Reclaiming Our Bodies

This is how it feels to become disconnected from one’s body during a traumatic event. Many are familiar with the “fight or flight” response. There is also a “freezing” of the body that occurs when one feels death is imminent. Some believe this is a way to not experience pain during death. Survivors are then left to wonder why they did not fight when the body went to sleep and froze, against their will.

Please take the time to read this courageous and beautifully told story of one woman’s loss of and then reclaiming of her own body.



See a girl below you on a bed, her dress red just like yours, her yellow hair in a pixie cut, just like yours. You will notice ash on her sleeve. You will view all this from your balloon perch on the ceiling. Glance back at the girl, you’ll see a zombie: mouth agape, arms glued to her sides, body frozen in place, eyes focused on a distant world. The big boy with the dark hair is there, his hands ripping her zipper.

via The Alpha and Omega of The Out of Body Girl by Joyce Hayden — Dear Hope

Adrenal Burn Out

Medical Disclaimer: The Content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.

At the end of March, just prior to a pivotal seminar in Boston, I found out my plans to extend my lease could not be met as the owner was moving back in. The seminar I then attended had a profound effect on my clinical practice, turning it on its head. So this time frame marked the beginning of a lot of changes for me on both the home and work fronts.

The move was unexpected and unwanted. I was out of vacation time and did not expect to have moving expenses added to my limited financial landscape. Emotionally, I was quite distraught and soon realized quite angry.  The packing for the move was a drain on my energy. Many days my caffeine consumption was excessive just to make it through the workday (quad ristretto shots anyone?). Coffee then began to taste like flavored water (red flag).

In the midst of packing, I also tried out a new dating site (because enough wasn’t going on in my life). The day after one of my dates I started to notice pain in the ball of my left foot with walking. Dating during this transition was a set up for the fall when things didn’t go well (when I go, I go BIG…). That foot pain, I later realized, was a red flag, too.

The day of the move was exhausting. The movers took much longer than expected and that made the day more expensive, too. The unpacking was slow, as my energy was just not recovering even with taking many rest breaks and even not unpacking some nights after work.

Unfortunately, about a week after the move my friend injured himself requiring first-aid and 8 or so first responders on scene. Even with a good measure of bourbon, I only slept a couple hours that night. The next day laryngitis visited and so did my slow-to-leave head and chest cold. Update: my friend is recovering well, having missed hitting anything “major” in the incident.

After my cold had lasted over 10 days, I was beginning to feel like a zombie all day long, no longer just at the end of my workday. I felt like I was floating and my thoughts would not focus. I was carrying extra water weight and waking up in the morning I often felt like a ton of bricks. Even though I was exhausted, sleep was elusive even with use of magnesium and passionflower. I had also noticed that my hands were freezing cold (a rarity for me in late spring). In asking a friend for help on this matter, she felt that my kidney energy was low.

I then began to research kidney deficiency (different from renal deficiency as this is not a medical diagnosis, but a term used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM) and ways to help recover my energy. In reading through the list of symptoms, her assessment was reinforced. I then also realized that my libido disappeared suddenly earlier in the week (red flag) and it was not until then that I realized it (oh, definite red flag).

To recover, I began to eat more of the foods suggested here and quickly cut back my caffeine consumption. I also started to focus more on breathing into my abdomen. I added sea salt to my water, too. In just a day or so, I started to feel more human (less zombie), warm and grounded again. Now I suspect all of that caffeine lead to adrenal burn out by overstimulating the adrenal glands. These glands are also responsible for water balance in the body. In TCM the energy of the kidneys is vital to life. When it is depleted, life force or qi energy is also depleted. 

When I saw my massage therapist last week, I asked for his help with kidney acupressure. From him, I learned that the ball of the foot is where the Kidney meridian begins… I had also been doing work on the posterior tibialis muscle, as it can refer pain to the ball of the foot. Would you know that the Kidney meridian closely follows the path of the posterior tibialis muscle? I shared with him that I was concerned about “messing with” the meridians as I didn’t want to throw something off balance (like I wasn’t already…). He strongly suggested that I check out meridian tracing to help open up the energy and that I’d have to “work” to mess things up…yes, I also laughed at that comment.

