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What our readers say :"I never thought I'd be pain free, but with the help of this book I found ways to give me my life back without surgery, without chemicals, and with healthy new routines in my life. Somatics Movement Lessons consist of eight separate audio lessons each focussing on a different area of the body. These audio lessons feature the voice of Rick Olderman, author of the best-selling Fixing You series of books to help eliminate chronic pain or nagging injuries (available on Amazon), physical therapist, Hanna Somatics practitioner, Pilates instructor, and personal trainer. About the AuthorRick Olderman is a sports and orthopedic physical therapist, personal trainer, Pilates instructor, and speaker living in Denver, CO. I just finished delivering a keynote speech and two hands-on clinics at the first annual Yoga Source conference in Simi Valley, CA this past weekend.
I was recently working with a woman with a 20-year history of back pain and who had thrown it out in December of 2015, 3 months ago. When examining her, I discovered that her left hip was higher than the right by about two inches and the left rib cage was lower than the right by about one-and-a-half inches.
Our first session we corrected the left sidebending problem and she left with a level pelvis and rib cage. I then suspected the latissimus dorsi which runs from the pelvis, lumbar and thoracic spine to the the shoulder blade and upper arm bone. She was not a fan of the dry needles so the next appointment, we just worked manually on her left lats and serratus ant, working out trigger points and stretching. Fortunately for science though, one of my other therapists also had a person with a lateral shift who was not progressing after several visits.
This also goes for trigemminal neuralgia and occipital neuralgia patients as I’m working on promising treatments for these patients as well.
Earlier I was fortunate to be interviewed by Robbyn Hart (below) for her show Front Range Focus on KOA radio.
We recently rolled out our own 12 Days of Christmas tips on our Facebook page and thought I’d put them together here.
Do you really want to read through another series of ?#?12DaysofChristmas ?themed posts during this busy time of year? On top of that, here’s the 1st Day of Christmas tip- A friend of mine, who’s an emergency room doctor told me Thanksgiving is a busy holiday for injuries because people become a little careless.
Okay admittedly this tip is really benefiting me too, but if you need a powerful gift under $15 the Fixing You: Back Pain 2nd edition book will be hugely helpful for anyone you know who has back or sciatic pain. Well, we are over the hump (on hump day no less!), Day 4 of the ?#?12DaysofChristmas? done in only 6 DAYS!!
Be grateful for your ability to get up each day and have the opportunity to begin a brand new life. Take a deep breath while indulging, close your eyes and know that if you can have this one special moment, life is good—you’re rich!
I’ve been playing around with a hamstring lengthening technique I’ll call The Hamstring Push that lengthens the hamstrings without actually stretching them. Well, as a physical therapist, I see lots of low back pain, sciatica, ankle, foot, and hip pain patients whose pain is worsened when stretching the hamstrings–even if they would benefit from lengthening the hamstrings.
So in the case of The Hamstring Push above, you will contract the stomach muscles to help push the hands forward into the door which helps inhibit the opposite muscles, the low back spinal muscles which is the area where the sciatic nerve begins. Throughout my years as a physical therapist, I’ve noticed that no two people respond exactly the same way to stressors.
Recently the physical therapy program at Regis University opened up its cadaver lab for 2 hours to physical therapists to brush up on our anatomy.
My goal for this experience was to make sense of the anatomical relationships that I was experimenting with in my clinic. One of the lessons I learned in this cadaver lab is that we are very similar to these flowers. These past few years I’ve been very interested in fascia and have been following Thomas Myers and Robert Schleips work.
What I realized is that, especially at the origins and insertions of our muscles, fascia seems to become particularly dense, interacting with many other tissues.
One of the lessons I’ve learned throughout the years is that stubborn pain is not often caused by the usual suspects.
Two muscles that I’ve homed in on regarding nagging pain are the pronators quadratus and teres in the forearm and the popliteus muscle in the back of the knee. In the last 15 minutes of the lab, the anatomy professor entered the room and I made a beeline his way.
