The Iliopsoas And Lower Back Pain

Relief From Lower Back Pain

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney 

Back PainMay was the start of the beautiful weather when I lived up in New York. April showers began to bring May flowers. Of course, here in Florida we have flowers all year, so it’s our friends to the north that are enjoying a glorious array of colors during this month. For us May is the beginning of the hot weather.

The Snowbirds are leaving Florida and heading back up north. Safe journey. I’ll miss you!  It’s funny having friends that are gone 6 months of the year.

But it also means that life is beginning to slow down for us.  With most of the snowbirds gone, driving is easier, the stores are less crowded, and we can park at the beach.  The weather is still beautiful so we can still go outside to ride a bike, jog, or play the sports we enjoy. This leads me to talk about preventing lower back pain as we become more active.

The Anatomy of The Psoas And Iliacus Muscles

In this month’s newsletter we will be discussing the psoas and iliacus muscles and how they can contribute to lower back pain. Anyone who has come to my office with lower back pain, hip/groin/knee pain, or sciatica is familiar with these two muscles being the root cause of all these conditions.

There is more to the story of each of these conditions, and I have covered them thoroughly in previous newsletters, and in each of my books. Today I want to really explain the “why” of how a muscle in the front of your body plays such havoc with the back of your body.

The psoas muscles (shown in brown in the figure on the left) originate on the FRONT side of the lumbar vertebrae and the iliacus muscles (shown in purple in the figure on the left) originate on the inside curve of your pelvis.  They join very close to your pubic bone and become one muscle group called the iliopsoas muscle group, and they play a critical role in hip and core stability.

The iliopsoas muscle group runs together to where it attaches on the top/inside of your thigh bone.

The Role Of The Psoas And Iliacus Muscles

The psoas muscles pull you forward so you can bend over, and the iliacus muscles lift your legs up to take a step. Together they are responsible for flexing your hip joint, which is important for movements such as walking, running, climbing stairs, and sitting down.

Additionally, these muscles play a vital role in maintaining good posture and providing stability to the pelvis and lower back. In fact, the only time they are not contracted is when you are standing straight and still.

When these muscles are tight or weakened, they can cause significant problems, including:

*Low back pain.

*Groin pain.

*Hip pain.

*Knee pain.


How The Psoas And Iliacus Muscles Cause Lower Back Pain

When the psoas muscle becomes tight from repetitive, or overactive, use it can pull on the lumbar spine.  An analogy I use frequently is just as pulling your hair hard can hurt your skull, the psoas muscle pulling hard on the front of your lumbar spine will cause the bones to hurt.

The pressure causes excessive curvature of the lower back. This excessive curvature can cause compression of the lumbar discs and joints, leading to pain and discomfort.

Since your iliacus muscle originates on the inside curve of your pelvis (hip), when it is tight it is common for a person to have hip pain that feels like it’s deep inside the hip.  And it IS deep inside the hip, so much so that you can’t get your fingers in more than ¼ of an inch to press on the muscle.  Fortunately, when you come into the office I can get far into the muscle and release the deep spasms that are causing the problems.

Additionally, since they merge and insert into your thigh bone, tight psoas and iliacus muscles can cause imbalances in the pelvis, leading to asymmetrical movement patterns that can contribute to lower back pain and a lot more!

Conversely, weak psoas and iliacus muscles can also cause lower back pain. When these muscles are weak, they are unable to provide adequate stability to the pelvis and lumbar spine, leading to excessive movement and strain on the lower back muscles. This strain can lead to muscle imbalances and compensations, which can ultimately cause lower back pain.

How The Psoas And Iliacus Muscles Can Cause Arthritis Symptoms

back painThink of this situation: the muscles are tight and pulling hard on the bones.  You are trying to move in the opposite direction, but the muscles are preventing you from moving in that direction.  The more you try, the more the bones hurt.

In fact, as the tight muscles pull on the bones, they can actually start to tear the muscles &/or tendons away from the bone.  The body sees this as a “MAYDAY,” an emergency distress signal.  The pressure on the bones causes inflammation to occur. You are also in danger of the muscle severing either from the tendon, or from the bone.  So, the body sends out the rescue squad of bone cells to hang on to the tendon.

Now you have:

  • pain when you try to move.
  • inflammation (“itis”) at the site of the insertion.
  • and the joint is stiff, possibly even pulled out of normal alignment.
  • …you have all the signs of arthritis or bursitis.

You may be given strong drugs that can have serious side-effects, when all that’s wrong is the muscles are tight and preventing the bones/joints from moving smoothly.

Relief From Lower Back Pain Caused By Your Psoas And Iliacus Muscles 

Don’t start by stretching!  It can cause the problem to get worse! 

muscle knotsEveryone thinks about stretching, but when a muscle is tied up in knots, you definitely don’t want to try to stretch it. You can make it much worse, or you may even tear the fibers.

You may have already heard the analogy I use to explain why stretching can hurt your muscles.

If you took a 12” length of rope and tied enough knots in it to make it 10”, and then you stretched it back to 12” again, what did you do? You made the knots tighter, and you overstretched the fibers that are not in the knot.  And in the body, both ends of this rope (muscle) are attached to a bone &/or a joint!

First you need to untie the knots — then you can stretch safely.

You can go on YouTube University and find lots of ways to stretch, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything that tells you how to untie the knots.

So, I’ll tell you.

How to Find the Knots in the Iliopsoas Muscle Group and Untie Them Safely 

As I said before, you can’t really get into either the iliacus or psoas muscles that are deep in your trunk, but you can reach them where they insert into the inside of your thigh bone.

