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On the way from here to there

Christmas in Miami sure looks different!

No, this doesn’t quite look like France, not even on the Mediterranean. (I can’t believe that I spelled Mediterranean correctly on the first go! Do I get a gold star for that? Or a lighted palm tree?) We decided to skip most of winter and to spend 7 weeks (much of January and most of February) in Key Biscayne. There are some good reasons to be here, other then avoiding snow and grey skies. It seems that Spanish is the primary language spoken here, though one hears both Spanish and English and can use either exclusively. And why didn’t I take Spanish in high school??? That was dumb. But to those of you who took Latin, what can I even say to that? What were you thinking? At least I can go to Germany and get by, while you will be . . . visiting your Latin teacher in a retirement community?

But enough snark. Another great thing about Key Biscayne is that Miami is just over the bridge from here, well two bridges, after Virginia Key. We don’t go there much, but there are a few spots we adore. The first is Heartland Miami located in Little Haiti. It has an outdoor wood-fired kitchen with outdoor dining, stage, and live music. What a great place to eat and listen safely outside during covid! We also enjoy a hike on the very long boardwalk at South Beach, though getting there can be a pain due to traffic. In addition, little Havana is worth a visit, especially for lunch at Old’s Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina for the pulled pork and plantain.

Tomorrow we plan to revisit the Everglades to bike around a 15 mile paved loop at Shark Valley. No sharks, but plenty of sleepy alligators. I’ll keep you posted.



Lower Back Pain Relief

Here are 2 things I have found helpful in treating your own low back pain.  I’m talking about the quadratus lumborum (QL) strain that makes it hard to move from sitting to standing.  This can tighten gradually due to stress (you are trying to sell your house, you are mopping the floors, mulching the garden, carrying a baby on one hip, then a friend or relative dies or is dying – you get the picture).  Then suddenly, as you are opening the ‘fridge door and reaching in for a bagel – ZOWIE, sproing!  You can’t move because your low back hurts so much.  Lay down, put ice on it (painkiller), take ibuprofen, if you like (and are not pregnant, otherwise, just ice for you)!  But what to do, what to do?

Thanks to Derek Hodges, CMT, formerly of B’burg, now of Palm Springs, CA for this tip:  dig your fingers deep and hard into your ITB (lateral thigh) just above the knee. (Scroll down a little after clicking on the ITB hyperlink to see where to rub).  It should feel very tight and ropey there.  Dig hard, so it hurts.  It will take your mind off the pain in your low back!  But it also relieves the back pain.  I have used this tip with success while driving with low back pain.  I don’t know for sure why it works, but it could be that it releases you ITB which connects to your lateral hip, while the problem muscle (quadratus lumborum) also connects to the hip at its rear superior surface.

Alternatively, while you are lying down on your back, you can rub the Chapman’s point for the iliopsoas muscle.  The iliopsoas is the antagonist (opposing) muscle to the QL, and if your QL is spasming, the iliopsoas will be really tight, too. It’s Chapman’s point is located one inch to the side and one inch above your navel, on both sides.  Dig in deep, again.  It should feel tight and sore.  Rub back and forth for between one and two minutes, several times a day. This will help release the iliopsoas.  Interesting note:  the iliopsoas engages in fight or flight responses, so can tighten due to physical or emotional stress, and is usually tight in cases of abuse.


Kindness is my only guiding star.
In its light I sail a straight route.
I have my motto written on my sail:
“To live in love.”

– St. Therese of Lisieux

From Rev. Padma Priya’s facebook page at      See it for more inspiring thoughts!

Knee Pain, Part 2 – Back of the Knee Pain

If you are experiencing pain in the back of the knee, it may be caused by trigger points in the hamstrings.  Pain from these trigger points would be “felt as a dull aching behind the knee.  The pain tends to be toward the outer side of the back of the thigh rather than centered, and sometimes concentrated around the head of the fibula”* (bony bump just below the knee on the outside of the lower leg). Pain can also extend up the back of the thigh and down into the upper calf.

You can self treat on these trigger points by sitting in a hard chair and placing a tennis ball under the thigh on the triggger point.  You may or may not have tenderness in all of them. You can hold static (steady) pressure, or roll the ball back and forth.

Trigger points in the hamstrings can be caused by running and climbing, but also by sitting in chairs that are too high and put prolonged pressure on the hamstring muscles.  If you cannot adjust the chair lower, you can put your feet on a thick book or cardboard box filled with something to keep it firm.

*p. 211 in The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, 2nd edition by Clair and Amber Davies, NCTMB.  New Harbinger Publications, 2004.

Mind stuff

“The mind itself gets involved in this world-appearance by entertaining countless notions (like ‘I am weak, unhappy, foolish, etc.’).  When the understanding arises that all this is but the false creation of the mind, I am what I am – then the peace of the supreme arises in one’s consciousness.”