If you’ve read my neck pain and headaches book or other blog posts, you’ll remember that the levator scapula muscle attaches from the top corner of the shoulder blade to C1-C4 (I actually saw this muscle insert into C5 and perhaps C6, in one of the cadavers in the lab!). I also observed the many fascial attachments from the levator scapula and other deeper cervical muscles to the base of the skull and spinal cord through the foramen magnum (the hole at the base of the skull through which the spinal cord travels). So, in my simple way of looking at things, I think this helps explain how the trigeminal nerve is affected by fixing shoulder blade function. Especially after having my eyes opened by Thomas Myers’ work with fascia, I was better able to appreciate the web that is our body. She had been to several neurologists and other doctors who agreed it was trigeminalgia—basically an irritation of her trigeminal nerve which fed different parts of her face (See the great image above from the guardian).
Her past history involved several car accidents when she was little which left her with chronic migraine headaches and general neck stiffness and pain. Several years ago she had a traumatic blow to her left shoulder which dislocated it and was repositioned in the ER with no further treatment. One detail that shone through her history and tipped me off to the root cause was that this occurred after a yoga session during which her arms were raised over her head. After her first treatment session three things happened that were new to her since this began several months ago: 1.
Our second treatment reproduced our first and she was feeling more relief during the session. I thought this was an interesting case because the trigeminal nerve is a cranial nerve–meaning it originates in the brainstem.
Recently I was a contributor for a Q&A on Sharecare–a site to post questions to medical and fitness professionals and receive answers. My Twitter answer: Child’s pose, modified to reduce symptoms can potentially help by stretching the shoulder blade depressors. In my experience, shoulder blade dysfunction may be setting up the median nerve to be hyper-sensitized so that small pressures on it can create carpal tunnel syndrome. My Twitter answer: First identify whether you have balance issues and where they originate from–eyes, joint stiffness etc. A better answer: Balance is a product of three systems working together–the eyes, the inner ears, and joint proprioceptors.
If all is well with the eyes and inner ears, I’ve found that most balance issues gradually occur in response to a fear of falling backwards.
A better answer: There’s a ton of variety in how each of us is built as well as how we do things, including running. Regarding the hip, if the thigh bone isn’t controlled well by the gluteal (butt) muscles, excessive or uncontrolled internal rotation can occur here which eventually feeds into over-pronation of the foot.
A better answer: This is a big question because not only are there different types of arthritis but it can be located in many different joints affecting what you can do.
Gentle stretching classes can also be very helpful for those people with arthritis who feel tight.
Since your doctor is the person most familiar with your issues, you should run it by them for recommendation to play it safe. My Twitter answer: High-heels can create muscle imbalances that contribute to pain in arthritic joints. My Twitter answer: This may indicate an arthritic issue, labral tear, poor tracking of the femoral head or tight hip flexors.
One of the most common questions I hear as a PT is “I have back pain, so what should I do about it?” What I realize now is that there’s a lot of confusion about this and most other diagnoses. The bottom line is that if there was one solution to back pain (or any other pain), it would have been discovered long ago and we’d be done with understanding how the body works. To give you an idea of what I mean, I was recently asked by an exercise instructor what might cause knee pain in her client. Part of all this confusion is that healthcare providers often fall into the trap of focusing only on the tissue that hurts.
I don’t really expect other health care professionals like doctors or massage therapists to know these root causes though as that isn’t really their specialty. Magazines and other sources don’t help much either by trying to narrow down the solution to cute or catchy bite-sized pieces: 3 Moves to Beat Your Back Pain Now!, The Tennis Elbow Cure!, 5 Reasons Chocolate is Great for Your Headaches! A simple search on the internet shows that there are a lot of people writing about pain– these writers, however have become the gateway to your understanding of your own issues. Because understanding why pain is happening can be complicated (or at least not summed up in 250 words or less) the real reasons pain happens, never get much press. I wrote my back pain book and my other books in the most concise and effective way I could. I thought I’d put this little video together for those of you interested in moving through my book more quickly. Fixing You: Back Pain 2nd Edition will be offered at half-price, only $10, for a limited time as a thank you to my previous readers. 2.These past few years I’ve looked more into fascia and have included more information about the role of fascia in chronic pain.
