The Mystery of Broken Glass in the Nose (or A Trigeminalgia Fix)

Image taken from

Image taken from


I recently saw a woman in my clinic complaining that the left side of her head hurt. Not just a headache but also the muscles throughout her face, around her ear, eye socket, teeth, palate, jaw and the back of her head too. She complained that it felt as if a large hook were in the left side of her mouth painfully pulling her lips and cheek to her left ear. She also complained of the feeling of broken glass in her nose. Her sense of taste had been altered. She was very sensitive to light and sound too and complained of dizziness and nausea. This had been going on relentlessly for several months after a yoga session she attended. The pain was constant in her jaw and face and spread to the other areas of her head when it became worse. She had a very difficult time sleeping and had to lie “just so” in order to finally fall asleep. She said that sometimes she would have to wear a mask to keep breezes from touching her face as it would send her into waves of pain.

She had been to several neurologists and other doctors who agreed it was trigeminalgia—basically an irritation of her trigeminal nerve which fed different parts of her face (See the great image above from the guardian). The trigeminal nerve is mostly a sensory nerve which carries information from her face to her brain.  She had been given a series of medications to control the pain and irritation but she didn’t want to control it, she wanted to fix it. She didn’t want to take medications.

Her past history involved several car accidents when she was little which left her with chronic migraine headaches and general neck stiffness and pain. She told me that since those accidents, she never liked having both arms over her head. No doubt, she neglected to tell this to her poor yoga instructor!

Several years ago she had a traumatic blow to her left shoulder which dislocated it and was repositioned in the ER with no further treatment. Earlier in the year, I was working with her knee, she was feeling so good she decided to try yoga again. It just so happened that I told her on her last visit that I thought I could help with her chronic migraines if she wanted to give it a go. After that I hadn’t seen her for months until recently. I had thought that somehow I had made things worse but instead she had developed this condition for which she had been trying to find answers. Because I worked with her knee, she thought I was a “knee guy” and never thought I could also help with her latest issue too (she saw this recent issue as unrelated to her migraines). Physical therapists help with conditions from head to toe.

Her doctor finally sent her my way in desperation. After going through her history, I believed I knew what was happening. I then evaluated her, which confirmed my suspicions. During our evaluation, I found I could press anywhere on her left arm or hand and elicit different patterns of pain in her face and head. This was news to her as no one had ever looked at this before. This is due to the fascial connections between the arms and neck/head area (See image below: Fascial Arm Line–posterior). I also found that the right side had a similar finding as the left, although she reported no symptoms on the right side (this also was news to her). I found several other issues, many of which are outlined in my neck pain & headaches book.

One detail that shone through her history and tipped me off to the root cause was that this occurred after a yoga session during which her arms were raised over her head. While it’s easy to dismiss this detail if you believe there are no significant anatomical connections between the shoulder and the neck or skull, I see daily evidence these connections exist and are very impactful in terms of pain generation and so it wasn’t a big leap to suspect shoulder girdle dysfunction as a root cause of the irritation. I can certainly understand how most doctors would not suspect this as a irritant to the trigeminal nerve as there is no anatomical text that describes it. Yet I see it frequently as evidenced by the successes I have with difficult headaches and neck pain and now perhaps two trigeminalgia cases (see the very first unsolicited testimonial I received just three weeks after I released my neck pain book from someone who I think had trigeminalgia. It’s the first testimonial on the page).

Fascial Arm Line- posterior

Fascial Arm Line- posterior

After her first treatment session three things happened that were new to her since this began several months ago: 1. the pain had decreased significantly and had leveled off. 2. that night she slept through the night with no pain. 3. she had forgotten to take her pain meds for an hour and a half—something she never missed for months because the pain would be screaming back if she didn’t take her meds every 30 minutes. These were all good signs.