Sit as shown in this picture.

Turn your hand as shown but come all the way up to the top of your leg, right where your leg attaches to your trunk, just to the outside of your pubic bone.

You may even find it easier to press into the muscles with your fingertips, keeping your hand turned as shown in this picture.

When you find a “hot spot” you are pressing onto the spasm on the iliopsoas muscle group.

What To Do Next To Stop Back Pain Fast

I’ve discovered a LOT of ways to eliminate pain, and I’ve been doing it for my clients for almost 35 years.  However, it was frustrating that I could only reach clients who lived near my office.

When I started getting my own injuries, and then I needed to create self-treatments when I couldn’t get help from any of the professionals I went to during that time.  I finally worked it out, and that’s the basis for each of my books and video programs.

In the case of low back pain, hip/groin/knee pain, and sciatica, I suggest getting my book: The 15 Minute Back Pain Solution

You CAN find, and successfully self-treat the muscle spasms (knots) that cause pain!

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

PS: Have you watched my TED talk: The Pain Question No One is Asking?  If not, go to YouTube and enter: Julie Donnelly, Pain and I’ll pop up.  I think it’s really interesting.  If you also think it’s interesting, please share it so I’ll get invited back to go further into why muscles cause pain. 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

About The Author

Julie Donnelly has been a licensed massage therapist since 1989, specializing in the treatment of chronic pain and sports injuries. She is the author of several books including Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living, The Pain-Free Athlete, and The 15 Minute Back Pain Solution. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

Julie has also developed a proven self-treatment program for the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.


Hip And Knee Pain Relief

A Common Cause For Pains From Hip To Knee 

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney 

Spring Is In The Air

Beach At SunsetI remember as a child we sang “Though April showers may come your way…they bring the flowers that bloom in May…”

Of course, here in Florida we are blessed with flowers all year, but there is still a lovely feeling that happens in Spring.  It’s still cool enough most days to go out running, and the humidity is still low.

Traffic will soon be easing up as our friends from the north start their trek back home, and daylight savings time is giving us more time to get to the beach for sunset.  Lovely!

Fun Facts About Spring…. 

  • The earliest known use of the term “spring cleaning” was in 1857
  • The word “spring” has been used for the season since the 16th century
  • The first day of spring is called the vernal equinox
  • On the first day of spring, the sunrise and sunset are about 12 hours apart everywhere on earth
  • Spring fever isn’t just a saying. Experts say the body changes due to the temperature and can cause an upset in your health.
  • The actual start of spring varies from March 19th to the 21st, but it is commonly celebrated on the 21st.

Do you like to garden?  Now is the perfect time to get your gardens planted so you’ll have home grown veggies for the entire summer.  For me, it’s also a great time to do some spring cleaning and get the house in order before the summer closes all the windows and the air conditioning becomes our indoor relief.

But these activities can also cause a strain on muscles, so don’t forget to take care of yourself.

A Common Cause For Pains From Hip To Knee

hip painThere are times when I am led to sharing a treatment because I had a run of clients all suffering from the same source muscle.  That is what happened for this newsletter.  In March I had at least six clients come to my office, all having different symptoms, but all stemming from the same source.

My clients complained of hip pain, thigh pain, knee pain, and pain down the outside of the lower leg.

In this case it was the Tensor Fascia Lata and two of the three Gluteal muscles: Medius, Minimus. The Gluteus Medius is directly over the Gluteus Minimus, so treating one will actually treat both.  And the Tensor Fascia Lata is right next to both these muscles.

All these muscles insert into the same area of the hip, and for different reasons, they all cause hip pain.  Also, each muscle refers pain to a different location, so you think you have a problem in these referred pain locations, but they are all coming from your hip.

This is one of the many times when working on one area will solve many different problems.

Take a look at these Trigger Point charts:

To read the charts, look at the shaded area (which shows where pain is felt) and look for the muscle name in the same color.  Then follow the arrow to the same-colored round circles with “x”. This is the trigger point (spasm) that is the source of that pain pattern.

You’ll notice that the spasm (trigger point) for the purple pain pattern is in the Gluteus Minimus at the outside of the hip, but the pain pattern goes to the outside of the thigh, the knee, and all the way down to the ankle.

The spasms for the Tensor Fascia Lata is in the same place on the hip, but the pain pattern is the hip, the thigh, and the outside of the knee.

In each of these cases the pain is being felt along the insertion points for the muscles.

Hip And Knee Pain Relief

To relieve the muscle spasms that are causing the problem, use my “Perfect Ball” (You can use a baseball or tennis ball, but my Perfect Ball is just the right size and hardness for the job). Then, either lie on the floor or stand up and lean into a wall as shown in the two photos below.  Lean into the ball, easing your pressure onto the ball gradually.  As the muscle releases it will hurt less and less.            

Then you can rotate your body, so the ball is pressing into the front of your hip or rotating so the ball is rolling toward the back of your body.  You will likely find multiple painful tender spots.  Each spot is a spasm that is putting pressure on your bones or is pulling on the tendon (called the IlioTibial Band – ITB) that is putting pressure onto your lateral knee joint. 

You can also treat these muscles by using a length of 1” PVC pipe as shown in the picture on the left.

This picture was shared with me by an athlete. An avid runner, she couldn’t get down on the ground, nor was there a wall that she could press into, but using the pipe and a street sign pole, she was still able to release the tight muscles that were preventing her from running.

This may not be perfect for you, but if you are an athlete, it could be just what you need when you’re unable to treat yourself as shown above.

You REALLY CAN Treat Yourself 

Since 1989 I have been working with people who are experiencing severe &/or chronic pain.  During those years I’ve managed to figure out why they are in pain, and how they can stop the pain by treating themselves.