I recently saw a woman who had such crippling back and sciatic pain that she had to use a wheelchair to go to church and couldn’t stand. What I found during our exam was one side of the pelvis higher than the other, contracted hip flexor muscles, one side of her rib cage was lower than the other, a walking pattern that promoted hyperextending knees and a very strong heel strike, a thigh bone that rotated in too far at foot strike, two flat feet and ankles that collapsed too. She was very scared because her quality of life had diminished significantly and she was on the verge of tears. As a bonus, they help decrease the sympathetic nervous system level while increasing the level of the parasympathetic nervous system–great when you want to reduce the effects of stress on your body! In the clinic I used similar techniques to more specifically release patterns of contraction in her body.
I think the moral of the story is no matter how bad it may seem, trust that there is a solution to your pain. Many of these issues are addressed in my book Fixing You: Back Pain (2nd ed) available on Amazon soon.
These lessons will gently teach you to release chronic tension throughout your body, thereby improving movement and decreasing pain.
The reason became abundantly clear as it caused the lateral shift to increase when stepping on that leg. She was able to maintain the correction however the next visit, she stated she was still in the same pain. When I palpated trigger points in the latissimus dorsi, she felt sciatic pain down her left leg.
I told her to try targeting the latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior on the side away from the shift which she did and had miraculous results.
I would need more patients to refine my thinking but it’s looking hopeful!  So, if you know of anyone with a lateral shift, please send them our way to so we can get them better! So, assuming you’ve made it through Thanksgiving stitch-free, consider yourself lucky and be careful with the decorations. Any of the Fixing You books will be a tremendous gift that will keep on giving long after the holiday. Pain is made worse because the muscles through which the sciatic nerve travels–the hamstrings, calves, and back of the hip muscles–are often in spasm or otherwise neurologically receiving messages for these muscles to contract.


When these habits are used over and over again, the muscles often remain activated (by your brain) in anticipation of being used yet again.
Reciprocal inhibition is a phenomena whereby muscles that oppose contracted muscles are inhibited to allow the contracted muscles to move the joint.
By contracting the top of the thigh muscles, the quadriceps, to push the knees down, you are then inhibiting the hamstring muscles on the back of the thigh. I’d forgotten that unique formaldehyde cadaver lab smell which imbedded itself into my nose and clothes! It has been 20 years since I’ve stepped into a cadaver lab and, just like the smell of home-made bread can take you back to your childhood, the smell of formaldehyde transported me back to my graduate studies. While we all have a similar shape outwardly, as we look closer, we begin to see more differences.
I’ve included some of my ideas of how fascia affects chronic pain in the second edition of my back pain book.
One area that interests me is the relationship between the adductors of the thigh (the muscles that move the leg toward our midline) and the hamstrings (the muscles in the back of our thigh).
One of my burning questions this past year has been to understand why I’ve been successful in helping people with trigeminalgia by fixing their shoulder function. Not just a headache but also the muscles throughout her face, around her ear, eye socket, teeth, palate, jaw and the back of her head too.
The trigeminal nerve is mostly a sensory nerve which carries information from her face to her brain. Earlier in the year, I was working with her knee, she was feeling so good she decided to try yoga again. While it’s easy to dismiss this detail if you believe there are no significant anatomical connections between the shoulder and the neck or skull, I see daily evidence these connections exist and are very impactful in terms of pain generation and so it wasn’t a big leap to suspect shoulder girdle dysfunction as a root cause of the irritation. Overall she eliminated almost all of her pain including the hook in the face and broken glass feelings, the sensitivity to light and sound were nearly gone, there was no more dizziness or nausea, she was sleeping much better and now understands why it all happened in the first place.
This Q&A session was on Twitter and so my responses were limited to Twitter’s 140-character limit.
Carpal tunnel syndrome results from the compression of the median nerve that feeds the hand.
Typically the problem with the shoulder blades is that they have become depressed–they’re sitting too low. Joint proprioceptors help you understand where your body is in space even if you’re not looking at it.