Our second treatment reproduced our first and she was feeling more relief during the session. “It’s like when you have a sand castle and pour water on it and see it melt away” she said of the pain. These are the descriptions I like to hear. They confirm we’re on the right track. I’m definitely not a “No Pain, No Gain” physical therapist. I taped her shoulder blades in place which I had also done the first treatment (I’ve just added a video of this technique to both my shoulder and neck pain book videos to help people recover faster from their issues. They can be found in the “Bonus Videos” portion of the videos for those books).

I saw her for 10 sessions before her insurance visits ran out. Overall she eliminated almost all of her pain including the hook in the face and broken glass feelings, the sensitivity to light and sound were nearly gone, there was no more dizziness or nausea, she was sleeping much better and now understands why it all happened in the first place. I wish I could’ve seen her to the end but that happens sometimes in physical therapy when you work with insurance. That’s why it’s crucial that we educate our patients as much as possible about their condition and how to think about it. She can now use her body in a way that feeds her rather than breaks her down.

I thought this was an interesting case because the trigeminal nerve is a cranial nerve–meaning it originates in the brainstem. How would working with her shoulder affect this nerve? I’m not sure, however I wonder if there are fascial attachments from the cervical spine that somehow travel through the foramen magnum (the hole where the spinal cord exits the skull) and interacts with the cranial nerves either directly or indirectly. Or possibly it affects where the cranial nerves exit the skull to feed the face. Either way, it gives hope that other similar cranial nerve issues may be impacted via treating the shoulder girdle. I’d love to experiment more and visit a cadaver lab to explore these potential connections!

I hope this gives some hope to those of you with perplexing pain conditions. My premise in working with every patient is that there is a solution. We just need to uncover it–even if I’m not the person with the answer.

ShareCare Questions

Recently I was a contributor for a Q&A on Sharecare–a site to post questions to medical and fitness professionals and receive answers. This Q&A session was on Twitter and so my responses were limited to Twitter’s 140-character limit. I found it difficult to give a meaningful answer under those constraints so I thought I’d elaborate my answers here.

Q:What are some stretches that can help alleviate or prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?

My Twitter answer: Child’s pose, modified to reduce symptoms can potentially help by stretching the shoulder blade depressors.

A better answer: Okay, a little explanation here. Carpal tunnel syndrome results from the compression of the median nerve that feeds the hand. However the median nerve can be compromised at any number of areas of the arm, including the wrist (carpal area). I think the diagnosis is misleading because, even if there is compression at the wrist, that doesn’t mean there are no other areas of compression in the arm or shoulder blade area also contributing to the irritation.

In my experience, shoulder blade dysfunction may be setting up the median nerve to be hyper-sensitized so that small pressures on it can create carpal tunnel syndrome. Typically the problem with the shoulder blades is that they have become depressed–they’re sitting too low. An easy exercise to begin correcting this is what I call the All 4’s Rocking exercise in my neck pain or shoulder pain book. While this exercise results in the arms being overhead and increasing symptoms, it ultimately can help fix the root problem–that of a depressed shoulder blade. In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, I would do only one arm at a time and for brief periods of time to reduce irritation to the median nerve.

Q: What can seniors do to minimize risks from falling?

My Twitter answer: First identify whether you have balance issues and where they originate from–eyes, joint stiffness etc.

A better answer: Balance is a product of three systems working together–the eyes, the inner ears, and joint proprioceptors. Joint proprioceptors help you understand where your body is in space even if you’re not looking at it. So a deficit in one or two of these systems can contribute to balance problems.

If all is well with the eyes and inner ears, I’ve found that most balance issues gradually occur in response to a fear of falling backwards. In this case, weight is shifted forward to the forefoot and eventually the body begins to hinge forward at the hips to avoid the feeling of falling backwards. The knees, ankles, and lower back tend to become very stiff, offering few options through which to correct balance. Developing flexibility in these areas, safely practicing weight shifting toward the heels, and learning how to absorb perturbations from the ankles and knees to correct balance are the top three areas I begin working with to help people restore proper balance.

Q: Is it safe to continue high-impact exercises as one ages?

My Twitter answer: Depends on your definition of high-impact. History is the best indicator for this. If you haven’t been doing it then likely no.

