How to Assess Shoulder Pain and Instability with The TAOFit Method

Assess Shoulder Pain and Instability

The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains
“The 5 Primary Kinetic Chains” by Dynamic Neuromuscular Assessment. On my list of “must-have” poster sets (link below).

This class is an example of how the TAOFit Method can be used to assess shoulder pain and instability.

As an assessment, I am looking at gait mechanics through a neuro-muscular-fascial-structural lens. Assessing the relationships between the anterior and posterior core spirals of the wrist, arm, shoulder, and spine through the thoracolumbar fascia to the contralateral hip, knee, and foot. 

Below is a case study (I am the subject). The class is 64 minutes followed by a brief Q&A. In the Q&A, I dive a bit more into the movement anatomy and theory of The TAOFit Method.

Case Study:

Two weeks ago, I participated in a men’s gathering in the rugged mountains of southern Oregon. It was a phenomenal weekend with an amazingly diverse group of masters. Over two days, we did a navigation challenge (maps and compasses). I hiked up and down steep gorges 10+ miles the first day and 15+ miles the second day. This was a significant increase in movement volume and intensity compared to my general conditioning program.

Afterward, I experienced minimal pain and noticeable swelling in the right knee joint (loss of about 10-20 degrees of deep knee flexion). Totally normal for me considering the circumstances and nothing unexpected. Overall, my body held up better than expected. 

A brief and incomplete injury history:

Going back to 1998, I’ve had six total knee surgeries. Both knees experience true instability with the tendency for pain, inflammation and/or swelling after intense physical challenge.

The right knee has a full PCL rupture. Due to true PCL instability, there is a significant shifting of the femoral head on the tibial plateau with every step, lunge, and/or squat.

  • Two PCL reconstructions with partial meniscectomy (1998 & 1999) – PCL reconstruction failure both surgeries 
  • Two surgeries to clear staph infection (1999 & @ 2002)
  • One ACL reconstruction with partial meniscectomy (2006)
  • Signs of degenerative arthritis via X-Ray over the years

The left knee has some medial meniscus removed (affecting tibiofemoral stability). The head of the femur has a tendency to slide off the tibial plateau when in a deep knee bend with tibial rotation

  • A partial meniscectomy (2016 or 2017) 

As well as multiple concussions, whiplash incidents, and other joint traumas from years as a competitive athlete (college basketball) and a self destructive lifestyle (not taking care of my body).

Returning Home

I drove back home from southern Oregon to Austin, Texas with my son. The drive was 32 hours. We completed it in 41 hours. Two days of hard-driving – i.e. sitting, and next to zero restorative movements (I’m a bit of a masochist 😊).

The first day back, a neighbor gave away a 4×8 foot piece of solid plywood (weighs between 60-85 lbs). I loaded it by myself into the truck, As I lifted the board, my nervous system spoke loudly. I felt my left shoulder become neurological unstable and mildly painful (3 to 4 on the pain scale of 10). Not terrible, but definitely “off”. As the day progressed, left shoulder stability continued to deteriorate, especially with stabilizing away from the midline of the body through the elbow and hand (example – getting up from the ground). Stability remained solid and non-painful with carrying and hanging. But active pull-ups felt unsafe.

As I took some quality time to self-assess movement, using the above template, I noticed significant core imbalances in the core relationships between the posterior left shoulder to the contralateral right hip, knee, and foot.


The current hypothesis that I’m working with is that the active inflammation and swelling caused neurological instability within the knee. This had a cascading affect to the complex relationships between the right foot, hip and spine (and from the spine it can spill out into anything and everything).  As a secondary stability strategy, my left shoulder compensated by neurologically increasing the bracing patterns around the shoulder complex. (examples of bracing patterns – humeral compression within the glenoid fossa and humeral internal rotation to wind up the fascial spiral). 

As a protective mechanism, this bracing strategy (i.e. compensation) generates greater structural stability within the contralateral hip and shoulder during the loading phase of gait mechanics (walking, running, crawling, climbing, swimming). This is a fantastic strategy for a wild human. It allows us to keep moving while preventing a more devastating injury. 

Basically, with each step, my left shoulder was neurologically tasked to provide greater stability and tension to support an unstable right knee related to gait. When I lifted the bulky plywood, it blew out the neurological stability of the shoulder complex (analogous to blowing a circuit breaker). 