In this case, weight is shifted forward to the forefoot and eventually the body begins to hinge forward at the hips to avoid the feeling of falling backwards. On second read, it sounds like this person is already engaged in what they believe are high-impact exercises.
Unbeknownst to them, this is a recipe for injury because the body is not given variable ranges of motion, loads, or movement patterns to maintain suppleness. In general, working in the pool in, say, a pool aerobics class or just walking, swimming or goofing around a little would be a less stressful way to get exercise yet reduce load to the affected joints. Often muscle imbalances or poor movement strategies contribute greatly to this wear and tear.
There’s not much to add here other than if you have any of these issues, your gluteal (butt) muscles might not be working well contributing to any or all of these problems. I think what people need to understand is what most diagnoses are really telling you is the name of the tissue that’s complaining–nothing more. Well there are many potential causes of knee pain: flat or high-arched feet, tight calf muscles, poor walking patterns, rotated thigh bones, poor gluteal (butt) muscle function, a tilted pelvis, tight hip flexors, tight hamstrings, structural problems such as ligament tears, or simply poor movement habits.
After all, your doctor said, “You’ve got a disc bulge” not “You’ve got a flat foot that is rotating your knee and thigh inward, which is dropping down that side of your pelvis and turning off your gluteal muscles, which is creating excessive arching on that side of your spine, which is causing you to have back pain”.
Remember journalists for magazines or newspapers or even most bloggers are not healthcare professionals.
Unfortunately many of these people don’t really have any experience helping others with pain. I can attest that it’s very difficult for me to get my message out to the public, mostly because it’s not simple or sexy enough (let’s face it, both of the people reading this blog might be struggling to even finish it—sorry Mom and Dad, I’ll try to make the next one shorter). I’ve been working on it for 2 years now and there are so many changes, I wanted to devote a blog entry to talk about them. If you’re familiar with the 1st edition, I think the first big change is a departure from the category of Rotation Problems in favor of Sidebending Problems.
I’ve uncovered some research that connects fascial contraction to our sympathetic nervous system response (our fight-or-flight or stress response).
I have more recommendations about how to change sitting, standing, walking and bending habits that seem to be at the root of a lot of people’s pain. Her work involved a large amount of stress and she just seemed to absorb it right into her body. As with all our patients at the clinic, we focus on decreasing tension and improving how people do things like sitting, standing, walking etc.
These are Hanna Somatics lessons and are adapted from Thomas Hanna’s book, Somatics: Reawakening The Mind's Control Of Movement, Flexibility, And Health (2004). The theme of the conference was “The Healing Arts” and centered around a somatic understanding and application to yoga and healing. She had since received two epidural shots which helped but she still had significant pain down her left leg and low back pain.
She also had a significant trunk shift laterally to the right, similar to the picture below. She was also somewhat flexed forward and attempts to stand taller increased her sciatic pain. I was hoping to find a mechanical loophole to allow him to stand up taller without triggering the shift. So we performed the dry needling again, this time abandoning the hip muscles and venturing further up the spine. She stated he was feeling 70% better and was beginning to have hope that this episode would finally resolve. The wind blew the large hot tub cover down the drive and she got out and dragged it back up to the tub–a testimony to how good she was feeling. She was at her wits end and decided to pursue surgery as she had been in pain for 3 months now and just didn’t want to try again. So our first gift to you is that there will be only 6 Days of Christmas tips on how to stay healthy and mobile during the holidays! Turns out that around 200 people a day are treated for injuries related to holiday decorating—can you believe it?
It’s helped so many patients with chronically tight hamstrings and other problems associated with them! If this describes you try this simple exercise: Get on your hands and knees and rock back so you’re sitting on your heels, resting your head down on or near the floor. He’d say, “It’s just like being rich!” meaning it just can’t get any better—there’s nothing to worry about. There are many reasons for this mostly stemming from standing, walking, sitting, bending or sleeping habits. This creates neurological tension in the muscles whereby if you attempt to stretch them, they reflexively return to their pre-stretched length. The difference is that to lengthen the muscles we inhibit the neurological signals that are causing them to contract.
