Why I NEVER Recommend Foam Rolling The Low Back (And What To Do Instead)

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If you are currently experiencing low back of ANY kind:

STOP FOAM ROLLING YOUR LOW BACK

I never ever recommend foam rolling the low back (for any reason), but if you’re experiencing low back pain then this is so important.

Why?

Here’s the short version:

Low back muscles (and the thoracolumbar fascia) generally take care of themselves when you take care of whatever it is that is causing them distress. What is causing them distress is typically something in the leg fascia (brought on by sports, lifestyle and habits). Occasionally there is a shoulder dysfunction that can cause low back issues but most of the time it’s in the legs. The point though, is that THE PROBLEM IS NOT THE BACK ITSELF, and going into the low back with a foam roller can make things a lot worse.

In addition, there are a lot of nerves in the low back region and not a lot of “meat” (generally) to absorb your weight (look at the picture over there), so you could cause nerve irritation or damage; and I DO NOT recommend rolling over your lower rib area or spine for ANY reason either.

Basically – there isn’t much reason to foam roll here AT ALL, and if you are in pain there is significant risk of causing more distress or more pain.

The long version:

This is the story of how I came to these conclusions.

When I first started working with people in pain (by “stepping on” them; I am NOT a massage therapist, so if you’re curious about exactly what I do you can click the link) I knew that when it came to back pain the cause was something in the legs. I never touched people’s backs.

One of my favorite things in the whole world is solving puzzles. When I first got started, every client that came to me was like a new puzzle to solve because I hadn’t yet figured out all the various types and causes of low back pain. (These days I’m rarely stumped, but happy when I am because it means I get to learn something new and help even more people!)

Over the course of several years (from 2008-2013) I gathered a lot of data that led me to the pain patterns I’ve discovered (what causes what), and nearly all of my low back pain clients were getting complete relief (often in ONE session!) but a question remained in my mind:

What about the back itself?

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How to Relieve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Golfer’s Elbow, Wrist Pain and Grip Issues

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Tight fascia in your forearms can cause a variety of issues, from grip problems to wrist pain, carpal tunnel syndrome to golfer’s elbow.

We’re going after TWO areas today: the fascia in both sides of your forearm. We’re targeting the fascia within and between all the flexors AND extensors of the wrist and hand.

This fascia will affect joints upstream AND downstream, potentially causing carpal tunnel or wrist pain as well as elbow pain and even shoulder issues.

Releasing the FLEXOR side can relieve or eliminate:

  • Grip issues due to overuse and tissue fatigue from things like rock climbing, jiu jitsu etc
  • Wrist pain (anterior or palm up side)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Finger tendon issues, generally pinky and ring finger (the other fingers are generally more affected by the extensors)
  • Golfer’s Elbow – and if you have this you want to go after the “meat” on that pinky finger side (lateral forearm in a palm up position) and get as close to the elbow as possible. This is a slightly tricky spot to get on your own because it required angling your arms at angles they don’t really want to go in the position required to do this to yourself (whereas me working on you requires that you only angle the arm we’re working on), but you should be able to at least get some pretty good relief

Releasing the EXTENSORS can relieve or eliminate:

  • Wrist pain (posterior or palm down side)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Finger tendon issues, mostly middle and forefinger
  • Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis – if this is you, you will get the BEST result by combining this with my favorite technique for upper body pain that gets into the brachialis area just above the elbow (click here for that post)
  • Grip issues due to overworked extensors, potentially due to repetitive motion actions like like pull-ups (helloooo CrossFitters! xo)
  • Forearm fatigue or numbness due to overuse if you’re on a computer all day

How to get the most out of these techniques:

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The #1 Surprising Cause of Pain – From Plantar Fasciitis to Knee, Hip, Low Back Pain & Shoulder Issues

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Do you ever wonder WHY pain happens? When it hits we’re often shocked because it seemed to come out of nowhere. People use terms like “I threw out my back” even if they were doing something as benign as weeding a garden!