Assess Shoulder Pain and Instability and Resetting the Circuit

Through the movement assessment, I am comparing the quality of movement at the edges of range of motion that are pain-free vs. pain-“yes”. I am using pain as a guide to building a highly sensitive movement map (i.e. where can I move safely, non-painfully, and with solid motor control).

At the same time, I am slowly exploring the edges of the map. The goal is to restore joint-by-joint neurological connection, integration, and stability. Slowly challenging each segment to connect into larger and larger multi-segment chains.

This doesn’t always happen in a single session. Depending upon the injury history, it can take days, weeks, or months to fully integrate. However, the results tend to be powerful. My shoulder isn’t 100%. But within the first 2-3 days, I’ve had 70-80% improvement in pain level, stability, strength, and function. Between 4-7 days, the shoulder is at 80-90% with the addition of light push-ups, pull-ups and climbing. 

Findings of Interest from Assessment:

  • Imbalance of core integration related to gait
    • Anterior Spiral – right hip to left shoulder 
    • Posterior Spiral – left hip to right shoulder
  • Lumbar spine
    • Neurologically “stuck” in right lumber lateral flexion T12-L5 & Sacrum 
  • Thoracic spine
    • Neurologically “stuck” in left lateral flexion
    • Possible disc degeneration and/or spinal nerve impingement on the left between T6-T10 
  • Spinal compression C3-T1
    • Neurologically “stuck” in left rotation and lateral flexion
    • Possible vagal nerve impingement causing occasional heart arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation with tachycardia)
    • Movement restriction in left rotation and left lateral flexion
  • Left shoulder
    • The humerus is “stuck” in compression (posterior capsule) and internal rotation
    • Movement restriction and Pain with external rotation
  • Right hip
    • Neurologically “stuck” in compression
    • Movement restriction with external rotation 
  • Left hip
    • Neurologically “stuck” in anterior compression

Gift Economy

My movement practice is something deeply Spiritual. This movement philosophy is a part of a daily practice. A method of movement that I have cultivated over decades of study with many amazing teachers. It requires consistency, something I occasionally fall short. But considering my long and well-earned injury history, the more consistent I am in this practice, the more I able to participate in cool adventures like hiking 10-15 miles through the mountains. Something, after the first knee surgery, the doctors told me I’d never be able to do again. 

Structurally, at the age of almost 48, my body has the physical wear and tear of an 80-year-old, yet I experience less physical pain and greater overall freedom of movement, skill, and capacity than many 30-year-olds. Considering I’ve had six knee surgeries with true joint instability in both knees, I maintain a pretty solid level as a highly functional, Dysfunctional mover.  My hope is to be able to play in the rugged mountains well into my 90’s. If successful, this video holds a few of the secrets that I’ve learned.

I hope you find value in this class. If so, I would love to hear your feedback.  What did you discover? Please post a comment below. If it was a “super awesome” discovery, it would be super awesome if you liked, subscribed, and shared this video with your tribe. Tell us about your discovery and tag The Art of Fitness on the post. It helps us to grow The TAOFit tribe.

If you are

  • Experiencing chronic physical pain
  • Experience pain with any of these movements
  • Find these movements to be extraordinarily challenging
  • Are a Movement Coach/Teacher who wants to learn about movement assessment
  • Or are simply interested and ready to change your life by developing a daily natural movement practice

Read the Rules of Pain

Please feel free to schedule an online consultation here. Our mission is to serve. We do not charge for consultation appointments. As a practitioner of Gift Economics, all of TAOFit’s services are offered as a gift in service to community. When you thrive, We thrive.

Want to help support The TAOFit Method through Gift Economy? Please consider becoming a Patreon Tribe member. As a member, you will have access to

  • Six Week Movement Restoration Online Mentorship
  • live and recorded classes
  • Youtube playlists with literally 100’s of instructional videos
  • Free one-on-one consultations
  • and so much more…

You can start the journey at $10/month. Your support helps us create more amazing content and promote The Movement Movement. 

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Continue reading “How to Assess Shoulder Pain and Instability with The TAOFit Method”

Knee Surgery Rehab – 12-Weeks post op – Movement Restoration Class

This class was written for a client who is 12 weeks out from knee surgery and has been cleared from PT. She can do full range squats and split squats without pain, although, there is a noticeable imbalance (potential instability) between the surgery and non-surgery knees.