For instance if you are contracting the biceps muscle on the front of your upper arm to bend the elbow, the triceps on the back of the upper arm is inhibited to allow elbow joint to bend.
And by activating the muscles on the front of the shin bone, the anterior tibialis muscles, by pulling the toes back toward your nose, you are inhibiting the calf muscles and the plantar foot muscles on the bottom of the foot. Our inner landscape is much the same too displaying endless variety from one person to another.
This is because I’ve been realizing that chronic hamstring problems seem to have a large component of adductor tension as well. What I was surprised to find was these muscles could be very different in their thickness, width, and insertions. What I learned was that the sensory nucleus of the trigeminal nerve extends down to the second or third cervical spinal levels (C2 or C3) within the spinal cord (the image to the left is from this source). I experimented with this by tugging on a few cadavers’ levator scapulae in the lab and watching the dura mater move.
She complained that it felt as if a large hook were in the left side of her mouth painfully pulling her lips and cheek to her left ear. It just so happened that I told her on her last visit that I thought I could help with her chronic migraines if she wanted to give it a go. I can certainly understand how most doctors would not suspect this as a irritant to the trigeminal nerve as there is no anatomical text that describes it. I wish I could’ve seen her to the end but that happens sometimes in physical therapy when you work with insurance.
I’m not sure, however I wonder if there are fascial attachments from the cervical spine that somehow travel through the foramen magnum (the hole where the spinal cord exits the skull) and interacts with the cranial nerves either directly or indirectly. I found it difficult to give a meaningful answer under those constraints so I thought I’d elaborate my answers here.
However the median nerve can be compromised at any number of areas of the arm, including the wrist (carpal area). An easy exercise to begin correcting this is what I call the All 4’s Rocking exercise in my neck pain or shoulder pain book. The knees, ankles, and lower back tend to become very stiff, offering few options through which to correct balance. From my perspective, I would say go ahead and continue but to make sure you don’t have undiagnosed osteopenia or osteoporosis first.
So I would caution that if you’ve been doing this high-impact workout (or any workout) for more than 6 months, to change it up a little and try something else to lengthen and strengthen your body like yoga or Pilates.
However tight calf muscles can contribute to over-pronation stress at the foot thereby causing metatarsal pain. High heels can cause the calf and foot muscles to become short which, when not wearing high heels, can cause excessive strain at both the knee and the ankle (and indirectly to the hip and back). This is because the body is complex, we all lead unique lives, have singular genetics, and different emotional experiences which makes for lots of variety and therefore potential causes for back pain. It makes me think there must be others who have good answers for chronic pain but they either aren’t writers, can’t catch the ear of the media, or they can’t convey their information in a creative, concise magazine article.
One of my goals with all my books is to help you understand how your body works so you can fix it. I truly believe they are available if you look in the right places (hint: begin with my books!) and ask the right questions.
I’ve completely re-written the first section, Mindful Healing, to include how our brain, stress, fascia, and habits come together to create chronic contraction patterns. I have spent 3 years studying Hanna Somatics, which has become a very important approach in my clinic when working with chronic pain patients or those with recurring injuries. There are now many more exercises as well as tests in this book to help you more precisely understand and fix your pain. There are over 145 pictures and images in this book (69 in the first 2 sections and 76 in the 3rd section of corrective exercises) as compared to the 1st edition which had 58 (23 in the first 2 sections and 35 in the 3rd section of corrective exercises). I’m offering Chapter 3: The Basics free if you’d like to check it out first or send it to a friend who might need some help.
Please feel free to leave a review on Amazon as I must start all over again with the reviews since this is considered a new book.


She was very tense so that when I touched or moved her, she jumped or couldn’t allow me to really move her passively.
She could bend down to the floor without any pain and could sit or stand for long periods of time with no pain at all. She had downloaded my audio Somatics Movement Lessons (Hanna Somatics) and practiced those every day which began to unlock her body.