It is wonderful when someone can come into my office and I can work directly with them, but I’ve found that the key is the self-treatments I teach them to do at home.  With the self-treatments you can release the tension multiple times every day, retraining your muscles to stay relaxed.

Thousands of people have been able to stop pain fast because they have followed the simple techniques I teach.

You can stop pain fast too!  Even chronic pain releases when you treat the source and not just the symptom! 

To enable you to know where to treat, and how to treat the muscles that cause pain, I’ve produced several “How To” books and DVD programs.

Visit my shopping cart  to see the full line of pain-relief products that will help you overcome:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Neck pain
  • Carpal tunnel symptoms
  • Trigger finger
  • Low back pain
  • Hip pain
  • Sciatica
  • Knee Pain
  • Plantar Fasciitis

In fact, you can get relief for pains from your head to your feet!

Next Month’s Topic 

In May I’ll be sharing about the muscles that cause the #1 repetitive strain injury in the entire world!

If you have, or know someone who has, low back pain, you won’t want to miss next month’s article.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.



Recovering From A Meniscus Tear

Regain Full Flexibility And Get Back To The Sports You Love 

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

Healthy HeartWhile February is the shortest month of the year, to our northern family and friends it is the longest, seemingly endless, month.

Where I live in Sarasota Florida, winter brings us near-perfect days and cooler nights.  It’s my favorite time of year.  And of course, we all celebrate the holiday of love – Valentine’s Day!

Just a bit of trivia: In 1868, Richard Cadbury released the first Valentine’s Day box of chocolates, followed in 1902 with the first conversation hearts from the New England Confectionery Company. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland created the first commercial Valentine’s Day cards in the United States. Hallmark first offered Valentine’s Day cards in 1913 and began producing them in 1916.  (Thanks to Wikipedia for all this interesting info).

What Is A Meniscus?

One of my clients asked me to talk about a medial meniscus tear, and that is a topic that is “near and dear to me” because I had a severed medial meniscus from a ski accident.

The meniscus is something that many people aren’t familiar with, unless they have had a meniscus tear, then you definitely know all about it.  It hurts!

All of the major joints are complicated with many ligaments and other structures, each having an important function.

The knee joint is straightforward.

The lateral (outside of knee joint) and medial (inside of knee joint) meniscus cushion the femur (thigh) bone and tibia (shin bone) so your knee can bend and straighten without wearing down the bone.

Ligaments that surround the knee joint hold the bones together and form a tight, secure joint.

How Does A Meniscus Tear?

MeniscusTrauma to the knee joint, especially a twisting movement, will tear the meniscus.

In 1995 I had a ski accident where I severed the medial meniscus, but I didn’t have insurance at the time. I paid the $1000 for an MRI to find out why my knee was in so much pain, and why my knee felt like it was going to totally separate.

It turned out that I not only severed my left medial meniscus, I also tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), The ACL holds your bones together from front to back. When this tore, I felt like whenever stepped down my upper leg still kept going forward.  It was a scary feeling, I felt like my leg was going to come apart at my knee. Yikes!

Recovering From A Meniscus Tear

I need to remind you that I am not a doctor, nor do I have medical training to advise you about what to do.  This message isn’t meant to replace your physician’s advice. 

When I found myself with a severed medial meniscus and a torn ACL, and I didn’t have medical insurance, I didn’t know what to do!  Fortunately, I was working along with Zev Cohen, MD.  My therapy practice was in Dr Cohen’s office, and he would often ask me to see one of his patients who were in pain when he knew it wasn’t caused by any systemic or visceral problems.  I totally respected Dr. Cohen because he truly wanted his patients to get better, even if it meant he was going to bring in a massage therapist!

As a result, when Dr. Cohen told me that my meniscus would heal with scar tissue, I believed him. And it worked!  The only glitch was the scar tissue made my knee stiff, so I started to do a movement that I believed would stretch the scar tissue enough so I could bend my knee properly. And that worked too!

Regain Full Flexibility And Get Back To The Sports You Love

A Stretch for AFTER Your Meniscus Heals 

Caution: Do Not do this stretch until your knee is completely healed. 

Stand with your feet directly under your hips. Hold on to a closed door, being sure you’re on the side of the door that pushes out, so you are pulling it shut as you do the stretch.

While keeping your knees straight up from your ankle, squat down, stopping when you start to feel pain in your knee.  Stay there, and then go just a little bit further.  Don’t push, it’s better to go slowly so your muscles stretch safely.  Scar tissue is really dense, it doesn’t stretch easily (if at all) so you need to slowly allow the scar tissue to loosen.

I can’t guarantee that this will work for you but let me tell you what happened to me.  I was doing this stretch multiple times a day, stopping when it would be too painful – or when I just ran out of time. Then one day – success!

One day I was squatting down and suddenly something released, and I ended up sitting on the floor with my knees totally bent!

Since then, I’ve been able to get back to skiing, and I have ZERO pain!

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Relief From Knee Pain

What Causes Knee Pain? 

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney 

Closing Out the Old Year And Starting A New One

Walking FastI hope that 2022 was kind to you and your family.  Covid seemed to come and go, with new strains popping up every time we turned around.  What a year!

In December the foods all seemed to be fattening – delicious for sure, but fattening.  Which brings me to the topic of the month.  Maybe you are trying to walk off some of the extra calories you put on last month.

Walking will help burn the calories, but it can also come with aches and pains from muscles getting used repetitively.

