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 just 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) versus 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. We learned in school that the trapezius is rarely the culprit and that, more likely, the problem lies beneath it, in the semispinalis capitis. Laying deep to the trapezius, the semispinalis capitis makes up a major part of the back of the neck, extending from the different vertebrae found in the mid back and neck up to the cranium.
  • Vastus Lateralis (lat-er-al-is) versus the Iliotibial Band (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. 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. Understandably, therapists will often think that the IT band is source of the 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.


About the author:


Libby Winterhalter, a licensed massage therapist (LMT), has been in private practice since July 2004. She graduated from SHI Integrative Medical Massage School, then located in Lebanon, Ohio. Prior to that, she received a Bachelor of Art’s degree in Communications along with a minor in Religious Studies from the College of Mount St. Joseph in 2001. Libby has also worked both in the corporate world and she served as a Journalist for the United States Navy for 22 years from which she is now retired. She is an active member of the American Bodyworkers and Massage Professionals Association (ABMP).

Libby naturally blends both medical-based treatments and holistic therapies offering a more effective and comprehensive experience. Each session is specifically tailored to that client using one or more of the following techniques: therapeutic massage, Swedish (relaxation) massage, sports massage, Active Isolated Stretching – considered to be both a neuromuscular and myofascial release technique – Trigger Point Therapy, Craniosacral Therapy and more.

Libby has worked extensively with clients dealing with chronic pain, strains and sprains, compromised joints, spinal fusion(s), temporomandibular disorder, scar tissue, migraines, whiplash, digestive issues, plantar fasciitis and other foot-related pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, failure-to-thrive syndrome, pregnancy, cancers, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), sports-related injuries and severe injuries resulting from other accidents.

Thankfully, not all of Libby’s clients are facing life-altering issues. One client tells her she keeps him feeling younger than his years. Another client says Libby keeps her out of pain, while someone else tells her that she offers a necessary reprieve from the stressors of the world.

Libby is looking forward to expanding her practice and working with such an accomplished group of healthcare providers.