Or knee pain might hit suddenly while on a hike, when hiking didn’t hurt at all for decades, and you blame the downhill “pounding” because that’s what everyone thinks is “bad” and you just so happen to be going downhill.

Little do most of us realize that we’ve been doing things our entire life (and one thing in particular) that has been building and building momentum toward injury or pain. Whatever you were doing when pain finally happened was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. The MAIN CAUSE is almost always something else (unless you’re in an accident or have a traumatic injury).

Watch the video!

It’s a lot easier for me to “show and tell” this particular nugget of wisdom than to write about it…though I’ll be doing that too.

The “one leg” phenomenon:

Not everyone does this to an extreme, but I would venture to guess that 80% of us do. I include myself in that figure, though I am now very aware of it.

I call it “celebrity pose” or “sassy hip” pose 🙂

Why do we lean on one leg?

Most of us choose a leg we feel more comfortable on as children, and as we get older we use that leg any time we’re standing around: at a party, in line at the grocery store, waiting for our morning latte or posing for pictures!

If you have an injury on one leg – say, you sprain your ankle, break your leg or have knee surgery – you may end up on your OTHER leg out of necessity, because you’re taking the pressure off the injured leg. If you keep it up though, you’re likely to have pain or an injury on the leg that has been compensating.

No matter the reason, it can wreak havoc!

Why is this so “bad”?

It may seem like an innocent and harmless habit, but over the last 8 years I have seen it be the primary cause of pain from plantar fasciitis to shoulder issues in a large majority of my clients.

When I talk about primary causes I am ALWAYS looking for the habit or traumatic event that is causing whatever pain shows up in the body. I might talk about a “root cause” in the body, but we HAVE to find the primary cause that is creating the root physical cause if we’re going to eliminate the pain for good AND prevent it from coming back. Otherwise we’re doing nothing but ‘managing’ pain and I hate managing pain! I’m not in the pain management business…I always want to eliminate it for good.

That’s why this is so important to know about.

What happens due to this habit, physically speaking?

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Relieve TMJD and Jaw Pain Plus Tension Headaches and Neck Pain

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Do you suffer with TMJD (jaw pain) or “text neck?”

I feel your pain! I hold a lot of tension in my jaw and have for a long time, and it is exacerbated dramatically by the fact that I look down all day for work…which makes the entire front part of my neck very, very tight. This tension pulls on my jaw (and yours, if you’re in a similar boat), making the jaw feel even tighter.

If you hold a lot of tension in your throat muscles and/or jaw, then you’re going to love the two techniques I show you today!

For the BEST result:

You will get the absolute MOST out of these two techniques if you combine them with the chest release followed by the best neck release EVER (it really IS the BEST, and if you haven’t tried it yet then you must – especially if you have any of the issues mentioned in this post).

Few pain patterns exist in isolation where you only need to target one or two areas, and this is no exception. Usually with something like TMJD, whiplash, tension headaches and neck pain, there are other factors at play. These two techniques alone will give you some good relief, but if you’re looking to eliminate the pain then be as thorough as possible by using the techniques linked to above.

Here’s what we’re targeting:

Technique #1:

For the first technique we are really targeting EVERYTHING we possibly can in the front of the neck, with special emphasis on the SCM (sternocleidomastoid). We also want to grab as much of the many hyoid muscles’ fascia as well.

I know for me sometimes even just looking up or tilting my head up like the photo on the right causes the entire front of my neck to stretch because it is so tight. The more spacious this entire front part of the neck is, the more freedom the jaw (joint) and muscles of the jaw will have. We are NOT targeting that area today. So if you grind your teeth and most of your tension is actually IN the jaw itself…this may bring your some relief but it will not eliminate the pain.

The first technique I show you is CERTAINLY the most important. If you’re pressed for time or only want to commit to doing one of these, then pick the first one.

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Eliminate Neck Pain! Best Release EVER for Stiff Necks, TMJ Pain & Tension Headaches

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Say goodbye to neck pain!

This is one of the very few self-help techniques I’ve come up with that can perfectly mimic what I do in my private practice, and that means you should get an INSTANT and very powerful result (if you do it correctly).

