A Year of Moving Better

This is a guest post from Kimberly Culbertson, who just celebrated her one year moving better anniversary with The Art of Fitness!! 

Just a little red in the face after our moving better workout this morning!
Just a little red in the face after our workout this morning!

Today marks a full year of movement therapy with Jesse! I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I began the journey, but I’m glad I did 🙂

I wasn’t exactly in the market for a new movement paradigm, but I overheard Jesse talking with a colleague at Orange Coworking, and I was curious enough to brave a conversation with a scary personal trainer. (Okay it turns out he’s not really scary at all. Quirky, maybe.)

The truth is that I’m not “the athletic type,” although, as I type that, I can almost hear Jesse sternly begin a little speech about how every human is meant for movement. After surviving middle school gym class, I had mostly kept my distance from fit people, and to a certain degree, from movement in general. I’ve been gifted in more intellectual pursuits, and movement in the physical world has always been a secondary activity, a necessary evil.

My whole life is marked by seasons of dieting and various spurts of exercise, but it wasn’t until my late 20’s that I started to see fitness and strength as markers of self-care and even self-love. Despite genuine effort though, I consistently began some workout program, injured myself within a couple of months, and then had long seasons of pain and recovery. I had bad knees, a reverse curve in my neck, foot pain, messed up shoulders, and a long line of people ready to tell me that losing weight was the only real solution. But losing weight requires exercise and exercise causes injury, so pursuing weight loss turned me into a depressed, she’s-a-little-bit-crazy person. And that person was in pain.

To make matters worse, about two years ago I injured my shoulder. It was some kind of swollen, tight, pinched nerve mess in my right shoulder blade, and it didn’t go away after a couple of weeks. The pain was severe and made it nearly impossible to lift my arms while seated. I know that’s very specific, but this was a big problem for driving and typing (and since I was working as a freelance writer, typing was pretty important). With pain meds and chiropractic and electro stim therapy andrest and ice, the pain lessened to about a 4 on a ten-point scale, a big improvement from the original 9-intensity, but still noticeable, chronic pain. After a year, I figured this pain was probably mine to keep.

Enter Jesse, The “Movement Therapy” Coach.

Jesse is actually part monkey. He gives occasional speeches about why you too should be able to climb a tree :)
Jesse is actually part monkey. He gives occasional speeches about why you too should be able to climb a tree 🙂

When I sat down with Jesse, my defenses were high. I had a speech ready, and it went something like this: “Look, I know I’m not thin, but I’m not trying to lose weight right now because I like my sanity. I don’t hate who I am, and I’m not trying to earn my right to exist by changing my shape. I do have a 4-year-old, though, and I want to be just as active as he wants to be. And I want to feel healthy. In the past, I’ve genuinely enjoyed working out, but I have an injury that causes me chronic pain, and at this point I’m a little bit afraid to move.”  

I didn’t know it yet, but Jesse’s movement therapy approach was exactly what I needed. His philosophy is that fitness should help a person increase function and enjoy movement, and that any external changes are a side effect. Extra pounds don’t disqualify someone from movement in his book, and really shouldn’t be the focus. This was a relief, since my first experience with a personal trainer was a free session with “Tank” (no, really) during which he told me to ride the seated bike until I lost 25 lbs, at which time he might consider working with me more. Jesse, on the other hand, rails against a fitness industry that is primarily “designed to get you laid as quick as possible” and that often results in injury.

Jesse looks at how you’re moving and assesses where your body has “lost” movement. For me, he immediately focused into how little mobility I had in my lower back, and hypothesized that my neck and shoulder pain were related to this lack of mobility. I was skeptical. But I had been focusing on my shoulder for a year with minimal results, so I decided to play along anyway and see where this went.

At first the movements seemed silly to me, and I told him a couple of times, “This does not really seem like a workout.” He explained, and then explained again, that we are starting with movement restoration, and once we get there, we’ll add in skill and conditioning. In spite of my impatience, I did the silly things, and in about a month I realized I HAD NO PAIN IN MY SHOULDER. What was even happening?! Beyond that, my balance had improved, I had less neck pain, and, oh, turns out I actually could do squats! I was sold on this “movement therapy” stuff.

One Year Later

Jesse and I have been working together for a year now. Today is our training-iversary. It sounds a bit melodramatic to say that Jesse has changed my life, but it’s true anyway.

I’m not thinner, exactly, but my body’s shape has changed. Not only have I NOT injured myself in the process, but I have far less pain, and tools to address any pain that I encounter. I do squats like a boss. I climb things on playgrounds with my 5-year-old. I know how to move after I’ve been typing for a while, and since I actually do the movements(!), I don’t get headaches and lose neck mobility during high-stress times. I cannot even believe how strong my legs are. I don’t look at stairs with dread, because stairs are no big deal now. I can do an hour of heated yoga and not die. This is what it is like to feel strong.

But the way that working with Jesse has bled into my life outside the gym is perhaps even more interesting. At this time last year, there were so many things (in working out and in all aspects of life) that I assumed I could not do, and wouldn’t even try. My inner critic was loudest in the gym, but she was seldom quiet anywhere. My fear of failure kept me on the sidelines more than I’d like to admit. Jesse and I have had sessions where the coaching has centered more around my mindset than my muscles, and I am a braver person for it. Over the course of this year, it has become very clear to me that I actually can do a lot of “scary” things, even when I am sure I can’t. Not everything comes easily, but it’s a process, and it turns out that’s actually fine. Normal, even. Just when I am certain that Jesse will give up on me and that I am clearly a giant disappointment, he pulls out his seldom-utilized stern voice and lectures me about self-care, and listening to my body, and being patient with myself.

So I’m a work-in-progress. And I’m actually really enjoying the progress, for once. I’m focusing on becoming strong to be helpful. And to be playful. Because I want my kiddo to remember me in the fray with him and not on the sidelines. He deserves that. And you know what? So do I.

KimberlyHeadshot_9.9.15Kimberly Culbertson is a Team Dynamics and Leadership Coach and Speaker, and she co-hosts the Creation Curve Leadership podcast. She is a recovering approval addict, a paint brush loving workaholic, and a walking billboard for hope in all its many manifestations. She is not afraid to admit that latte art lifts her spirits, and she gets a little melancholy when she doesn’t make it into a coffee shop for a few days.

What is NeuroKinetic Therapy

“I want to exercise, but it hurts when I move!”

When it comes to pain and discomfort, there is no longer any need to “deal with it.” NeuroKinetic Therapy is a powerful movement assessment used as both diagnostic tool and rehabilitative technique. It is incredibly effective for eliminating pain; improving walking/running gait, correcting poor posture, creating a pain and injury prevention program, and enhancing athletic performance. For many, treatment can result in nearly instantaneous relief from pain and discomfort.

