Yahara Therapy
Newsletters

March 2010 Newsletter:

  1. New Schedule
  2. Gift Certificates
  3. Recent NYT Articles
  4. Paraffin treatments and Thai massage
  5. Cancelling an Appointment
  6. The Sternocleidomastoid
  7. Survey
  8. The New Rug
  9. Journals by Partners in Place

1) New Schedule: Accepted to PT School
Hello friends, clients, colleagues of Yahara Therapy:
I have been accepted to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at UW Madison. This also happens to be my 20th reunion from the first time around at Ripon College. The DPT program is full time for three years and starts June 2010.

I will continue to practice massage full-time until the end of May. Beginning in June, I will take appointments on an "as-available" basis; I will schedule appointments for the week of the request only.

Because my schedule will be irregular and uncertain I would like to refer you to other bodyworkers. I will soon be sharing a list of people whose work I respect and highly recommend. Please take advantage of this referral list to continue to receive therapeutic massage on a regular basis. If you have any additions to this list, please share them with me. I would love to share back with other clients.

2) Gift Certificates: Use Them If You Have Them!
All those with outstanding gift certificates should schedule an appointment by the end of April 2010. Don't let your hard-earned money, gift or donation to go un-rewarded! Please call or email soon, or check in with those to whom you have given a certificate.

3) Articles: Self-massage and the Mind-Body Connection

  • "Becoming Your Own Massage Therapist"
    By Dimity McDowell
    December 3, 2009
    The New York Times: Fitness
    From the article: "A foam roller, a ball, your own fingers: All can be therapeutic devices when used properly."

  • "Abstract Thoughts? The Body Takes Them Literally"
    By Natalie Angier
    February 2, 2010
    The New York Times: Basics
    From the article: "Researchers have found that the body embodies abstractions the best way it knows how: physically."

4) Warm Paraffin Hand Treatments and Thai Yoga Massage
What is a paraffin treatment? Purified, unscented paraffin is melted to a very warm, pleasant temperature. Immersing hands and wrists provides deep heat, often helpful for those suffering with arthritis and making massage of overworked hands even more beneficial. Dry skin benefits, as well.

Note: Certain conditions may preclude this treatment. See this eMedicine page for an overview of heat and cryotherapeutic (cold) treatments and their contraindications: "Superficial Heat and Cold."

What is Thai Massage? See my webpage for more information.

Reminder: Paraffin treatments and Thai massage must be scheduled in advance as they require advanced preparation time.

5) Short-Notice Cancellations and Rescheduling Requests
Please contact me by telephone if you need to reach me within 24 hours.

I have changed my policy to reflect this: "Rescheduling and Cancellation of Appointments ... Please give at least 24 hours' notice by telephone when you need to cancel or reschedule an appointment."

Email is always great for scheduling and changing appointments several days or more in advance and as a backup to the telephone; however, if you need to reach me last minute, please call me.

6) Anatomy Highlight: The Sternocleidomastoid, or the "SCM," Trigger Points and Referred Pain
You are probably more familiar with this muscle than you think. Look in a mirror. Place your palm upon your forehead. Watch the front of your neck as you press your forehead against your hand and resist. See those cords that stick out on each side? Those are your SCMs.

photo of Sternocleidomastoid
Photo, with permission by Pffft on Flickr. My highlights/text.

Why the big name?
Each part indicates where this muscle is attached: "Sterno" refers to the sternum ('breastbone'); "cleido" is clavicle (a.k.a. 'collar bone') and "mastoid" mean the mastoid process, which is the part of your skull right behind your ear. The SCM connects behind your ear then branches at the other end; one branch attaches to the top of the sternum and one attaches to the middle of your clavicle.

What do they do?
The SCMs are powerful muscles.

a-Along with other neck, shoulder and back muscles they help to stabilize and balance your head on top of your spine.
b-They move your head. They:
-rotate your head like when you want to look at the person in the seat next to you.
-flex your head forward, as in a nod.
c-The SCMs also come in to play when you take a deep breath. Look in that mirror. Take a huge breath. Can you see them stand out, again?

Look around you. Do you see people with a "forward head," jutting forward, stuck chicken-like in mid-peck? Their SCMs can probably use some relief. They can get sticky or rigid or knotty if they are underused or overused.

