What Causes Back Pain?

Natural Remedies for Back Pain

 

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

What Causes Back Pain? 

Exploring the Overlooked Muscular Causes:

 

what causes back painYour back is a symphony of overlapping, interconnected, groups of muscles, tendons, and nerves. Each muscle merges into a tendon, which then crosses over a joint and inserts into a bone. When the muscle contracts it will pull on the tendon and the joint moves.

Your spine has 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae, and 5 lumbar vertebrae, each separated by a gelatinous disk that acts as a cushion to separate the bones and protect them from wear. Muscles span your entire spine, in some cases originating on the vertebrae and connecting each vertebra to the next, in some cases the muscles originate on the ribs and insert into the vertebrae in order to move your spine in the infinite number of angles, and in other cases the muscles originate on your vertebrae and insert into moveable bones such as your shoulder blade, pulling it in various directions.

In order to move in the opposite direction, the contracted muscle needs to relax to remove the strain from the bone, and the muscle on the opposite side contracts to pull the bone in the opposite direction. If the muscle that needs to release is in a spasm it can’t relax, and you have the muscles pulling in two opposite directions – and you have back pain.

The answer to what causes back pain is so broad that it needs to be broken down into four categories:

(1)   Why a Muscular Component Can Be What Causes Back Pain

Back pain is commonly caused by repetitively straining the muscles that insert into the vertebrae and ribs.  The list of muscles that insert into the bones of your back is long, with each muscle potentially causing pain when it is in spasm and pulling on the bone. Your back is a system of overlapping muscles, so many times when you are treating a muscle for one thing, you are also treating the source of a totally different problem.

This commonly happens when you are treating a thigh muscle that causes knee pain, but is also a key muscle that causes back pain, groin pain, and sciatica.

Natural Remedies for Back Pain

natural remedies for backTreating the muscle is one of the natural remedies for back pain. For this muscle treatment I suggest you use a 12″x 1 1/2″ length of PVC pipe and slide (don’t roll) from the top of your thigh to just above your knee.  The main area of treatment is shown in this picture.  It’s NOT on the front of your thigh, and it’s NOT on the outside of your thigh, but instead it is in between these two lines.

As you go down your thigh you’ll go over several “bumps,” which are actually large spasms that are pulling down on the front of your pelvis. The pelvis rotation causes a strain on your low back, and presses your posterior pelvis up into your sciatic nerve.

There’s a lot more to this muscle, but it’s so broad that it can’t be explained properly here. In fact, each of the muscles that cause back pain are fully explained, and treatments are demonstrated in my Trigger Point Yoga kit.

(2) Why a Bulging or Herniated Disk Causes Back Pain

herniated disk can be what causes back painThe disk between each vertebra is meant to be a cushion for the bones so they don’t rub on each other.  However, tight muscles that originate on each vertebra can pull the bones together, pressing down on the disks and cause them to either bulge in the opposite direction, or herniate.  For example, if the muscles on the right side of the spine are tight, they will bring the vertebrae closer together on the right, causing the disk to bulge toward the left.

If the muscles on both sides of the spine are tight, they will draw the vertebrae closer together and potentially cause the disk to herniate.

In either case the disks will put pressure on the spinal cord and causes back pain to be severe in that area.  However, if it is treated before permanent damage is done, releasing the muscle tension on the vertebrae will move the bones off the disk and the pain will be eliminated.

(3) Why a Vertebra Out of Alignment Can Be What Causes Back Pain

out of alignment can cause back painYour spine stays in perfect alignment because muscles are putting the exact amount of “pull” on each side. In fact, without muscles the spine would just hang straight and not be able to move at all — like a skeleton on a hook.  It is only because of muscles that the spine has any mobility at all.

The only way a vertebrae can move is either by a traumatic accident (such as falling down a flight of steps, or having a car accident), or by muscles pulling on the bones.

However, if muscles are pulling more on one side than the other the vertebrae will move toward the tight muscles.

The tension in the muscles must be released first if the bones are to be moved back into alignment and not be pulled out again by the tight muscles.

(4) Scoliosis, Osteoporosis, Spinal Stenosis, and other Causes of Back Pain

There are medical conditions such as scoliosis, osteoporosis, spinal stenosis, diabetes, and cancer that are also causes of back pain.  These are serious conditions that need medical attention.  It is always important to eliminate the possibility of any serious health risks before embarking on a path of treatment for back pain.

Conclusion

Obviously, as noted in #4 above, there are medical causes of back pain, but it is clear that the one that is consistently overlooked, and therefore not treated, is the muscular component.  My experience with thousands of clients over the years, both at my office and virtually online, is that muscles are frequently what causes back pain, and that the pain can be lessened or eliminated by treating the tight muscles demonstrating one of the natural remedies of back pain.

You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by exploring the muscular component to back pain!

 

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

About The Author

julie donnellyJulie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

What Causes Hip Pain?

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT

 

what causes hip painWhat causes hip pain?  The hip is a complicated joint and has a potential for many causes of hip pain.

There is an incredible range of motion from the synchronicity of many muscles, all inserting at different points around the hip and pelvis.

Some of the muscles pull your thigh bone in a series of different directions, while other muscles keep your pelvis in alignment.

2 Primary Muscles that can be the Cause of Hip Pain

The iliopsoas and the quadriceps are the two primary muscles that cause hip pain.  These muscles rotate the pelvis forward and down, causing all of the muscles that insert into the pelvis to torque and spasm.  Ouch!

As the iliopsoas muscle contracts it pulls down on the front side of your lumbar vertebrae causing you to bend over or it pulls up on your thigh bone causing your leg to lift in order to take a step or sit down.