Before I go any further, however…

WARNING: DO THIS FIRST!

If if you have significant neck pain of any kind, I highly encourage you to use my pec and deltoid release BEFORE attempting this technique.

The majority of neck pain does not originate in the neck, it is usually in your chest and (front) shoulders. If you try to release your neck first you might make things worse. The reason is, often times our neck is getting “tight” because it is fighting the constant pull of our forward rotated shoulders; it’s engaged in an unwinnable battle to pull our necks back where they are supposed to be.

If this is the case and you release your neck WITHOUT releasing the chest FIRST, then you’ve just created a scenario in which your neck will be FAR more likely to be pulled forward from the chest tightness that is still present, the very thing the neck is attempting to counteract by pulling back and tightening up. Your neck may react by clamping down even harder after a few hours, which is not what we want!

For the BEST result no matter what your situation or goal: combine the pec and deltoid release with this one and your head will feel like it’s floating!

This technique can relieve or eliminate:

  • Neck pain of ALL kinds
  • Tension headaches and migraines (if tension related)
  • Jaw and TMJ pain
  • Grip issues related to a nerve blockage in the neck
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and/or nerve pain shooting down the arm
  • Brachial Plexus issues
  • “Text neck” or pain associated with looking down for hours every day
  • Whiplash
  • Neck pain associated with forward rotated shoulders and
  • forward head posture
  • and…I’ve even been told by 3 clients that they believe this technique (in my office, not the lacrosse ball version) improved their EYESIGHT! I’m not sure I can substantiate that claim, BUT…the area you’re releasing with this technique does block or open a blood pathway to the ocular nerve…so ya never know!
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Pec and Front Deltoid Release for Relaxed Shoulders and Necks

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If you look down at your phone all day, work on a computer, have small children and carry them frequently, have forward head posture or forward rotated shoulders etc, then this is something you will want to include in a weekly fascial health routine.

You will need a lacrosse ball for these two techniques.

Release your pecs for more upper body freedom!

While we will certainly grab and stretch pec major in this technique, it is really THE FASCIA in and around pec minor that we want to target.

Pec minor attaches to the 3rd, 4th and 5th ribs and draws the scapula forward and down, and elevates the ribs if the origin and insertion are reversed. 

The primary actions of this muscle include the stabilization, depression, abduction or protraction, upward tilt, and downward rotation of the scapula. When the ribs are immobilized, this muscle brings the scapula forward, and when the scapula is fixed, it lifts up the rib cage. (Excerpt from healthline.com)

As you can see it plays a huge role in shoulder mobility. When overly tight it contributes to forward head posture, forward rotated shoulders and the pain patterns that arise from this (which include neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches etc).

These techniques can help address:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Rotator cuff issues
  • Forward head posture
  • Forward rotated shoulders
  • Headaches, if they are tension related
  • Neck Pain
  • Whiplash
  • TMJ pain
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Arthritis: Causes, Prevention & the Possibility of Relief (Opinion)

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Arthritis: 100% preventable (my opinion)

First let me say that I am not a doctor, and medically speaking there is “no known cure” for arthritis. Everything in this blog post and accompanying video is my opinion. I am not attempting to diagnose or cure anyone.

I’m inspired to do this episode of Mobility Mastery Monday on arthritis after a new client flew from the east coast to Colorado to get my professional opinion on her condition. She was here last week and saw me for three sessions within a 5 day period.

Her sessions with me were illuminating for both of us and it got me thinking a lot about arthritis.

I want to start a conversation about this debilitating condition that affects 3 million NEW people every year in America. There is “no known cure” for arthritis. After working on so many people and every imaginable “itis” with tremendous success over the last 8 years, I want to challenge that assumption.

To be clear, I am NOT addressing Rheumatoid arthritis in this post, which is an autoimmune disorder and quite different. .

I believe with absolute conviction that arthritis is 100% PREVENTABLE.

I’ve worked on quite a few people that were told by doctors they had “pre-arthritis.” I’ve also worked with clients who were told they had osteoarthritis in a joint.