How do they feel?
Unlike many muscles, the SCMs rarely feel painful themselves. When a tissue has an injury or is overused, it can send pain to other regions of the body. This is called referred pain (or sensation). For example, this happens to the heart muscle; sometimes it refers pain to the chest, neck or back when it is in trouble.

In myofascial tissue, referred pain is caused by a "trigger point" -- fibers of a muscle that have become and stay contracted. If the problem is big or long in duration, the referral sensation may be more intense.

In the SCM, pain or other sensations are referred toward the head, face, jaws and sometimes the sternum. This can include the frontal lobe above the eyes, and pain that is felt in the teeth and ears. In serious cases, sometimes trigger points in the SCM are the source of balance or other sensory disturbances.

What can you do?
Besides receiving massage, you can work on yourself very easily to free some of the trigger points and sticky fascia. Maybe you don't have pain, but might have some tension. Try this:

a- Sit or stand in a relaxed, supported position with your feet flat and even, spine and head balanced over your tailbone. Breathe easily. Sometimes closing your eyes can be helpful to keep you focused on the task.
b- Flex your head forward, letting your chin fall toward your sternum. This allows the SCM to slacken.
c- With the opposite hand, find the SCM. Gently but firmly grasp any part of it between thumb and fingers.
d- Squeeze while gently pulling outward.
e- Work your way up and down the muscle, trying to feel the "fork" as it braches near your clavicle and sternum.
f- Try rolling the muscle between your fingers.
g- Note the tender spots. These are the areas that need the most attention! Do you feel any referral sensations?
h- One or two passes on each side should be enough for each treatment.

Are they hard to grasp? With your head bowed, turn your head slowly to the side opposite the SCM (turn right if you are trying to grasp the left). If all you can get is the skin and tissue above the muscle, work on that. It's a good place to begin to unstick things!

A note of caution: The body's main blood pressure sensors are located near the carotid artery in this part of the neck, so be sure never to push in toward the neck, but always pull outward.

(With gratitude to The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, Second Edition. Davies and Davies. 2004.)

***Sci-fi fans: Make sure you see the "Cultural Significance" section of this Wikipedia page: Sternocleidomastoid muscle ***

7) Survey
Thanks to all who provided much-valued feedback by filling out my online survey. The suggestions I received have helped me to re-focus and attend to some important parts of my practice with you. Direct suggestions, questions or conversations are always welcome and needed.

8) The New Rug by Kathy Ginther
Many of you have seen this new rug living in my office. Even if you do not plan to come back to receive massage, I welcome you to come see this beautiful work of art made by local artistan, Kathy Ginther.

I researched non-toxic, humane-sourced rugs thick enough to help warm the floor and large enough to contain both me and the you on the table or mat.

I got that, and so much more! I now have an heirloom piece of art made entirely of reclaimed fabric. With just my description, a few quick photos of the office, and a request to use her artistic vision, the rug was born.

See more photos here: The Rug.

It was a complete pleasure to work with Kathy. Please take a moment to peruse her new shop on etsy.com and photos on Flickr. She does traditional and contemporary braided rugs and other items and teaches at Beach Corner Arts Studios in Ettrick, WI.

She says: "I've been braiding for about 10 yrs. now, and have made over 150 rugs! (that doesn't include bowls,bags,trivets,table runners, cat mats,baskets,etc.). I enjoy using recycled materials (finding cloth that has life in it, and giving it new life with a new look!) The 8x12 [rug] took me 3 months to make (being very dedicated). I used mostly cotton and denim jeans mixed with a lot of knits! I find it most challenging to take all these odd cloths, and incorporate a design as well!

The art of rug-braiding is getting lost, so I plan to do more demonstrations, classes, and workshops to keep the art alive... [a]lso to make people aware of the beautiful things they can make out of the materials they already have in their homes, instead of throwing [them out]. I have more new braiding ideas that I want to try-it's so rewarding creating something out of nothing!! The only downside is that I get blamed for any missing garment in my home!!!! My hope is to get some of my daughters interested in the art as well!

It took about 95-100 lbs. of cloth to make your rug!!"

9) Journals by Partners in Place
Wheels of Time & Place are unique journals, circular in form, that encourage you to engage in a unique way with your life and environment. Made locally in Madison, WI by Anne Forbes, a facilitator and coach.