A better answer: To be honest, I didn’t read this question closely enough. On second read, it sounds like this person is already engaged in what they believe are high-impact exercises. From my perspective, I would say go ahead and continue but to make sure you don’t have undiagnosed osteopenia or osteoporosis first. You don’t want to suddenly create a fracture to deal with.

Secondly, I see many people who grow older doing the same workout week after week. Unbeknownst to them, this is a recipe for injury because the body is not given variable ranges of motion, loads, or movement patterns to maintain suppleness. So I would caution that if you’ve been doing this high-impact workout (or any workout) for more than 6 months, to change it up a little and try something else to lengthen and strengthen your body like yoga or Pilates. You can always return to your workout later if you like. Your brain likes variety so feed it a little bit.

Q: How do I protect metatarsal pain/issues when running?

My Twitter answer: This often has to do with over pronation/supination, foot strike patterns, and potentially hip weakness.

A better answer: There’s a ton of variety in how each of us is built as well as how we do things, including running. So there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. However tight calf muscles can contribute to over-pronation stress at the foot thereby causing metatarsal pain. Stretching these muscles can be tedious. What I recommend to most people who have tight calf muscles is to try wearing a dorsal night splint (this links to the one I recommend in my clinic). Typically the reason the calf muscles are becoming tight is due to the toes or foot pointing away from you (plantar flexion) while sleeping. Then when you wake up, your calves are tighter than when you went to bed, forcing you to start all over again with the stretching. Dorsal night splints can be a powerful tool to help you maintain length of the calf muscles, thereby reducing stresses to the foot and ankle.

Regarding the hip, if the thigh bone isn’t controlled well by the gluteal (butt) muscles, excessive or uncontrolled internal rotation can occur here which eventually feeds into over-pronation of the foot. This can also contribute to metatarsal pain. Improving gluteal muscle performance would be helpful in this case.

Q: What are exercises one can do with arthritis?

My Twitter answer: There are a few issues that feed pain from arthritis. In general gentle stretching can help.

A better answer: This is a big question because not only are there different types of arthritis but it can be located in many different joints affecting what you can do. In general, working in the pool in, say, a pool aerobics class or just walking, swimming or goofing around a little would be a less stressful way to get exercise yet reduce load to the affected joints.

Gentle stretching classes can also be very helpful for those people with arthritis who feel tight. Check out your local recreation center, YMCA, or even YouTube videos for some programs.

Since your doctor is the person most familiar with your issues, you should run it by them for recommendation to play it safe.

Q: Can high heels cause arthritis?

My Twitter answer: High-heels can create muscle imbalances that contribute to pain in arthritic joints.

A better answer: Arthritis can be caused by excessive wear and tear to joints. Often muscle imbalances or poor movement strategies contribute greatly to this wear and tear. High heels can cause the calf and foot muscles to become short which, when not wearing high heels, can cause excessive strain at both the knee and the ankle (and indirectly to the hip and back). Also in high heels the subtalar joint of the ankle is not weight bearing on the surface it was designed to wear bear on, which may contribute to more wear and tear at the ankle. Lastly, excessive pressure is placed on the metatarsal heads of the feet (the balls of the feet) which can damage this area as well.

Q: What does hip-popping during exercise indicate?

My Twitter answer: This may indicate an arthritic issue, labral tear, poor tracking of the femoral head or tight hip flexors.

A better answer: Actually this is a pretty good answer. There’s not much to add here other than if you have any of these issues, your gluteal (butt) muscles might not be working well contributing to any or all of these problems.


3 Moves to Beat Back Pain Now!

One of the most common questions I hear as a PT is “I have back pain, so what should I do about it?” What I realize now is that there’s a lot of confusion about this and most other diagnoses.

The bottom line is that if there was one solution to back pain (or any other pain), it would have been discovered long ago and we’d be done with understanding how the body works. To my knowledge there is no single solution. This is because the body is complex, we all lead unique lives, have singular genetics, and different emotional experiences which makes for lots of variety and therefore potential causes for back pain.