This video is a resource for Patreon subscribers who are working directly with TAOFit to help them recover from knee pain and/or injury. The class is recommended for anyone who can perform squats and split squats without instability or pain. Give it a go and let us know how you feel.

Please consult a physician or contact Jesse James directly prior to following this video.

If you are dealing with rehab for knee surgery, or any other injury or pain (read the Rules of Pain here), please schedule a free consultation with Jesse James prior to following any of these videos.

The focus of the class is on building the functional relationships between the foot, knee, hip, and spine through get-up variations. Not only are these movements fantastic for maintaining foot, hip, and spinal mobility, they are also incredibly practical. The ability to get up and down from the floor, in a variety of ways, improves long-term quality of life outcomes.

Rhetorical Thought Experiment:
How important will the ability to get up and down from the floor in a variety of ways feel when you are 90?

One of the benefits of receiving an online consultation with TAOFit is that you get a Movement Restoration class programmed specifically for you, and potentially anyone who may be working out similar movement problems. The bonus is that it will be posted on Youtube for future reference.

Click here to schedule a free online consultation

The Pain Rules

The “Pain Rules” is the most important lesson that I teach.

Know the Rules of Pain

How do you move when pain is present? Follow the rules of pain 

Pain is a form of communication from within our bodies. Generally, when it comes to our movement, it means that something is not moving well.

Ignoring pain is kind of like sticking one’s fingers into their ears and yelling loudly. Except, the longer one ignores it, the louder it becomes–until it eventually gets their attention.

A big lesson in the Mobility Restoration program that I teach is to simply slow down, become a little more sensitive to the conversations within your body, listen to your physical pain, allow it to become a guide or a coach to help you move better. Below are the simple “rules of pain” that I follow to move better, even when I am feeling pain.

Moving when pain is present

Begin by acknowledging that pain is truly present. This surprisingly is one of the hardest things to learn for clients (as well as myself). My ego likes to go hard, and sometimes going hard is not what my body needs. When it comes to moving with physical pain, I don’t want to move my body from my ego’s point of view.

The Rules of Pain

Rule 1:  Is it Painful?
The pain scale

  • This is a very important question to answer.
  • The answer is either Yes or No.
  • If you get anything other than Yes! or No!, then keep asking the question until you get either a “YES” or a “NO”.
    • If the answer is No, then great. I suggest you keep reading and save this email for the next time you are in pain.
    • If your answer is “Yes!” Stop moving! Read the Rules of Pain (read it over again each time you’re in pain).

Rule 2: Do not move into pain, but do keep moving.

How to move when pain is present
Rate your pain on The Pain Scale of 1 – nonpainful to 10 – excruciating. (I consider slight discomfort to be between 1-3 on the pain scale).

A more accurate pain scale

  • If the pain is less than 3, Slow Down!
    • Enter your movement slowly, cautiously, safely, and non-forcefully.
    • Don’t take movement beyond a level 3 on the pain scale.
  • If the pain is greater than 3, Slow down, even more.
    • No matter how slow you go, you can always go slower).
    • Make your movement smaller and less painful.
    • Keep it below a level 3, and move slowly, cautiously, safely, and non-forcefully.
  • Super Important: Don’t move beyond level 3 on the pain scale!

Going slow and exploring the edges of your painful range of movement is a wonderful space to explore the depths of your breath and heart. Be spacious, playful, open, and generous with yourself.

Jesse James Retherford

Chair Yoga for Back Pain

Chair Yoga for Back PainIf you are like me, you experience occasional to chronic back tension or pain. If you want to feel better, you need to move better. The most important place for you to move your body is the very place you spend the most amount of time… your chair. If you sit to make a living… you need to move from that very seat you’re on now. And not just a little… you need to do it often… throughout the day… the more the better… Chair Yoga for Back Pain.

A big goal of mine is to teach you how to integrate 60-120 minutes of cumulative movement… performed in multiples of 30 seconds, 1-5 minute increments, and a 20-30 minute movement sessions… every day, including your preferred sports, activities, and hobbies.

This may sound like a lot, but It is totally doable. The good thing is that the movements you need to do don’t take much time or effort.  And the best part is that they provide an amazing payoff.  As long as you do them Pain-Free, I’m certain that you will feel much better physically and mentally. Your work productivity will improve. You’ll feel increased energy, reduce pain and injury; and so much more.

