Recovering From A Torn Meniscus

Regain Full Flexibility And Get Back To The Sports You Love

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

Happy WomanI 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..

What Is A Torn Meniscus?

Knee JointOne 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 Torn Meniscus

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. 

Stretch For Stiff KneeStand 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.

Which Muscles Are Affected By Stress?

It’s Time For The Beach

Beach At SunsetThis is a perfect time to go to the beach – August is hot and humid, and the water feels so refreshing.  Of course, we now need to socially distance ourselves from each other, but for those of us in Florida that is possible when we have so many beautiful beaches close to our homes.

Most of us are sticking close to home, and summer sure isn’t what it has been in years past. The baseball season was on – then off – and as of right now, who knows!  Most of the people I know are getting through this okay, I hope you are too!

Which Muscles Are Affected By Stress?

We are living in stressful times, and chronic stress can cause your muscles to tighten. When that happens, it can lead to pain in unexpected places. When you visit your doctor, they may recommend drugs or aggressive treatments.

Unfortunately, many doctors are unaware tight muscles can be the real cause of your pain. They don’t know that there are simple treatments that can release your tight muscles and relieve the pain – without resorting to drugs.

This week I will address the top 3 muscles that are affected by chronic stress and how to treat those muscles when they cause you pain.

Levator Scapulae MuscleLevator Scapulae: This is, in my opinion, the #1 muscle that gets involved when we are under stress.  The nickname for the Levator Scapulae is “the shrug muscle” because when it contracts normally you lift your shoulders up….you shrug.

The problem is, the muscle originates on your first four cervical vertebrae, and inserts into your shoulder blade. When you are under stress it is common for your shoulders to lift up. The muscle is held tightly, and a phenomenon called “muscle memory” keeps the muscle in the shortened position. Once the levator scapulae is “stuck” in a  shortened position, when you either bend your neck to the side (bringing your ear closer to your shoulder), or you lift something heavy with your arm, pulling your shoulder down, it pulls on your cervical vertebrae.

This causes your cervical vertebrae to move and puts pressure on your spinal cord right at the base of your brain. The Levator Scapulae has been proven, in my clinical practice, to be the #1 reason for severe headaches. When it gets tight it will pull the insertions at your neck and pull them to the side and down. This causes the bones to press into your spinal cord, right at the base of your brain, and you get a severe headache!

Last month I shared self-treatment techniques to release the tightness in your Levator Scapulae muscles and relieve your tension headaches. If you are suffering from tension headaches, these techniques can work wonders.

Intercostals: The Intercostal muscles are between each rib.  When you breath in, they expand, and when they contract, you breath out.  The problem is, when you are under stress you may hold your breath longer than normal, and muscle memory sets in, and they stay in the shortened position.

As this happens you lose the ability to take a good, deep breath.  This lessens the amount of oxygen that is in your blood and that goes out to your cells.  This can cause problems all over your body.

The solution to this problem is deep breathing exercises. A friend of mine, Tara Clancy, is an expert on breathing and how it affects your entire body.  You can check her out at http://www.o2tara.org.

Masseter MuscleMasseter: Do you clench your teeth when you are under stress?  The muscle that causes you to clench your teeth is called the masseter muscle.  If you put your fingertips onto your cheeks, pressing into your back teeth you are on your masseter muscle. Clench your teeth, you will feel the muscle bulge as it contracts.

The masseter muscle (circled on graphic) is the muscle that contracts to enable you to chew your food.  Normally, as you chew the muscle shortens, and then lengthens as you put more food into your mouth.  However, if you are under chronic stress, and your teeth stay clenched, your masseter will shorten from muscle memory and put a strain on your jaw joint.  This is the cause of a condition called TMJ.

TMJ is a condition where your jawbone rubs, or “clicks,” over the bone that is just in front of your ear. It is painful, and over time it will damage the bones. When you are under stress and constantly clenching your teeth, you are shortening your masseter muscle. The now-shorter muscle prevents you from opening your jaw completely, for example, when you yawn. As you are trying to yawn your jaw flips over the bone, and it hurts.