– pp. 125-6 in The Concise Yoga Vasistha, Swami Venkatesananda, SUNY, Albany, 1984.

The Mirror

“I should polish myself More and more

To use the others’ clear

And shining heart

As a mirror

– The Meiji Emperor’s Poems from “The Spirit of Reiki” by Lubeck, Petter, and Rand, 2001.

Knee Pain, Part 1

Knee Pain, Part 1

That pain in the front of your knee, the one in and under the whole knee cap, the one you are worried about, because surely it means something is wrong with your joint, may be coming from your thigh muscles! Most likely.

Trigger points in the quadriceps (the big front-of-your-thigh) muscle “are the primary source of knee pain. A case of jumper’s or runner’s knee is ordinarily nothing more serious than referred pain from the quadriceps.  Growing pains in the legs and knees of children can usually be traced to trigger points in their quadriceps muscles. . . Restless leg syndrome, a serious annoyance to its victims and a mystery to their doctors, can be traced to trigger points in the quadriceps muscles.  Knots in the quadriceps can also cause a locked knee, a trick knee, and or a buckling hip. Pain and weakness from quadriceps trigger points are easily mistaken for tendinitis, bursitis, or arthritis of the knee, or for evidence of damaged ligaments or meniscus cartilage. Treatment is unlikely to succeed when the problem is wrongly assumed to be in the joint simply because it’s the site of the pain.” *

How can knee pain come from a problem in the thigh?  The kneecap is enclosed entirely within the tendon of the quadriceps muscle, and the tendon attaches to the tibia bone in your (lower) leg.  The kneecap moves with the tendon.  If the tendon is retricted in movement due to trigger points in the muscle fibers above and connecting to it, this can inhibit freedom of movement in the kneecap itself, making it difficult to bend the knee.  Many trigger points refer pain to other areas, not just pain right where they are located.**

Activities that can cause front of the knee pain include: overexercise or overexertion in sports, carrying heavy loads, walking in high heels, climbing, jumping, kneeling, squatting, sitting for long periods of time, cycling, running, fast walking, sit ups, leg lifts, kicking a ball, and flutter kicking in swimming (Davies, pp. 194-195).

Here is a link to a drawing of the trigger point for the quad muscle that you need to massage to alleviate frontal knee pain.  Scroll down slightly to the set of 4 legs with red zones on them, it’s the leg on the far right (Rectus femoris).  The trigger point is high up on the thigh, just off center towards the outside of the thigh.

Massage the trigger point with both thumbs at the same time while sitting. Don’t try to stretch the quadriceps muscle until you do trigger point massage first.  Otherwise, “the muscle will resist stretching and won’t completely release.” (Davies, p. 195).

There are more muscles in the thigh which can cause frontal, inner and outer knee pain, so expect a part 2 and 3 of knee pain and its causes in the near future! Or shoot me an email from my website if rubbing this point does not help with your knee pain, so I can suggest another trigger point for you to massage.  The suggestions in this article are not medical diagnoses nor treatments.  Please see your physician should pain persist or worsen.

Nancy Mignone, CMT, Blacksburg, VA

*p. 193 of “The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook”, 2nd edition, by Clair and Amber Davies, NCTMB, New Harbinger Publications, 2004.

** pp. 248-265 in “Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction:  The Trigger Point Manual,”  by Travell, J.G., and D.G. Simons, Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins, 1992.

Heal Your Heel Pain, New Edition!

I circulated this tip on email a few months ago, but this time I include links to pictures of where to rub on the leg and the foot. In addition, the website with the leg pictures has a video about massaging your leg to alleviate pain. You can get old tennis balls from the tennis center on VT campus for self-massage – I have some, too, I can give you.  And if you are curious, you can see what they charge for massage therapy in Brooklyn.  Yowsa!

If you have bottom-of-the-heel pain when you step on your foot, have you sprained your ankle lately?  Have you strained your calf?  Has your calf rested against an object for a prolonged period of time?  Any of these things can cause trigger points in the calf or foot which can cause pain over the entire heel.  The good news is, you can work it out!

The most common trigger point causing heel pain is the soleus (see the leg drawing on the far left), which is on the back of your calves under the gastrocs.  Look for a tender spot on the outer half of your lower calf (backside) about ¼ to 1/3 (of the distance bewteen heel and back of the knee) above the heel.  Found it?  Rub through it, or massage it, 6 to 12 times several times a day (3 to 6 times, if you remember, or whenever you get bad heel pain when stepping on your foot).

Another point that causes bottom of the  heel pain is a point just above the heel (as you move up the foot towards the toes) at the center of the sole of the foot (i.e. center of the heel, but just above it). Side of the heel pain (inner heel) is caused by trigger points in the lower arch of the foot. (from Vol. 2 of “Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual” by Janet Travell, M.D. and Dave Simons, M.D.)