When the muscle contains muscle fiber knots it pulls the thigh and torso toward each other, and when attempting to stand this forces a separation, pulling on the lumbar vertebrae and also on the inside of the hip.

The quadriceps originate on the tip of the anterior pelvis and then insert into the shinbone, just below the knee joint.  When the quads are tight they pull hard on the front of your pelvis causing tension in the front of your hip and your knee.

Another Muscle that Causes Hip Pain

The tensor fascia lata,, a muscle on the outside of your hip, can also cause hip pain.  This muscle merges into the iliotibial band (ITB) that inserts into the knee.

When the tensor fascia lata is in spasm (contains muscle knots) it not only causes hip pain, but it can also cause the outside of your knee to ache and to feel like it could pop out of joint.

To complicate the problem, while the iliopsoas and quadriceps pull the hip down in the front, tight hamstrings pull the pelvis down in the back.  This causes pain in the top back of the leg and at the groin. Plus, as the muscles pull on both sides of the pelvis, this can cause pain that radiates all around the hip.

How to Relieve Hip Pain Naturally

The bottom line is in order to relieve hip pain naturally, you need to first locate the source of the pain.

The best way to find the source what causes hip pain is to pinpoint exactly where you feel the pain and then figure out which muscle inserts at that joint.  This is the muscle causing your hip pain!

Treating Hip Pain

Once you know which muscle is causing the pain, treating hip pain is easy!

  1. Locate the most painful point in the length of the muscle.  This normally is the muscle spasm that is causing the pain where the tendon attaches to the bone.  When looking at hip pain, the spasm could be above the hip, below the joint or even directly on the joint.
  2. Maintain deep pressure on the point for 60 seconds.  Holding pressure directly on the knot (spasm) in the muscle flushes out toxins and stretches the muscle fibers.  When the knot is released toxins are removed which causes a void in the muscle fiber.  The body fills this void with nourishing blood and nutrients.
  3. Stretch.  Stretches are most effective after the muscle knots have released their strain on the tendon and bone.

While it is useful to have a therapist release your muscles, it is more beneficial to do regular, even daily, treatments (muscle release techniques) on the muscles that are repetitively used and strained. Maintaining healthy muscle tone rewards you with greater strength and flexibility and eliminates pain; keeping you in the race!  The process above explains how to relieve hip pain naturally has proven to be extremely effective.

An Example Of Natural Hip Pain Treatment

how to relieve hip pain naturallyToday I’d like to share with you how to do one of the Julstro self-treatments that we teach on the Julstro Trigger Point Yoga instruction kit. For example, let me explain how to treat the tensor fascia lata muscle which is located on the outside of your hip, between your hip bone and the top of your thigh bone:

Using a tennis ball (hollow in the center so it is a bit less intense) or a Perfect Ball (solid in the center so it gets in deeper) place the ball right where the side-seam of your pants is located – between the two bones. If you are in a lot of pain, start by leaning into a wall. If you want to go deeper into the muscle, lie on the floor on top of the ball. You may need to move an inch or so to find the “epicenter” of the spasm, but you’ll know immediately when you locate it. Always make sure you keep your pressure to a “hurts so good” level, you’re in control so don’t over-do.

Once you find the spasm, which is also called a “trigger point,” just stay still on it for 30-60 seconds. Lift your weight off the ball for a few breaths and then press into the ball again. This second time you’ll find that it won’t be as painful as the first time because you have already pressed out some of the H+ ions that are causing the spasm (and the pain).

Keep repeating this for a few minutes and then slightly move your body so you can find other trigger points that are around your hips. You’ll probably find points that are a little bit toward the front of your hip, so make sure you rotate your body so you’re facing more toward the wall or the floor, and then rotate your body so you’re back is more toward the wall or the floor.

This one simple technique has saved several of my clients from thinking they needed hip surgery! It will help you move easier and with less discomfort – and often it will totally eliminate the pain from your hip completely.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

About The Author

julie donnellyJulie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

 

Check It Out!

If you would like easy to follow instructions on how to relieve joint pain and muscle tightness from head to toe, click  Full Point Yoga Full Body Kit to check out Julie Donnelly’s Trigger Point Yoga instruction kit today. Whenever, I have pain and stiffness I use her techniques. They work!

 

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Protein Needs For Older Adults

How Much Protein Do We Need?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

man lifts weightsWhat are the protein needs for older adults?  In previous “Health Tips From the Professor” I have covered the optimal amount of protein for weight loss diets in high protein diets and weight loss and following workouts . In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor” I will review the latest information about protein needs as we age.

To put this in perspective, many Americans suffer from sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) as they age.

Some of you may be saying “So what? I wasn’t planning on being a champion weight lifter in my golden years.” The “So what” is that loss of muscle mass leads to loss of mobility, a tendency to fall (which often leads to debilitating bone fractures) and a lower metabolic rate – which leads to obesity and all of the illnesses that go along with obesity.

How Can We Prevent Loss of Muscle Mass As We Age?

Fortunately, sarcopenia is not an inevitable consequence of aging. There are things that we can do to prevent it. The most important thing that we can do to prevent muscle loss as we age is to exercise – and I’m talking about resistance (weight) training, not just aerobic exercise.

But we also need to look at our protein intake and our leucine intake. Protein is important because our muscle fibers are made of protein.

Leucine is an essential amino acid. It is important because it stimulates the muscle’s ability to make new protein. Leucine and insulin act synergistically to stimulate muscle protein synthesis after exercise. I have covered the evidence behind leucine’s importance in maintaining and building muscle mass in a previous “Health Tips From the Professor”, Leucine Triggers Muscle Mass.