In every instance we were able to reverse it: no more pain, no more aching, no inflammation.

I haven’t had the opportunity to work with many clients who have full blown arthritis. That’s why I was excited to work with Michelle.

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The Single BEST Technique to Relieve Upper Body Pain – For Wrists, Elbows AND Shoulders

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There is one area of the upper body that can wreak havoc on wrists, elbows, shoulders and necks…

The good news is that this ONE area, when released, can also RELAX all of those joints. Releasing this spot can bring significant relief to wrists, shoulders and necks, and often can eliminate elbow issues, especially elbow tendonitis.

This technique can help relieve or eliminate:

  • Grip issues (especially the thumb side)
  • Thumb pain
  • Wrist pain
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome/pain
  • Elbow tendonitis, tennis elbow, elbow PAIN
  • Shoulder (joint) pain
  • Rotator cuff issues/pain
  • Bicep tendon tears/issues
  • Pain between the shoulder blades (combine with THIS for best results)
  • Neck pain
  • Migraines (not the biggest factor, but certainly a contributor and worth trying. I have more solutions for migraines coming soon!)

One technique.

One SMALL area.

One BIG reward if you commit yourself to mastering this technique.

Any guesses??

I am talking about…

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How to Relieve Medial Knee Pain, Low Back & SI Pain, Groin Pain + More

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This is one of the most overlooked and neglected areas of the body, and releasing the fascia here can bring a LOT of relief to a wide variety of aches and pains.

It’s tempting to single out the adductors as the main target for this stretch, and I did that in the video for simplification, but they’re not the only players here, and for issues like medial knee pain they aren’t even the main player.

This isn’t an overly complicated technique, but I do want to make sure you get the most out of it. So…

Let’s look at some anatomy first:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With this technique we’re targeting EVERYTHING in that inner thigh region, not just the adductors.

Looking at the above image you can see how connected ALL the thigh muscles are, and it’s not difficult to see how they could affect anything in the pelvic region. For low back pain specifically, we will be targeting the adductors with this technique, specifically the pieces of fascia way up high in the adductors where they meet the pelvis.

Releasing the fascia in this entire region can seriously relieve SI and ischeal tuberosity or sits bones pain, low back and hip pain, as well as everything downstream like knee pain and even plantar fasciitis, if your PF shows up more in the arch of the foot than heel.

Now let’s move on to addressing key issues.

If you have medial (inside) knee pain:

Keep in mind that there is usually a PATTERN present with ANY pain and it’s rarely isolated to a single muscle group.

There are quite a few causes of medial knee pain, but one of the most common contributors in EVERY pattern I’ve seen is congested fascia at the junction where several low inner thigh muscles connect.

There are many reasons this area can get tight or knotted up, and for any solution to be truly lasting we would need to discover the root cause and address THAT, not just this one area. Since I can’t work on you myself to discover what that root cause is, this is my best attempt to help you get relief as quickly as possible.

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How to Choose a Foam Roller – Best Picks For Fascia Release

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Hello and Happy New Year!

My wish for each and every one of us this year is that we learn to trust our body, listen to its messages and in doing so become unstoppable.

I love that word – unstoppable – because to me it means that no matter what, we are committed to feeling our best and doing what we love. It does NOT mean being reckless or stupid and pushing our body past its limits only to become sidelined for months. It does not mean we are so superhuman we never have pain.

Being unstoppable means we’re committed to doing what we love, and when pain does rear its head, we know how to figure out what is going on and give our body what it needs as quickly as possible so we can get back out there to our trails, ski slopes, mountaintops or the simple joys of playing with the kids in our lives without worry.

One of your secret weapons against all those aches, pains and injuries is going to be your trusty foam roller.

The question I’ve been asked the most is:

“What kind of foam roller should I buy?”

This episode is for all of you struggling to decide which one is right for you.

If you’ve already figured out the best foam roller for yourself but you know someone else wondering what to buy…share this post and help a friend out.

It’s all right there in the video, but if you want a little more help in deciding…

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