While I am still not back to 110%, this is the best I’ve felt in the last month. I’m hopeful that this information may be helpful to help prevent burn out in others or to give some tools to those who are already there. Cheers to life force energy, qi, we all need it to thrive!


Image: Google

Breathing Life

~Breathing in is called inspiration. It allows us to give birth to new ideas and emotions.
~Breathing out is called expiration. It allows us to release old ideas and emotions.

Like the tides, it is best when breathing is more or less balanced.

Sharp out breaths through sighs are an attempt to avoid feeling. It is an attempt to push something away that we do not want to either let go of or we do not want to experience feeling. It also prevents full inspiration.

The exhale needs to be soft and gentle like a whisper. Soft enough to avoid disturbing the scales on butterfly wings. Soft enough to release without forcing.

So now I work to slow down my out breath, feeling and allowing the old emotions and ideas to die, while recognizing them as best as I can. This allows a deeper in breath, as well.

Balancing the breath through having an equal time and velocity to the in and out breaths (inspiration ~ expiration) allows for a greater presence in the moment. This also builds less friction, creating fewer charges. There is less resistance to receiving new ideas through inspiration and it allows us to let go of the things which no longer serve us, through expiration.

It is hard to breathe in if we have not fully exhaled.


Watching him dying (graphic)

This happened nearly a dozen years ago,
yet still feels like just yesterday.

Standing at the foot of his bed,
i watched helplessly as he took some of his final breaths.

he was surrounded by the code team,
some peoples’ jobs merely the space they were holding.

a 1st year student, i stood there in my pressed and clean labcoat.
my nursing shoes; unsure what to do.

frozen in my tracks, my voice cracked
when telling the lead physician of his sudden collapse.

the pain in his calves he complained of just moments before
we exited the hospital’s front door.

the CI and I had dismissed the pain as leg cramps
from the progress in his walking distance.

so soon after having been bedridden following his craniotomy,
and partial lobotomy, we didn’t realize the risks and his fate.

the hiss of the oxygen, turned to its highest,
one of the few sounds in the room otherwise quiet.


less than five minutes before,
he, my CI and i had been walking outdoors.

my job for most of the walk had been to guard him,
to keep him steady, to keep him from falling.

i supported him, one hand on his belt,
the other holding his right hand in mine; a steady incline.

within steps of the change in guard,
he experienced a sudden decline.

my CI lowered him to the ground,
if it had been me at guard, both of us fallen, piling.

quickly, i pulled out my ammonia salts,
a sign of my green horns; an intern.

after breaking the tab and insuring his stability,
i ran inside, to procure a set of wheels.

on the way back to his room, his breathing
heavily labored. his skin grey turning.

it almost seemed as if he had had a severe
asthma attack, turning grey from the lack of perfusion.

we rushed him back to his room,
his wife at his side as others activated the code blue.

i watched what was to be their last goodbye,
in my freshly polished shoes and pressed lab coat,

i wanted to cry. false tears were running
down my face, still dry.

oh the things i learned that fateful day,
never ignore the signs of a DVT!

later i learned his astrocytomas & glioblastoma multiform
put him at risk for the emboli that traveled to his airways.

later the lead code physician ordered any non-essential personnel to leave,
head hanging low, i was the only one to go.

others stood there just holding the space,
unsure of their role, yet i couldn’t look anyone in the face.

in shock i sat quietly, then lead back to the clinic office
by someone who had noticed my shift in countenance.

as i passed by the room, where his wife has been shuttled,
my shoulders dropped lower as if in a singular huddle.

checking his chart, following up the the nurses,
we learned that day of his fate: death by asphyxiation

i drove that night, by the river of James,
not caring about the traffic, the slick roads, the rain.