Do Our Protein Needs Increase As We Age?

protein shakeInterestingly, our protein needs actually increase as we age. Campbell et al (Journal of Gerontolgy: Medical Sciences 56A: M373-M380, 2001) showed several years ago that RDA levels of protein were not sufficient to maintain muscle mass in both men & women aged 55 to 77 years old.

Many experts recommend that those of us in our golden years should consume the amount of protein in grams that is equivalent to half our body weight in pounds every day.

When Should We Eat Our Protein?

When we consume the protein is also important. Forget that continental breakfast, salad for lunch and protein-rich dinner. As we age we increasingly need high quality protein at every meal.

In one study, young adults (average age = 31), experienced increased muscle protein synthesis when they consumed as little as 15 grams of protein at a meal, but older adults (average age = 68) experienced no increase in muscle protein synthesis in response to the same low protein meal (Katsanos et al, Am J Clin Nutr 82: 1065-1073).

However, when the amount of protein in a meal was increased to 30 grams (equivalent to a 4 oz piece of chicken or beef) both younger and older adults were able to use that protein to build muscle (Symons et al,Am J Clin Nutr 86: 451-456, 2007).

But, 30 grams seems to be about optimal. Protein intakes above 30 grams in a single meal resulted in no further increase in muscle protein synthesis (Symons et al, J Am Diet Assoc 109: 1582-1586, 2009), which means you can’t hope to get all of the muscle building benefits of protein in a single meal.

As a consequence of these studies most experts recommend that we “golden agers” aim for 20 to 30 grams of high quality protein with every meal.

How Much Leucine Do We Need?

leucine triggers muscle growthThe story with leucine is similar. 1.7 grams of leucine was not sufficient to increase muscle protein synthesis following exercise in older adults, while 2.7 grams was sufficient (Katsanos et al, Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 291: E381-E387, 2006). So the experts recommend that older adults get 3 grams of leucine in our diet following workouts to maximize the effect of the workout.

And, of course, if we want to maximize the effects of resistance training, both the protein and leucine need to be consumed after we exercise, not before (Fujita et al, J Appl Physiol 106: 1730-1736, 2009).

Where Do We Get the Protein and Leucine We Need?

So, where do we get the amount of protein and leucine that we are looking for?

If you want to get them from food alone, 4 oz servings of meat are a good starting place – with chicken being the best (35 grams of protein and 2.7 grams of leucine). Dairy, eggs and vegetable foods are much lower in leucine, protein or both.

Unfortunately, I keep running into seniors who are fully convinced that broccoli and tofu will meet their protein needs. I fully understand the rationale for choosing vegetarian protein sources, but you need a bit more than broccoli and tofu if you are going to meet your protein needs in your golden years.

For example, a 4 ounce serving of tofu provides only 10 grams of protein and 0.8 grams of leucine, and a 1.5 cup serving of broccoli provides only 4.2 grams of protein and a miserly 0.36 grams of leucine. That makes it very difficult to meet your target of 20-30 grams of protein and around 2.7 grams of leucine with each meal.

I’m not saying that you can’t get enough protein and leucine to maintain muscle mass on a vegetarian diet. However, you will need to plan that diet very carefully.

So, if you want to know what the old professor does, here it is:

I work out almost every day. On the days when I work out in the morning I rely on a protein shake immediately after the workout to meet my protein and leucine goals. On the days when I train at the gym in the late afternoon, I rely on 4 oz of chicken or fish with dinner to meet those goals.

Those of you who know me know that I will never be featured in muscle magazine, but at least I’m gaining muscle mass – not losing it.

 

The Bottom Line

  • As we age many Americans suffer from sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass). The loss of muscle mass leads to loss of mobility, a tendency to fall (and break things) and a lower metabolic rate – which leads to obesity and all of the illnesses that go along with obesity.
  • The most important thing that we can do to prevent muscle loss as we age is to exercise – especially resistance (weight) training exercise – at least 30 minutes every day. It is also important to make sure that we are getting adequate intake of protein and the essential amino acid leucine.
  • Our protein needs increase as we age. Recent studies suggest that the RDA levels of protein are not sufficient to maintain muscle mass in people over the age of 55. Many experts recommend that those of us in our golden years consume the amount of protein in grams that is equivalent to half our body weight in pounds every day.
  • Recent studies show that it is important to spread that protein out through the day rather than consume one protein rich meal at the end of the day. If we are over 50 we should be aiming at 20-30 grams of protein per meal. However, more than 30 grams of protein at a single serving appears to provide no additional benefit.
  • Seniors also appear to need more leucine in each meal than younger adults if they wish to preserve muscle mass. Young adults need only around 1.7 grams of leucine per serving to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, while mature adults may need as much as 2.7 grams per serving.
  • Well-designed protein shakes and 4 ounces of lean meats are the easiest way for seniors to meet their protein and leucine needs. Vegetarian diets can provide the protein and leucine needed to maintain muscle mass in seniors, but those diets need to be very well planned. Broccoli and tofu just don’t make the grade if you are serious about preserving muscle mass.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Do Artificial Colors Cause Hyperactivity?

Color Them Hyperactive

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

artificial food colorsEach year between 3 and 10% of school aged children are diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also known as hyperactivity.

Most of these children are currently being treated with drugs. And these drugs have side effects – ranging from relatively minor (loss of appetite, weight loss, insomnia and mood swings) to major (suicidal thoughts, psychotic behavior and drug abuse).