You can see an example of this in my post: I Don’t like Doing My Physical Therapy Exercises!. The mastermind behind Yoga Source and this conference is Jeni Winterburn–a vibrant, intelligent and spunky Brit. There are some that can be manipulated back but I’ve never had success with that technique. So with the sidebending problem corrected, we moved on to the second pattern–the extension pattern. We also performed dry needling to his lumbar spine and the back of her left hip, the side where she felt her sciatic pain.
As we moved into the thoracic paraspinals, she became more sensitive and we stopped at about T7 level.
I was very happy for her and excited that we had possibly discovered the secret to fixing lateral shifts. This is unfortunate as I believe we had revealed the muscle groups that locked her lateral shift into place. There, we’ve already saved you lots of precious time to be with your loved ones or get your shopping done. Today, indulge yourself in a special treat, whether it be a cup of hot cocoa, a special scarf you’ve had your eye on, or just sitting down to start a book you’ve been looking forward to. This is because the muscles (actually brain and corresponding nerves) have learned to maintain this length and tension. Hanna Somatics is a good way of achieving this however I’ve got a perhaps faster way of doing this yourself without the help of a specially trained practitioner.
If the triceps were not inhibited, it’s likely that the biceps would have to work much harder to bend that elbow because the triceps may become activated as well.
Doing this for 20 seconds for 2 sets seems to be enough to allow the hamstrings (as well as all the other muscles we mentioned to lengthen by inhibiting their contraction neurologically. But as I sat quietly watching them, I noticed that actually there was amazing variety between flowers and, looking more closely, even between the petals of the flowers. I found some pronator quadratus muscles inserted closer to the elbow joint and some were much further away.
This nucleus is called the spinal trigeminal nucleus and one of its subnuclei (subnucleus caudalis) is responsible for  pain signals. If this is happening, then why not also extend its influence to the the spinal trigemminal nucleus? Nevertheless, while the individual connections may seem insignificant, the volume is staggering.
During our evaluation, I found I could press anywhere on her left arm or hand and elicit different patterns of pain in her face and head. Yet I see it frequently as evidenced by the successes I have with difficult headaches and neck pain and now perhaps two trigeminalgia cases (see the very first unsolicited testimonial I received just three weeks after I released my neck pain book from someone who I think had trigeminalgia. That’s why it’s crucial that we educate our patients as much as possible about their condition and how to think about it. She can now use her body in a way that feeds her rather than breaks her down. I think the diagnosis is misleading because, even if there is compression at the wrist, that doesn’t mean there are no other areas of compression in the arm or shoulder blade area also contributing to the irritation. While this exercise results in the arms being overhead and increasing symptoms, it ultimately can help fix the root problem–that of a depressed shoulder blade. Developing flexibility in these areas, safely practicing weight shifting toward the heels, and learning how to absorb perturbations from the ankles and knees to correct balance are the top three areas I begin working with to help people restore proper balance. Also in high heels the subtalar joint of the ankle is not weight bearing on the surface it was designed to wear bear on, which may contribute to more wear and tear at the ankle. By the time I got through with this list, the instructor’s eyes were glazed over (I’m sure you feel the same!).
If you understand how these two tests are working on your body, you’ll have a HUGE understanding of how to fix your pain.
Well it’s a very big deal because I believe the sidebending issues are creating the rotation problems. The videos look great, offering more detail, and I think they will be VERY helpful in taking your solutions to the next level. Part of the reason this revision has taken so long is waiting for the new images and figuring out how to fit them into the book. This chapter talks about things that happen in the background that set us up for back pain.
In addition, I merely told her she’s carrying too much stress from her work and she needed to distance herself from it and protect herself. We performed a neuromuscular release for this issue which relaxed her muscles significantly. Surprisingly none of these muscles were tender and the needles went in without so much as a yawn from the patient. Then I visualized that because she was shifted to the right, the left latissimus must be shorter, probably in spasm. Really go for the stretch and enjoy it while taking at least 5 deep breaths in this position. These differences, I imagine, such as in the width and thickness of the pronator teres muscle, can mean the difference between a 14th ranked professional tennis player and the 1st ranked. Fascia, by the way, is connective tissue in the body, binding all structures and tissues together.