The Art of Fitness is your local NeuroKinetic Therapy Austin TX therapist

Instead of chasing the symptoms of muscle tightness, soreness, and/or pain which can become a guessing game; NKT identifies the root cause of pain through direct assessment of the relationship of painful compensation patterns in the nervous and musculoskeletal systems.

In essence, an NKT movement assessment is asking the body:

“why does it hurt when you move this way? What do we need to do differently to make this movement non painful?”

The answers to these questions determine the specific patterns of imbalance, dysfunction, and compensation that are leading to pain and injury.

During an NKT session, we will assess the specific movements that are causing pain or dysfunction. As an example:

Your knee hurts when you run

A person with knee pain seeks Neurokinetic Therapy Austin relief.

We will analyze your walking/running gait as well as assess the function of specific muscles involved in a running from head to toe. Much of this work is done on the table. We perform hands on manual muscle tests to determine the compensation patterns i.e. which muscles are overworking — compensating, and which ones are underworking — inhibited. Once these compensation patterns are determined, we perform a Hands on massage therapy release on the compensating muscle and immediately strengthen the inhibited muscle with a corrective exercise to reprogram the nervous and musculoskeletal systems. We will then reassess the original movement, walking and running, for improvement. Once a primary compensation pattern is determined, you receive a daily personalized exercise program. The daily exercise program reprograms, trains, and reinforces this renewed efficient pain free movement as a permanent habit. You build a renewed way of moving and being in the world… Pain free.

If you ever experience pain or discomfort, perhaps caused by an acute injury or from simply living life, email or call The Art of Fitness and schedule a free NeuroKinetic Therapy Austin consultation. We will work together to craft an individualized set of treatments for you, so that you can eliminate pain,  feel better, move better, and live better.

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If you’re interested in learning more about NKT, check out these articles: Stop Chasing Pain and What is NeuroKinetic Therapy.

Don't Blame Arthritis for your Pain

Recently, I received a wonderful question on The Injury Corner — a Facebook group I moderate that provides advice and guidance for anyone dealing with chronic pain and injury.

A podiatrist has told me that I have arthritis in my big toe. It’s painful to fully flex it and it’s throwing off my gait, which as many of you know, is foundational to proper function. He didn’t have any suggestions for correcting it other than giving it space (said I’m too young for surgery as that surgery is so debilitating). Any suggestions here for either alleviating it or working around it?

I love this question because it touches upon something I hear frequently. “I am in pain because I have arthritis.” This is a statement that I do not fully agree with–primarily because it sounds an awful lot like “It’s because I’m getting old!” — which I write about here.

There are two main reasons I disagree with the commonly held belief that arthritis = pain.

1. The Failure Prescription
2. Arthritis is a symptom, not the problem

The Failure Prescription

I’ve borrowed this phrase, “The Failure Prescription,” from one of my mentors, Dr. Kathy Dooley. Most people, when told they have arthritis, assume there is nothing they can do about the pain, other than treat it with drugs, topical pain relievers, injections, and/or surgery. This is not a treatment prescription to thrive–it is a prescription to fail. In the case of a failure prescription, there is little strategy for change, help, healing, recovery, and most importantly…hope. A failure prescription suggests that pain is just the way life is supposed to be and there is nothing to be done about it.

I don’t believe in failure prescriptions. Call me an idealist, but I believe there is always hope for some sort of meaningful change. As a Movement Therapist and a life changer, I do not write prescriptions to fail. Instead I offer hope.

Degenerative Arthritis = Symptom, not problem

Just as I’ve written before about pain being our body’s way of alerting us to an underlying problem, so arthritis is a marker of a larger issue. The underlying problem responsible for both the arthritic condition and the pain is simply how well, or not, you move.

In my experience, osteoarthritis and pain are both caused by dysfunctional movement patterns and are primarily related to gait — i.e. the way you walk and run. In the world of movement therapy, gait is huge. It is the movement pattern used most frequently and with the longest duration of any other movement pattern in a human being’s life. From the moment we are born, every movement made prepares us for walking upright. Once a person does begin to walk, every movement thereafter is built upon this gait foundation.

If you have inefficient movement anywhere in your body, it will show up in your walking gait. When this inefficient movement is assessed, corrected, and cleared from your gait by a skilled movement therapist, you will see greater efficiency and quality return to other movements. The positive side effect of this type of therapy? With healthier, higher quality movement you will experience less wear and tear on the joints and more importantly, less pain.


A person rubbing painful hands. Arthritis.There are two main types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation of joint tissue. As a Movement Therapist, I do not work with autoimmune disorders, as they are outside my zone of expertise. For the purpose of this discussion, I will be specifically addressing osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of the bone and cartilage caused by “wear and tear” of a joint, and is generally blamed for pain and stiffness in the knees, hands, hips, and back.

It is helpful to note that arthritis is not always symptomatic with pain. Many people have arthritis with no pain at all. In fact, “up to 60% of people with radiographic knee osteoarthritis may not complain of pain.” For example, I have degenerative arthritis in my surgically-repaired right knee. The degeneration can be seen in x-rays, but I don’t experience arthritic pain in my knee.

Also, just because pain is present and arthritis is present, doesn’t mean that arthritis is to be blamed. There is a correlation between the two, but that doesn’t always equate to causation. This is an important distinction to make. If a symptom is diagnosed as the problem, you will waste time, money, and frustration chasing relief for something that doesn’t resolve your pain. Your pain and injury can become further aggravated if invasive interventions such as injections, orthotics, and surgery are used to treat the symptom (arthritis) and not the problem (how you move).

Let me reiterate: arthritis is not the problem. How a person diagnosed with arthritis moves is the problem.

This is the primary reason I recommend exhausting all non-invasive options prior to undergoing surgery or other invasive procedures. I frequently hear from clients who’ve gone through 1, 2, 3, or more surgeries–and yet their pain hasn’t improved. Prior to seeing me, many of these people had unnecessarily resigned themselves to a life of chronic pain. Thankfully they continued looking for help and are now not only able to move with less pain, but are also returning to the activities they love. Here is an example of a woman who was able to recover from eight years of painful “arthritis”.

Mobility & Stability

Is Arthritis the cause of back or neck pain?For healthy efficient movement to happen you need both mobility and stability throughout the body. Mobility is simply the ability to move freely. It is the wide range of movement your body is capable of performing. The greater the range, the greater the mobility. Defining stability can be a bit trickier.

I used to think that stability meant rigidity. But as I’ve learned from another great mentor of mine, Gary Ward of Anatomy in Motion (AiM), with human movement, there is no such thing as rigidity. We are always moving, constantly passing back and forth through a state of being neutral. In this context, “neutral” is just a moment in time between two opposing extremes. For example: try standing still, and feel yourself sway back and forth and side to side. Now try to prevent this swaying. Notice that the more you try to prevent the movement, the harder it becomes and the more you actually move? In our natural state of constant motion, it’s impossible to completely still movement in/of the living human body.