So it is only natural for parents to ask whether there is a more natural approach that they could follow and, more specifically, whether diet could make a difference.

The Feingold Diet And Hyperactivity

To answer that question let’s start by looking at just one aspects of children’s diets – the increasing prevalence of artificial food colors and preservatives in the diet. The average child today is consuming over 10 pounds of food additives every year!

The idea that food additives – specifically artificial colors and preservatives – might be responsible for hyperactivity was first raised by Dr. Ben Feingold over 30 years ago. He devised the Feingold Diet – a diet that was free of artificial food colors, preservatives
and other artificial food additives.

Some small scale clinical studies suggested that the diet might be successful and millions of parents used the diet for their hyperactive children with great success.

But the medical authorities pooh-poohed the Feingold Diet. They pointed out that when parents are putting their child on a special diet they are also giving that child more attention – and it might be the parent’s increased attention that decreased the child’s hyperactive behavior.

They also pointed out when you eliminate food additives from the diet you are decreasing the “junk” food and increasing fresh fruits and vegetables – in short the child’s diet is much healthier.

So eventually the Feingold Diet lost popularity – but the idea that artificial food colors & preservatives might trigger hyperactivity has refused to go away.

Do Artificial Colors Cause Hyperactivity?

Angry boy portraitIn fact, a couple of recent studies have substantially strengthened the link between artificial ingredients and hyperactivity.

The first study was a meta-analysis of 15 previous studies looking at the effect of artificial food colors and preservatives on hyperactivity (Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 25: 423-434, 2004).

This meta-analysis concluded that artificial food colors & preservatives caused an increase in hyperactivity in 28% of the children tested.

Almost all of the children in those previous studies were selected for the study because they had been diagnosed as hyperactive (ADHD). However, a more recent study looked at 297 children from Southampton England who had not been diagnosed as hyperactive (Lancet, 370: 1560-1567, 2007).

After an 8 week elimination phase in which artificial food colors and preservatives were removed from their diets, they were given a one week challenge consisting of fruit juice containing one of two different mixtures of four artificial food colors and the preservative sodium benzoate or a placebo.

The amount of artificial food colors and sodium benzoate in the fruit juice drinks was designed to match the average amount found in the English diet (which isn’t all that different from the American diet).

Once again, the results were clear. The amount of artificial food colors and preservatives found in the typical child’s diet is enough to trigger hyperactivity in many children.

The Bottom Line

So what does that mean to you if you have a hyperactive child? Could the simple act of eliminating artificial colors, flavors & preservatives from your child’s diet eliminate hyperactivity and give you back that calm, sweet child that you love?

  • The available data suggest that removing artificial food additives from your child’s diet can make a difference in their behavior, but I tend to side with experts who suggest that a holistic approach is best.
  • Eliminating food additives from your child’s diet is important, but also make sure the diet is a healthy one, that your child is getting all of the nutrients that they need and that they are getting all of the attention and support that they need.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

How Stretching Can Hurt Your Muscles

Preventing & Healing Repetitive Strain Injuries – Part 3

 Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT

 

These past two weeks we took a look at how muscles move the body, and why muscles cause pain. Then we looked at why strengthening isn’t always the best thing to do, in fact how it could even cause more pain. And finally today we’ll discuss why stretching can actually cause muscles to tear.  I call this the Stretching Misconception.

Stretching Shouldn’t Hurt!

Have you ever felt so tight when you tried to move a joint that you decided to stretch?  The odds are that you answered “yes” to that question.  However, many people complain that they feel worse after stretching than they did before stretching.

Before getting into the specifics of the stretching misconception there are two words that need to be clarified. Many people confuse the word “spasm” with “cramp”. A cramp (also called a “Charlie horse”) normally involves all of the fibers of a muscle, and is when a muscle suddenly contracts totally. A spasm is like tying a knot in the center of the muscle and while it may only involve a few fibers; there can be multiple spasms throughout the muscle.

Each spasm feels like a bump when you slide your fingers deeply down the length of the muscle. These spasms normally form over an extended period of time, often from repetitive strain on the muscle fibers. Spasms are at the heart of the stretching misconception, so it is important that you think of a spasm as a knot in the muscle fibers in order to understand why it can hurt to stretch.

As I mentioned in Part I of this series, a muscle begins on a stationary bone, crosses over a joint, and then inserts into a moveable bone. When the muscle pulls on the moveable bone, the joint moves, however, if the muscle has a “knot” in it you can actually cause micro-tears to the fibers as you stretch.

How Stretching Can Hurt Your Muscles

Stretching Analogy 1Think of this analogy: visualize a strong tree with a rope tied to it. The rope is the perfect length to attach to a flexible tree without bending the second tree. You can imagine if you pulled on the rope the flexible tree would bend over, and if you let go of the rope, the flexible tree would stand up straight again.  This is a simple explanation of how a muscle pulls on a bone and causes the joint to move.

However, if you tied a knot in the rope, the tree would bend. If you tied a second knot, the tree would bend even further. If Stretching Analogy 2you then tried to stretch the rope so the flexible tree was standing straight, you would cause the knot to get tighter and the remaining rope would have to overstretch on both sides of the knot in order for the flexible tree to stand up straight.

This is exactly what is happening when you have a spasm, or multiple spasms, in your muscle. As you stretch you are causing the knot within the muscle to get tighter, and you are also causing the fibers on either side of the spasm to overstretch. This overstretching may cause the fibers to actually tear either along the length of the muscle, or where the fibers attach to the bone at either end of the muscle. This can be avoided by simply massaging the muscle to release the spasm before you stretch.

