Shoulder/elbow/wrist pain every time you move?? Missing out on the joys of full elbow extension?

The musculotendinous junction (referring to the muscles and tendons) can get stretched tight like a rubber band, locking down and eliminating the last 10+ degrees of extension, so now your arms move like a T-Rex. All of the connective tissue surrounding the elbow laminates to the bone and the only way to recover the missing range of motion is by rolling the shoulder joint internally, which destabilizes the joint capsule, making the glenohumeral joint as functional as a bartender waitress at an AA meeting. The head of the humerus hangs out at the front of the joint like that cherry picker in line at the airport, which grinds and impinges the shoulder (think Rice Krispies mascots: Snap, Crackle, Pop). The insertion of the tricep gets tacked down like a roofing shingle, and the horsepower generated in the shoulder ends up dumping before it even gets to move weight in your hand.

The answer to a complex issue like this is to train the wrist, elbow, and shoulder to operate properly while under load. Through a combination of myofascial release (therapy to allow muscle and fascia to slide over each other) and functional rehab, your pain will be done like Boston College at last Saturday’s football game against VT. Make an appointment at Valley Active and let’s get started!

Shin splints don’t need splints…just some functional rehab.

Do you have pain in the shins 400m into a run? You don’t even need to be running to experience the oh-so-evil pain of the shin splint. I’m Ethan at Valley Active here to tell you it’s easy to fix.


tibialis-anterior180The tibialis anterior muscle travels down the outside of the tibia bone and tucks in on the medial cuneiform/first metatarsal. It pulls the toes and foot upward, which is called dorsiflexion. If it’s overly tight, it ends up getting glued to the tibia and turns into the steak you can get at a $4.99 buffet in backwoods Las Vegas.






tibialis-posterior180The tibialis posterior runs down behind the tibia bone and tacks to the bottom of the foot, doing the opposite of the tibialis anterior: plantarflexion (pointing your foot). When it’s overly tight, it takes on that gas station beef jerky texture. The tib posterior is THE critical stabilizer of the lower leg, so glue it down and wonder why you walk, run, and jump with serious ouch coming from the lower leg. With such instability, the foot caves in, the tib anterior can’t hang on, and it dumps the foot it’s supposed to be holding onto.




h9991569_001Additionally, the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles clamp down gluing the heel cord (Achilles tendon) to the bone, making your shin feel like you’re foam rolling with Lego pieces.







psoas-syndromeFinally the iliopsoas (the iliacus muscle + the psoas muscle) rotates the femur internally and mutes the pelvis. One of the quadricep muscles, the rectus femoris, comes off the AIIS (anterior inferior iliac spine, part of your pelvis) and locks the pelvis down so when you take a stride or jump, you look like Phoebe from Friends running.






The pain you’re feeling with shin splints is inflammation of the medial portion of the tibia bone, and all the muscles and tendons surrounding it, stressing out like a college student during finals week. With all the issues I discussed above, it’s no surprise you’re in pain. The tibia bone is taking way too much mechanical stress, rather than distributing that stress to other parts of the body that are meant to absorb it.

This issue seems incredibly complex. There’s so much going on to cause one symptom of pain in the shins. However, because the body’s muscles and bones are all interconnected, it makes sense that pain is caused by a collection of dysfunctional muscles. Make an appointment here at Valley Active and let’s get started with fixing your shin splints…for good!

Let’s talk shoulder mobilization


Your shoulders are meant to be mobile, stable, and strong. There are 15 muscles that directly affect the shoulder. If just one of those is out of whack, getting your favorite cereal off the top shelf at the grocery store is as hard as mobilizing rebar.

I’m Ethan over at Valley Active here to help fix your shoulders. If you’re experiencing a deficiency in any of those three areas, keep reading…

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The serratus anterior muscle comes from the upper 8 ribs and tucks under the scapula (shoulder blade) on the border of the vertebrae. It’s what gave Muhammad Ali his right hook and it protracts the scapula.