Monday Movement Flow of the Week

Below is a three-part video series of super sweet chair movements. When combined, they make for a healthier spine; ease back tension and pain; as well as provide an overall enormous bang for your movement buck. If you’re not already practicing full three-dimensional spinal movement, then I suggest starting here.

I will be practicing these movements with you. I will post my daily flow on Instagram and Facebook. These movements are important for your body. In my videos and descriptions, you will see a few of the great feeling variations of movement you can add to this very simple flow.

My challenge to you is… Do these movements, NON-PAINFULLY, every day, at least once/sitting day – up to once for every 1-2 hours that you sit. Keep the repetitions low 3-5 reps per movement. Once you have the movements down, it should only take 1-3 minutes to go through this flow. I’m more concerned with frequency throughout the day than massive reps at any one point during the day.

Begin the movement exploration easy and reach a little further with each extension, so that your last is the longest. REMINDER: Pain-Free! Try it out for a week and let me know how your body feels.

Chair Yoga for Back Pain

No Pain:
In each of these movements. If you feel pain. Stop first!!! Tell me second. Send me a message or leave a comment and tell me what you’re feeling. I can’t promise to have the solution, but I may be able to point you in a helpful direction. I will be addressing pain in some upcoming posts… If you don’t want to miss them… subscribe to my blog on my website (on the annoying pop-up window to the bottom right corner).

Seated Cat/Cow

Early on, I like to focus my exhale with spinal flexion of the cat… and inhale with the extension of the cow. Paying attention to the fullness of my breath. Can I fill my chest? Ribs? Belly? And pelvic floor? Do I feel tension or resistance? I breathe into it softly until the tension opens and releases into a fuller breathe… then I reverse my breath… and feel for more tension.

I love this movement because I can feel the full segmental flexion and extension of my spine. And when I can’t because of back tension or pain… my body knows the movements… and these movements can help release the tension… reducing the pain.

This can be done with head held in extension or allowing full flexion similar to traditional quadrupedal cat/cows. I also like to add in head and neck mobility in both positions.


Seated Side Body Lengthening
2 of 3 Chair Yoga videos

Pay attention to the fullness of your breath. Can you fill your chest? Ribs? Belly? And pelvic floor? Do you feel tension or resistance? Breathe into it softly until the tension opens and releases into a fuller breathe… Next… reverse your breath… and feel for more tension.

I love this movement for how it lengthens my spine in lateral extension without moving the opposite side into lateral flexion… and I can feel it from my fingertips, throughout my arm and shoulder, through my low back side body, into hips, down to the knee. This is a position of length that our bodies rarely experience… and desperately need.

Seated Rotation

Same as above.

I love this movement for its focus on the relationship between the thoracic spine to hips. I can feel spine move segment by segment… I can sense which joints are allowing movement and which are holding it down. Once I find a good spot… I will softly move in and out of it… encouraging length… without forcing it. It should feel like a soft stretch… not massive.

Did you found these videos helpful? Please check out my Patreon page to learn how you can help support this work.

Please pardon the editing. With your help, I am working on hiring a content manager 😊

A Day of Playing – Checking in to Move Well

No school, no clients, no kid…

It’s a totally free and clear day. What am I going to do??? I am spending the day playing at Austin Boulding Project… checking in, writing, shooting videos, climbing, experiments with Instagram stories, and whatever else catches my fancy.

I’m extra excited… I replaced my 15-year-old climbing shoes which were falling apart with these @sportiva.climbing shoes.

Checking in - New shoes


When your day is devoted to playing… Where do you begin?

I begin by checking in.

I woke up with some minor aches at the medial right knee with walking and general right side low back tension/tightness/restriction. Considering the swelling in my knee from last week and an active day yesterday with mountain biking… I pretty much expected this. Nothing feels more inflamed or painful than usual… but I do want to check in with my body before pushing myself.

At austinboulderingproject, they have a nice fitness room setup with a floor movement section and massage tools. I love using the foam roller as a part of checking in with where I am holding tension in my body. Things I noticed during this 10-minute foam roller session… Right side calf tension and right side low back. I give an extra bit of love to these areas… not for release… not to fix anything… but more to just bring blood flow and attention to how I’m moving through these areas of my body. This section of the video is only sped up by 2 to show how slow and soft I am on the foam roller.

Also, considering I will probably be climbing a fair amount, I make sure to roll out my forearms… just enough to bring blood flow.