It’s now easy to understand why the repetitive movements that you do on a regular basis will cause the muscle to ultimately shorten into knots that we call spasms or trigger points.  As I mentioned, when you try to stretch a spasm you can be causing yourself potential problems, and may even tear the muscle fibers.

Fortunately there is a solution. First you need to release the spasms that are causing the muscle to tie up into a knot, and then you can safely stretch. TriggerPointYoga was designed and developed to first eliminate the spasms in the muscle you will be stretching, and then continues to give four separate session of traditional yoga poses – two for the upper body and two for the lower body.  You will gain flexibility and range-of-motion without injuring your muscle fibers.

Julie Donnelly is an internationally respected muscular therapist specializing in the treatment of chronic pain and sports injuries.  She has co-authored several self-treatment books, including The 15 Minute Back Pain Solution, Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living  and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You.  Julie is also the co-developer of TriggerPoint Yoga. She teaches Julstro self-treatment workshops nationwide and is a frequent presenter at Conventions and Seminars.  Julie may be contacted through her websites: http://www.julstro.com  and http://www.TriggerPointYoga.com.

© Julie Donnelly 2013

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

How Strengthening Can Hurt Your Muscles

Preventing & Healing Repetitive Strain Injuries – Part 2

 Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT

bicepsIn part I of this series we explored “how” muscles cause joint pain and prevent us from moving easily and without pain. In Part II we’ll take a look at the “why.”

When a person can’t freely move a joint they are frequently told they need to strengthen the muscle that moves the joint, but this is often a serious misconception. Let’s look at this further so it will become clear.

Most people have heard the term Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), but they don’t have a clear concept of how that affects them on a daily basis.

Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs)

Repetitive strain injuries happen when a muscle does the same movement over and over, causing the muscle to develop an excess of Hydrogen ions (H+), which is a part of lactic acid. Lactic acid was once thought to be the “bad guy” that created spasms/knots in your muscles.  Then research showed that lactic acid has two components, one is called lactate and it is an important piece of energy production, and the other is H+, which is the acid byproduct of energy production and is the cause of the spasms.

Your body has the ability to flush out H+, but if you are exercising, or repetitively doing the same movement, you are creating more H+ than your body can eliminate.  The scales tip and the excess lactic acid will cause the muscle fibers to contract into a spasm.  The spasm is usually formed slowly so you don’t notice it until it is so evolved that the fibers are twisted into a knot and are putting a strain on the insertion point at the joint.

Strengthening vs Lengthening

When you can’t bend a joint, such as your elbow, you are often told to strengthen the muscle that pulls on the joint, in this case, the biceps.  However, you actually need to lengthen your triceps.

In fact, I tell my clients to first look at the area where they are feeling pain, and then find out which muscle inserts at that point. If you can’t bend a joint, I tell people to look at what muscles should be stretching to enable the joint to move. The likelihood is great that the tight muscle is the cause your problem.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly you will regain full range-of-motion when you release the “straps that are holding you bound” by lengthening the contracted muscles.

Another piece of the strengthening misconception occurs when a person feels they are losing power in their muscle.  Many times the person isn’t feeling any pain in their body, just a general feeling of loss of strength. You know you are exercising, but still you aren’t as strong as you were, so you feel you need to increase your strengthening exercises.

How Strengthening Can Hurt Your Muscles

To demonstrate this topic we’ll use the biceps of the upper arm as our example.  I do a lot of my work with endurance athletes, athletes who are power lifters or simply individuals who exercise to the extreme.  I’ve seen how they are in severe pain, sometimes to the point where they can’t do even the simplest movements without having not only pain but also losing power.

Often they lose power because the pain is too sharp when they go to lift the weight, or do pull ups. Other times they just feel like they are having weakness in the muscle, which makes them more determined to exercise that muscle even more.  What has happened is the muscle is now too short to have any pulling power.

an upper body athletesLook at the graphic to the left.  Many endurance athletes look just like this drawing, and some people think this is the picture of strength.  However what is happening is the biceps muscles have been shortened to the point where he can’t completely straighten his arm, so he has actually lost power.

But you don’t need to be an endurance athlete to have this experience.  If any muscle in your body is shortened by spasms, whether they are from doing a repetitive movement or from exercise, you will also lose strength in those muscle fibers.

Consider this: if you couldn’t move your body, but you wanted to pull a heavy object toward you, you would stretch your arm out all the way and then pull on the object. If you stepped closer to the object so your arm is now bent, you can see that you wouldn’t have as much strength to move the heavy object.  In the same way, when a muscle is already shortened by either a spasm or a static contraction, it won’t have the full pulling power it needs to function properly. You need to lengthen the fibers to their optimal length so they can pull with full strength.

You stretch, but often people will complain that the muscles aren’t stretching, or they hurt worse after the stretch than they did before stretching. This brings us to the “stretching misconception,” which will be explained in Part III of this trilogy.

Julie Donnelly is an internationally respected muscular therapist specializing in the treatment of chronic pain and sports injuries.  She has co-authored several self-treatment books, including The 15 Minute Back Pain Solution, Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living  and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You.  Julie is also the co-developer of TriggerPoint Yoga. She teaches Julstro self-treatment workshops nationwide and is a frequent presenter at Conventions and Seminars.  Julie may be contacted through her websites: http://www.julstro.com  and http://www.TriggerPointYoga.com.

© Julie Donnelly 2013

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

How Muscles Cause Joint Pain

Preventing & Healing Repetitive Strain Injuries – Part 1

 Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT

 

Quadriceps
Quadriceps

Using the words “pain” and “free” in the same sentence causes people who love to exercise laugh since it seems to be a contradiction of terms, but it is not only possible, it’s easy to achieve. It is understood that exercising, or even just daily living, causes muscles to ache and will also put stress on joints.