Aside from pulling on your bones to move your body around, muscles also secure body parts in place. The serratus anterior keeps the scapula from turning into a dorsal fin by anchoring it to the ribcage. If your serratus anterior is overly tight, meaning it’s laminated to the ribs, it ends up with the strength and mobility of my mother’s 8-year-old Teacup Maltese on a hot day.





trap-2Now, the trapezius comes from essentially the base of the skull to the last thoracic vertebrae and moves the scapula all over the place. If this muscle is overly tight, it drags the scapula upward and the serratus fights against it with the efficacy of that same Teacup Maltese. The glenoid fossa (the “socket” of the shoulder joint) gets torqued to the front of your body, dragging the humerus along with it, which now grinds along the labrum like Stoic the Vast sharpening his axe.



We’ve covered two major muscles that act on the shoulder. It’s possible (and quite common) that both of these muscles are overly tight. If the trapezius is too tight, it can also affect bundles of nerves around it. Compressing nerves causes pain…

The spinal accessory nerve that controls the trapezius needs to be unloaded from compression because the motor control of your trapezius is as functional as a sleeping bag full of black bears. When the trapezius and serratus anterior are overly tight, they also affect muscles around them. The scalene muscles of the neck can clamp down on the spinal accessory nerve, causing pain down your shoulder and into your middle back.

Fixing these tight muscles seems impossible…right? Wrong! It’s a complex issue, but any trained professional (physiatrists, physical therapists, physiologists, etc.) can spot the problem and give you the tools to fix it. Functional rehabilitation is necessary for a dysfunction such as this, so my recommendation is to make an appointment at Valley Active to get started with getting mobile.

Understanding Muscle Pain – Science to Laymen

Muscle pain can appear in different forms, for different reasons. Some pain is not a bad thing; lactic acid build up in the muscles after an excellent workout feels like soreness. However, if you have not worked out or had a traumatic injury, why do your muscles hurt?

Your muscles are highly reactive to stimuli. If you lift heavy weights, they will get bigger. If you walk or run miles every day, they will become more efficient. If your posture is poor and weak, your muscles will tighten up and pull on your skeleton. Trust me, this hurts a lot.

Muscles tighten up because your nervous system perceives a threat. Poor posture causes the wrong muscles to contract and hold tension. It doesn’t sound like it, but this is pretty threatening to your muscle integrity. Do this frequently enough for long enough and BAM, your lower back hurts and your hamstrings stiffen up like a soldier on parade. Poor posture can also mean your muscles aren’t getting adequate blood supply, further reinforcing the nervous system that YES, THIS MUSCLE MUST REMAIN TIGHT! How do we treat tight muscles causing pain? We shift into reverse and hit the gas.

A combination of learning new ways of movement, myofascial release, targeted stretches, and an exercise regime promoting good posture and strength, and BOOM. Healthy mechanics restored, pain is gone, and you’re moving better than a 5-year-old on Halloween.

Call Valley Active today and let’s get started.


Posture and Proprioception

Let’s face it–unless you’re a physiologist or you’ve seen one, it’s hard to know how to have perfect posture. I’m Ethan over at Valley Active here to break it down in terms you’ll understand.

Perfect posture means you operate in such a way that you use your muscles correctly. Your muscles are attached to your bones and move them around in a range of motion (ROM), which is fixed. Make a big circle with your arm! You’ve just tested your arm’s ROM. Make another circle with your arm. The awareness of the position of your arm as it goes around the circle is your proprioception.

At first is may seem silly. You’ve been moving around your whole life, how could you not know how to do it correctly? By having a strong awareness of how your body is positioned, it becomes a simple matter to align yourself correctly to achieve perfect posture. Proprioception also involves an understanding of how the muscles are best used. For example, the bicep muscle in your arm is used in a movement called flexion, which is when you decrease the angle of your elbow join. The opposite movement, called extension, is handled by the tricep muscle.

I won’t go into the details of the function of every muscle in your body, but there are key points you must know. Pain caused by poor posture is due to an imbalance of opposing muscles (like the bicep and tricep). Overly strong and inflexible hip flexor muscles (iliacus, psoas, tensor fasciae latae, etc.) cause pain by pulling on your pelvis bone and rotating it anteriorly. This causes your hamstrings to be overly stretched and weakened, and your lower back to be squeezed tight like an accordion that can’t be compressed any more. Most people feel this pain in their lower backs. This anterior pelvic tilt causes your lower back to overly extend, causing your glutes to stick out behind you and your hips to hurt. This is called lordosis and you can get it by sitting for too long every day.