This month I want to focus on the pain you feel on the outside of your knee after several days of walking more than your body is used to. It can reduce your walks to a slow hobble at best. And that isn’t going to burn off any extra calories.

What Causes Knee Pain?

The muscle I want to talk about this month is Tensor Fascia Lata (called TFL for short).

If you make a fist with both hands and then put them on your hips, you are right on top of the TFL.  A small muscle, the TFL attaches to a very long tendon called the iliotibial band (ITB).

This tendon is blamed for pain on the outside of your knee, and while it does insert there so it causes pain when it is tight, it’s only tight because of the TFL.

Sounds like you’re going in circles but let me explain.

The TFL is responsible for stabilizing your knee when you are standing on one foot.  You don’t think about it, but you are on one foot with every step to take!

You can feel the muscle contract by pressing your fingertips into the muscle on each hip, and then move from one leg to the other. You’ll feel the muscle tighten.

The repetitive movement causes the muscle to shorten, and it pulls up on the ITB.  This will cause tension to be put on the insertion point at your knee and causes pain. It will also limit range-of-motion when you are walking.

It’s interesting that most people don’t feel the pain in their hip, but they definitely feel it on the outside of their knee.

Relief From Knee Pain 

If you are experiencing pain on the outside of your knee while walking, your Tensor Fascia Lata muscle is probably too tight. Here is how to treat your TFL muscle.

Place the ball as shown in this picture.

Move around a little bit until you find the tight spot.  It will be painful.

Only add enough pressure that it “hurts so good,” and then stay there for 30 seconds.  Release the pressure. Repeat 2-3 times until it doesn’t hurt.

Zoom Consultations 

Almost every month I have been showing you how to do a self-treatment that I’ve developed.  And, as you know, I’ve written books that have all the self-treatments, including many that I don’t put into this newsletter.

However, your specific situation my require more than just the basics that I show here in the newsletter.

You can still get help!

I’ve been doing Zoom consultations for several years, and they really work well.

In fact, you get instruction that is specific to your needs, and often I’ll demonstrate the movement, and I always make sure you are doing it correctly.

Work directly with me by going to

A picture is worth 1000 words – and a Zoom consultation is priceless!

Next Month: Bunion Relief 

We’ll be looking at how muscles can pull on the bones that protrude at the base of your big toe and become a bunion.

Wishing you and your family a Healthy and Happy New Year!

Julie Donnelly

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Relief From Plantar Fasciitis Pain

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis Pain? 

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney 

Merry Christmas

Christmas GiftI love the Christmas season. The colors, the smells, the sounds of music. I’m a vegan so turkey isn’t happening for me, but the array of deliciously prepared vegetables, and the variety of desserts always make me excited for this month to get underway!

We give so much to others, especially during this season, that I want to remind you to take care of yourself too.  Like they say on the airplane, ”Put on your own oxygen mask first!”  One of the best gifts you can give to those you love, is a healthy and happy you!

Eliminate the aches and pains that can make you feel grumpy, and if you have someone who could benefit from eliminating pain, please feel free to send them my way.  That includes people who don’t live near me. I will give you information on how to set up Zoom consultations below. I’ll be happy to help you.

I hope you have a wonderful, blessed Christmas!

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis Pain?

It has been a beautiful time for being outdoors the past couple of months, whether you live here in Florida, or any of the northern states. With the cooler, dryer weather, runners are back out on the road, which can lead to our topic of the month.  Plantar fasciitis is a condition that is felt in the arch of the foot and can hamper, or even stop, runners from enjoying their sport.

The good news is I’ve found that there are four muscles that are key to releasing the pain in your arch. And they are easy to self-treat with just a little direction.  These muscles are:

The calf muscles:



Gastrocenmius & Soleus. These muscles both merge into your Achilles tendon and pull up on your heel bone so you can stand on your toes.




The Tibialis Anterior Muscle:



This muscle is on the outside of your shin bone.  It inserts into the inside of your arch and rolls your foot out toward your little toe.




The Peroneal Muscles: 

Actually  TWO muscles that are on top of each other with both of them going along the outside of your shin bone,and  behind your ankle.  One inserts into the long bone on the outside of your foot, and the other goes across your arch, inserting into the long bone on the inside of your arch.

That may sound a little confusing, but if it does, take a look at the muscle by doing an internet search and it will be clear.

Together these insertion points pull the outside of your foot UP so your roll in toward your arch.

Relief From Plantar Fasciitis Pain 

The important point to consider is that all four of these muscles insert into the bones that form your arch.

When your calf muscles are tight they are pulling back on your heel bone, but since your arch muscles originate on your heel bone, they are being stretched backward.

When the Tibialis Anterior muscle is pulling on the long bone on the inside of your arch, it’s causing pain on that bone so you feel pain in your arch.

When the Peroneals are pulling toward the outside of your foot, you again feel pain along that bone.

This all sounds confusing but just think about your  arch being pulled in three different directions: to the outside, to the inside, and back toward your heel.  Of course you’re going to have pain in your arch!

It would take the length of a long article to go into the details of how to treat each of these muscles so I’m only going to show pictures of how to treat the muscles on the front of, and next to your shin.

Use either the Perfect Ball that I sell on my website:, or a used tennis ball.

Kneel on the floor as shown in the picture to the left and place the ball to the outside of your shin bone.

Move your leg forward so the ball rolls down toward your ankle.  If you start to feel a cramp in your arch, just curl your toes as shown in this picture.

You’ll find a tender spot about midway down the muscle.  This is the muscle spasm that is putting pressure on the inside of your arch.

Repeat until it no longer hurts.

To treat your Peroneals, sit as shown in the picture on the right. Place the ball as shown in the picture and put your hand so it presses your leg directly into the ball.