When the pain begins you are told to use “RICE” (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) – but you don’t have the time, or you simply don’t want to rest! So, you keep going and just as you’ve been told, it gets worse, even to the point where you may need to stop your world!

You’ve also come to realize that resting (when you do decide to rest) only lasts for a short time, and then the pain returns. The good news is you can be a pain-free; you just need to know how to find the source of your pain and then how to effectively treat it.

How Muscles Cause Joint Pain

RICE certainly works immediately after having a traumatic injury, but repetitive stress on your muscles requires treatment of the knots that are putting tension onto the tendons and joints.  Getting back to basic anatomy will help to unravel the misconceptions that plague both athletes and non-athletes alike.  Once you understand the logic of why you are feeling pain, you will know exactly what needs to be done to immediately release a muscle-related pain anywhere in your body.

This is NOT going to be a complicated lesson in Anatomy & Physiology, but I’ve found that a little knowledge of the body goes a long way. I’m going to put the proper names for the muscles and tendons into a parenthesis so if you want to actually see the muscles that are causing you pain you’ll be able to look them up.

I always tell the clients I work with “the most challenging part is finding where the source of the pain is located, and then treating it is easy”.  This article will help you to find the source of your problem.  Let’s begin at the beginning…

The Basics – How a Joint Moves

Movement is a simple process:

1. A muscle originates on a bone.

2. It then merges into a tendon.

3. The tendon crosses over the joint to insert into a movable bone.

4. When the muscle contracts it pulls on the tendon.  The tendon then pulls on the moveable bone and your joint moves.

Example: The Muscles of Your Upper Leg

Hamstrings
Hamstrings

All joints have two (or more) muscles that determine the degree and angle that the joint will move.  While one muscle is contracting, the other muscle must relax and stretch. A good example of this principle are the muscles of your upper leg. (quadriceps and hamstrings).

The quadriceps originate on the front of your hip (pelvis), merge into a thick tendon (patella tendon) and cross over the knee cap to insert onto the front of your shinbone (tibia).  When they contract normally you fully extend your leg so it becomes straight. Meanwhile, your hamstrings originate on the lower edge at the back of your pelvis; go down the back of your thigh, with the tendons crossing over the back of your knee and inserting onto the back side/top of the lower leg bone.

Consider this analogy, if you attached your pants to the front of your shinbone, and then pulled up at the waist, you would feel the pressure at your knee and you also wouldn’t be able to bend your knee. Likewise, since your quadriceps originate up at the front of your pelvis and insert into your shinbone, when your quadriceps are tight they can’t stretch and you can’t bend your knee.

For example, to demonstrate an analogy of what tight hamstrings would do, consider what would happen if you bent your leg and then attached your pants to the bottom of your posterior pelvis (the bone you sit on, at the top of your thigh) and the back of your knee, you wouldn’t be able to open your leg up straight.  But, clearly, you don’t have a knee problem, you have tightness in the upper thigh (hamstring) preventing your knee from moving.

When this has happened you begin to feel stiffness and a lack of your full strength. Some therapists will tell you that you need to strengthen your thigh (quadriceps) muscles. You may also think you need to stretch your hamstrings, but stretching a spasm is counter-productive and can actually make the spasm become more complicated while over-stretching the rest of the muscle fiber.

In Part II we’ll look at the first misconception – strengthening the muscle will heal the pain.

Julie Donnelly is an internationally respected muscular therapist specializing in the treatment of chronic pain and sports injuries.  She has co-authored several self-treatment books, including The 15 Minute Back Pain Solution, Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living  and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You.  Julie is also the co-developer of TriggerPoint Yoga. She teaches Julstro self-treatment workshops nationwide and is a frequent presenter at Conventions and Seminars.  Julie may be contacted through her websites: http://www.julstro.com  and http://www.TriggerPointYoga.com.

© Julie Donnelly 2013

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

Stop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Pain Naturally

Five Stretches That Relieve the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT

Carpal Tunnel SyndromeHave you ever said in a half-joking voice, “I never felt these aches and pains before, I must be getting old?”  You aren’t getting old. You are just experiencing the results of repetitive strain injury to the muscles that you use every day.

When you use a muscle in the same manner over and over it eventually shortens.  However it is still attached to the same place and the now-shorter muscle pulls on the insertion point until it hurts.  The taut muscle can pull so hard that the joint can’t even move freely!

Perhaps you’ve been told that you have bursitis or tendonitis, when the only thing that’s happening is a muscle is pulling hard on a joint.  If the pain is in your wrist or you have numbness in your fingers you may even be told that you have carpal tunnel syndrome, and too often this will lead to unnecessary surgery or a long series of potentially dangerous drugs to stop the pain.

Whether the repetitive strain is caused by your job, your sport, or you simply overuse your hands by doing the same repetitive motion for hours at a time, hand and wrist pain can stop you short!  The pain of repetitive strain injuries can ruin the quality of your life.

Current Treatments for Hand and Wrist Pain and Numbness

Until now the initial treatments for hand and wrist pain and numbness were:

  • Wear a brace
  • Take anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Stop the repetitive motion, even if it is caused by your job
  • Go for hours of physical therapy

If unsuccessful you will be told that you need a surgical procedure that has a 50/50 chance of success and may have serious side effects. Those are not good odds, especially when it means that the negative result could have serious impact on your daily life and may even end your career!