This even holds true for diagnoses such as a bulging disc. I think what people need to understand is what most diagnoses are really telling you is the name of the tissue that’s complaining–nothing more. Usually the culprits lie elsewhere.

To give you an idea of what I mean, I was recently asked by an exercise instructor what might cause knee pain in her client. Well there are many potential causes of knee pain: flat or high-arched feet, tight calf muscles, poor walking patterns, rotated thigh bones, poor gluteal (butt) muscle function, a tilted pelvis, tight hip flexors, tight hamstrings, structural problems such as ligament tears, or simply poor movement habits. Notice almost all of these had nothing to do directly with the knee. By the time I got through with this list, the instructor’s eyes were glazed over (I’m sure you feel the same!). And that’s just knee pain, a fairly simple joint in the body. Just think what more complicated areas must be going through!

So diagnoses like back pain, SI joint pain, cervical/neck pain, back strain, bulging discs, hip bursitis, tennis elbow, tension headaches, migraines, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, ITB syndrome, or patellofemoral syndrome really mean very little. Basically you’re being told which tissue is hurting. Instead what we really need is a diagnosis that tells us how or why something is painful.

Part of all this confusion is that healthcare providers often fall into the trap of focusing only on the tissue that hurts. After all, your doctor said, “You’ve got a disc bulge” not “You’ve got a flat foot that is rotating your knee and thigh inward, which is dropping down that side of your pelvis and turning off your gluteal muscles, which is creating excessive arching on that side of your spine, which is causing you to have back pain”.  In my experience the second explanation is the more accurate diagnosis, not to mention one that we can actually work with.

I don’t really expect other health care professionals like doctors or massage therapists to know these root causes though as that isn’t really their specialty. But it is the job of a physical therapist.

Magazines and other sources don’t help much either by trying to narrow down the solution to cute or catchy bite-sized pieces: 3 Moves to Beat Your Back Pain Now!, The Tennis Elbow Cure!, 5 Reasons Chocolate is Great for Your Headaches! and other types of articles (Did the title of this article make you look?). These give readers the impression that their solutions must be just as simple. Sometimes they are–but not often.

Can you imagine stuffing all those causes for knee pain into one article? Remember journalists for magazines or newspapers or even most bloggers are not healthcare professionals. Their job is to write an interesting article—not fix people’s pain. There’s a big difference.

A simple search on the internet shows that there are a lot of people writing about pain– these writers, however have become the gateway to your understanding of your own issues. Unfortunately many of these people don’t really have any experience helping others with pain. Therefore the answers most people are getting are usually a bit skewed.

Because understanding why pain is happening can be complicated (or at least not summed up in 250 words or less) the real reasons pain happens, never get much press. I can attest that it’s very difficult for me to get my message out to the public, mostly because it’s not simple or sexy enough (let’s face it, both of the people reading this blog might be struggling to even finish it—sorry Mom and Dad, I’ll try to make the next one shorter). It makes me think there must be others who have good answers for chronic pain but they either aren’t writers, can’t catch the ear of the media, or they can’t convey their information in a creative, concise magazine article.

I wrote my back pain book and my other books in the most concise and effective way I could. In them, you’ll find most of the roots to your own pain. One of my goals with all my books is to help you understand how your body works so you can fix it. Once you understand this, you’ll be able to manage your body and eliminate pain forever. I encourage others who have consistent success to write their books as well.

That’s my two cents. I sincerely hope you find solutions to your pain. I truly believe they are available if you look in the right places (hint: begin with my books!) and ask the right questions.

Fixing You: Back Pain Video Preview

Hi All,

I thought I’d put this little video together for those of you interested in moving through my book more quickly. Basically there are two tests that are pivotal in your understanding of your back pain. This video explains where to find them in the book and what they are. If you understand how these two tests are working on your body, you’ll have a HUGE understanding of how to fix your pain.

I hope it helps!