Move your leg so the ball rolls down the outside of your leg toward your ankle.


Be sure to always move your hand so it stays on top of the ball.


You’ll find a tender spot about midway down your leg.  Stay on the point for about 15 seconds and continue to roll down your leg.


Repeat until the muscle no longer hurts.

Next month I’ll be talking about Achille’s Tendonitis.  The treatment for the calf muscles is the same as you would use for Plantar Fasciitis, so stay tuned…

Zoom Consultations 

This past month I worked with two people via Zoom.  Both were successful at getting a total resolution to their issue.  I’ll tell you about them next month, but in one case it was a sudden attach of severe back pain at prevented the man from even getting out of bed.  In the other case, it was a young woman who is a sub-elite runner who had been in pain for three years, preventing her from running.

I’m happy to say in both cases the individual was able to be up and about in one case instantly, and in the other case it took 3 days for a complete reversal of the painful problem.

If you know anyone, anywhere in the world, who is in pain, please let them know that they can find a solution that isn’t offered by traditional pain-relief practitioners.  They can read more about it by going to and searching on the shopping cart for Zoom Consultations.

Here’s To Your Health 

There is a tremendous amount of information on two of my websites: and  I believe you’ll find a lot of answers by going through those sites, and by looking at the books and video programs that I’ve developed over the years.

There is a saying “God helps those who help themselves.”  These websites and my books are the tools you can use to help yourself to Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


Carpal Tunnel Pain Relief Without Surgery

How To Release Tight Muscles That Cause Carpal Tunnel

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

Fall, Glorious Fall

I love Florida, but I must say I really miss the changing of the leaves like I enjoyed when I lived in New York.  October was magical!  The trees painting a picture of red, gold, maroon, yellow, and green, and the smells that are so familiar to anyone who has ever lived in the north.

Fires burning to heat chilly homes, apple cider, baking pies and cookies because we could get back into the kitchen as the weather cooled down.  And of course, Halloween.

The world has changed so much.  Remember how we could go out in costume with our friends, no adults needed, and go from door to door, shouting “Trick or Treat!”  We’d come home with a pillowcase (or plastic pumpkin) filled with candy.  Such sweet memories.

In Florida we are entering our most wonderful time of year. It’s starting to get cooler, the humidity is going down, and hurricane season is almost over. Hooray!  It’s great to be outdoors again!

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – It’s Not Just In Your Wrist

In 1997 I learned a serious consequence of having carpal tunnel syndrome – I had to shut down my therapy practice. I went to doctors, physical therapy, and massage, yet nothing worked. The pain just kept getting worse.

I couldn’t pick up a pen or open a door.  I couldn’t work. What would you do if suddenly you couldn’t use your hand because the pain was so great?

Happily, I was able to figure out which muscles were actually causing the problem, and after releasing the tension I was quickly out of pain.

It’s complicated, but incredibly logical.

The Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

carpal tunnel syndromeFor me, it eventually felt like someone was cutting my wrist with a razor blade, and I couldn’t even pick up a pencil or hold a glass.

If you’re like me, your symptoms came on slowly.  I had a twinge, like an electric shock in my wrist or fingers.  Nothing serious and I’d just shake it off.  Perhaps you’ve done the same thing.

Gradually it happened more frequently, and the intensity increased.  I was heading into a problem that almost ended my career.

While I was told I had CTS and I needed to have surgery, I knew that scar tissue would grow over the median nerve, and I could end up in worse condition than where I was already.

I was forced by necessity to find a solution. I concentrated on the path of the median because it is this nerve that is key to carpal tunnel syndrome.

The Median Nerve Pathway

It all starts with pressure on the median nerve.


The median nerve starts in your neck, innervating your arm and hand. When it is pressed upon it will cause burning and numbness somewhere along its path, especially into your wrist, thumb and first two fingers.

The Opponens Pollicis Muscle

The nerve passes under and through several arm muscles, through the carpal tunnel in your wrist, and finally a muscle of your thumb called the opponens pollicis muscle impinges on the nerve.

The tight muscles entrap the median nerve, but they also put a strain on your wrist and hand.  The analogy I use is pulling your hair and your scalp hurts. In the same way, the muscle pulls on the insertion points on your wrist and hand, and you feel pain.

I’m not trying to make anyone a muscular therapist, so I’m not mentioning the Latin names.  If you have the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, and if you’re interested and would like more information, please contact me.

My experience showed me that I had to treat each muscle from my neck to my hand several times every day. My clients were the catalyst for my sharing the self-treatment process that has reversed the symptoms of CTS for hundreds of people over the years.

One Treatment That Helps

There are six muscle groups that need to be treated for the release of the median nerve.

As I worked on myself, I discovered how they all needed to be fully released or the relief was temporary.  Then again, at that point I welcomed any relief, regardless of how short-lived.

The following treatment is for the muscle of your thumb, called “opponens pollicis.” This muscle pulls your thumb into the center of your palm.

An important factor is the muscle originates on the ligament that goes across the top of the carpal tunnel. When it gets tight it is pulling hard on the ligament and it presses down onto the median nerve.  This causes your thumb and first two fingers to go numb.

Bend your middle finger of the working hand.

Press the knuckle into the thick muscle at the base of your thumb.

Close the fingers of the hand you are treating so you can direct your thumb. This is an important step, or your knuckle will keep flipping over the muscle.

Move deeply in a direction that goes from your thumb to the middle of your wrist.

If you find as especially painful point, stay on it for 15-30 seconds.