The good news is that 95% of wrist pain and numb fingers is actually caused by tension and small knots in the muscles from your neck and shoulder, all the way down your arm and into your hand.  Release the tight muscles, and the pressure is removed from your nerve and your wrist.

Stop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Pain Naturally

Five Exercises You Can Do At Home to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  1. Open your fingers up wide, really stretching out your hand and then rotate your wrists in large circles.  You will feel the stretch in your hands and your forearms.
  1. Stretch your forearm muscles by holding your arm straight out, putting your flat hand so it is pointing up, and then taking your opposite hand to pull it back.  Then reverse the movement by bending your wrist so your flat hand is pointing down and using your opposite hand to enhance the bend.
  1. Roll your shoulders in a circle going up and back.
  1. Lean your head back so you are looking at the ceiling, than slightly turn so your cheekbone is facing the ceiling.  Feel the stretch along the side of your neck.
  1. Pull your shoulders all the way down toward the floor while tilting your head to the side.  You’ll get an even better stretch by then slightly turning your head in several directions.

If you stretch your muscles frequently, you’ll be amazed at the relief you will feel.  Plus, you’ll have better flexibility and more strength.

The good news is that you can also learn how to self-treat each of the muscles that cause hand/wrist pain and numbness.  You have excellent options before even considering drugs that have potential dangerous side-effect, or surgery that causes scar tissue in your wrist.  It’s worthwhile to explore all of your options so you can get back to living your life to its fullest – without pain.

© Julie Donnelly 2013

Julie Donnelly, LMT is a recognized authority in repetitive strain and sports injuries, chronic pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Author of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You and Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living and a series of Stop Pain FAST! books that focus on separate conditions.

Julie is the developer of the breakthrough consumer product The Julstro Self Treatment System for Repetitive Strain Injuries of the Hand and Wrist. She lectures and teaches self-treatment workshops worldwide.

Visit: http://www.CarpalTunnelResults.com and http://www.julstro.com for more information about repetitive strain injuries.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Issue #26: Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger Point Therapy

Five Tips For Releasing Trigger Points

Author: Julie Donnelly

Neck PainHave you ever had a pain in one area, rubbed another place on your body, and felt the pain melt away?  If so, you’ve experienced the result of “trigger point therapy.”

A trigger point is technically an area of hyperirritability in a muscle that may refer pain &/or numbness to another area.  In other words, it is a “knot” in the muscle fibers and it prevents muscle fibers from lengthening to their longest length.  The shortened fibers are therefore pulling on the insertion, limiting range of motion, and weakening the entire muscle because these fibers are basically out of commission.

Trigger Points and Stretching

A muscle originates on a bone, crosses over a joint, and inserts onto a bone that will move when the muscle contracts.  This is the way the body moves, and it functions perfectly until a trigger point forms in the muscle.  As the muscle shortens it is pulling on the insertion point and you feel stiff, inflexible.

You may decide to stretch, however, people sometimes complain about feeling worse after stretching than they did before doing the stretch.  To stretch a muscle, while it still has an active trigger point, could cause tiny tears to occur in the fibers, and could cause even more pain.

Consider this analogy.  If you tied a rope onto a strong tree and then went straight across and tied the other end of the rope onto a flexible tree, the smaller tree would continue to stand straight.  If you then tugged on the rope the flexible tree would bend.  However, if you tied a knot, or two, or three, into the rope, the flexible tree would be leaning over.  If you then pushed the bent tree so it was again standing up straight, you would only cause the knot in the rope to tighten, and you would be overstretching the fibers on either side of the knot.

This is exactly what happens when you try to stretch a muscle that is shortened by knots in the fibers, without first releasing the trigger points.

Five Tips For Releasing Trigger Points

As the trigger points caused knots to form in the muscle, the shortening of the fibers put a strain on the insertion point on the other side of the joint.  You can reverse this situation by doing the following steps:

  1. Treat. Hold the pressure on each trigger point.  In order to effectively stretch a muscle you need to first press on each trigger point, holding the pressure for 30-60 seconds.
  1. Understand the Muscle Movement.  Look at the muscle that you will be treating.  To best treat and stretch a trigger point, you need to know what movement the muscle makes.  For example, the muscles in the back of your neck will pull your head back so you can look up at the ceiling, and the muscle on your shoulder blade raises your arm.  To stretch, you need to go in exactly the opposite direction as the movement of the muscle.
  1. Stretch.  Move so the muscle needs to stretch. For example, the trapezius muscle will raise your shoulder, so to stretch it you want to move your head away from your shoulder.  You can accomplish this by dropping your head in the opposite direction while pulling your shoulder down toward the floor.
  1. Press and Stretch for Optimal Benefit.  To optimize the treatment, whenever possible, continue the pressure on the deactivated trigger point and then move your body so the muscle is forced to lengthen.
  1. Slowly Move the Joint in a Smooth Circle.  Slowly rotate your shoulder in a circle, move your leg so your hip joint loosens, curl and open your fingers fully, circle your neck, and arch your back like a cat.  Finally, stop pressing on the trigger points but continue the slow, relaxed movement of your joints.

The more often you limber up your joints, the more flexible you will feel.  Always go only to the point of “this feels great,” never trying to overstretch or make a movement that is beyond your comfort level.  Stretching feels great when you have untied the knots that have held you bound!

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Heal Your Plantar Fasciitis Naturally

You Can Make Your Foot Pain Go Away

 Author: Julie Donnelly

Just a couple of weeks ago I taught you how to make your hip pain go away. Today’s topic is foot pain. And, yes, you can make your foot pain go away as well. But, let’s start at the beginning.