my heart was filled with grief: the father, husband now lost,
my being stuck in traffic, repeatedly, seemed a simple cost.

i cried that night for his death,
it seems I had almost felt the presence of Archangel Azrael.

the next day I was almost relieved to hear,
his wife left grieving was also somewhat relieved.

three young children to care for at home, she didn’t want
them to remember his unsupported death within their abode.

for his affliction & neurosurgery had left him somewhat a child,
within the body of a man, safety awareness withheld.

in his death he had gifted to her the relief her burden of him,
freeing her to focus on the care of their young children.

I believe because of this experience, I was able to help to more quickly identify the signs of DVT in at least 5 others. While others were false alarms, I do not fuck around with the signs: better safe than sorry.

Here are some of the risk factors for DVT (each on its own can cause a blood clot to form):

  • Recent surgery (if if NOT bedridden)
  • Active cancer
  • Dehydration
  • Recent injury (especially fractures)
  • Family History
  • Use of hormones: Birth control, Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Obesity/Overweight
  • Decreased activity: traveling
  • Pregnancy
  • Heart conditions: Failure, Murmurs

__/|\__ Metta

The Body: Body Armor through Muscle Guarding

When we do not feel safe, our minds instruct our muscles to contract. Basically, all muscles in the body are at a heightened state of arousal (not necessarily sexually) and this is a way for us to be more reactive in the need to fight or flight (think: battle or be able to run like hell).

Medical Disclaimer: The Content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.

However, as most of us guard (hold our muscles tight) during our daily lives when mental or emotional stress arises. Yet in our modern world, we do not have the physical release of our muscles because we miss out on the action of fighting or fleeing. Muscle pain and dysfunctional movement patterns can develop. Most people who guard also have a heightened startle reflex and are jumpy at the slightest input.

The problem with muscle guarding is that muscles are made to move, to stretch and contract, and not to be held statically (think stagnant water). When held in an isometric position (a mantained muscle contraction without movement), muscles build up metabolic wastes, have higher levels acidity and lower levels of oxygen.

This keeps the muscle fibers in a contraction, as oxygen is needed on a chemical level for relaxation (think rigor mortis in the living). Tissues become toxic and painful, increasing the inflammatory process in an attempt for healing/recovery, which can then become a vicious cycle of dysfunction.

On the other hand, by moving our muscles without fighting against ourselves, we can help to maintain normalized amounts of oxygen levels, a neutral pH, as well as improved strength and flexibility.

Strategies that can help reduce excessive muscle tension;



– Movement: running, yoga, swimming, martial arts, even just walking as exercise

– Stress reduction strategies

– Sex with a trusted partner

– Breathworks/breathing

emotional alchemy

– Massage Therapy

– Chiropractic Work

– Acupuncture

– Physical Therapy and Dry Needling

– Counseling including Hypnotherapy

– Journaling

– Artwork

– Increased attention to posture and how you move your body. Are you raising your shoulders when you don’t need to, or in standing do you clench your buttocks?

Choose from the strategies above to see what works for you. I find that I need most of the above to help me to get rid of excessive muscle tension, some work directly (dry needling, therapeutic massage) than others (journaling, writing), but I find that each strategy when used properly can have a cumulative effect in improving my overall sense of well being.

See The Body for similar posts.


Photo credit

The Body: Dry Needling & Basic Muscle Physiology

Dry Needling can be an effective way to reduce and possibly eliminate trigger points. Trigger points are areas of tightly bound muscle fibers that can cause pain in a localized area or referred pain in another area, either when pressed (latent) or without pressure (active). Trigger points can cause pain, changes in sensation (sensitivity to light touch, temperature changes, numbness, to name a few), loss of range of motion, loss of function, loss of muscle power and can affect the function of other muscles in its functional group. First, let’s review the physiology behind muscle function.

Medical Disclaimer: The Content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.

Muscles are like ropes.