Checking in continued… hip to spine mobility

After foam rolling, I am checking in with full body joint by joint mobility. This is an exploration of how all the pieces are playing with the whole.

I generally begin with my hips… moving through shin box to pigeon. I am noticing the tightness of my right nip in external rotation and its relationship to the right low back tension/tightness/restrictions… and play with this a bit… feeling… can these two individual parts connect… can they play well together. It is an easing and opening into movement.

This video is only sped up 2x… I’m hoping the slowness of the movement can be seen.

Checking in Continued… fingers, wrists, and forearms

Since I’m just getting back into climbing after a long layoff and I have a history of shoulder and elbow issues (seven months of elbow tendonitis last year), my fingers and forearms are a huge weak link. I want to develop a healthy climbing practice that will last me the rest of my life…

This is simple joint mobility work for the fingers, wrists, and forearms. Again, I’m checking in to make sure everything works. After climbing last week, I’ve noticed some minor joint compression in my right third and fourth fingers at the DIP and PIP joints. It’s not enough to cause worry… but enough to let me know these areas need my attention.

This video is sped up by 2.

Checking in Continued… Spine

How do I find the movements of gait when my gait exhibits dysfunction?

My low back is sore… tight… achy… especially the right side low back. This is the norm. Since the most recent knee surgery, I don’t express my gait pattern fully through my left knee. This means I also don’t express my gait pattern fully through the right side lumbar and thoracic spine (as well as other places). This means my gait is a dysfunctional movement pattern.

These are some of my core work for segmental three-dimensional movements through my spine. This is what keeps me active. When I don’t do this… I hurt… I hurt bad. I used to have such bad back pain that I would be laid up for weeks from a single episode. These types of movements… every day… keeps the pain away from the 7’s, 8’s, 9’s, and 10’s out of ten… and more around 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s.

This video is sped up 6x. I am moving slowly… feeling each segment of my spine moving in all three planes of motion.

Checking in continued… toes, ankles, knees, hips, shoulder, and spine…

Checking in… feeling into my structure… taking the toes, ankles, knees and hips, shoulders, and spine joints through some loading patterns… checking in to feeling… is there pain? Stiffness? Restriction?

I noticed the left knee to foot feels a bit disconnected in the squat variations and in the tripod with rotation when loaded on the right shoulder … something I will keep focus on throughout the day.

My body feels much improved from the stiffness and achiness of this morning. I’m still noticing a little knee tenderness… I don’t want to aggravate this… so I’ll continue to check in with it throughout the day.
Now… it’s time to climb

One more before I go climb. I’ve been sitting writing up my movement series for a while.

Just because I am sitting… doesn’t mean I’m not moving. Even as I sit… I express movement… feeling my back, neck, breathing, shoulders… stagnation is a sign of death. I am alive… and movement is my expression of life.

Neck Pain Self Care Using Thera-cane

In this video, I demonstrate how to use self-massage to work out tightness/restriction in the neck using a combination of movement assessment and a Thera-cane.

In the short time since making the video, my neck has improved. There was still a niggle of tightness at the base of the right side occipitals that I missed while filming. Probably due to being a bit rushed. I have since used the Thera-cane on that spot and my neck feels much improved.

I hope you find this video helpful. Below is a link for the Thera-cane. Please leave a comment if you have a question about this video or suggestions for a future demonstration.

Link to Thera-Cane on AmazonNeck Pain Self Care Using Thera-cane

This is an Amazon affiliate link. I am sharing for two reasons 1) because I love the product and 2) If you make a purchase after clicking it, I will get a commission. This is a great way to help support The Art of Fitness. Thank you for your support.

Neck Discomfort Self Care Using Thera-cane

Developing a Movement Practice Group Class

I am offering a new group class, Developing a Movement Practice. This will be a one-off experimental class focusing on exploring who are you as a human mover; developing the beautiful expression of your movement practice; and how to embrace play to prevent and reverse early onset boring adult disease.

This class will be based off what I do in my one-on-one sessions, except in a small group format. Which means it won’t look anything like what I do in one-on-one sessions. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what this class will ultimately look like. It will be a total interactive experiment. My primary goal is that you leave with a better understanding of your body, human movement, and the art of developing a movement practice.

Because this class is an experiment and I love the concept of Gift Economy, I am offering this class as a gift. I will not charge anyone who attends *(I will only charge if you sign up and no show). I have no expectation of any payment, donation or otherwise. **If you find value from the class that you feel strongly enough to gift back, I will happily accept your gift.

