101 Things I’ve Learned from my Massage Therapist-Day 5

Tooth Pain

I Woke up this morning with pain in my teeth.

tooth and me

My first instinct was panic; I  took a deep breath and cradled my face. The “heat” from my hand felt so good. The exhale that followed brought me back into the moment. I was in a panic; Two or three of my teeth were aching so badly I made an emergency appointment with the dentist. The dentist poked around and she couldn’t find anything of concerned. I felt so defeated by the pain I began to cry. As I drove home in tears the solution hit me.  I had gone to school to become a massage therapist, and we learn all about the trigger points in the muscles of the face.  I pulled over and looked up my favorite reference for trigger points.


Thank you www.triggerpoints.net

Amazing how my mind could send me spiraling into fear and stress even though i had the solution.  I started to rub the muscles vigorously at first and dug for the the most painful spot so I could use a really specific pressure. The pain in my teeth  and Jaw started to subside.

Pain in the face and Jaw can be a little complicated and I’ll often refer out to an osteopath or dentist; however, i do massage the muscles of the face often. Intra-oral massage meaning inside the mouth can be really effective. Before I get started with my hands in the mouth there’s usually some Orthopedic assessments; some tests to assess where I’m going to be treating. I wear latex-free gloves and generally go over what I’m going to do, where I’m going to palpate what it might feel like and then we establish hand signals.

My go to test is to draw an imaginary line from the nose to the chin and just observe whether the tracks left or right if you can’t open the mouth with out shifting left or right the muscles of the jaw Temporal Mandibular Joint (TMJ) could be tight.

Having  somebody else put their hands inside of our mouths can make you feel very vulnerable so I always encourage my patients to work on it themselves.

  1. With your palm facing forward, close all of my fingers except for my index finger
  2. Run your finger along the side of the upper teeth on the contralateral side (the opposite side is much easier access)
  3. When you get to the very back of the teeth slide your finger  down in between the top and the bottom teeth.
  4. You will feel a little ridge of muscle might even feel like a bone. This area can be painful so be gentle and listen to your body
  5. Imagine you’re just pushing into cold butter. Stay there for a few moments and  feel how that muscle begins to melt underneath the pressure.
  6. working with the breath can be a really useful tool to dealing with pain. Keep breathing in and out and focus right through the middle of the pain.

If it hurts do less. Reassess the opening and closing of the jaw.  Was there a change?

Keep Learning! Keep adventuring for solutions! and Keep asking for help!

Peace and Love. M

101 Things I’ve Learned from my Massage Therapist-Day 4


Just take one breath.

breathe final

Is your instinct to inhale? Reread the header and pay attention. Does your stomach move when you breathe? Does your rib cage move from the bottom to the top or from the top to the bottom? Does it feel relaxing? Is there an equal in and out to your breath? What is the rhythm like? If you’re irritated about the questions examine your breathing. Reread the heading one more time and try to exhale first.

A patient of mine was running behind for her massage appointment. She hustled in from the car in a flurry of coats and mittens and rushed to get ready. I usually like to leave patients that are late or stressed laying on their stomach in the prone position a little longer; a great trick I picked up from my sister in her work with infants. When i opened the door and began the treatment it was clear that there was still some work to be done on the relaxation front. I asked this lovely woman to just take a breath. I am sure she was solving world problems; pick up drop off logistics for the children, planning a meal and trying to remember if she had logged out of her computer at work.  When i asked her to just take a nice breath, her instinct was to take a giant breath in and hold it. I asked if she was going to be alright and we both broke out into laughter as she exhaled, ( Its much easier to get the air in when your laughing). I wanted to play the breathing video for her then and there.

click here for the video

One thing was made very clear to me that day. Most of us have no idea how to breathe. 

There are hundreds of books, endless blogs, pages of websites and articles  written on the subject. The Franklin method has a 10 week online course that high lights the movement of the body and my lovely friend Theresa the Yoga Teacher always starts with if you can breathe you can do yoga. Movement is the corner stone of the breathe.