On a microscopic and even on a larger scale, muscles are like ropes. Imagine the muscles of your body as a series of ropes on pulleys. For a muscle to pull in one direction, it affects or relies on other muscles to pull in the same direction to work correctly. Oppositely moving muscles must be more or less relaxed.
Trigger points affect the movement of muscles

So imagine a muscle that is riddled with trigger points as a rope having knots that prevent its movement through the pulley, while shortening the length of the rope available to use.
This shortened and knotted muscle is not going to move properly: it cannot produce as much force (loss of strength and function), and it cannot move as far (loss of range of motion and function). The muscle may also cause pain that prevents the brain from contracting it as strongly. So, effectively, a muscle that is tightly bound will not be able to produce as much force as one that can easily stretch to its full length.

Functional Grouping of Muscles

Now imagine a series of pulleys that work together to move a large pallet onto a ship of old, where several strong men work together to get the cargo safely on board. Some men are on the vessel, while others are on the pier and dock.
Muscles, just like the men, work in concert with others, few muscle contractions can ever be truly isolated with any movement (even with supported bicep curls, muscles of the rotator cuff must fire/contract to stabilize the shoulder joint, while core muscles contract to stabilize the trunk). As muscles often work together as a functional group, weakness in one muscle can cause other muscles to be over-recruited to compensate for the loss of power with another. This can result in over-use injuries and pain in muscles in other areas, increasing the area of muscles affected often increases the trigger points as well as the areas of pain.

Pain often begets pain, and ironically the more persistent the pain is, the lower our threshold for pain becomes (the less painful stimulus that is required to register as pain in your brain). Yes, it’s a terrible cycle.

Reciprocal Inhibition

Now going back to the cargo being moved onto the ship using pulleys, imagine how as the cargo moves over to the ship, that workers on the dock must relax their pull on the ropes, to avoid fighting with the power of the workers on the ship.
Another component of muscle function that is important to understand is that when one muscle is active, the muscle that opposes it (unless you are stabilizing) must reciprocally relax. This is called reciprocal inhibition. For instance, when doing bicep curls, the triceps is reciprocally inhibited. Now when doing planks, both muscles fire simultaneously (called a co-contraction) to allow you to keep in place. So, going back to dysfunction, if the biceps are functionally shortened through trigger points, strengthening of the triceps can be inhibitied (as the biceps must be “quiet” to strengthen the triceps through their entire range of motion).

Neurological Inhibition seen with trigger points is not always logical

Trigger points can cause the brain to inhibit muscle function in the presence of tightness and pain. The quadratus lumborum is a back muscle that is active with side bending away, trunk stabilization, and hip hiking. Even through it often works in concert with same-sided (ipsilateral) contraction of the glutes (hip abduction, hip extension and sometimes external rotation), it can inhibit the activation of the glutes. This can make the glutes test weak – when in fact they are just being told by the brain to not fire or contract. Dry needling, when applied directly to the quadratus lumborum only and by a properly trained practitioner, can release the inhibition of the glutes, that can then “miraculously” test at full strength even though nothing was done directly to the glutes. Interestingly, the inhibition can also “cross” the pelvis and affect the other side.

So what is Dry Needling, again?

Dry Needling is a technique that can be performed in some states by Physicians, Acupuncturists, Chiropractors and Physical Therapists. Practitioners use an accupunture style needle and insert it directly into a muscle trigger point, going to the heart of the matter. I would by lying to you if I said this is painless. It does not feel great to have this done, however, as both someone who performs and receives dry needling treatments, I have noticed many benefits (see below).

Dry Needling is a method of treatment (modality) that requires additional training, with minimum requirements to practice this modality are determined by each state.

So how does Dry Needling work, exactly?

The magic behind dry needling is hypothesized as there is not yet a proven theory at this time. However, physiological changes within the muscle fibers have been measured pre and post dry needling and I have included a non-comprehensive list, below, based on my coursework with Myopain Seminars (this blog is NOT being endorsed by them). These are based on scientific papers that are too numerous to list. If you would like specifics, please reply what topic/area you would like to have the reference for in the comments.