Cancellation or No Show

*This will be a small intimate group. I’m only opening it to four people. Please do not sign up unless you are committed to showing up ready to learn, participate, explore, and play. In the event that you do sign up, cancel within 72 hours, or no show, you will be charged $100. This policy will be strictly enforced.


**If you wish to give back but don’t know how much, my perceived value of this class is between 0-$100 per person.


Birdsong Bodywork & Pilates
2927 West Anderson Lane
Austin, TX 78757

You can sign up for Developing a Movement Practice Group Class here.

Summer Hours and Upcoming Presentations

Summer Hours and Upcoming Presentations

New Summer Hours!

My first semester back to school is in the books, and I’m happy to report that I received all A’s for my effort! No rest for the wary, though! Last week, I started summer classes at Texas State University–Developmental Psychology and Medical Terminology. Summer school classes are daily and intensive, which means some major changes to the availability of Massage Therapy and Coaching sessions. To make up for the lack of morning appointments, I have opened up some new summer hours. You can view my current schedule here

Summer is a great opportunity to show your body a little extra love! Schedule yourself a massage here.

Upcoming Presentations!

Over the summer, I’m excited to be presenting at Oak Hill Wellness. Mark your calendars now, come check out the center, and learn some immediate ways to improve your movement and your life!

July 27, 2017: Movement Restoration

Movement Restoration - Summer Hours and Upcoming PresentationsWhat are the steps to leading a pain-free life? Believe it or not, they don’t include lying around waiting for the pain to end. There’s no pill, magic formula, injection, or surgery that can take the place of healthy movement. Pain often stems from immobility or lack of movement. I find that most cases of chronic pain can be solved by learning how to move the body and developing a daily intentional movement practice. In this workshop, I’ll be sharing some easy-to-implement, daily exercises for restoring lost movement patterns to reduce pain and improve your life. Bring a mat if you have one, and be sure to wear clothes you can move in.

August 24, 2017: Finding Balance

Finding Balance - Summer Hours and Upcoming PresentationsContrary to popular opinion, balance is not about maintaining a static position, such as standing on one leg for a long period of time. To feel steady on your feet and avoid falling well into advanced age, you must develop dynamic balancing skills. After a fall, our tendency is to go into a state of fear, caving into ourselves, becoming rigid, and afraid to move. This state actually increases the likelihood of another fall. Instead of moving in fear, you need to challenge your balance in order to re-calibrate your nervous system. Join us for a workshop that will improve your overall balance, reduce falling, and even provide strategies for a safer fall! Bring a mat if you have one, and be sure to wear clothes you can move in.

To learn more check out the Oak Hill Wellness Clinic team.

Movement Restoration to Avoid Overuse Injuries

Movement Restoration to Avoid Overuse Injuries

Recently, I received this question on the Art of Fitness Facebook page. This is part two to my response. You can read part one here. Here is the original question.

I run. I run for a lot of reasons. I know that physically speaking, it can/will wear on your body like any repetitive movement. So, if, you’re like me, and are unwilling to give up regular runs, what is the joint-saving balance? I have a regular yoga practice (equally important) but is there something else I should be doing? I run 20-30 miles a week (3-4, 6-8 mile runs); yoga twice a week; Pilates once a week; and if I make my way into an actual gym, I swing kettlebells, pick up heavy things, and wonder around pretending I know what I’m doing. Any suggestions?

I would like to throw a wrench into the popular belief that pain and injury are due to overuse. Chronic pain and injury isn’t caused by the movements we do too much—chronic pain and injury are most often due to the movements we don’t or can’t do enough. While issues of overuse do certainly happen, pain and injury is actually a problem of the underutilization of very specific natural human movements.

Sitting causes pain - movement restorationWe sit in our cars, desks, and couches. We don’t squat to work, climb, crawl or otherwise use our bodies the way they were designed to move. Engaging in these natural human movements provide movement balance. If you aren’t moving in these other ways, your body will adapt and compensate to the ways you do move. This creates the secondary problem of overuse. Overuse is a symptom, not the problem.  

This may seem like a subtle distinction, but I believe it is important because it changes our focus regarding how we choose to correct movement imbalances. When addressing an “overuse” injury, the traditional corrective is to stop doing the specific movement that aggravates pain, but what do we replace that movement with? While you may find temporary relief, once you begin running again you’ll be back to “overusing” those muscles.