With this in mind, stability does not mean rigidity. Rather, stability is dynamic–it is the braking mechanism of motion. Imagine stability like the brakes of a car: it is the ability to decelerate joint movement against gravity to prevent excess or unsafe motion.

At first, it may appear that mobility and stability are antagonistic to each other, fighting and at odds with one another. But in reality they are not. When your body is moving well, mobility and stability work like two beautifully choreographed dancers: giving and taking in perfect balance, neither one more dominant nor important than the other. Mobility and stability working in tandem allow graceful, precision movements through wide ranges of motion to take place.

Then where is the breakdown?

When injury enters into the body, movement becomes inefficient. What used to be perceived as a safe movement become unsafe. When this happens, the body will sacrifice mobility for greater stability. In an attempt to protect, the body creates excess stability either in the soft tissue, such as tightening up a muscle, or in the skeletal structure through joint compression. Joint compression can lead to arthritis.

XRay of joint compression of the big toe causing arthritis and pain.In the example from The Injury Corner referenced above, I would expect that the joint of the big toe is compressed similarly to this picture. Compression is an excellent stabilization strategy for your body to protect itself from harm; it’s like an internal bracing system, similar to wrapping a sprained ankle or knee. If a joint is unstable due to muscle weakness or inhibition–stemming either from an injury or repetitive poor movement–the joint can compress, making itself rigid and stable. Some of the range of motion of the joint is lost, but the compression allows for continued movement.

Generally one joint goes into a stabilization strategy to protect movement within itself or for another joint above or below it that may be hypermobile and unstable. To prevent further injury and keep the body moving, your nervous system locks down the joint, preventing too much load on an unstable structure. Note that the stiffness or rigidity at this particular joint is a bracing strategy that allows dynamic mobility and stability to take place in the rest of the body. (A rather important strategy since movement is key to survival!)

This joint compression then occurs with each step taken–and when a joint compresses, it squeezes out nourishing and lubricating synovial fluid. As a result, the joint no longer tracks smoothly or efficiently, surrounding tissue can become inflamed, cartilaginous tissues become brittle, and the overall structure of the joint itself will experience greater wear and tear.

It is this excess stress of joint compression that is the cause of pain in arthritis sufferers. It is this lack of nourishment and joint health that is the underlying cause of osteoarthritis. Arthritis is not the cause of the pain, it’s a symptom.

Poor movement quality is thus the underlying problem that created both symptoms of arthritis and pain. Healthy efficient movement is The Healing Prescription, and it is possible. In contrast to The Failure Prescription, arthritis can instead present the opportunity for hope–a call to alter your movement patterns in a way that can fundamentally change your life for the better.

To do this, you will need help from someone who specializes in movement therapy. For optimum results, I recommend seeking out a highly skilled movement therapist specifically trained and experienced in assessing muscle function, joint compression, and gait mechanics (i.e. the way you run/walk). Ask around, interview several therapists, get multiple opinions, be picky, and ultimately choose the person who best addresses your needs and goals.

The Healing Prescription

With a different “diagnosis,” there comes a new “prescription.” If the problem is caused by a dysfunctional movement, then it can be resolved by correcting the dysfunctional movement patterns and replacing them with healthy, efficient, pain-free movement. A skilled movement therapist can help you learn ways to move better. Better movement = less joint compression. Less joint compression = less symptoms of both arthritis and pain.

You have the ability to heal. By shifting your perception of arthritis, it is possible to see that it is not a prescription to fail. This is your prescription to thrive.

It Hurts When I Run

It hurts when I run

This past week on The Injury Corner — a Facebook group I created to offer guidance and support for people dealing with chronic pain and injury — there was a great discussion with some helpful nuggets I wanted to share.

We talked about whether barefoot running can help heal low back pain and instability to the sacroiliac (SI) joint, and the difficulty of being told the activity you love may be hurting you.

I find these two subjects to be especially valuable and important both professionally and personally. As a movement specialist, I see many people struggling with the issues of pain while performing the activities they’re passionate about. As an active former athlete, I’ve struggled with the exact same issues myself.

anatomy pics of pelvis and sacroiliac joint. It hurts when I run.
It hurts when I run. Does barefoot running help heal low back pain and potential instability to the sacroiliac (SI) joint?

I have lived a barefoot/minimalist lifestyle for over five years. However, I have been unable to run consistently for the past three. I have gait dysfunction connected to 5 knee surgeries, and a long list of other injuries associated with sports, stubbornness, and my reckless youth. The gait dysfunction shows in my body’s ability to absorb the impact energy of footfall as it transfers up the kinetic chain through my ankles, knees, hips, spine, and shoulders.

leaf springs of a large truck. It hurts when I runSpring mechanism of the arch of the foot. It hurts when I run

Some quick anatomical mechanics: As you can see in the pictures above, the arches of the foot create a spring leaf suspension system similar to that of a truck. This system absorbs the energy of each step, distributes this energy equally throughout your fascial system, and re-releases the energy through the propulsion phase of your gait.

With this dysfunction in my suspension system, the arch is unable to act like a nice shock absorbing spring, and my foot lands stiff and solid. Instead of spreading the energy load throughout my fascia, the impact goes directly into the harder tissues of bone and joint structures, which don’t have the ability to absorb impact as well.

Based on my personal and professional experience, both as a barefoot runner and through helping other runners transition into a barefoot lifestyle, I don’t believe that barefoot running will help heal your SI joint. If anything, there is a really good chance that in the short term it will make things worse. SI joint instability is a mechanical-structural issue, which means the relationship between how you move (mechanical) and how your structure is able to mobilize and stabilize through movement (structural) isn’t functioning in its most efficient state. The problem has little to nothing to do with what is on your feet, whether you are running barefoot or shod. It is a problem with the mechanical-structural relationship of your running gait.

It is not an issue of whether you should run barefoot or shod, but rather should you be running at all? In my professional opinion, you should not.

Now I want to take a moment after that last statement. If you’re a runner currently running through pain, did being told you should not be running kick up an emotional response? Tune in; do you feel anger, fear, judgement, dread? If you feel any kind of emotional process, please take a deep breath and let that move through you before continuing on.

Being told a certain movement isn’t best for your body is a hard pill to swallow.
Believe me, I know how hard a pill it is to swallow. Over the past three years, I’ve repeatedly attempted to get back into running. Each time, three or four weeks in I would get painful calf spasms and I’d be out for weeks again. It has taken me years to change my mindset around exercise. I had to let go of the ego drive to do what I wanted to do (run), and instead focus on the quality movements that my body needs and desires to allow it to heal.