Self-Treatment For TMJ

Several years ago, I had a client who had such tight masseter muscles that a dental surgeon was going to sever them so she could open her mouth.  This is a terrible solution because it would mean her mouth would hang open for the rest of her life. Fortunately for this client she had to get medical approval before she could have the surgery.  When Dr. Cohen (the doctor I worked with) felt her masseter muscles, he refused to sign the permission form. He told her that she had to see me first, and fortunately I was there at the time.  It took just 30 minutes for me to release the spasms and teach her how to do the treatment.  At the end of the session she was pressing into both masseter muscles and opening her mouth.  She did it easily and without pain!  She started to cry because she came within one day of having this unnecessary surgery. Her life was changed by just a simple self-treatment!

tmj pain treatment reliefPlace your fingers as shown in the picture to the left.  Clench your teeth so you can feel the muscles bulge.

Apply deep pressure on just one side for 5 seconds. Then release that pressure and apply deep pressure to the opposite side for 5 seconds. Go back and forth until it doesn’t hurt anymore.  Then find a different “hot spot,” and repeat.  Continue doing this until you can’t find any more tender points on your muscle and jaw.

To stretch the masseter muscle just press deeply into the original point on the muscle and slowly open your mouth wide.

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.

Is Stress Causing My Headaches?

“It’s Summertime, and the Living Is…Stressful”

headacheIt’s hot out, the birds are chirping, the air is pretty still, and the rains are often torrential.  It’s summer and under normal circumstances things slow down as people take vacations or just go to sit at the beach or pool.  Normally, we would be singing that old favorite, “It’s summertime and the living is easy”.

But this year is different! This summer’s song could be, “It’s summertime and the living is stressful.

We’ve all been affected by COVID19 in some manner, life is more complicated for most of us, and stress-levels have increased for a lot of people. Since stress often causes headache pain, today’s newsletter is going to focus on relieving stress headaches.

Stress Can Tighten Your Muscles

Constant stress can tie your muscles into knots.   It is important to do things to relieve the stress that the current events are placing on your body.  Maybe you aren’t going to the gym, but you can go out for a long, fast walk.  You could even bring some light hand weights and be pumping your arms as you walk.  If you have access to a pool, swimming is a great way to get exercise without stressing the body – with social distancing, of course.

There are several muscles that cause headaches. Unfortunately, it’s rare that anyone in the medical field will check out muscles while looking for the source of headache pain.

Is Stress Causing My Headaches?

As I said above, chronic stress can cause your muscles to tighten, and tight muscles can cause headaches. I will discuss two of the main offenders today.

Treating Temporalis MuscleOne muscle that causes headaches is called the Temporalis This muscle is the shape of a fan and is at the temples of your skull, behind your eyes and above your ears.  It not only causes headaches. It also causes pain into your top teeth!

To treat your Temporalis muscle, take your three middle fingers and press on the muscle as shown in the picture to the left.

Find the tender point, only pressing enough to feel it, but not so much that you want to faint. Hold the pressure for a minute and then move your fingers slightly up and down, without sliding on your skin.

Release the pressure for about 15 seconds and repeat this sequence until the pain is gone.

Do this treatment on both sides of your skull.  Stay still on any “hot spots” as they are the actual spasm that is causing the problem. You’ll be surprised at how the pain and tenderness will diminish as you continue to do the whole treatment for just a few minutes.

Levator Scapulae MuscleAnother key headache muscle is the Levator Scapulae, a muscle that originates on your cervical vertebrae and inserts into your shoulder blade.  When this muscle is in spasm it will pull your cervical vertebrae to the side and down and press the bone into your spinal cord at the base of your brain.  

Looking at how the levator scapulae muscle attaches to the vertebrae in your neck will explain why it is an important cause of stress headaches.

The levator scapulae originates on the top four cervical vertebrae (see small box) and inserts into the top of your shoulder blade.  When the muscle contracts normally you lift up your shoulders. The nickname for this muscle is “the shrug muscle” because of its action.

However, when it gets tight it will pull the insertions at your neck to the side and down. This causes the bones to press into your spinal cord, right at the base of your brain, and you get a severe headache!