What is the Link Between Emotional Stress and Chronic Pain? – 5 Tips to Help Minimize Stress!

ElephantonBackThese days instead of a monkey on our backs – it’s more like an elephant! Emotional stress is all around us. We hear it all the time, “I’m so stressed out – my neck is killing me!” or “My in-laws are in town and my back is acting up again!”. But how does this really happen? How does emotion or stress create pain? While we don’t have the complete picture on how this happens, a piece of the puzzle may be the fascia.

Fascia is like a web of tissue in our bodies that surrounds and binds together our muscles, tendons, bones and just about every other structure. Fascia tends to have patterns to it, like highways, that connect say our feet to our head. It’s made up of a type of cell called fibroblasts. There is a certain type of fibroblast, called myofibroblasts, that are laid down in areas of more wear and tear in our bodies. One well-known concentration of myofibroblasts is in the fascia of the lower back area called the thoracolumbar fascia.

Myofibroblasts can contract (myo- relates to muscle) – just like a muscle. Their contraction however is a direct response to chemicals circulating in our bodies as opposed to nerve signals causing them to contract, as is the case with muscles. One of these molecules is called Transforming Growth Factor-β1 (TGF-β1) and is secreted by our immune system.

A trigger for the release of TGF-β1 is activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS)—our fight or flight nervous system . Its role is to help us deal with threats, whether physical or emotional. In prehistoric times this system helped us fight off saber-toothed tigers and other predators but now we have different, more long-lasting threats like working at a hostile job or meeting an important deadline. Our SNS then kicks in for much longer periods of time. There are a host of internal processes that occur as a result of SNS activation that affect every major system in our bodies.

Once we are threatened or under stress, our SNS becomes stimulated, causing the release of TGF-β1 which then triggers myofibroblasts to contract. Remember myofibroblasts are laid down in areas of mechanical stress (joints, the spine, etc) so those areas will be most prone to this type of contraction. The back and neck are potential areas of great mechanical stress for a variety of reasons and so these may contain higher concentrations of myofibroblasts than other areas of the body. This would make them more prone to fascial contraction due to stress.

There are a few different ways then we can approach this problem of emotionally created pain. One is to remove the stressors from our lives. This is always good to work on however new stressors will continue to present themselves. We can also change our reactions to stressors so they don’t cause our SNS to engage so easily. Here are 5 techniques to help modify your behavior:

1. Practice Deep Breathing. Studies show that just focusing on the breath for 5 minutes can change your reaction or attitude.

2. Learn EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), also known as tapping. This combination of psychology and acupressure points can give you relief from pain – physical or emotional -sometimes within just minutes.

3. Meditation. Take up a daily meditation practice. Just 15 minutes a day can make a huge different in how you navigate through your day.

4. Practice Yoga. Since yoga combines breathing, movement and some meditative aspects a daily practice can have a profound effect on the SNS.

5. Try Tai Chi. Tai Chi involves slow, gentle movements, deep breathing, and meditation – all excellent ways to lower your stress level and the release of TGF-β1.

Another approach is to fix the areas of mechanical stress. That way there are fewer areas to activate. This is where I come in as a physical therapist and where my books can help. I think the best approach is to work on both fronts. It’s not likely we’ll ever completely remove emotional stressors from our lives nor is it likely we’ll remove all mechanical stressors. But if we can reduce both even just a little then we have a great opportunity to live a pain free life that isn’t at the whims of our emotions.

The Mystery of a Cyclist’s Knee Pain

Sam came into the clinic with complaints of stabbing knee and hip pain. He was a cyclist who liked to put in around 150 miles each week. In Colorado we have a cycling event called Ride the Rockies which is a series of challenging long days of cycling through the mountains, and he wanted to do it this year—except his hip and knee pain were excruciating after about an hour of riding.

Sam’s evaluation revealed both of his femurs were retroverted. This means his thigh bones were rotated outward. His gluteal strength and timing were good and he didn’t have a tracking problem with the head of his femur in the hip socket. So I simply asked him to stand his normal way, which he did with feet pointing forward. I asked him to assess any tension in his lower extremities. Because this was his normal way of standing, he didn’t detect any unusual stress. Then I asked him to turn his feet outward a few degrees and stand there for 30 seconds.