The path to quality, pain-free movement begins by changing your mindset around your fitness, health, exercise, nutrition, and so much more. It begins with a simple understanding:

If I am in pain, then the way I have been moving is hurting me. If I want to feel better, I must change the way that I move. To do this, I must change.

Change is a scary thing. It is a hard pill to swallow indeed. It often brings with it some big fat emotional processes such as noted above. However, If you find the deep desire to change, you have made the first step toward fundamentally changing your life.

With a desire for change, the next step is to begin checking in with your body and asking yourself some important questions about exercise and movement. When you hear yourself saying “It hurts when I run!” Here are a few questions you can ask:

Is this movement safe?
Is this movement healthy?
What is my motivation to continue to perform a movement that hurts me?
What can I let go of from my old paradigm of movement?
What movement is safe, healthy, and loving to my body?

These are questions that must be asked every day and for each exercise based movement you feel a desire to engage in, whether it is yoga, running, resistance training, swimming, cycling, etc. One day a movement may be healthy for your body, and the next day it may be unsafe or unwise to do. Even exercises which you would consider “gentle” can be too much, and yes, this can change from day to day. By getting in the habit of asking these questions each day you will learn how your body communicates with you through pain, and you will develop a new relationship and understanding with your body. This is a beautiful thing that will then shift to other areas of your life.

Pain-free running and beyond
I hope to be able run regularly again. But only when running is a healthy movement choice supported by my body. Only then will I even consider the question of whether to go barefoot or shod. To help me achieve this long-term goal to run again, I am receiving regular assessment and treatment from one of the top movement specialists around.

As long as you are saying “It hurts when I run”, running is not a healthy movement choice. At least not until the inefficiency of movement in your running gait has been fully assessed and corrected. To do this I highly recommend finding a highly skilled movement professional who specializes in gait assessment. This would not be a shoe salesperson!

If you need help finding a movement professional in your area, please let me know. I will do my best to connect you to the best health care team available. If you are in Austin, Texas, contact The Art of Fitness for walking and running gait assessment so we can get you running pain free again.

Do you have a frustrating or inspiring injury related question or story? Please share in the comments below.

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Plantar Fasciitis – What is it and Finding Relief

I frequently get questions about specific injuries. Many of these are about plantar fasciitis. Here is a breakdown of one of the more common causes of plantar fasciitis.

Picture of the achilles tendon wrapping around the calcaneus and blending into the plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis.Plantar fasciitis is a pain symptom located at the heel or plantar fascia of the foot–the thick connective tissue which supports the arch of the foot. It is often most painful in the morning with the first steps out of bed, and may be aggravated by standing, walking, or running.

Here’s the deal about plantar fasciitis

It is the diagnosis of symptoms. It is not the diagnosis of the problem. The pain may be in your foot–but the problem is not. What you will not often find in definitions or explanations of plantar fasciitis on the web is that there is a deeper issue at play. The pain in your foot diagnosed as plantar fasciitis can often be traced back up to your gluteus maximus–your butt. These days, we sit too much and our butts muscles wind up not doing much. So they basically shut down or go to sleep–they become inhibited. This is not a good thing.

Your gluteal muscles have some very important functions. They are some of the most powerful muscles in the body and are the primary reason we stand upright. The gluteus maximus is a pelvic stabilizer and powerful hip extensor. The gluteus maximus provides power when we are going upstairs, rising from a sitting position, and climbing or running.

When gluteus maximus isn't functioning well, it get's very angry like the Hulk. This can lead to plantar fasciitis pain.Hip extension is your ability to stand upright. If you look at our primate cousins who still use their hands to walk, you’ll notice they have tiny butts. They also lack the ability to extend their hips into a fully upright standing position. Pelvic stability is hugely important. It provides the ability to stabilize the pelvis to our upper body, support the low back, and provide a solid powerful core. This point where your pelvis stabilizes with your upper body is where most coordinated movement is generated. If you lack pelvic stability, your entire movement system will be negatively affected. Your body demands stability. Without it, your body will find compensation elsewhere, by utilizing other muscles to do the job of those that are “sleeping,” i.e. inhibited. With plantar fasciitis, the calves are recruited to help stabilize the pelvis. This is not the work the calves are functioned to do. They don’t like it. Move like this long enough, and your calves will turn into The Incredible Hulk–they will get very angry and start to smash, i.e. tighten up and cause big hurt.

How this translates into pain in the foot

The two muscles that we call the calves (Gastrocnemius and Soleus) attach to the heel via the Achilles Tendon. The Achilles Tendon wraps over the heel bone where it then becomes the Plantar Fascia. The Plantar fascia stretches across the bottom of the foot to the base of your toes. While we may think of these muscles and tendons as separate plantar fasciitis is pain on the heel or plantar fascia of the foottissue structures, you can see by the picture that these structures are not separate. They are one continuous fascial tissue structure. So you can imagine that tension in one will affect each of the others. If your calves are working overtime–doing not only their job but also the job of your glutes–they may get distressed. With this distress, inflammation and pain will eventually set in. That pain can then show up anywhere in this continuous tissue chain. When the pain appears at the heel or plantar fascia, we call it plantar fasciitis. If it happens above the heel, it is called Achilles Tendonitis or tendonosis. The irony of all this is that the calves are not the issue! If anything, they are the most functional muscle in the group–they’re working overtime, after all. It’s their relationship with the asleep at the wheel Gluteals which need to be addressed. This is where the pain in your foot is literally a pain in the butt.

Relieving plantar fasciitis pain

The Grid Foam Roller by Trigger Point Therapy

When treating any kind of painful dysfunction, my first goal as a movement specialist is to help my clients find relief from the pain. The method I’ve found most beneficial for this is self massage using The Grid foam roller to release the tension built up in the calves. Here are some simple exercises to help relieve the discomfort in your foot by working with The Grid.

Now once the pain is gone, this does not mean you are fixed. Pain is a communicator–it alerts us to an underlying problem. But it is not the problem itself. This is why the “treatments” often found online (such as this one) will only provide temporary relief; they target the symptom (pain) rather than the core underlying issue.

There is still movement dysfunction that needs to be assessed and addressed, and as detailed above, it likely originates in the hips. Strengthening and balancing movement patterns associated with the glutes is the next step in treating plantar fasciitis, and can best be done by making an appointment with a qualified movement specialist. To ignore this step places you at risk of an even more painful and serious injury at some point in the future. Finding help is hugely important in the long run for continued recovery and pain free movement.

Here are some simple quick tips for quick temporary relief. Or check out this older article with more exercises to help with plantar fasciitis pain.