Fortunately, you can treat the levator scapulae muscle, release the tension on the cervical vertebrae, and by treating the muscles in the back of your neck that become involved as the vertebrae move, you can stop the headache. It usually takes a while, maybe even two days. I wish I could tell you it’s immediate, but the important thing is you can stop the pain.

If you have suffered from headaches and your doctor has tested you to be sure it isn’t something more serious, then you’ll be pleased with the results of the Julstro™ self-treatments.

Relief From Stress Headaches Caused By A Tight Levator Scapula Muscle

Let me take you through the treatment step by step.

Relaxing Levator Scapulae MuscleStep 1: Relaxing the Spasms in Your Shoulders 

 You start by relaxing the spasms in your shoulders. While it can be awkward at first, you can very effectively treat your levator scapulae muscle by using a ball and pressing into the corner of a wall.

Put the Julstro Perfect ball directly on the top of your shoulder. Then lean straight into the corner of a wall.

Move slightly until you feel the pressure being focused on the knot at the top of your shoulder.

This treatment is for both your levator scapulae muscle and your trapezius muscle.

Step 2: Treating Your Levator Scapulae Muscle. 

Once you have loosened up the spasms in your shoulders, continue working on the levator scapulae muscle. You can also treat both by squeezing them with your fingers. We’ll demonstrate by treating your right shoulder. Naturally, you can do the same treatment on the opposite shoulder.

Bend your left arm and support you elbow with your right hand. Put your left three middle fingers on your right Treating Levator Scapulae Muscle shoulder at the point where the shoulder and neck meet. It helps if you place it so your thumb and pointer finger are close to your neck with the middle finger being the working finger right on the junction, just a bit toward the back. Your four fingers should be crooked at each joint of the hand and your palm should be flat against your body.

Staying in the same spot, relax your arm with your elbow close to the middle of your chest. In this position you will probably have your middle finger directly on the spasm point. All the strength from this move is coming from your upper arm, not from your fingers. To do that you will simply make sure that your middle finger is on the sore spot and then pull your elbow down toward the floor. Your finger will be like a hook that presses into the spasm.

If you feel your fingers getting tired, you are using your hand to give strength and not your arm. Once you feel the difference, it will be easy to do again. After you have found the trigger point and you are adding pressure to it, continue pressing into the knot.

Treating Levator Scapulae Muscle 2Next, keep your hand in the same spot, still pressing on the knot. Take your thumb, flip over onto the front of your shoulder, and push it straight into the muscle. This will move your thumb to a place that will now cause you to be pinching the knot.

You’ll feel if you have it right. You should have a fairly thick piece of muscle between the middle finger and the thumb. You can inch your three middle fingers back a bit if you find you aren’t gripping the entire thickness of the muscle.

If all you are feeling is skin between your fingertips, go back and try again. When you know you have a thick piece of muscle, grip tightly and release. Do this four times for 15 seconds each time.

 

Step 3: Stretching the Muscles in Your Shoulder

Now that you have worked out the knots, you are ready to stretch your shoulder muscles. Rotate your head a bit Stretching Levator Scapulae Muscleso your ear is angled toward the front of your chest. By doing this you will be adding additional stretch to the trigger point and releasing it at the same time.

Finally, continue holding the muscle and move your head as shown. Hold this for 15 seconds and release the pressure. When you finish, release your grip and shake out your shoulders. Then do it again, three more times, holding each stretch for 15 seconds.

You will really feel a great deal of relief when you ease the tension in this muscle.  This process will become easy after you play with it for a while and get the hang of squeezing the ball of knots that are on the top of your shoulder.

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 Sinus Pain

Are Spring Allergies Ruining Your Time Outdoors?

spring flowersThe lovely month of May!  The air is warm, the breezes are soft, and the flowers are blooming.  We’re surrounded by nature coming alive as animal’s pair-up to again start the circle of life, and it’s all beautiful!

Hopefully, you are having the opportunity to go out and enjoy this wonderful time of year.