Here you can see me in a lordotic posture. With too much sitting down, the hip flexors, hamstrings, and lower back get unusually tight (shown in red). This causes the abdominal muscles and the glutes to become weak (shown in yellow). Notice how my belt is tilted down, aligning with the green line. This shows that my pelvis is anteriorly rotated and not in good posture. Good posture is shown with the blue line and the second picture.




































By understanding what makes up good posture and having an awareness of body position, anyone can become comfortable with perfect posture.

Mid-back pain constantly present? FIX IT!

Want to have mid-back pain? Do this:

a) round your shoulders for everything

b) take ibuprofen as a cure-all

c) hunch forward when you lift something

d) lift with your back when you should be using your legs


You know by now I’m not gonna let that happen!

The anterior longitudinal ligament (ALL) runs down the front of the vertebral bodies and gets stuck in place stiffly, which pulls the thoracic spine forward. This gets reinforced by the stability of the ribcage which also rounds forward, cinching up the intercostals like you’re lassoing cattle. The scapula gets cemented to the posterior ribcage because the serratus anterior, which comes from the underside of the scapula to the top eight ribs, drags on the scapula like an anchor because the shoulders are sitting out front rather than to the side. The short head of the bicep attaching to the coracoid, clamps the top of the scapula against the ribcage and now what happens is the rhomboids start winching up causing a tug of war with the serratus and bicep like a couple on divorce court arguing over who gets the Pomeranian.

How can we fix this seemingly serious problem? Lay back over a foam roller (perpendicular to the spine) and just above the bottom of the scapula, let your spine fulcrum over it pulling the ALL off the vertebrae. Next, hug yourself and start rolling each segment into supplitude. Then, on your side on the roller, roll slightly forward biasing the serratus and massage it into relaxation. Now take that foam roller and lay it across your bicep with some pressure from the other hand. Contract/relax supinate/pronate to unload that coracoid and BAZINGA! Mid-back pain gone, shoulder’s working properly, and smiles all around.

Pain in the lower back is not caused by the lower back!

Your lower back hurts. It’s painful when you wake up, sit, or drive. Today’s blog post is about the origin of lower back pain. I’m Ethan at Valley Active here to tell you..

It’s not your low back.

The psoas muscle comes from the last 4 bones of the lumbar spine and the iliacus comes from the anterior pelvis. They staple themselves onto the femur, two muscles with two different rates of pull, that both engage hip flexion. The two muscles (sometimes combined and called the illiopsoas) shorten up and glue themselves down like a preschool project using Elmer’s Glue and drags the lumbar spine into hyperlordosis loading up the discs with major SHEAR. Now the iliacus ‘portion’ of the group tilts the pelvis forward, shoving your butt out. What happens then is the hamstring group, which also attaches to the pelvis via the ischial tuberosity, starts an argument of Kardashian levels with the hip flexors, causing the pelvis to climb up your spine like a hormone-crazed teenager. The hamstrings recruit some help and laminate themselves to the adductors which now adds rotational shear to the equation. Did I mention that the rectus femurs (one of the four quadriceps) jumps into the fray? It comes off the AIIS (anterior inferior iliac spine), crosses the knee, and pulls down on the anterior pelvis like Chandler holding on to Janice’s leg when she dumps him in Friends.

Pause. There’s so much going on and it’s just because of a few muscles being a bit too tight? Yes, and it will cause pain in the lower back. Luckily, the fix for loosening up those muscles and getting rid of the back pain is as easily as loosening up a tight belt after Thanksgiving dinner. Take note:

Using a foam roller or lacrosse ball, roll on the hamstrings like a caveman trying to make fire. Then get in a lunge position and push your hips forward to stretch the hips and peel them open like a tuna can. Finally, use that foam roller or lacrosse ball to massage the muscles of your back, the erector spinae, running along your spine. BOOM! Low back pain gone and pelvic stability recovered.