Place foam roller beneath calves. Slowly roll from the ankles to the knees. Plantar fasciitis
Place The Grid foam roller beneath calves. Slowly roll from the ankles to the knees.
Using a foam wedge, press heel into the ground and actively straighten your knee. Stretch to slight discomfort, NOT pain. Hold for 1-3 minutes each stretch for plantar fasciitis
Using a foam wedge, press heel into the ground and actively straighten your knee. Stretch to slight discomfort, NOT pain. Hold for 1-3 minutes each stretch
The Grid foam roller by Trigger Point Therapy. Self treatment for plantar fasciitis.
The Grid foam roller by Trigger Point Therapy.

 This is the foam roller I recommend: The Grid by Trigger Point Therapy

Foam Roller Self Massage For Calf and Foot Relief

As a Movement Therapist specializing in hands on massage therapy, I help clients improve movement quality to aid in the healing, recovery, and prevention of chronic pain and injury. In many clients, I see a connection between their persistent pain and the health of their feet. Painful conditions of the knees, hips, low back, shoulders, and neck can often be traced through the fascial lines down to the feet. Foot health is one of, if not the biggest determining factors of pain and injury, as well as overall health, wellness, and vitality. To improve foot health, one of the best self care options available is foam roller self massage.

Anatomy of the foot and ankle. Foam Roller Self MassageThere are 26 bones in the human foot, 33 joints, more than 100 muscles, and roughly the same number of sensory nerves that you have on the palms of your hands. The foot is designed to be incredibly dynamic, sensitive, and responsive. Most importantly, it offers the promise of stability in almost any context.

How to Treat Your Feet

1. Take off your shoes! Even if only for a few of hours per day. (Should you wonder why I am an advocate of making the transition to barefoot or minimalist footwear, take a look at Free Your Feet.)

2. Throw out the flip-flops. It is not the job of your little piggies to curl unnaturally (involuntarily & imperceptibly!) in order to keep your shoes from flying off your feet! Consider finding a similar style with an ankle or behind-the-heel strap instead.

3. Utilize a golf ball and The Grid foam roller self massage the arches of your feet and lower leg.

Using a golf ball to self massage the arches of the foot. Foam Roller Self Massage

Foam Roller Self Massage

Foam roller self massage techniques are very simple to learn. It may be painful in spots. The goal is not to force through the pain, but to be very gentle with your body. There should be some discomfort without being unbearable.

Set up on the foam roller under the desired muscle area to be worked on. Relax your body and breathe. Ease into it and allow yourself to relax.

You are seeking out the most tender spot. Once you find it, stop, relax your body as much as you can; and visualize the tissue as melting butter and the foam roller as a hot knife. Allow the butter to melt over the knife. Hold position for at least 30-60 seconds or until you notice a significant reduction in pain, about 30-40%. Then move on to the next painful spot. Do this in 2-3 different spots for each muscle shown below.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and these suggestions are not meant to take the place of a regular training program with a professional. That being said, it’s a good place to start the recovery process. And if you’re feeling acute pain, foam roller self massage will help bridge the gap until you are able to get advice and treatment from a qualified movement therapist.

The Grid Foam Roller self massage by Trigger Point Therapy.

This is the foam roller I recommend: The Grid by Trigger Point Therapy

The Grid foam roller self massage by Trigger Point Therapy is my go to foam roller. I’ve used it for years and recommend it to clients. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an affiliate for Trigger Point Therapy. This means that if you purchase one of their products after clicking one of these links, I will get a small commission. That said, the only reason I am an affiliate for their products, primarily The Grid, is because I believe in it 100%.

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Knee Pain and Running

Running and Knee Pain

There is a conversation taking place on facebook in a runner’s forum about knee pain and running.  What you are about to read is the exchange I had with the author of the original post.  Check it out below.  And will you do something?  If you know someone with knee pain that you think this would speak to, will you pass the link along?

The Question:

Ok fellow runners…ever since I took a week off post 1/2 marathon I can’t run more than 2.5 miles without excruciating knee pain. Never once happened before. This is bullshit! Help!!!

My Response:

Knee pain is a postural issue. It has less to do with a problem at the knee and more to do with mobility and stability dysfunction at the hips, feet, upper back, core, and shoulders. For any adjustment to be effective, the entire biomechanical chain must be addressed.  Not just the knees.

No Pain sign. Knee Pain Running.I work on postural dysfunction in four (4) stages:

Knee Pain Running

1. Pain: Your range of motion must be, first and foremost, PAIN FREE! This means, if it hurts to do… DON’T DO IT!!! If your knee hurts to run, squat, or lunge, etc… hold off on these exercises until you can do them without pain.  What to do about the pain?  I address the pain through movement assessment, hands on massage therapy, and a personalized exercise program. I recommend finding a highly movement therapist who uses walking and running gait assessment and has experience successfully treating these types of injuries. I typically see a significant reduction in pain within 2-4 treatments.

Practicing some full body self massage using a foam roller may also provide some temporary relief from the pain.

2. Mobility: Once the pain is reduced, you will need to work on improving your functional range of motion, such as the ability to perform a functional deep squat or lunge. IN MY OPINION, IF YOU CANNOT PERFORM A FUNCTIONAL DEEP SQUAT OR LUNGE, YOU SHOULD NOT BE RUNNING! PERIOD!!! These are progressive movement patterns that lead up to running. Babies learn to squat-ass-to-the-grass BEFORE they learn to walk and run.  You must do the same.  So do it.  And on top of training for functional lower body mobility, you will need to work on upper body mobility as well. When your thoracic spine, scapula, and neck are restricted, your hips will not function properly.

3. Stability: Now that you have improved Range-of-Motion (ROM), you will need to train your body for stabilization with this renewed ROM. This is the basic definition of posture. The ability of your body to stabilize throughout your entire ROM. For more on posture, read:

What is Posture

Here are some super basic corrective exercises to get you started.

The Foundation of your Posture – Injury Prevention Begins at your Foot

Corrective Exercises for the Hips

Corrective Exercises for the Scapula

4. Conditioning: Running is a very basic movement pattern. It is also a very small percentage of our overall functional movement pattern. If the only form of exercise you are doing is running… you are running directly into a potential injury. Your body needs to be conditioned throughout it’s entire movement ability. Full body functional movement is vital to overall health and vitality, as well as running ability. Another way to think about this is: How do you want to feel when you’re 70, 80, 90, or 100? Do you want to run comfortably in advanced age? Conditioning your body through full functional movement patterns, which includes running, is the key to both of these questions.

I encourage you to hire an expert team to help you through this process. The investment now will save you thousands in your long term pain and health. I suggest hiring a therapist to help with the pain; a movement coach to help improve your posture; and a running coach to teach you how to run (years and years of sitting on our butts means that we don’t know how to do this very basic movement pattern – even if we run frequently). Here is a link with tips on finding a quality therapist and coach:

Five Steps to Choosing a Professional Therapist

Good luck.