“How does that feel?” I asked.

“Like I’m standing like a duck,” he said.

After about 30 seconds, I then asked him to turn his feet back to normal. “Which feels more comfortable to you? More relaxed?” I asked.

“Wow, standing like a duck is much more comfortable!” he exclaimed.

“Your job is to start standing and walking with your toes turned out a few degrees,” I said. “And when you’re riding your bike, let the knees drift away from the frame of the bike about a ¼-1/2 inch to accommodate the shape of your femurs,”

Cycling is a sport where you must have great leg strength and the typical cycling position is to bring the knees toward the frame of the bike to reduce wind resistance. I explained how the shape of his thigh bones dictated that he shouldn’t bring his knees in quite so severely as it impinged both his knee and hip joints.

Sam came in for his second visit completely painfree and astonished. He had anticipated months of rehab to strengthen his leg muscles more. Sam was already strong as a bull and strength wasn’t his problem. It was knowledge of his body that he needed to guide his training.

I want to point out here that Sam originally thought of his improved standing posture as “standing like a duck”. This is a judgment based on our cultural or societal norms and values of standing and walking with the feet pointed forward. These judgments or rules however are based on the misunderstanding that all bodies are built the same. Perhaps keep that in mind while working through your issues and you may find that old lessons or tried-and-true rules you’ve had, no longer apply to your goals of being painfree and healthy.

Back Pain and Standing Habits

If you’ve read my back pain book, you’ll know that I blame our movement habits for a lot of chronic back pain. Recently I saw a woman for back pain that had been on and off for a few years but for the past few months had not abated. She had more pain standing or walking than sitting.

As she stood there in front of me during our evaluation, it was pretty clear to me what the problem was: she had a spine with excessive low back curve and her pelvis tilted forward. There’s a picture of someone with a lordotic spine in my back pain book on page 58.

One of the biggest habits that magnifies this lordotic problem is locking the knees. By this I mean the knees are completely straightened and pushed backward. It’s a very common habit especially as we age because it helps save energy. Instead of using our leg muscles to hold us up, we use our joints. The consequence of this habit though is that it tilts the pelvis forward in those with lordotic postures. This then causes the spine to arch more, which is what causes back pain in this type of posture.

If you think you have this problem, try this little test yourself.

  • Stand normally and sense any back discomfort.
  • Now unlock your knees, bending them very slightly. Feel the difference in your back and stand there for 30 seconds.
  • After 30 seconds, lock the knees again and feel your back.

Which feels more comfortable or relaxed for your back–locked knees or unlocked? Just about everyone feels immediate back pain relief when unlocking their knees.FIGURE 5-8 This habit was so strong in my patient that I decided to tape the backs of her knees (see picture) so they didn’t lock backward. This simple intervention disrupted her pelvic tilting and consequent back arching. Just from changing this habit alone, she was 90% better the next visit!

After her third visit she said, “I don’t understand, my back pain is gone but you haven’t given me any exercises to do at home. How is this possible?”  I explained that her pain was largely due to the way she used her body. She had made the necessary changes and that’s all she needed to continue to do. She just shook her head baffled by the concept. But she knew it was true because she had no more pain. In the interest of full disclosure, we did change one or two other movement habits causing her problems which sealed the deal.

If you found this helpful, there are likely other issues you can target to fix your pain. In addition to correcting habits such as standing, walking, sitting, bending etc, Fixing You: Back Pain also gives you exercises to correct tight or weak muscles that result from these habits. These exercises can be accessed for free on the Fixing You website.

Good luck and don’t lose hope! There is a solution to your pain!

Fixing You: Back Pain 2nd Edition is Here!

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve finally completed the 2nd edition of Fixing You: Back Pain! I’ve been working on it for 2 years now and there are so many changes, I wanted to devote a blog entry to talk about them.