Changes pre to post needling include: 

– An increase in oxygen (pre needling tissue is hypoxic or low in oxygen. Oxygen is required chemically to release the muscle contraction without breaking the muscle fibers apart mechanically, this is often the cause of muscle pain after training)

– A decrease in acidity (Carbon dioxide is a by-product of cells contracting and when stuck within the muscle fibers, this lowers the pH and can cause pain).

– A decrease in pain-mitigating chemicals (chemicals that make us more sensitive to pain leave the area)

– A decrease in inflammatory chemicals and cells (chemicals and cells that cause inflammation: swelling, pain, pressure, etc)

Potential Benefits to Dry Needling:

– The relaxation of muscles seems to be cumulative in nature (I feel with each time I given and receive dry needling that it seems subsequent treatments result in less pain – I give the analogy of clearing a mine field. The challenge can be that we can induce further trigger points with our activities)

– improved muscle function: through increased range of motion, strength/power.

– Increased threshold to pain – it takes more painful input to cause us to experience pain (when in persistent pain, neurological changes actually *increase* – yes, I said increase, our sensitivity to pain)
I would be remiss if I did not include potential side-effects and precautions/contraindications to dry needling.

Potential side-effects:



-Post-needling soreness

-Pain w/ muscle releases (the muscle spasms forcibly prior to relaxation)

-Pneumothorax (a punctured lung if needling in the lung fields, a well-trained practitioner knows how to avoid lung puncture).
Precautions (clinician should proceed with caution when dry needling):

– Pregnancy

– Anemia

– Fear of needles

– Active Cancer (depends on area)

– Immune deficiency

– Excessive adipose tissue (this is a nice way to say morbid obesity, as most areas require the clinician to be able to feel/palpate bony landmarks and if they cannot reach the muscle tissue with a needle, I woudn’t recommend it).

Contraindications (Hard stops, clinician should not perform dry needling):

– Blood clotting disorders (in most cases)

– Areas of lymphedema

– Implants (in areas to be treated)

What do I need to do to receive Dry Needling?
Requirements to practice and receive Dry Needling vary by state. The best way to find out is to contact a Dry Needling practitioner in your area. I recommend Myopain Seminars’ website to find a practitioner in your area. The study in rigorous and they only include practitioners who have completed all 3 levels (3 days each of 10 hour training, that’s 90 hours of training) on their website. If you cannot find anyone in your area on the website, then call a trusted Pain Management, Physical Therapy or Chiropractic Clinic. Generally, if there is someone in the area that practices Dry Needling, those clinics are more likely to know about it than a PCP.

See The Body for similar posts


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Fireworks, Magnesium & Muscle Function

This is the first in a series I’m working on regarding the body, which emphasizes muscles and function.

Magnesium, the metal that gives many fireworks their spark of white light is also required in the body. For a muscle to be able to relax, magnesium is physiologically required on a cellular level (ie no magnesium, no muscle relaxation). Magnesium deficiency is often overlooked while its chemical counterpart, Calcium, takes the spotlight. Both are required for muscles to function properly and imbalances in either can cause heart arrhythmias. The heart is one huge muscle, after all.

Here, I share my own experiences with magnesium deficiency in the hopes it may help you, too.

Medical Disclaimer: The Content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.

In seeking the help of a Naturopath (ND) for insomnia and anxiety, I was shown how magnesium deficiency was affecting me. At the time of this discovery, I did not want to take conventional medications as I was breastfeeding. Well, I should also mention I avoid taking prescriptions as often as possible. That’s another story for another day!

While I am a healthcare professional, a physician or dietitian I am not. Here, I am sharing my experiences with magnesium deficiency and what it has meant to me. If this post compels you to investigate, please check with your MD or pharmacist first! While it is my hope that it may help someone, possibly you, to live better, magnesium consumption could possibly interfere with medications and or worsen some medical conditions.