The Response:

Jesse, in a perfect world I would LOVE to be able to hire all of those folks to help me out. I have contacted an ART (Active Release Therapy) doctor in hopes they’ll be able to help me a little bit. As for the rest I’m going to have to go it alone or go through my HMO (which everyone knows could take years) to get to a physical therapist. My knees don’t actually hurt unless I’m running. I can do squats and everything w/o knee pain…it’s when my glutes get tight about mile 2 that everything goes to pot. So I’m sure some of it’s my form and some of it is that I’m just too tight. I will continue to work on it and stop running for the time being. Perhaps yoga is in my future…

My response:

I completely understand the issue of cost. At the bare minimum, I encourage you to invest in a foam roller, softball, lacrosse ball, and golf ball. This will allow you to do a great amount of the massage work on your own. The foam roller alone should make a huge difference with your pain during running. It may take a few weeks. Here is another article on foam roller therapy that has a bit more detail to it.

How to Treat and Prevent Injury and Become a Better Runner

Finding a good teacher, Part II

When looking into a PT, I recommend really vetting them out. You want the most educated, experienced, passionate, top of their game professional available. You are looking for a highly skilled therapist, preferably one who includes manual therapy; as well as multiple other modalities; and looks at the entire movement system, not just your knees. If they treat the knees in isolation, find another therapist! Hopefully, it won’t take too long, but you are better off taking your time searching for a high quality therapist who is the best fit than to settle on someone who isn’t.

Can you really do a functional squat?

The majority of clients that I see, at the time they come in, say that they can do a squat. The fact is they cannot do a “functional” squat. This is what I consider a functional squat:

This Is A Functional Squat

Baby squatting with perform form. Knee Pain Running.
If you can’t do this from standing to sitting to standing keeping your shoulders down and back, without your heels coming up, your feet rolling out, or without pain then you can’t do a functional squat.

Here is a great little video from Barefoot AngieBee describing squatting

Pushing Through The Pain

Each week, I see new clients dealing with a very specific type of injury. The one that comes from pushing through the pain. This past week, Jason Robillard of Barefoot Running University wrote an article that I think you should take a moment to read right now: When Running Hurts: Discriminating Between Good Pain and Bad Pain.  He writes about the difference between good and bad pain for barefoot runners and for runners who want to run ultra marathons.

Go ahead and read it now, I don’t mind waiting…

Two Kinds of Pushing Through the Pain

No Pain No Gain. Pushing Through The PainThis is a topic that has been on my mind as well. In the runner’s groups and forums, I see the advice, “pushing through the pain is what you have to do.” Usually it’s offered haphazardly by “experienced” barefoot runners to novice barefoot runners. This kind of thinking comes from a particular couple of ideas.  First, that when transitioning to barefoot/minimalist running you will experience pain, and second, that the only way to get beyond the pain is to push through it. “No pain, No gain.”

I consider this advice to be not only irresponsible, but dangerous for most people.  Doubly dangerous since the majority of those who offer the advice have very little experience in coaching much less in working directly with people with injury. Triply dangerous because they’re often strangers on the internet, where trustworthiness and background info are superficial at best.

The Article
I agree with everything Jason says. But I think he is speaking to a very specific segment of the running population. For the most part, his audience is made up of people who are already in good to excellent physical condition and injury free. However, many of the people transitioning to a barefoot/minimalist lifestyle are doing so because they have been dealing with chronic issues of pain and injury. And they are searching for the cure to their woes.

Running - Pain Now - Beer Later. Pushing Through The PainI grew up as a competitive athlete and I am all too familiar with the sayings. “No Pain, No Gain!” and “pushing through the pain is good.” One of my favorites comes from my best friend, an ex-Navy SEAL, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.” My guess is that the last one would resonate well with Jason Robillard, being an ultra marathoner.

In the past, as a personal trainer and coach, I’ve even used these same phrases to motivate clients to push themselves just a little harder. But now that my work has shifted into movement therapy, my practice has deepened and grown, and I see more and more clients with issues of chronic pain and injury.  Many of my clients come to me over-trained and in pain because they spend the majority of their training time “pushing through the pain.” In light of this, the “idea” that I have makes me think of this in an entirely different way.

What is “good” vs “bad” pain?

“Good” pain….
… is general in feeling, meaning it does not have a specific origin (i.e. muscle soreness vs. “my knee hurts”).
… happens when you try a new exercise or workout after a long break.
… comes from pushing yourself to your limits of speed, strength, endurance, power.
… goes away once you slow down or stop exercising.
… in the case of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), the soreness you get a couple days after intense exercise.  This pain should reduce within 72 hours, and be gone completely within 5-7 days.
… does not interrupt your sleep.

Most well-coached athletes spend less than 10% of their total training time pushing themselves into this level of pain. It is the extra kick at the end of a workout, or a planned high intensity day. The majority of their training volume is at a lower level of intensity. However, it is not uncommon for uncoached athletes to spend the majority of their training time at this level. Every workout is a hard workout. There are no rest days. They run as hard and fast as they can every run, lift as hard as they can every workout.  Their idea of a rest day is.. well, the only easy day was yesterday. Spend too much time training at this level of “good” pain and you will eventually feel the “bad” pain.

“Bad” pain…
Person with knee pain. Pushing Through The Pain… is when, in other words, you have done damage to your body.
… tends to be very specific (i.e. “my foot, heel, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow hurts right here.”)
… doesn’t necessarily go away once you stop exercising.
… lingers around for weeks or months.
… interrupts your sleep.
… affects performance.
… leaves you moody – frustrated, angry, or anxious.
… leaves you overly fatigued.
… makes your joints, bones, or limbs hurt.
… leads you to the point that your immune system is compromised.
… makes you question whether you should continue exercising.

Do you feel this? Well, if you do… You are injured. To continue pushing through the pain, your body will make the injury worse, it will increase the amount of time needed to heal, and will prevent you from doing what you love to do so much. When you have this pain, you need to stop immediately and seek help from a movement specialist who specialized in walking and running gait assessment, movement assessment, hands on massage therapy, and developing a personalized exercise program for you. It would also be highly advisable to seek the advice of a health care professional. What you want is a solid health care team!

What is Pain?
Pain is not good or bad. Pain is a vital piece of a complex communications system that tells you something is going on within your body. Pain is there for a reason, and it should be listened to, respected, and understood. Listening to, and participating in this conversation is incredibly important. If you listen to the ideas of “pushing through the pain” or “no pain, no gain,” you are  consciously disconnecting or ignoring the body’s natural warning signals.