Fixing You: Back Pain 2nd Edition will be offered at half-price, only $10, for a limited time as a thank you to my previous readers.

1. If you’re familiar with the 1st edition, I think the first big change is a departure from the category of Rotation Problems in favor of Sidebending Problems. “What’s the big deal?” Fig12_Sidebendingyou might ask. Well it’s a very big deal because I believe the sidebending issues are creating the rotation problems. It kind of works like this, when the spine is in a neutral position, sidebending to one side creates rotation to the opposite direction. So if the spine is sidebending to the left, it rotates to the right. The first edition of Fixing You: Back Pain identified these issues as rotation problems however it’s very difficult to correct a rotation issue. Now I believe that is because the driver of the rotation problem is actually a sidebending problem. And these are much easier to fix as you’ll see in the second edition. I think the sidebending issues are the main culprits in creating unilateral back pain or sciatic pain. This has been a significant tool in the correction of asymmetry in the pelvis and lumbar spine.

2.These past few years I’ve looked more into fascia and have included more information about the role of fascia in chronic pain. I’ve uncovered some research that connects fascial contraction to our sympathetic nervous system response (our fight-or-flight or stress response). I’ve completely re-written the first section, Mindful Healing, to include how our brain, stress, fascia, and habits come together to create chronic contraction patterns. I think you’ll find it interesting and useful. To this end, I’ve included a worksheet in the Appendix of the book to help you identify and quantify stress in your life. This can go a long way to relieving chronic pain due to the connection between the stress and fascial contraction.

3. Hanna Somatics techniques have been introduced. I have spent 3 years studying Hanna Somatics, which has become a very important approach in my clinic when working with chronic pain patients or those with recurring injuries. I’ve “somaticized” some of my exercises to reflect this learning. I’ve also created separate audio and video somatics lessons to help people reduce tension and pain throughout their bodies. These can be found at

4. Re-shot all videos of exercises and tests in the book! There are now many more exercises as well as tests in this book to help you more precisely understand and fix your pain. The videos look great, offering more detail, and I think they will be VERY helpful in taking your solutions to the next level.

5. Lots more images! There are over 145 pictures and images in this book (69 in the first 2 sections and 76 in the 3rd section of corrective exercises) as compared to the 1st edition which had 58 (23 in the first 2 sections and 35 in the 3rd section of corrective exercises). Part of the reason this revision has taken so long is waiting for the new images and figuring out how to fit them into the book. I actually had to go to an 8×10 layout, which I think you’ll find easier to read.

6. I have more recommendations about how to change sitting, standing, walking and bending habits that seem to be at the root of a lot of people’s pain. Overall the 2nd edition is now 177 pages while the first edition was only 123. This is such as substantial increase in size, I have to list it as a completely new book!

7. Read a chapter for free! I’m offering Chapter 3: The Basics free if you’d like to check it out first or send it to a friend who might need some help. This chapter talks about things that happen in the background that set us up for back pain. I think you’ll find it useful.

I hope Fixing You: Back Pain 2nd edition helps even more of you fix your pain. Thank you all for your patience and support as I put this together. Please feel free to leave a review on Amazon as I must start all over again with the reviews since this is considered a new book. Thank you and let me hear your stories!

Patient Story: From Wheelchair to Pain Free in 5 Visits

I recently saw a woman who had such crippling back and sciatic pain that she had to use a wheelchair to go to church and couldn’t stand. This was building for several months and she finally sought help.


Muscle imbalances in the legs can feed issues up above.

What I found during our exam was one side of the pelvis higher than the other, contracted hip flexor muscles, one side of her rib cage was lower than the other, a walking pattern that promoted hyperextending knees and a very strong heel strike, a thigh bone that rotated in too far at foot strike, two flat feet and ankles that collapsed too. She was kind of like the picture to the right– her body was all askew. She was very tense so that when I touched or moved her, she jumped or couldn’t allow me to really move her passively.