There are techniques for heating and increasing the circulation, and other ones that cool it down, slowing the rhythm of the breath there are breathing practices that have you inhale for 4 and exhale for 7. Darrel Wolfe likes the value of 6 seconds in and 7 seconds out, with a pause at the top. Some practices use a pause at the top and the bottom of the cycle while others like transformational breath work eliminates the pause…. where do we even start. I was reminded this week as I reread Exhale An Overview of Breath work by Gunnel Minett that poor breathing leads to ill health, and the reverse is also true. “Breathing is one of the oldest forms of medical practices dating back to prehistoric times and occurring in all cultures”.

In my practice this is actually one of the first things I like to work on is the breath. When we breathe in we stimulate a stress response; the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and when we exhale we activate the rest and digest or Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Activating and releasing creates this beautiful balance that massages the organs, delivers oxygen to the blood pumps the heart; it’s really a beautiful machine. Yet many of us are stuck in the stress response;  where shallow breathing, poor digestion and a stiff neck follow.  

Here are some of my favorite cues and clues to breathing. Even spending a few moments each day feeling for the movement can shift us from the future to the present moment, and that is truly the gift. 

  1. Let the air come in through your porous cheek bones rather than your nose.
  1. Feel the air riding on top of the roof of the mouth.
  2. Let your teeth be wiggly in the socket and feel how the roof of the mouth or the palate can move down and flatten out. ( just like the diaphragm does when we breath in) pay attention to any teeth that restrict the movement
  3. Let the air touch the back of your throat and follow it down.
  4. Let the diaphragm move down and flatten out as you breathe in. The diaphragm pulls the lungs so they can expand and compress the organs. As a courtesy the organs move out into the belly and down into the pelvic floor. Don’t try to create this, just see if you can feel it happen? For people having a really hard time with this I usually just have them place their hand on the belly and feel it move. 
  1. Feel the seat bones move apart from each other as you breathe in. The organs move down into the pelvic floor and it moves down and flattens out (just like the diaphragm and the palate). The bones of the pelvis are generally happy to accommodate as we have a movable disc at the front of our pelvis that will allow for the movement. If you have trouble with this place your hands on the seat bones and feel the subtle movement. 
  2. Imagine a flower blooming in the pelvis on the inhale and falling to the floor on the exhale
  3. As you inhale imagine every single cell in your body expanding. 
  4. Exhale like you were blowing through a straw- this is one of my favorites!
  5. Spend a few minutes breathing in and out through your heart. How does it feel?
  6. Take a breath in for 6 seconds, let all 3 diaphragms move down and flatten out. Hold your breath for the count of 10 and see if you can feel how the lungs continue to breathe? Exhale slowly. I love this exercise for coming back into the present moment. 

Try them all, ask for help, and enjoy

101 Things I’ve Learned from my Massage Therapist-Day 3

Eye Exercise


As we sat at the dinner table reading cards and opening gifts a pair of family reading glasses were passed around; we also have several pairs at the front desk in the clinic. Many of us know if we are near sighted or far sighted. We might have a pair of glasses for reading and another pair for driving. but do you actually know how the muscles of the eye work? Yes, there are some parts of the eye that loose the ability to contract and relax as we age; however is it possible that range of motion for the muscles of the eye can work the same as walking to keep our hearts and hips healthy?

I have had several patients over the years recovering from concussion. They are usually refereed to a vestibular physiotherapist and return with eye exercises that help with dizziness and balance. These amazing patients inspired my to learn more and share some of the exercises related to the eyes.

We must remember the previous post and revisit “the brain as a bully” to fully understand how the eyes and proprioception works. Basically, the brain will turn the body into a pretzel to keep the eyes level on the horizon. Now there are lots of factors that can alter how the eyes are sitting in the skull. the bones of the head the teeth, the jaw, the spine, the hips even a difference in our feet can cause the eyes to shift slightly. I like to start at the top and work my way down.

There are essentially 8 muscles that help us to move the eye; and a few more that help with contraction.