Let’s get specific for a second.  If you are training for an ultramarathon (of 50 to 100 miles or more), then pushing through some pain is what you will need to do to be successful. There is a level in which you have to disconnect and ignore pain to achieve
your goals. However, doing so is not necessarily in the best interest of your long term health and wellness. This, I believe, is the grey area in which Jason is addressing in his article. Most high level athletes understand that they may be sacrificing some level of health to achieve a specific goal.

However, if you are learning a new skill, perhaps you are learning how to barefoot run, now is precisely and absolutely the WRONG time to shut off or ignore the vital conversation that is taking place within your body. Keep in mind that you have spent the majority of your life cut off from the communication taking place at your feet at every step. To your body, the change from walking and running in a shoe with an arch support, cushion, and heel drop, to walking and running barefoot/minimalist is like training for the Kentucky Derby by riding a merry-go-round. It’s not the same thing. It’s not even in the same ballpark.

Now is the time for you to be extra vigilant and hypersensitive.  Listen carefully to every signal coming from your body. Right now pain is the best coach you could have on the planet. It will tell you when you have done enough, and when you have done too much. It will say when you need to rest and, ultimately, when you can push it a little harder.  Appreciate it, respect it, love it. Listen to it, and don’t ignore it until you better understand exactly what it is telling you. Happy training.

Stop sign with "Stop Pain Stop". Pushing Through The Pain


Plantar Fasciitis Treatment for Fast Pain Relief

Image of plantar fasciitis pain on the bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciitis treatment

I originally wrote this article in 2011. Since then, I have expanded my knowledge and understanding of the underlying causes of plantar fasciitis as well as discovering a more solid plantar fasciitis treatment. The exercises I discuss here are still valid and many will find them a helpful plantar fasciitis treatment supplement. However, you will find the best plantar fasciitis treatment through the help of a highly skilled movement therapist who can assess the deeper movement dysfunctions that are causing the problem. I discuss this in more detail here.

What is Plantar Fasciitis

Over the past week, I have seen a “mini-epidemic”, plantar fasciitis, a common but painful foot injury. Living in Austin, with such an active outdoors culture, plantar fasciitis is one of the more common issues I treat. It is also one of the most common foot injuries in the United States.  As reported by Pubmed, two million Americans are seeking plantar fasciitis treatment each year and 10% of the population over a lifetime. Plantar fasciitis involves pain of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band of connective tissue located on the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia attaches to the heel bone and extends along the sole of the foot towards the five toes. Its function is to help maintain the arch of the foot, and it acts as a powerful spring with a fundamental role in shock absorption and forward propulsion.
The three arches of the foot. Self treatment for plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis develops gradually and commonly starts as a dull, intermittent pain in the heel, mid-sole, or near the toes. The pain is worse early in the morning and tends to ease up once you move around a bit. When untreated plantar fasciitis can progress to a sharp or stabbing pain. It may hurt when climbing stairs or after standing for long periods of time.   It is common for someone with plantar fasciitis to also suffer from knee pain. Plantar fasciitis can become a chronic condition that plagues people for years, with millions of dollars spent on plantar fasciitis treatment. Plantar fasciitis is caused by stress to the soft tissue that supports the arch of the foot. It is possible to develop plantar fasciitis from an acute injury, although it is far more commonly a result of repetitive trauma to the foot from walking or running with poor gait mechanics.Austin Barefoot Running, Austin deep tissue massage therapy, Austin running barefoot, barefoot running austin, barefoot runner The arch of the foot acts like a shock-absorbing spring. With proper walking or running mechanics, the arch absorbs and releases the impact of each step, preventing damage to the knees and hips. The problem that most people have is that they heel strike, a dysfunctional gait pattern developed due to previous injury or poor shoe selection.  When you heel strike, you bypass the natural spring of the arch, and the impact of each step is driven through your heel. This causes an ongoing series of micro traumas directly to the heel — where the plantar fascia attaches — and through the soft tissue of the knee and hip. The repeated stress and strain from each step you take can cause tiny tears in the ligaments and tendons and build restriction in the calf muscles.

Overweight individuals are more at risk of developing plantar fasciitis due to the excess weight impacting on the foot.

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

The Grid Foam Roller by Trigger Point Therapy

There is no one single plantar fasciitis treatment that works for everybody. I have had great success using a few different treatments together. I see the best results — by far — with the combination of a NeuroKinetic Therapy movement assessment and deep tissue massage therapy followed with a personalized exercise program. On average it takes three or four sessions for a client to be pain free.  When my clients do self massage using a foam roller, flexibility and corrective exercise, and buy different shoes, they generally are able to get back into the activities they love within a matter of weeks. If you do not have access to a skilled Movement Therapist or deep tissue massage therapist, you can utilize the following self help tools for plantar fasciitis treatment, although it may take a few weeks longer to get to 100%.

Following the directions in the pictures below, place your body weight on the foam roller or ball over taut bands of muscle tissue that need to be released. For the best results, begin near the center of the body and slowly work away from the center of the body.Relax your body, breathe, and slowly roll through the length of the muscle. Your muscles will naturally tense up, especially when you hit a trigger point.  Ease into it and allow yourself to relax.If you find a painful spot, stop and visualize the soft tissue as melting butter and the foam roller as a hot knife. Allow pressure into the tissue and within 30-60 seconds you will notice a significant reduction in pain. Once the pain reduces (20-30%), move on to the next painful spot and repeat.Spend between 3-5 minutes on each side. It is very important that you spend an equal amount of time on both sides and that you work through each of the areas listed to gain the most out of self-myofascial release.Arch

Use a small ball, such as a golf ball to massage the plantar fascia of the foot. For plantar fasciitis treatment.


Place foam roller beneath calves. Slowly roll from the ankles to the knees. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Turn your body to work the inside and outside of the calves. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Use a soft ball to perform self-trigger point therapy. For plantar fasciitis treatment.


Place foam roller lengthwise to your body. Bend your knee to 90 degrees with your inner thigh on the foam roller. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Place foam roller beneath the top of the hip bone. Lie with one hip on the roller. Opposite hip is off the foam roller. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Sit on the foam roller. Turn your body to one side. Massage through the entire gluteal area from the crack of your butt to the outside of your hip, top of the pelvis to the top of the thigh. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Stretch calves using a foam wedge

Using a foam wedge, press heel into the ground and actively straighten your knee. Stretch to slight discomfort, NOT pain. Hold for 1-3 minutes each stretch. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Using a foam wedge, press heel into the ground and bend knee down and forward. Stretch to slight discomfort, NOT pain. Hold for 1-3 minutes each stretch. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Because the way you walk or run is a large contributing factor, changing your shoe selection and changing the way you walk and run are huge keys to fixing the problems that caused plantar fasciitis.Read What Happens to Our Foot When We Wear Traditional Running Shoes by Dr. Nicholas Campitelli to learn more about how shoes change your gait.