She was very scared because her quality of life had diminished significantly and she was on the verge of tears. Her work involved a large amount of stress and she just seemed to absorb it right into her body. She was a very caring person but took on too much of other peoples’ concerns. She doubted she could ever return to her old life.

After 5 visits she was a completely different woman. No wheelchair, she smiled more and was more relaxed while walking. She could bend down to the floor without any pain and could sit or stand for long periods of time with no pain at all. In summary, she was the picture of health and confidence with no pain whatsoever.

How did she do it? As with all our patients at the clinic, we focus on decreasing tension and improving how people do things like sitting, standing, walking etc. She had downloaded my audio Somatics Movement Lessons (Hanna Somatics) and practiced those every day which began to unlock her body. There are 8 gentle lessons in this audio download, targeting different parts of the body.

The material in this audio download includes:

Lesson 1: Back Movements (approximately 35 minutes)

Lesson 2: Front Movements (approximately 30 minutes)

Lesson 3: Waist Movements (approximately 26 minutes)

Lesson 4: Rotation Movements (approximately 25 minutes)

Lesson 5: Hip Movements (approximately 27 minutes)

Lesson 6: Neck Movements (approximately 50 minutes)

Lesson 7: Breathing (approximately 27 minutes)

Lesson 8: Walking (approximately 32 minutes)


As a bonus, they help decrease the sympathetic nervous system level while increasing the level of the parasympathetic nervous system–great when you want to reduce the effects of stress on your body!

In the clinic I used similar techniques to more specifically release patterns of contraction in her body. We combined this with a better way of walking, sitting, and bending over. You can see an example of this in my post: I Don’t like Doing My Physical Therapy Exercises!. In addition, I merely told her she’s carrying too much stress from her work and she needed to distance herself from it and protect herself.

I think the moral of the story is no matter how bad it may seem, trust that there is a solution to your pain. You must keep trying–there is an answer!

Many of these issues are addressed in my book Fixing You: Back Pain (2nd ed) available on Amazon soon.

I Don’t Like Doing My Physical Therapy Exercises!

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine whose husband is having back pain. She said, “When he does his exercises, he feels great. When he doesn’t, he doesn’t”. This brings up a big beef for people seeing a physical therapist–they don’t want to do exercises for the rest of their life to keep their pain at bay. I don’t blame them.

I heard from one of my other patients that a PT told him long ago that only 30% of their patients get better because people don’t do their exercises. Only 30%! That’s crazy!

Gosh, why are so many people not doing their exercises? Well first of all, I don’t know –I rarely hear this complaint at my clinic. But I have an idea. I think the problem is that the exercises most people receive don’t meaningfully apply to their lives. They’re probably exercises that people have to stop to do in a special place and require a lot of time time to do them. “We’re busy, we don’t have time for exercises!” is what many of you are probably thinking. Rightfully so.

So why don’t I run into this problem at my clinic? Well I think it’s because I focus on pain-causing movements rather than weak or tight muscles. We identify the movements that are painful, understand the muscular issues and/or biomechanics behind the problem and integrate those fixes back into a better way of doing things. So what I recommend to people is more about improving how they do things like walking, bending, sitting, and sleeping. That way the changes are part of their lifestyles and require little to no extra time out of their days to do them. They just require some attention and thoughtfulness.

The video below shows what I’m talking about. If I’ve determined someone’s butt muscles are weak or not participating enough, I can teach them to integrate those muscles into activities like stair climbing. This is especially helpful if they’re complaining about knee, hip, or back pain when climbing stairs! Check it out, this is one of the videos from my revised back pain book due out soon (I hope!).


This is also why most of my patients’ pain doesn’t return, because they’ve fixed the behaviors that caused it in the first place. There’s a lot of education that goes on in my clinic and by the time my patients leave, they know exactly why they have pain, exactly what to do to correct it, and how to apply those behaviors to new activities. I want them to understand their bodies and brains just as well as I do. That way they don’t need to see me once a month or even once a year. They can just fix themselves! Isn’t that what it’s all about?