Repetitive Strain Injury/Back/Chest Pain



I'm having some trouble in my upper back.  There's a point on my left side (right in the middle between my spine and my left shoulder) that hurts when I shrug my shoulder forward or push my shoulders back ("kissing" shoulders to get the squared shoulder look).  If I take a deep breath I can feel it in my chest as well.  It hurts at no other time--only when I do that with my shoulders.  I try and get my boyfriend to see if he can press on a spot in my back where it would re-produce the pain, but I can't find it.  

The pain is better when I'm in a hot shower or after I've been sleeping.  Also, if I put my arm up and and rest my hand on my head.  I'm 28 and in good health overall.  I've been to my primary care and she heard my lungs and heart but it all sounded normal.  So I went to an orthopedist/sports medicine specialist and he couldn't find the pain either--just told me to take NSAIDs.  What do you think this might be?

Hi Suzie,

The odds are this pain is being caused by muscles in the front of your body, especially your scalenes in the neck, and I suspect that your pectoralis minor muscle is also involved.  It will help if you go to and read about repetitive strain injuries, including the sections titled "Muscles and Pain" and "What's Happening Exactly."  The scalenes are explained by going to and then looking at the section titled "Anatomy Lessons."

After you have read the two websites, please feel free to come back here and we can discuss this further, but you'll have a much better understanding by knowing how spasms in the muscles cause pain that can be a distance from where you are feeling it.

Wishing you well,
   Julie Donnelly  

Repetitive Strain Injury

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Julie Donnelly, LMT


I can accept questions that relate to chronic or acute pain caused by muscle spasms and contractions. Repetitive Strain Injury is actually Cumulative Trauma to muscles. Releasing the spasm &/or contraction will relieve the strain that is felt at the insertion point on the bone. I am the co-developer of the unique safe-stretching program "Focused Flexibility Training," which combines easy instruction for self-treating spasms throughout your body with proven yoga stretches. I have recently authored two new books: "The 15 Minute Back Pain Solution," and "The Secret to Your Best Golf Game EVER!


Since 1989 I have been working with endurance athletes and individuals suffering from chronic pain conditions. I have authored seven self-treatment books and three self-treatment DVDs and I have developed the Julstro System for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome, Trigger Finger, and other Hand/Wrist pain. I am a national and international presenter at conventions, seminars, and workshops. Principle topics are "Work Shouldn't Hurt," and "The Pain Free Athlete." In 2005 and 2006 I was the massage therapist for ultracyclists competing in the Race Across America (RAAM) 3000+ mile race from San Diego, CA to Atlantic City, NJ. I've taught the Julstro techniques to physical therapists at the Cleveland Clinic, to massage therapists in areas around the USA, and I've taught Julstro self-treatment clinics to dancers at Juilliard School of Performing Arts (NYC),the sprinting team at NC State, and I am working closely with several Olympic-hopeful. We have successfully eliminated the repetitive strain injuries that could keep them out of the Olympic Games, and the best part is they know how to do the self-treatments so they can stay pain-free and flexible.

Triathlete Magazine, Endurance Magazine, multiple national and international trade journals.

Swedish Institute of Allied Health, NY, NY - Initial education in massage therapy Licensed NYS Massage Therapist since 1989. SUNY Empire State College, Saratoga Springs, NY - B.Sc. degree in Interdisciplinary Health Education I was an Associate Professor helping to develop the massage training program for SUNY Rockland Community College

Past/Present Clients
Privacy prevents me from filling in this section without prior consent from my clients. Life Experience: I have been specializing in the treatment of chronic pain and sports injuries since receiving my NY massage license in 1989. A personal bout with carpal tunnel syndrome was the catalyst to my developing a self-treatment that heals the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome quickly and without surgery. My work with endurance athletes was the inspiration to teach people how to self-treat so they could stop pains even during a race or heavy training day. Both of these situations ultimately became the products that are sold on my websites: and I currently treat people in my offices in Sarasota, FL, Cary, NC, or Pearl River, NY

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