What I observed was a massive blending of strong fascial connections between the origins of the adductors and hamstrings at the pelvis. I found some pronator teres muscles were narrow and thin while others were wide and thicker.
And just like a single spider web may be easy to snap, bundle them together and you get a strand similar in strength to steel. I had thought that somehow I had made things worse but instead she had developed this condition for which she had been trying to find answers.
Either way, it gives hope that other similar cranial nerve issues may be impacted via treating the shoulder girdle. In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, I would do only one arm at a time and for brief periods of time to reduce irritation to the median nerve.
What I recommend to most people who have tight calf muscles is to try wearing a dorsal night splint (this links to the one I recommend in my clinic).
Lastly, excessive pressure is placed on the metatarsal heads of the feet (the balls of the feet) which can damage this area as well. It kind of works like this, when the spine is in a neutral position, sidebending to one side creates rotation to the opposite direction. To this end, I’ve included a worksheet in the Appendix of the book to help you identify and quantify stress in your life.
I’ve also created separate audio and video somatics lessons to help people reduce tension and pain throughout their bodies. This should not have been the case as those muscles would typically be expected to be in spasm and therefore react to the needles–not so. Strange as the nerves that comprise the sciatic nerve are found in the lumbar spine, not the thoracic spine. I hypothesized that the left serratus and latissimus were in some way, locking in the right lateral shift, preventing it from releasing. It struck me how these differences help explain the edge some top-ranked athletes have over their competitors, not to mention why someone might develop an injury while another won’t when performing the same task. Remember, these cadavers had already been dissected and poured over by students for a semester and so much of the fascia had been removed long ago but there was enough left to give me an appreciation for what was once there. Still in others the popliteus muscle, like its brothers the pronators, had varying areas of insertion and thickness. I have a newfound appreciation for the diversity and interconnectedness of our movement system. Because I worked with her knee, she thought I was a “knee guy” and never thought I could also help with her latest issue too (she saw this recent issue as unrelated to her migraines). I taped her shoulder blades in place which I had also done the first treatment (I’ve just added a video of this technique to both my shoulder and neck pain book videos to help people recover faster from their issues. I’d love to experiment more and visit a cadaver lab to explore these potential connections!
Typically the reason the calf muscles are becoming tight is due to the toes or foot pointing away from you (plantar flexion) while sleeping. This can go a long way to relieving chronic pain due to the connection between the stress and fascial contraction. What tissues would we be affecting in the thoracic spine that would then interact with the lumbar nerve roots?
So we targeted these muscles, working out trigger points that referred to the sciatic nerve. In my mind, this corroborated my emphasis on adductor function when working with chronic hamstring problems as tension in one area can lead to tension in another adjacent area.
In my mind this helps explain why some people have a propensity to have chronic elbow or knee problems while others recover so quickly.
I also found that the right side had a similar finding as the left, although she reported no symptoms on the right side (this also was news to her). Then when you wake up, your calves are tighter than when you went to bed, forcing you to start all over again with the stretching. The first edition of Fixing You: Back Pain identified these issues as rotation problems however it’s very difficult to correct a rotation issue.
Additionally fascial connections extended to the head of the femur as well, helping me understand why the adductors would also be an important area to address in sciatic or hip pain. The pain was constant in her jaw and face and spread to the other areas of her head when it became worse. I found several other issues, many of which are outlined in my neck pain & headaches book. Dorsal night splints can be a powerful tool to help you maintain length of the calf muscles, thereby reducing stresses to the foot and ankle. Now I believe that is because the driver of the rotation problem is actually a sidebending problem. She had a very difficult time sleeping and had to lie “just so” in order to finally fall asleep. She said that sometimes she would have to wear a mask to keep breezes from touching her face as it would send her into waves of pain. I think the sidebending issues are the main culprits in creating unilateral back pain or sciatic pain.
This has been a significant tool in the correction of asymmetry in the pelvis and lumbar spine.



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