So many of us have been forced into inactivity due to all that is happening around the world, and not only does that add to your stress level, it also doesn’t benefit your body.  Hopefully, you are doing some type of purposeful movement at home.  My recommendation is:

  • Step 1: Exercise at home. There are many exercise programs on the internet so you can move along with the instructor.
  • Step 2: Self-treat the muscles you just exercised. Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living or The Pain-Free Athlete books are perfect to show you exactly where to find the knots that are putting a strain on your joints.  Find the shaded area where you feel tension/pain and then do the self-treatment to untie the knots in the muscle.
  • Step 3: Finish your exercise session off with stretching to release the tension in the muscle. There is a perfect safe-stretching routine taught in Focused Flexibility Training. It’s self-treatment of each muscle you’re going to stretch, followed by a 30-minute yoga routine.

Movement is important for the proper functioning of so many systems in your body, including your circulation, digestion, and your immune system.

Are Spring Allergies Ruining Your Time Outdoors?

This is a wonderful time of year to enjoy the great outdoors. It is a time to enjoy spring flowers, plant your gardens, and enjoy long walks, perhaps with your dog(s). But if you have sinus problems because of spring allergies, the outdoors is no fun. You may have sinus headaches. You may have sinus pressure that feels like you have a vice around your skull, pressing into your eyes and temples. You may even have a challenge keeping your eyes open.

I received several emails about sinus problems, most likely caused by spring pollen.  As a result, I figured it would help the most people by talking about how to ease the pressure in your sinuses this month. I want you to be able to enjoy the outdoors this spring without worrying about sinus problems.

Relief From Sinus Pain

To relieve sinus pain, take your three middle fingers and put them onto your cheeks as shown in this picture.  Your back teeth should be under your fingertips.

Press UP onto your cheekbones, as if you were trying to push your fingers into your eyes and the bone is in the way.

Alternate sides so you press up on your left side, hold for 5 seconds, then release while you are pressing up on your right side.  Keep going back and forth.

You can move along your cheekbone, going all the way next to your nostrils.  Then press the same way into the bone on both sides of your nose.

Finally, press into your eyebrows, close to midline, so you can be adding pressure onto the sinus cavities directly underneath your fingertips.

It will help if your head is tilted back a little so your sinuses can start to drain. Visualize pressing and squeezing your sinus cavities as that is exactly what you are actually doing!

By the way, this has also helped people who have a sinus infection because it enables the sinuses to drain, and then I always use a sinus rinse mixture and a squeeze bottle to wash the pollen out of my sinuses.

Trigger-Point Yoga And Focused Flexibility Training Update

Like so many people who are stuck indoors, I’m finding all kinds of projects that have been neglected for a long time.  One that has been on my mind, but never had enough time to do anything about, is a wonderful safe-stretching program that was developed back around 2010.

It was actually put together by an incredible yoga instructor named Ana.  Ana had a calf pain that wasn’t being resolved with yoga, so she finally searched online, and she found me.  She bought my book, Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living,” and she also had a telephone consultation with me (I didn’t do any online meetings yet) to discuss her situation.  I told her which treatments to do and she was shocked that in just two days her pain and stiffness was gone.

The missing piece in yoga is stretching the muscle fibers without first untying the knots (spasms) that put a strain on the joints.  Yet, doing some simple techniques releases the knots and you can stretch without overstretching the muscle fibers.

Ana looked into the self-treatments for her hips and she was surprised to find multiple spasms. After treating them her yoga got better. That inspired her to do the self-treatments for her shoulders and sure enough, she had spasms that she treated, and her yoga got even better.  She knew this was something that needed to be shared with yoga-lovers everywhere.

After we met by telephone, she shared her ideas with me and Trigger-Point Yoga (TPY) was born.  Ana did an amazing job putting the program together.  I was filmed teaching an athlete named Scott how to do all the treatments taught in my book, which we called “The Foundation.”  Then Ana designed and filmed two sessions, one for the upper body and one for the lower body. Each session starts with 15 minutes of self-treating the muscles that will be stretched, and then 30 minutes of yoga stretching.

I found that athletes didn’t want to take a yoga class, but when I changed the name to Focused Flexibility Training, they were excited to do the program.