Most often if there are any corrective exercises even prescribed (and this is a big if), they tend to be specific to the site of pain—for example, if you have elbow pain, you’re given exercises to strengthen the elbow and possibly shoulder; knee pain leads to exercises for the knee and hip, etc. The problem with this is that the injury isn’t only to the site of pain… it is to your entire body. To treat the site of pain without addressing how that part integrates with the whole is incomplete. This is the primary reason I receive so many referrals from clients after seeing multiple physical therapists without resolution to their pain.

Don’t Treat Pain. Treat movement!

No Pain - Movement RestorationSomething I tell clients during the initial consultation is, “I don’t treat pain. I treat movement.” It is out of my scope of practice to treat your pain, plus I believe that attempting to do so will render less beneficial results. Instead, I look at how you move, and more importantly, how you don’t move. My focus is on bringing back all the movements you’ve lost in order to bring balance back to the entire movement system. My assumption is that if you move well, with balance throughout the spectrum of human movement, you will probably experience less pain. I call this Movement Restoration.

Restoring Movement Will Decrease Injury

Movement restoration is the exploration, re-establishing, rewiring, remapping, and reconfiguring of your natural human movement—moving the way you were designed to move. Through Movement Restoration, we find what is lost and work to bring those movements back into your abilities: can you lift your arms over your head, squat down to the floor, unstrap your bra, get up off the floor without using your hands, crawl, and climb? And can you do these things without pain? Can you do them well? With mastery?

A Movement Restoration Practice

But how, you might be wondering. What does this even look like?

1. Focus on the micro movements.
In the larger fitness industry, there is a focus on big, sexy, intense movements. Swinging tons of weight around and pushing our body hard feels good, but if you don’t move well at the micro, foundational levels, you’re going to break your body down over time. To move well, you have to focus on the small movements first.

  • How does each joint move through its full range of motion in relationship to the joints above and below it? How does each vertebrae move in three dimensions: pitching forwards and backwards, side to side, or rotationally? Consider this like a systems check, a movement inspection.
  • If you move well in one area of your body, in one specific direction, but poorly in the opposite direction, you’ve found an imbalance. That imbalance is showing up in your movement with every step you take and it is contributing to your potential pain and injury.

2. Move all day, throughout the day.
Movement should not be relegated to a 30-60 minute class, run, or workout. We are human movers. We are not supposed to be sedentary beings. We are supposed to move constantly. Restoration movements are so low in intensity that you can’t do too much. Really, you can’t do enough! These are the movements you need to be doing all day, every day, throughout the day. Incorporating them into your home, work, and recreational routines. So how do you move constantly throughout the day?

  • Move from where you are at. If you spend time in a chair all day, then you need to incorporate movement breaks into your work… in your chair!
  • Movement is nutrition. How you move is how you feed your body movement. If you sit all day without moving, it’s the equivalent of feeding your body McDonalds. I teach my clients “movement snacks” which are specific movement tools they can use throughout the day. Here’s a video of my level one movement restoration

  • Here are some simple movements you can perform from your office chair.

Building on the Movement Restoration Foundation

As we move from the micro level to the macro level movements, we begin to focus on developing specific skills. Skill builds upon movement restoration into practical function and purpose.

For example, Shin Box, a restoration movement, moves your hips from internal to external rotation. In skill, we look at going from shinbox to standing, shinbox to knees, knees to standing. This gives you the skill of getting up and down from the floor without bracing with your hands. Cat Cow, the restorative movement, helps you develop flexion in your lower back and spine, which is the foundation for many different skills which use this flexion–lifting, walking, squatting, etc. Movement restoration asks, does the joint work? Can I move in these patterns? Skill asks, can I accomplish this task: Squatting down to pick up a child, getting up from the floor, etc.

I will discuss skill in greater detail in part three.

Want to learn more about how Movement Therapy can help you? We offer in person coaching and online coaching.

Click here to schedule a free consultation.

How to Avoid Running Injuries? Move Better

How to Avoid Running Injuries? Move Better

How to avoid running injuries? Recently I received this question on the Art of Fitness Facebook page:

How to avoid running injuriesI run. I run for a lot of reasons. I know that physically speaking, it can/will wear on your body like any repetitive movement. So, if, you’re like me, and are unwilling to give up regular runs, what is the joint-saving balance? I have a regular yoga practice (equally important) but is there something else I should be doing? I run 20-30 miles a week (3-4, 6-8 mile runs); yoga twice a week; Pilates once a week; and if I make my way into an actual gym, I swing kettlebells, pick up heavy things, and wander around pretending I know what I’m doing. Any suggestions to avoid running injuries?