How To Release Tight Muscles That Cause Carpal Tunnel

As I mentioned above there are six muscle groups that need to be treated to release the tension on the median nerve.

I realized that the only people who were benefiting from the treatment I developed were people who lived no more than 25 miles away from my office.

As a result, I hired a videographer and asked Zev Cohen, MD to join with me to explain the entire process.  It’s easy to do as you watch the DVD (also available as an MP4) and use the specialized tool I developed since many people can’t do it the way I did it for myself.

There’s also a workbook with still pictures of all the    treatments, and a chart that shows exactly where to press.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can seriously alter your day-to-day living!  Yet it can be reversed in as little time as one-hour!

Please share this information with anyone you know who is suffering from hand/wrist pain and numbness.

For more information go to:

Coming In November

Foot pain can stop you in your tracks, regardless of whether you are a runner, or you just like to stroll along a garden path.

The discussion in November will be about foot pain that is diagnosed as plantar fasciitis.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Relief From Shoulder Pain

A Simple Self-Treatment For The Infraspinatus Muscle

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

This summer has been HOT! HOT! HOT!

HotHigh temperature records were broken not just in the USA, but all over the world!  The funny thing is it was sometimes hotter up north than down here in Florida.  A snowbird client came in several weeks ago and told me they came back to Florida because they don’t have central air in their house up north (never needed it before).  That’s pretty incredible.

Now, I won’t say it’s cool outside, but September is not quite as hot as the summer months.  Which brings me to my treatment of the month – shoulder pain.

With it so hot I believe that a lot of people are getting relief be being in a pool, or a lake, or the ocean.  People are enjoying swimming, and if you are swimming a lot, you could easily get shoulder pain. There is a muscle called the Infraspinatus that is a key muscle for swimmers, so let’s chat about it.

A Swimmer’s Nemesis And Power – The Infraspinatus Muscle

This is what the back of your left shoulder looks like if you took off your skin – fascinating!

There are 16 muscles that all insert into your shoulder, each pulling your arm in a different direction.  Each is important and you use them all every day. But we won’t go into all of them this month, we’re just looking at the large muscle inside the red circle.  (I’m not an artist so saying “circle” is just using creative license – LOL)

This is the Infraspinatus, which originates on the surface of your shoulder blade (the scapula). It inserts into the tip of your arm bone (the humerus), and when it contracts it pulls your arm back.

Think of taking a tennis serve, or doing a backstroke in the pool, and you can visualize the movement this muscle makes.

How A Muscle Works To Move A Joint

Did you ever play “tug of war” with a stick and rope when you were young?  Basically, that’s how muscles work together to move our joints.  When the side that is on the right is pulling on the rope, the stick moves to the right. The only way the stick moves in the opposite direction, in this analogy it moves toward the left, is the right side needs to stop pulling and the left side starts to pull. When that happens, the stick moves toward the left.

This is exactly what happens in our body when we want to move a joint. Two muscles insert into a bone that is at the joint.  One muscle (let’s say the infraspinatus) pulls on the insertion point at the tip of the shoulder on your arm bone (humerus), and your arm moves back.  A muscle in the front of your shoulder/chest (pectoralis major) needs to release for your arm to move in that direction.

Then, when you want to bring your arm forward, the pectoralis major contracts and pulls on your humerus, and the infraspinatus must release tension so your arm can move.  It’s pretty simple, and it’s exactly what happens with every joint in your body.

In my books, Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living and The Pain-Free Athlete, I show you how to self-treat all the shoulder muscles. This month I’m going to share with you how to self-treat the infraspinatus muscle.

A Simple Self-Treatment For The Infraspinatus Muscle

As I mentioned, there are 16 muscles that move your shoulder in all the directions you do every day.  It is important to have each of the muscles free of spasms in order to have full range-of-motion. With that said, here is the self-treatment for the infraspinatus muscle.

You can use a slightly used tennis ball to treat the muscle, although it may be too soft to be effective. I’ve found a new tennis ball may be too hard. I strongly recommend that you never use a lacrosse ball as it is much too hard and could easily bruise the bone. A bone bruise can cause pain for up to a year, so it’s certainly something to avoid.

I prefer my Perfect Ball because it is solid in the center and has a layer of softness around the outside.  This softness enables you to work deeply into the muscle without potentially bruising the bone.

The pictures below show you where the muscle is located and where to place the ball.  You can either lean into the ball on a wall, or you can lie on the floor as shown below.

When you locate a “hot spot,” where it hurts as you press on the point, just stay there for 30 seconds.

Next, release the pressure for 5 seconds to allow blood to flow into the muscle, and then press into the muscle again.  Continue this until it no longer hurts, and then look for another point. Repeat this on each painful point to enable a full release of tension and relieve pain and stiffness.

Even without working on the other muscles of the shoulder, you’ll get considerable relief by treating the infraspinatus muscle.

Have You Listened To My TEDx Talk?

The title is “The Pain Question No One Is Asking.”  It points a finger at a HUGE missing piece in our health care, one that affects millions of people.  The topic is controversial, so much so that it almost wasn’t approved because it asks a question that certain people don’t want brought to light.

You can see it by going to YouTube and putting in “Julie Donnelly, Pain”.

Please “like” and “share” it with others so TED will see that this is a subject people want to know more about.  Thanks!

Looking Ahead To October

Next month we will be looking at the #2 most prevalent pain problem in the USA.  Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is debilitating, and incredibly painful.  I know because CTS shut down my therapy practice in 1997.  I’ll tell you the short version of that situation and how it was the catalyst for me developing the self-treatments that reversed it for me. I’m happy to say that the self-treatments I developed have also helped hundreds of people around the world eliminate this problem from their lives.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Relief From Shin Splints

What Causes Shin Splints?