How Does Foot Pain Get Started?

You Can Make Your Foot Pain Go Away
Do you suffer from plantar fasciitis?

You feel it coming on gradually. Maybe your lower leg aches a bit, but you’re busy so you ignore it. After a while every time you take a step you feel a burning that spreads along the entire lower leg and into your arch. Still you ignore it.  But it doesn’t go away, in fact, it gets worse.

Now your arch just doesn’t feel “right.”  Then it starts to hurt, but not every time you put pressure on your foot. Again, you ignore it until finally you are experiencing foot pain all the time.   Then eventually you can’t ignore it any more, it’s like a knife being jabbed into your arch. Now it’s not just hurting when you run or drive your car, your foot hurts with every step.

Almost every day you do something that causes you to lift the front of your foot while your heel is still resting on the floor. For most people it comes from straining your lower leg muscles when you are driving a car, especially if you drive often. It is even more evident if you are doing any type of city driving because you are off and on the gas and break constantly, repetitively straining all of your lower leg muscles. You just know that your foot hurts and it’s affecting your life.  You must find a solution!

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

You’ve been told you have plantar fasciitis, and you may have been told you need expensive orthotics.  Perhaps you’ve even tried them and while they worked for a short time, eventually the pain returned and then it started to hurt worse.  Now you’re told you need to replace the orthotics, but you’ve come to realize that isn’t the answer.  And it’s not the answer. The orthotics are focusing on the symptom, but totally ignoring the source of the problem.

The good news is that you can heal your plantar fasciitis naturally. Most people, including too many medical professionals, don’t realize that foot pain is frequently coming from outside the foot. The muscles of your lower leg actually are there to move your ankle and foot, not to move your lower leg (that comes from your upper leg).

The reason is simple. First let’s use an analogy that I use all the time because it’s so perfect to explain how muscles work to move a joint.  If you pull your hair at the end, it hurts at your scalp. You don’t need to massage your scalp, you don’t need to take pain medications to stop the tension in your head, and you certainly don’t need brain surgery, you just need to stop pulling your hair!  Now substitute the muscle for your hand, the tendon for your hair, and the joint for your scalp.

Muscles originate in one place, they merge into a tendon that crosses over a joint, and then the tendon inserts into a point on the other side of the joint.  When the muscle pulls, the tendon tightens and the joint moves, but if the muscle is tight it will continue pulling on the joint even when you don’t want it to move.  In the case of the lower leg muscles and the foot, the muscles are pulling your foot up from the ground, but you are pressing it down and causing the tendons to put a strain on the insertion points, which in this case are all in your arch.

How the Muscles Get Strained

Every time you take a step you are using all of the muscles of your lower leg. As you work you contract these muscles every time you step on the pedal. Lifting the front of your foot up you are using your tibialis anterior and then you press down on the pedal you are using your calf muscles. If you walk a lot, or you are a runner, you are causing a repetitive strain on the same muscle fibers. Also, while driving your car your foot is picked up in the front to go from the gas to the brake, again straining the same muscles. You do this over and over until you have strained the muscle fibers.  Eventually the fibers shorten due to a phenomenon called muscle memory.

Muscle memory will hold your muscles in the shortened position even when you don’t need them contracted. This puts pressure on the insertion point, in this case, the arch.

The Result is Arch Pain

The two primary muscles that cause arch pain are the tibialis anterior and the peroneals.  They originate at the top of the lower leg, merge into tendons where your ankle begins to slim, and then insert into the bottom of your foot.

The tibialis anterior goes along the outside of your shin bone, crosses over the front of your ankle and then inserts into your arch.  When it contracts normally you lift up the inside of your foot so you are resting on the outside of your foot.

The peroneals originate at the top/outside of your lower leg, run down the leg and merge into a tendon that goes behind  the outside of your ankle and inserts in two places; the outside of your foot, and under your arch to the inside of your foot. When it contracts normally you pull up the outside of your foot so you are resting on your big toe.

An Easy Treatment that Works

The goal with this Julstro self-treatment is to force the toxins out of the muscle fibers, drawing in blood to nourish the muscles.  As the blood fills the muscle, the fibers lengthen and the strain is removed from the arch.

Begin by treating the tibialis anterior on the front of your leg.

Foot_Pain_1

 

#1 – kneel on the floor and put a ball just outside of your shin bone.

 

 

Foot_Pain_2

 

#2 – Move your leg forward so the ball rolls along the outside of your shin bone.

 

 

Then treat the peroneals on the outside of your lower leg, sit on the floor with the leg you are treating bent and resting on the floor. Put the ball on the outside of your leg (so it is actually on the floor and your leg is on top of it) and then press the outside of your leg into the ball.  Move your leg so the ball starts to roll down the outside of your lower leg.  Your intention is to do the same as you did for the tibialis anterior (above)

Or, sit on the floor or a bed and position your leg as shown in picture #3. While using either a dowel or a length of PVC pipe, slide the pipe from just above your ankle bone to just below your knee joint.

Foot_Pain_3#3 – Using a dowel or piece of PVC pipe, put pressure on the outside of your leg and slide along the peroneals muscle from your knee to above your ankle bone.

The treatments will feel sore but that’s because you’re forcing H+ ions through the muscle fibers, and acid burns. But, it’s better to have the toxins out of the muscles and fill the fibers with blood, plus the lymphatic system will pick up the toxins and eliminate them from your body.

There are several other treatments that work to eliminate arch pain and plantar fasciitis, but I’ve found these to be the most productive, and they may be all that is necessary to eliminate the problem completely.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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