The Grid foam roller by Trigger Point Therapy. Self treatment for plantar fasciitis.


This is the foam roller I recommend: The Grid by Trigger Point Therapy


Foam Roller Massage Therapy For Beginners

It is estimated that over 116 million Americans suffer from debilitating chronic pain each year, of which low back pain is the most common. According to The American Academy of Pain Medicine, “Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old.  More than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 experience frequent back pain.” There is a proven and effective way to treat most forms of chronic pain — self-myofascial release using foam roller massage therapy.By performing self-myofascial release techniques using a foam roller or ball, you can reduce trigger points, decrease tissue tension, and break down scar tissue adhesions in injured myofascial tissue (muscle and fascia) formed by a combination of acute trauma, poor posture, repetitive movement, over-training, or inadequate sleep. The goal of self-myofascial release is to speed up the healing and recovery process, reduce pain, improve joint range of motion, balance the body, and prevent injury.How does self-myofascial release work?Fascia is a three-dimensional fibrous matrix interconnected throughout the body from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet.  Fascia surrounds muscles, bones, and joints providing the body structural integrity and strength. Dysfunctional fascia is a leading cause of chronic pain, reduced flexibility, and decreased athletic performance.Located within the muscle and tendon tissue are two sensory receptors called the muscle spindle and the golgi tendon organ.  These sensory receptors monitor muscular and tendon tension from the surrounding tissue and relates it to your nervous system. They are highly sensitive to changes in muscle tension and rate of change. Stimulation of the golgi tendon organ leads to a decrease in soft tissue tension.Placing pressure directly on tight or overly toned muscle tissue using deep tissue massage therapy or self-myofascial release techniques stimulates the golgi tendon organ to relax tension in the soft tissue.  Decreases in soft tissue tension will help break down scar tissue adhesions, increase joint mobility, reduce pain, and improve overall function.

BENEFITS OF Foam Roller Massage Therapy

  • correct muscle imbalances
  • increase joint range of motion
  • decrease muscle soreness and relieve joint stress
  • decrease tight or overly toned muscle tissue
  • increase extensibility of muscle and tendon tissue
  • increase performance
  • maintain normal functional muscular length

Self Foam Roller Release Instructions

Self-myfascial techniques are very simple to learn.  To perform self-myofascial release you will need a foam roller and a small ball (such as a golf ball, tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or softball).

In this article I will go over self massage therapy using a foam roller for beginners. This is a shorter session that should take between 30-45 minutes to complete. The goal of this session is to begin to unlock the hips and shoulders. After you have spent a few weeks and feel more comfortable with self-myofascial release therapy, there is an intermediate and advanced session that I teach.

Following the directions in the pictures below, place your body weight on the foam roller over taut bands of muscle tissue that need to be released. For the best results, begin near the center of the body and slowly work away from the center of the body.

Relax your body, breathe, and slowly roll through the length of the muscle. Your muscles will naturally tense up, especially when you hit a trigger point.  Ease into it and allow yourself to relax.

If you find a painful spot, stop and visualize the soft tissue as melting butter and the foam roller as a hot knife. Allow pressure into the tissue and within 30-60 seconds you will notice a significant reduction in pain. Once the pain reduces significantly (20-30%), move on to the next painful spot and repeat.

Spend between 3-5 minutes on each side. It is very important that you spend an equal amount of time on both sides and that you work through each of the areas listed to gain the most out of self-myofascial release.

Beginners Session Pictures

Using a golf ball to release the plantar fascia - self massage using a foam roller and ball
Use a small ball, such as a golf ball.
Place foam roller lengthwise to your body. Bend your knee to 90 degrees with your inner thigh on the foam roller.
Place foam roller lengthwise to your body. Bend your knee to 90 degrees with your inner thigh on the foam roller.
Slowly massage out to the knee seeking out the most painful spots - Foam roller at inner thigh
Slowly massage out to the knee seeking out the most painful spots.

Tensor Fascia Latte

Place foam roller beneath the top of the hip bone. Lie with one hip on the roller. Opposite hip is off the foam roller.
Place foam roller beneath the top of the hip bone. Lie with one hip on the roller. Opposite hip is off the foam roller.
With foam roller on front of hip, massage from the hip bone to the top of the thigh. Slowly rotate your opposite hip up towards the ceiling.
Massage from the hip bone to the top of the thigh. Slowly rotate your opposite hip up towards the ceiling.
Sit on the foam roller. Turn your body to one side. Massage through the entire gluteal area from the crack of your butt to the outside of your hip, top of the pelvis to the top of the thigh.
Sit on the foam roller. Turn your body to one side. Massage through the entire gluteal area from the crack of your butt to the outside of your hip, top of the pelvis to the top of the thigh.
Teres Minor
Placing the foam roller at the armpit. Lie on your side with your arm overhead. Slowly massage from the top of the arm to below the shoulder blade. Do not massage in the armpit area.
Placing the foam roller at the armpit. Lie on your side with your arm overhead. Slowly massage from the top of the arm to below the shoulder blade. Do not massage in the armpit area.
Upper Back
Place foam roller at on upper back. Massage from the top of the shoulders to the bottom of the rib cage. Roll your body 10 degrees to massage the spinal erectors (muscles that run parallel to the spine).
Place foam roller at on upper back. Massage from the top of the shoulders to the bottom of the rib cage. Roll your body 10 degrees to massage the spinal erectors (muscles that run parallel to the spine).
With foam roller on upper back, changing arm position will expose different muscles around the shoulder blade.
With foam roller on upper back, changing arm position will expose different muscles around the shoulder blade.

Other areas you can roll out are the calves, IT band (outside of thigh), quads (front of thigh), chest, and shoulders.

The first couple of weeks of foam roller therapy will be painful. It is important to be diligent and commit to doing it every day for two weeks, because the payoff is well worth it. If you use the foam roller every day, within a couple of weeks you will begin to notice not only does the exercise not hurt as much, it will begin to feel good and you will be on the path to feeling great.  Over time the muscle and fascial tissues heal, improving flexibility, function, and performance providing chronic pain relief and injury prevention.

When to foam roll?

  • When you hurt
  • Before you exercise
  • After you exercise
  • In the morning
  • Before bed
  • While watching TV
  • Just about any time is a good time

Self massage therapy on a foam roller offers an effective, inexpensive, and convenient way to reduce muscle tension and reduce scar tissue adhesion. Self-myofascial release can help you get relief and recovery from chronic pain and injury, improve athletic and work performance, and help you reach your health and fitness goals.

The Grid foam roller from Trigger Point Therapy

This is the foam roller I recommend: The Grid by Trigger Point Therapy