Here were some of the symptoms that I had when I sought help:

  • Insomnia (not just sleeplessness from having a baby, as often she was asleep while I was in bed fully awake)
  • Chocolate cravings – insatiable
  • Muscle tension & cramping
  • Menstrual cramping
  • Constipation
  • Night sweats
  • Anxiety/inability to relax

When I went to see the ND, he introduced me to Natural Calm, a powdered form of magnesium. While I love this product, I found it expensive and easy to overdo it, causing the inverse of constipation; loose stools. So I was unable to get enough into my body to stop the menstrual cramps.

It’s interesting that I had forgotten at the time that with post-Labor pains, my midwife had me take Cal-Mag supplements instead of a pain-killer. This resolved my cramping without the need for pain meds (post-parting cramping was more painful at times than labor, and like menstrual cramps x1000). Cal-Mag was simply Magical!

When I started running, years later, I found magnesium oil spray to help. As it is absorbed through the skin, the body will only absorb what it needs (think osmosis). Just need to remember to avoid applying it to any broken, freshly shaved/waxed or dry skin. Think intense burning! Avoiding dry skin can be a challenge in winter, when we may need magnesium the most.

Another product I like is magnesium oil by Trace Minerals Research, taken orally. This I purchased when Whole Foods was out of the spray and I was, too. It has a strong salty taste, so not good for anyone who is taste sensitive. I keep the oil in the fridge as colder foods cause less stimulation of taste buds. When I take it, I just add it to a tall glass of water and chug it. I usually do this before bed and I find I settle down more easily.

Epsom salt soaks are also great and I often do 1-3/week when I have an event (running or obstacle). Soaking both before and after the event helps reduce delayed onset of muscle soreness.

In general, I find during times of high stress (any form) that I need to increase my magnesium intake. I have found that post workouts I barely have soreness and if I do, I just take more magnesium. The same goes for menstrual cramps.  In times of emotional and mental stress, if I find myself restless: more magnesium. If I find that I am getting constipated, you guessed it: more magnesium! Same action when I get chocolate cravings.

While I do NOT consider magnesium a cure all, I have found that I no longer crave chocolate (I use to eat it like it was a drug, well, it was…), my sleep is more restful and I actually require less of it (this could also be a meditation side effect), I’m rarely constipated, I’m much more calm (another possible meditation side effect) and I rarely have menstrual or muscle cramps.

In reading into magnesium deficiency more, many who drink filtered water (city or bottled), miss out on magnesium. It is dissolved into water as it travels through the ground. Being magnesium deficient can cause many ill effects. I encourage you to do your own research. Don’t just trust me, blindly, as I am just one.

Photo credit

Relationships and Running Shoes: If it doesn’t fit, then don’t force it!


Earlier this week, I was trying on new running shoes. For several reasons, it’s best for me to go to a physical store to purchase specialty shoes. The first pair I put on did not feel right before I tied them. The sales associate immediately instructed me to take them off followed by, “If you force it [to fit], you’ll regret it at about mile 40.”

His wisdom made immediate sense and may explain why I had the running injury that I’ve had… I hate shoe shopping, so I chose the first pair that worked and ran with them, literally.

This time around, I was patient through the 4 or 5 pairs of trials, which included running to find the right pair.

“If you force it [to fit], you’ll regret it at about mile 40,” is also good advice for relationships. In looking back at some of the relationships I’ve been in over the years, some were “forced fits” in the sense that I went along even after I had the feeling that things might not turn out well.

So my new perspective reveals to me that if I’m working too hard to keep things together, then it may just not be the right fit. This also takes away the shame and the guilt that can be associated with “failed” relationships. Maybe they did not fail, maybe they never (or just no longer) fit.

May we all be free from the relationships and things in our lives that no longer (or never) fit.


Photo by Madrolli by

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