So here are some delicious exercises for the muscles of the eye. If any of these exercises make you dizzy or nauseated you should stop or do less.

  1. Start with the range of motion for each eye; up, down, left, right, and then the diagonals. See if there is a direction that is comfortable then find one that is a little more difficult or uncomfortable. Don’t panic this is only a stretch.
  2.  I often find myself educating my patients on the range of motion of the eye, teaching them how the eye moves and how it is connected facially to the small suboccipital muscles at the back of the head, especially if they arrive with a headache. These little gems are guilty of causing that nagging headache that feels like a band around the head. To feel the connection place your index fingers at the base of your skull and move your eyes from left to right. Can you feel a small flicker? Suboccipital Group
  3. Eric Franklineye exercises are some of my favorites. His Dynamic Imagery gets the brain thinking about the body. Can you imagine space around the eyeball? can you feel it floating in that space? What about light? can you feel the light entering into the back of the eyeball rather than the front? can you feel the light coming into the back of your skull? How does this make your neck feel?
  4. This eye exercise is one of my favorites from “5  minute fixes to improve your riding” by Wendy Murdoch.  Let your eyes rest in the socket. Can you feel the difference between resting and staring eyes? can you feel what the muscles of your face are doing when your eyes are closed? Is your brow furrowed with your eye brows knit together? or is there a softness and space between them? Close your eyes and feel the eye lids gently pushing against the eyeballs, can you feel the eyes sink back into the sockets? How does this affect your balance.


Just try them out and keep finding ways to get the brain to consider the body!


101 Things I’ve Learned from my Massage Therapist Day 2-

Sore neck? Hows your stress?

This article was originally called your brain the bully, basically the brain treats muscle like an annoying little brother. I mean the brain does have millions of important functions to preform every second. So how does stress make your neck sore?

We are negatively charged, and the Brain is always looking out for danger, things that are a risk to our survival. It uses all of the senses to navigate the fight or flight (Stress) and rest or digest (Relaxation) world we live in. Some times the break lights from a car in front of us can send us into a Stress response activating the Sympathetic nervous system. Now what does this have to do with massage…. When the Sympathetic Nervous system fires one of the first ways our bodies respond is to take short breaths. Shallow breathing puts more strain on the muscles of the neck; the scalenes now begin to pull the rib cage to help with breathing. Enter tight neck, enter trigger points that cause headache, enter massage therapist.

Left untreated we begin to have this forward head posture. This is where the kyphotic or hunched back posture begins. So what can we do?

If we activate the muscles and make them a little tired, the brain goes into protective older brother mode and changes the tone of the muscles. This is why exercise can feel so relaxing.

Today i have added a video from one of my favorites Eric Franklin, He has a dynamic approach to the body and some great fixes for the scalenes. watch it here

101 Things I’ve Learned from my Massage Therapist -Day 1

Happy New Year!

Looking back at this past year, I am filled with gratitude for the gifts I have received, gratitude is how I like to start every day.  Scientifically, identifying the things we are grateful for has incredible benefit on the brain, heart and.  The Cortex of our brain will begin to make more connections our heart rate will slow down just from giving thanks…isn’t that Amazing.  Today;  and the first day of every year,  I begin a personal quest and start to ask myself, how do i want to grow this year, professionally, mentally, emotionally and spiritually?

day 1

One of my favorite things about Massage Therapy  is mandatory continuing education. I am asked to keep learning and sharing new modalities, new technologies, and to review the intricacies of the human anatomy;sharing is caring, I understand this makes me sound like a super nerd, and i fully embrace that part of my self! My patients also remind me that sharing is caring. They often show up with note books, and ask, “what are we learning today” or “what are you reading now”.

This Year, as a gift to you, and as a way for me to grow, I would like to share some of the things I am learning.  Just a little snippet that will cause you to look at the human body  in a different way.  I`m not sure how this will take shape over the next year but i am excited and curious about where the path will lead.

So today on this first day of 2020 my question to you is what are you excited to learn about this year?   How do you want to GROW?

