Pain & Tennis Balls

The knots
Possible pain (in red) and its trigger points (marked with an X)

A few nights ago, I slept funny and woke up with a tweaky shoulder. Shooting pain when I moved my left arm in certain ways, and a few new snap crackle pops when I rotated my shoulder. This is my second sleep-related injury; I need to do a public-service announcement.

Finally, I remembered julstro.com. The website of Julie Donnelly, it saved me the last time I was hurt. Julie is a massage therapist who works mostly with triathletes. She’s identified all sorts of conditions that are actually caused by muscle tension, and teaches a system of trigger point massage to release the knots and thus the pain. The crazy part is that these knots are not always located at the source of pain my knife-in-the-back shoulder pain was caused by a spasm under my collarbone! The spasming muscle can impinge nerves or other muscles, and cause pain at the other end of the system, similar to pulling someone’s hair. So Julie has mapped out where to look for knots when you have pain in various areas.

The website has a great forum (be sure to search the archives) where you can find dozens of people asking your same question. Julie is amazingly generous with her time on the forum, and will recommend treatments that you can do at home. (Like rolling around on a tennis ball, using pressure to force the spasm to relax.) She used to live in New Jersey, and I actually had the masochistic pleasure of a massage with her a few years back. She’s since moved to Texas, so I finally broke down and bought her eBooks: Pain-Free Living and The Pain-Free Triathlete. They are full of diagrams and photos to make treatment easier.

So the answer to the pain shooting down my arm? The outside of my left shoulder was a little knotty. Underneath my collarbone, and towards the armpit, was too. But when I raised my left arm, on the back of my left shoulderblade I found a big ropy knot that hurt like hell. So I get to hold this monkey pose and torture myself for a while now, talk to you later.