walking pattern I thought would be greatly affected by the Achilles and that is one thing I have been really happy with. To look at both legs you really have to look at the scar to be able to tell which leg I had surgery on. I was able through the work we did, to get the calf back to the other calf. You really have to look to see which one had the surgery and because of that you know I walk normal. I mean, I hike every day and if anything bothers me its usually my knees not my Achilles. Even then nothing is ever to the point... I am able to pinpoint it now. ‘Oh, okay my meniscus it feels like,’ and it just feels like its tissue as opposed to a ligament or something like that. While I can’t get completely technical at least I have a better understanding of what is going on in the body - because you explain as you go, even though sometimes I end up falling a sleep - what is happening in there.

Todd: That’s not from the conversation though right? (laughs)

Adam: Well that’s what I will tell you (laughs).


Impact of SOS on personal and professional life

Todd: How did and/or does this treatment approach impact your professional and personal performance?

Adam: Well what it has done – number one - just from the purely visual standpoint, it got me back to work a lot quicker. But then the things that I can personally say I experienced while at work is it has helped with my breathing, my pacing, my awareness, which I think was probably the most important thing. Being aware of how my body was reacting, and before where I would have ignored it and possibly continued until I injured myself, now I knew to be able to change pace, to switch positions, to react accordingly so that I didn’t do something that would cause further trauma than what I was already putting my body through with my job.  But, even just little things like getting off of flights and making sure that my blood flow was good, my breathing was good, and taking steps to - whether it was a long drive, long flights like I said - just things I could do outside of just, you know, the physical things, which made a difference in the physical side.