How Do You Massage a Horse

People always ask me how do you massage a horse?… honestly the answer is they show us exactly what they need. All we need to do is open our eyes open our minds and see with our hearts. Come along on a journey as we discover how to listen to what our horses body needsAdobe_Post_20191009_2140520.6133780453888988



for more information

Earthwrappe, More Than Just a Heating Pad. Discover the power of Infrared healing.

Quantum Research Council has completely revolutionized personal healing products with its proprietary line of full spectrum Infrared Healing Pads.  The difference is Infrared heat.  Infrared Healing Pads feature full spectrum, deep penetrating infrared heat, with natural Rose Granite stones to generate negative ions and grounding therapy. Without exposure to harmful EMF’s, soft and flexible, comfortable to lie on or wrap around your body, this is not like any heating pad you’ve ever used!!  Relieve Pain, Increase Circulation, Immune Enhancement, Relax Muscle Spasms and Cramps, Sleep Better and “Heal with Heat”!!  Conventional pads use heating coils and emit high levels of electromagnetic radiation, or EMF.  Such products only heat your skin. Our unique Infrared Pads, with enhanced therapeutic benefits effectively relieves pain, increases circulation and naturally removes harmful toxins. Infrared technology is the wave of the future in the health and wellness industry. Listed with the FDA as a class II medical device with CMS and DME listing numbers.

Looking for more information? want a bigger size?

Contact Emily Wolff RMT


(647) 239-5390

Saddle Fitting in 6 Easy Steps

After 10 years of experience as an equine massage therapist I have seen hundreds of horses living in pain due to poorly fitted saddles. In this great article from thehorse.com I found 6 easy steps that any one can use to help understand how a saddle fits.checking-saddle-fit

Step 1: Is the saddle level? Or, is the deepest point of the seat horizontal to the ground? This doesn’t necessarily mean the pommel and cantle will be even to each other, however. If your saddle has an uphill appearance, the tree is likely too narrow for your horse. Conversely, a downhill appearance is indicative of a too-wide tree.

Step 2: Does your saddle rock forward and back? Put one hand on the pommel and another on the cantle, applying alternating pressure to see how much the saddle moves forward and back. Ideally, it should remain fairly stable. “If the saddle rocks forward and back it is a sign the tree is too wide or the panels are too curved,” he said. “If this is the case (tree is too wide) there is usually a lack of contact at the rear of the saddle.”

Step 3: Is there adequate pommel clearance? The pommel shouldn’t rest (or come near to resting) on top of the horse’s withers. Although the amount of space between the withers and the pommel will vary based on saddle type and horse conformation, there should be clearance between the pommel and the top of the wither when the rider is in the saddle.

Step 4: Is there consistent contact between the withers and the tree? While the pommel shouldn’t contact the top of the withers, the tree should contact the sides of the horse’s withers. “Ideally, the contact should be over a broad surface area without areas of focal pressure,”  Slide your hand between the withers and the tree and feel for 4 to 5 inches of smooth and consistent contact. If most of the contact is located near the top, the saddle is too wide. If most of the contact is farther down, it’s likely too narrow.

Step 5: Is there consistent contact between the panel and the back? Slide your hand between the panel of the saddle and the horse’s back to check for pressure points, bulges in the panel, and areas without contact between the two. This can also be done visually before the saddle is placed on the horses back

Step 6: Does the horse’s back look healthy? “If the horse has been ridden regularly and recently in the saddle being evaluated, examination of the back for patterns of pain, swelling, rubbed hair, and coat and skin abnormalities is helpful,” feel the horse’s back—including the scapula and spinous processes—to look for signs of pain, such as moving away from the pressure or excessive muscle contraction


The Key to Back Pain

Pelvic floor strength and mobility is the key to happy and healthy back and hips. Eric Franklin explains how the pelvic floor works and he also shares some lovely  strengthening exercises


Walk This Way

Try some of these excellent exercises while you walk to activate your core. Eric Franklin gives us a lovely education in muscles of the core and how to activate them while you walk

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