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

HotJuly is here and Florida is hot! The “Snowbirds” have gone north to the cooler weather (a goal of mine!) and life is moving in the slow lane.

For me, the slow down time is giving me the opportunity to work on some big projects that are planned to bring my work to massage therapists all over the USA.  If your massage therapist is interested in expanding their techniques, please tell them to contact me so we can chat.

I’m also finishing up the editing of my newest book: “Pain-Free Golf. The Secret to Your Best Golf Game Ever!”  I’m grateful and want to give a shout out to John Ma and Rebecca Saggau for their help in making this a much better book.

This month’s topic is on Shin Splints, and next month I’ll be talking about something most people aren’t aware of…bone bruises.

I hope you enjoy all the outdoor activities that go with the month of July.

What Are Shin Splints?

If you are a runner, play any sport that involves a lot of running, or if you drive for long distances, you may have experienced pain &/or burning along the front of your leg, next to your shin bone.  This pain is commonly called Shin Splints.

I’ve searched all through the internet and while I’ve found LOTS of articles about the cause of shin splints, the definition of shin splints, and treatments such as rest, ice, various meds, etc., I’ve never found anything that resembles the self-treatment I’ve been teaching for years and that is in each of my books.

I’m going to share that self-treatment with you. A plus is the treatment for the muscle that causes shin splints is also one of the main muscles that cause plantar fasciitis.  So, you may get some pain relief that you weren’t even expecting.

What Causes Shin Splints?

The Tibialis Anterior muscle cause shin splints. The tibialis anterior muscle runs along the outside of your shin bone (the tibia bone), merges into a tendon at your lower leg, crosses over your ankle and then inserts into your arch.  When it contracts, it lifts your foot and rolls it toward the outside.  Because of these attachments, it is also a key muscle in a sprained ankle and in plantar fasciitis, but these are topics for different newsletters.

The muscle fibers are directly on your shin bone, so when they are tightening due to a repetitive strain, such as running or pressing down on the gas pedal while driving long distances, they start to tear off the bone.  You can visualize this by considering how you rip meat off a bone while eating a steak or spareribs.

As the muscle is slowly tearing away from the bone you feel pain along the entire length of the bone, and it really hurts!  Fortunately, it’s easy to release the tension in the muscle. Plus, as you’re doing the self-treatment I’m showing you, you are pressing the fibers back on to the bone, so it stops them from ripping away completely.

Relief From Shin Splints

You can get immediate relief from shin splint pain by treating your tibialis anterior muscle.

Begin to warm up the muscle by putting your leg straight out and running your opposite heel down the length of the muscle.

Right at the point where the picture is showing the model’s heel on her leg is the point where you’ll find the most sensitive trigger point.

Continue from just below your knee to just above your ankle joint.

Next kneel down as shown in the picture on the right, placing the ball at the top of the muscle and right next to your shin bone.

Notice the way his toes are bent.  This will help prevent your arch from feeling like it’s going to cramp as the muscle pulls on the insertion point

Begin to move your leg so the ball is rolling down toward your ankle.  Stop when you find a tight point.

When you get to your ankle you can roll back up toward your knee again.  Ultimately it won’t hurt, but if it’s especially painful in the beginning just lighten up on the pressure.  You may even need to lift your leg off the ball at first which will allow blood to come into the muscle fiber and help lessen the tension.

This technique has helped so many people over the years, I know it will help you too!

How To Treat Yourself For Pain Relief

I’ve written several books and programs that teach you how to self-treat for pain from your head to your feet. The Shin Splint treatment is just one technique, and if you’ve been receiving this newsletter for a long time, you’ve seen many others.

My books are a good resource and will explain why muscles are causing your pain or discomfort, and how you can stop it fast.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Treating A Calf Cramp

Stretching Your Calf

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

Do you ever jump up at night with your calf screaming in pain?

Do cramps curl your toes and send shock waves all the way up your leg?

Have you ever been exercising, running, or cycling, and suddenly your calf cramped and stopped you in your tracks?

What Causes Calf Cramps?

The National Institute of Health (NIH) states that “the cause of leg cramps is unclear.”  Isn’t that encouraging!  There are just so many potential causes of calf cramps that it’s impossible to narrow it down. Some common causes are pregnancy, exercise, dehydration, insufficient levels of certain key nutrients, and electrolyte imbalances.

Electrolytes are minerals that have an electric charge.  You get them from the foods you eat and fluids you drink.

I’ve learned that the vitamins and minerals that impact cramps are: B1, B12, D, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

I’m not a nutritionist so I’m not going to expound on nutritional causes, deficiencies, or solutions.  For that advice I suggest you go to a highly trained nutritionist for advice.  I’ve learned a lot by watching John McDougall, MD and T. Colin Campbell, PhD on YouTube.

However, my world is muscles, so that’s where I focus my attention in today’s article.

Muscle Contractions, Spasms, And Cramps

A little clarification of terms.  A contraction is when the entire length of a muscle fiber shortens. A spasm is when a small section of the muscle fiber ties up into what is sometimes thought of as a knot. A spasm happens slowly, so you rarely realize that the spasm is occurring. However, a cramp is when 100% of the muscle suddenly contracts 100% of the way and becomes as hard as a rock and feels like it is all knotted up.

There is a very complicated set of actions that enable us to do something as simple as picking up our cell phone and calling a friend.  You don’t need (or want) to know all the steps, so just suffice to say that each muscle fiber pulls with exactly the right power to make the movement we want to perform.