Since this is a question I hear often, I decided to share my thoughts here on the blog as well.

How to Avoid Running Injuries?

First, I don’t believe that running will wear down your joints. Running is a natural human movement. If done well, I believe we should be able to run well into old age. Our body should not break down until after we die. I believe that our joints wear down early simply because we don’t move the way our human bodies were designed to move. We move unnaturally and this causes us to run and move poorly.  The problem isn’t that running is bad. It’s that we don’t move well; and if we don’t move well, we won’t run well either. Just as if you drive your car poorly, it will break down faster.

So with that said, I think your question on finding balance is a very good one. In response, I’ll pose another question and answer.

How do you become a very good human mover so that you can become a very good human runner?

To become a very good mover, you must first focus on exploring and restoring all that is lost in your natural human movement.

Crawling to avoid running injuriesRunning as Part of a Bigger Picture

Humans are movers. We run, balance, jump, crawl, climb, manipulate objects, and so much more. It is a part of our design. Movement, at its essence, is intricately tied to our evolutionary prowess. We were not designed to be still, stagnant, rigid, or immobile. But through our technological advancements, we have created an environment in which we go through our day and hardly move at all!

To avoid running injuries and become a better runner, you may need to change the focus away from running and look at your bigger movement picture. Essentially, if you want to become a good runner, become a skillful mover (i.e. running, balancing, jumping, crawling, climbing, lifting & carrying, throwing & catching, and most importantly playing). This is where modalities such as MovNat can be incredibly beneficial, which imagesis why I am a MovNat coach.

A New Movement Paradigm

It is tempting to choose exercises that focus on conditioning, to work on running further and faster or simply as an outlet to release the stress of life. This is what feels good, and it’s how we’ve been taught we’re supposed to exercise–that more is better, harder is better, no pain no gain, etc.  However, this is a mistake that leads to injury.

By being hyper focused on aggressive conditioning, you’re teaching your body to move in small specific patterns over and over again at the expense of larger less specific movement patterns. This develops overuse of certain muscles and joints and underuse of others, leading to the imbalances you’ve mentioned in your question. Our bodies adapt specifically to the movements that we feed them. So if we are constantly moving in one way–sitting in front of the computer, for example–then our bodies adapt. We develop rounded shoulders and forward head posture and neck pain and back pain comes with it. When we don’t move in counter directions, we eventually lose the ability to move in counter directions. In other words, when movements are under-utilized, they eventually become unavailable to us. If you don’t use it, you literally lose it. This is the injury to your body, well before any pain sets in.

More Patterns Of Movement

How to avoid running injuriesWhile it feels like a drastic departure to our sedentary existence, running is a movement pattern that actually mimics sitting (lots of hip flexion with a forward head posture). If you’re sitting all day in front of a computer, then you go out running, and that’s your only source of consciously practiced movement, then you are unwittingly reinforcing the same movement pattern that you’ve been in all day. If you want to find balance, strength, posture, ability, then you have to explore the movement patterns that counter your current movements. You must restore the movements that you’re not already doing.

Yoga can be a very good restorative movement practice. Much of what I teach if very Yoga-ish. However, the benefits from Yoga will depend upon the teacher, the practice, the student, and ultimately by itself is incomplete. Also, I see quite a few Yoga related injuries in my practice and I speak about that here.

Move better to avoid running injuriesMovement Restoration

This is where I begin with every new client, restoring movement.

Movement restoration is the exploration, re-establishing, rewiring, remapping, and reconfiguring of holistic movement. Through Movement Restoration, we find what is lost and work to bring them back into your movement abilities: can you lift your arms over your head, squat down to the floor, unstrap your bra, get up off the floor without using your hands, crawl, and climb. And can you do these things without pain? Can you do them well? With mastery?

This is our single minded focus for the first phase of developing a new movement practice. Here is a glimpse of the beginning movement restoration exercises. I will go a little deeper into what Movement Restoration means in my next update.

Want to learn more about how Movement Therapy can help you? We offer in person coaching and online coaching.


Click here to schedule a free consultation.


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