Relax Your Muscles (and Your Mind)

Recently, a client told me that she was having trouble relaxing her muscles by herself.  Not uncommon.   I made a suggestion, but just today, I remembered something else that works!  I have tried this with great success.  I thought I would share it with a wider audience, because can’t we all use help relaxing our muscles sometimes?!

What follows are some autogenic exercises presented in The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook, (a marvelous resource!), chapter 9 in the 5th edition.

Background:  Autogenics had its origin in research in hypnosis done by brain physiologist Oskar Vogt at the Berlin Institute in the 1890s.  Vogt taught some of his patients to hypnotize themselves to reduce fatigue and tension;  they reported feeling warm and heavy after the fatigue and tension subsided.

Johannes Schultz, a Berlin psychiatrist, became interested in those findings. He found that by sitting or laying in a relaxed position and repeating verbal formulas about the arms and legs being heavy and warm, one can induce relaxation in the body and mind, without hypnosis.  In 1932, he published his system in the book “Autogenic Training.”

Here are some verbal formulas to relax the body and the mind.  Before you start, see the contraindications at the end of this article.  Then, take off your glasses, sit in a comfortable position – supported by the back of a chair, head over shoulders, shoulders relaxed down …   or on a stool, back rounded slightly forward, arms resting on thighs. Or you can lie down on your back with head and knees supported by a pillow.

Close your eyes.  Notice how you are feeling. Check the body for any discomfort, shift position slightly if you need to.  Make sure your arms are supported.  Relax the shoulders down away from the ears . ..

Take a few slow breaths, slower than normal . . . if you can, breath thorough your nose.
Notice the breath come in to your belly when you breath in.  If you are chest breathing, see if you can bring the inhalation in lower, into the belly.

Repeat this phrase to yourself silently:  My right arm is heavy and warm.
Take a slow breath in and out.
Repeat the phrase “My right arm is heavy and warm” 3 more times, slowly, with a breath in between each repetition.

Repeat this phrase to yourself: My left arm is heavy and warm.
Take a slow breath in and out.
Repeat the phrase “My left arm is heavy and warm” 3 more times, slowly, with a breath in between each repetition.

Repeat this phrase to yourself: Both my arms are heavy and warm.
Take a slow breath in and out.
Repeat the phrase “Both my arms are heavy and warm” 3 more times, slowly, with a breath in between each repetition.

Repeat this phrase to yourself: My right leg is heavy and warm.
Take a slow breath in and out.
Repeat the phrase “My right leg is heavy and warm” 3 more times, slowly, with a breath in between each repetition.

Repeat this phrase to yourself: My left leg is heavy and warm.
Take a slow breath in and out.
Repeat the phrase “My left leg is heavy and warm” 3 more times, slowly, with a breath in between each repetition.

Repeat this phrase to yourself: Both my legs are heavy and warm.
Take a slow breath in and out.
Repeat the phrase “Both my legs are heavy and warm” 3 more times, slowly, with a breath in between each repetition.

Repeat this phrase to yourself: “My mind is quiet.”
Take a slow breath in and out.
Repeat the phrase “My mind is quiet” 3 more times, slowly, with a breath in between each repetition.

Repeat this phrase to yourself: “I am calm and relaxed.”
Take a slow breath in and out.
Repeat the phrase “I am calm and relaxed” 3 more times, slowly, with a breath in between each repetition.

Now check in with yourself.  How are you feeling now? Notice how you are feeling now as compared to before you did this exercise.

See The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook for a greater variety of these autogenic exercises.

Contraindications and cautions:  Not recommended for children under 5 or individuals with severe mental or emotional disorders.  Persons with serious diseases such as diabetes, hypoglycemia, or heart conditions should be under the supervisoin of a medicatl doctor.  Blood pressure may increase or drop sharply.  If the exercises induce anxiety or restlessness, or other disquietitng side effects, you should not do them.

Self-Massage for Headaches

For headache pain, there’s an easily accessible muscle in your neck that you can massage yourself.  The sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle (named for it’s attachments to the sternum, clavicle, and mastoid process of the skull behind the ear) is involved in many headaches, especially those on the top of the head, the forehead, and the temples. It is often involved in headaches at the back of the head, too, as well as in eye pain, sinus pain, tongue pain, throat pain, and droopy eyelid*.

This muscle (the SCM) runs from just below the ear on both sides of the neck, diagonally towards the notch in the bone at the front and center of the throat. Click natural pain relief  to see this muscle and the points to massage.

To massage this muscle, grab “all the soft tissue you can (along the sides of the muscle – sic) between your fingers and thumb and knead firmly”**), working you way from below the ear towards the notch in the throat.  It will feel like you are grabbing a thick band, not just skin.  Don’t massage points that have a pulse.

For more information about self massage, see the self massage page on my website.

Nancy Mignone, CMT

*from “The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, 2nd ed., by Clair and Amber Davies, LMTs, pp. 48, 51-55.
**Davies and Davies, p. 54