Discovering the true source of pain or dysfunction takes patience, trust and good communication.

A client recently reminded me of a time, years ago, when she presented with shoulder pain. Several sessions passed with little to no relief. After moving to work on her arm, she understandably questioned the decision since prior attempts there had offered no lasting results. I didn’t have an explanation. I wanted to try trigger point therapy, a different type of massage. Imagine our surprise when she realized her upper arm was sore to the touch. And, in less than an hour, her shoulder pain went away.

Let’s look at a couple of other examples in which you may suspect, or have been told, that a specific muscle/joint is the problem – when, in fact, it could be something else that is overlooked:


Trapezius (tra-pee-zee-us) vs. Semispinalis Capitis (sem-e-spi-na-lis kap-i-tis):

Clients will often say their “traps are tight.” The trapezius (traps) is about the thickness of four sheets of paper and covers most of the upper back, neck, and shoulders. However, the tightness and pain could come from a different vertebrae found in the mid-back and neck, up to the cranium – the semispinalis capitis.


The Iliotibial Band (IT band) vs. Vastus Lateralis (lat-er-al-is):

The IT band, which is a tendon not a muscle, starts on a small muscle found on the outside of the hip and extends down past the knee. The vastus lateralis lies deep to the IT band. The vastus lateralis is one part of a rather large muscle called the quadriceps (quads). This muscle makes up the front of your thighs, with portions also covering the inner (medial) and outer (lateral) thighs. The vastus lateralis is that part which covers the outer thigh.


Understandably, therapists will often think that the IT band is the source of a problem when someone presents with pain on the mid-thigh, but the vastus lateralis is more likely to blame. When the IT band is the problem, the person will feel the pain close to the knee.

If you’re in a lot of pain, whether it’s chronic or not, try to be patient as your therapist works to resolve the issue. If possible, set a few weekly or bi-weekly appointments initially and offer feedback regarding to pressure, pain, and effectiveness.

Find out if massage and stretching can help you feel better. Call today to schedule your next session!