For example, let’s say you want to pick up a pen, maybe 10% of the fibers in your lower arm (that move your fingers) will contract.  But if you want to pick up a bowling ball, maybe 25% of your muscle fibers will contract.  If you then need to pick up your refrigerator, maybe 100% of your fibers will contract. (All numbers are guesses just to demonstrate a principle).

Regardless of whether you are contracting 10% or 90% of your muscle fibers, they will always contract 100% of the way.  Muscles don’t start to contract and then make a U-turn and stretch – and that’s the problem. The muscle will always contract 100% of the way before it will allow you to stretch it.

If you try to stretch while the muscle is contracting, you are potentially tearing the fibers. So, the idea is to help the muscle fibers complete the contraction, and then stretch.

Treating A Calf Cramp

I suggest you try this now when nothing is happening.  You sure don’t want to be trying to figure it out while your calf is cramping.

  • Cross your leg as shown in this picture
  • Grab both ends of the muscle and push them together as hard as you can.
  • Hold the squeeze until you are breathing normally.
  • Release, breathe normally for a minute, and repeat.


The second time isn’t going to hurt.  You’re only doing the second squeeze in case there are some muscles that didn’t finish the contraction, so you’re helping them along.

After the cramp has stopped, then you can safely stretch your calf muscles.

This really hurts!  But then, a cramp also really hurts!

Stretching Your Calf

There are two muscles of your calf that you will be stretching: the gastrocnemius and the soleus.

To stretch your gastrocnemius, as shown in the picture to the left, put one leg straight behind you, and bend your opposite knee.


Lean forward, bending the knee in the front while keeping your back foot planted on the floor.


You’ll feel a nice stretch in your calf as the gastrocnemius is being gently lengthened.


To stretch your soleus muscle, follow the picture on the right and bend your back leg, again keeping your foot planted on the floor, and straighten your forward leg.


Hold each stretch for about 15 seconds to allow the muscles to slowly lengthen.



Let Me Show You How You Can Treat Yourself

I’ve been teaching people how to self-treat since 1989.  As you know, I’ve written several books to show you how to self-treat to release tight muscles from your head to your feet, and I also have an MP4 program called the Julstro System that shows you how to release every muscle that causes the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger.

Did you know that I also do Zoom Consultations?  I work with people all over the world.  Zoom allows me to demonstrate to them what needs to be done, and then watch them to see if they are doing it correctly.

If you would like to work with me on a one-on-one basis from the comfort of your own home, just go to  We’ll set up a date and you’ll be off to getting the relief you are seeking.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Preventing Knee Pain

A Treatment To Relieve Strain On Your Knee

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

It is the Merry Month of May!

Knee PainMay was the start of the beautiful weather when I lived up in New York. April showers began to bring May flowers. Of course, here in Florida we have flowers all year, so it’s our friends to the north that are enjoying a glorious array of color during this month. For us May is the beginning of the hot weather.

The Snowbirds are leaving Florida and heading back up north. Safe journey. I’ll miss you!  It’s funny having friends that are gone 6 months of the year.

But it also means that life is beginning to slow down for us.  With most of the snowbirds gone, driving is easier, the stores are less crowded, and we can park at the beach.  The weather is still beautiful so we can still go outside to ride a bike, jog, or play the sports we enjoy. This leads me to talk about preventing knee pain.

Preventing Knee Pain

The weather is beautiful all across the country, which brings more people out to enjoy the sports they love.  Whether you like running or cycling, or any sport that puts a strain on your knee, you’re going to really appreciate this month’s newsletter.  We’re going to be talking about one of the muscles that put a strain on your knee joint.

The muscle we’ll be discussing today is the Rectus Femoris, one of the four quadricep muscles.  This is the only “quad” that originates on your pelvis, the other three all originate on your thigh bone.  This is why this one muscle is what I call “the keystone of the body.”

As you notice in the graphic, as I said it originates on the tip of your pelvis, it then goes down the middle/outisde of your thigh and crosses over your kneecap. The muscle then inserts into the front of your shin bone.  When you are sitting and you want to stand up, the rectus femoris, along with the other three quadriceps, shorten in order to straighten your leg.


The problem is, there is an entire pelvic situation that happens when you are sitting for an extended period of time, which makes your pelvis rotate down in the front. This causes the rectus femoris to be too long to do the job of straightening your leg.  The body rectifies that problem by tying a “knot” (spasm) in the middle of the muscle, shortening it so it can straighten your leg.

Then another problem happens because you want to bend your knee to sit down or go up stairs. This causes a strain to be placed on your kneecap as you try to bend you knee. Your body then pulls down again on your pelvis so you can bend your knee, and you get into a negative cycle of bones being strained and the muscle knotting up.

The bottom line is your kneecap is pulled up, and you have pain whenever you try to bend your knee.

It’s more complicated than all of that, but too much for a newsletter.  If you’re curious, you can get either Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living or The Pain-Free Athlete and read all about each of the muscles that are involved in this situation.

A Treatment To Relieve Strain On Your Knee

Using a dowel, or a 12”x1” length of PVC pipe, start at the top of your leg and slide, don’t roll, from the top of your leg to just above your kneecap.



After you go over your rectus femoris, and the other quadriceps, then go to the top of any one of the knots.  Press down and stay still for 15 seconds.



You can also use the ulnar bone of your forearm, as shown in the picture to the right.


Just press and slide, and then do the same thing and press into each knot to help it release.



Releasing the tension in your quadricep muscles will take the strain off your knee joint.  An added benefit of this treatment is it is one of the primary muscles I teach to release low back pain, groin pain, sciatica, and hip pain!

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Health Tips From The Professor