If you would like to stretch safely, without potentially tearing tight muscle fibers, I suggest you bring Trigger-Point Yoga into your home. For only $67 you can do the entire thing in your living room or den and feel more flexible than you have in a long time!

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 Carpal Tunnel Pain Without Surgery

Natural Relief For Trigger Finger

carpal tunnel syndromeIn 1997 I had wrist pain that was so incredibly severe that I couldn’t take my left hand from flat on a table and bring my thumb up to two o’clock.  I couldn’t pick up a pen, never mind write with it, and the pain was like someone was cutting my wrists with a hot knife.  It closed down my massage therapy business and was forcing me to think what I could do to support myself for the rest of my life!

I was told I had carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and that I needed surgery, but I knew that scar tissue was going to fill the space, so that’s not something I was willing to do. Also, I knew that cutting the bridge to the carpal tunnel would weaken the thumb muscle, so another reason I didn’t want surgery.

It took a LOT of thinking, but I finally figured out how to solve the problem by treating muscles from my neck to my thumb, each of which was putting a strain/pressure onto the median nerve.  The median nerve is the nerve that causes the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome (numbness, tingling, pain).

And it worked!  I was completely out of pain and back to work again!  I was thrilled!!!

I ended up doing a test program with 8 people who each had been diagnosed with CTS and it worked for all of them too.  Now I needed to figure out how to bring it to more people.

Ultimately that entire process was put into a video system where you can learn how to treat every muscle.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

This newsletter is going to focus on just the muscles of the lower arm since they are the primary cause of wrist pain and trigger finger.

Each of the circles in the figure on the left is the location of a spasm that is causing the referred pain in the area shown in the same color.

Notice that most times the spasm is a distance from the area of pain, and that many of the spasms affect pain in the wrist.

This is a small sampling of the spasms that cause wrist pain and trigger finger.

The reason you feel pain at a location that is different from the area of spasm is pretty simple to explain:

If you pull your hair at the end it will hurt where it inserts at your scalp.  But you don’t need to massage your scalp, you don’t need pain pills, and you definitely don’t need brain surgery to stop the pain.

You just need to let go of your hair!

Relief From Carpal Tunnel Pain Without Surgery

This same principle applies with muscles. The pain will refer to the insertion point in the wrist or hand.

The solution is to until the knot in the muscle by applying direct pressure onto the spasm and holding it for about 30 seconds.

For example, if the knot is in the extensor muscles in your arm, you can apply pressure on your extensor muscles by following the picture and pressing deeply into the muscle fibers.

It will hurt, and you’ll probably feel it refer all the way to your wrist and hand.

Hold the pressure for at least 30 seconds, longer if you want, and then move your fingers 1-2” in either direction.  You’ll keep feeling tender points. Each of them is a spasm that is causing pain in your wrist.

Then turn your arm over and use your fingers to press into the muscles on the underside of your forearm.

Relief For Trigger Finger

These same muscles can cause a condition called Trigger Finger. This is when your finger either gets locked down (curled) or won’t close into a fist.

If your finger stays bent and won’t open up, you need to treat the underside of your forearm.

If your finger won’t bend, you need to treat the top of your forearm as shown above.

Apply pressure to every tender point and hold it for at least 30 seconds before moving to the next point.

The Julstro Method

This is the Julstro System that I created after I had resolved my own battle with carpal tunnel syndrome and debilitating wrist pain.

The blue tool, I call it the TotalTX tool, is perfect for working out each of the trigger points from your chest to your thumb.

If you have the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome (numb fingers &/or wrist pain), it’s worthwhile to treat the muscles before you consider surgery.

Coming Next Month

A lot of people have written in about foot pain and being concerned because with the nice weather approaching in the north, they want to get out running again.

Next month I’ll be talking about Plantar Fasciitis, which is arch pain that is actually being caused by the lower legs.

Please let me know if you have something you’d like to add to the schedule for another month, I’ll be happy to help you!

Send an email to info@julstromethod.com and use the subject line “Newsletter Questions.”

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.

 

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