Muscle lesson #1

Sternocleidomastoid feels like a good starting off point for the muscle lesson series and I’ll tell you why: it was my favorite muscle as a child. Plain and simple. It wasn’t my favorite because I knew what it did, which I didn’t, but because it was fun to say. When I started massage school and all of my teachers called it SCM I was a little bummed, not gonna lie. Of course I now call it SCM! What a let down, right?

Before we jump into it, let’s talk a bit about how muscles attach to bones. Each muscle is encased in 3 layers of connective tissue called epimysium, perimysium, and endomysium. The layers then come together at either end of the muscle and form tendons. Tendons connect to bones to assist with movement when the muscle contracts. Muscle attachments are classified into two categories, origin and insertion. The origin is considered to be at the fixed bone with the insertion being the bone that moves with the muscle contraction. This isn’t always the case though. Some muscles cross more than one joint so the origin and insertion can “change” depending which joint you are moving. That isn’t to say the muscle attaches at different places, only that a different joint is moving. This can be a little confusing to remember but don’t worry too much about it. If you know the bony landmarks where the muscle attaches, you’re good to go.


On to SCM! It has two origin points, the sternal head attaches at the manubrium (the top portion of the sternum) and the clavicular head attaches at the medial (toward the midline, or centerline, of the body) portion of the clavicle. The muscle then comes together to attach at the insertion point, the mastoid process of the temporal bone. Generally speaking, it starts at the chest and then makes it way to behind the ear. You can see the muscle really "pop," and even grip it for some nice self-massage, when you turn your head to either side.

Now you might be asking yourself, "What movements does the SCM allow us to perform?" Because of how the muscle attaches, it pulls the head and neck into contralateral rotation, meaning that when the right SCM contracts, the head and neck turn to the left and when the left SCM contracts, the head and neck turn to the right. SCM also laterally flexes the head and neck (bringing your right ear to your right shoulder), flexes the neck forward, and helps to elevate the ribcage when breathing.

 Trigger points in SCM and their pain referral pattern.

Trigger points in SCM and their pain referral pattern.

SCM gets put to use a lot during the day and so it’s important to take care of it. Trigger points can develop in the muscle which can create headache-like pains in the head and face and when the muscles get tight and shortened it can create issues within other areas of the body, like Upper Cross Syndrome. Massage can help manage headache symptoms and work to help correct postural imbalances but it's always best to find ways to mitigate those things from becoming an issue in the first place.

You can perform this simple stretch to help release some of the tightness that’s bound to occur. Lying on your back rotate your head and neck to the right making sure not to flex the neck. Go only as far as you can without feeling pain. Place your right hand under your head for support and the left above your ear and slightly over your temple. From here, create a little resistance with the left hand and try to rotate your head back to neutral against it. Keep rotating against the resistance for 7 seconds and then relax. Inhale, and on the exhale see if you can rotate your head to the right a little further. Repeat 2 more times. Remember, make sure that you aren't feeling any pain when performing this stretch and don't hold your breath.

There you have it, a quick little lesson on the sternocleidomastoid muscle. Let me know what muscle you want to learn about next and if you have any questions.

New location as of June 1st!

For those who didn't get the latest newsletter, here's a snippet that announced the move:

I’m super excited about this move and I hope you will love the new digs. My office will be located in a lovely converted home that houses other massage therapists as well as mental health professionals. There is a small parking lot in the back, a side entrance that takes you directly into a shared waiting area, and a window that brings some really beautiful natural light into the office. Another perk of moving to this new space is that I’m able to open my schedule up to more days of the week. The new schedule will be in flux as I settle on what days and times seem to work best. I encourage your input if you find that a particular day or time of day works well. The new schedule is currently set up for June so you can take a look and book ahead of time.

 The new office location! (Child for scale.)

The new office location! (Child for scale.)

 Have some tea in the massage waiting area.

Have some tea in the massage waiting area.

I look forward to seeing you all in the new space and hope you love it as much as I do!


Pacific North Wellness

8514 Southeast Stark Street

Portland, Oregon 97216


Time to flex your brain muscles.

Please note: You can't actually flex your brain as it's not a muscle. It's an organ. But you can "exercise" it by learning new things.

 I took this photo while at the Portland Art Museum. It's by Dirk Staschke and was my favorite piece, naturally.

I took this photo while at the Portland Art Museum. It's by Dirk Staschke and was my favorite piece, naturally.

How well do you know human anatomy? Is it something you need to know as part of your profession or is it something that you’ve learned for the fun of it? I remember first learning basic anatomy in middle school when a relative was going through medical assistant training. It was my job to quiz her and I can recall quizzing myself as we went along, trying to name a bone or muscle in my head before the answer was looked at or given to me. Learning the bones was neat and important but it was learning the muscles, and some choice medical terms, that really stuck with me. Some particularly sassy day I told my Hebrew language teacher that she was “a myalgia in my gluteus maximus” and though she didn’t quite know what that phrase meant, she knew enough to catch the inappropriate tone and body language I sent her way.

Fast forward some 15 odd years later and that meant taking anatomy was a fun refresher when I was in school for massage. What I found particularly interesting was learning the actions each muscle takes in the body and how they work in conjunction to keep us upright and moving freely. One muscle can start an action at a joint and then at a certain point, another muscle (or group) take over to complete it. Before sitting in classes specific to anatomy and kinesiology there was never a second thought given as to how I was able to raise my arms out the side; I just did it.

It was learning fun little facts that kept me engaged and craving more. Did you know that 11% of the population don’t have the palmaris longus muscle? Or that only 5% have the sternalis muscle? Good bit of trivia there! Or how about the hamstrings? They are a group of three muscles with individual names. Again, not something I knew before school but after starting to learn some really basic information about the body I wanted to learn more, to absorb more.

Now I present to you a little blog series I’ll be working on over the next I don’t know how long. Every so often I will take a muscle or muscle group and talk about where it is, what it does, hopefully some fun fact or mnemonic for easy memorization, and how to keep it happy. I'd love for you to follow along and learn something new or perhaps refresh your memory. Ask questions, suggest muscles to discuss, tell your friends. Let’s get nerdy.

The Issue with Deep Tissue

Let me start by saying that I do deep tissue work in therapeutic sessions. I use my forearms, elbows, knuckles, and various massage tools to get into tight areas to help the muscles relax. The deep tissue work I want to talk about it the “no pain, no gain” type. The type that many people have been conditioned into thinking is the only way to work out kinks in their bodies. The problem I find with this type of deep tissue work is that I’m supposed to be assisting you in releasing tension in the body. If I’m working at a level where we are creating it in any area, well doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose? If you’re gritting your teeth or holding your breath during the session, the chances of you being sore, tender to the touch, and possibly bruising in the following days is a lot higher. That’s not what I’m looking to achieve.


Have you ever had that moment in a massage where it feels like the therapist bounces off a muscle? That’s the body’s way of telling the therapist that a different technique is needed to relax that muscle. Sometimes coaxing the muscle into submission through gentler methods works better. That could be something as simple as switching to a broader pressure at the same level of depth, such as using the forearm instead of the elbow. Other times all it takes is slowing down the stroke for the body to experience it differently and not create additional tension elsewhere.



I find that working with a numbered scale for discomfort is a great way for clients to refocus and understand what they are feeling in their body. At first you may find it difficult to articulate the type of discomfort you are feeling (achy, sharp, shooting, restrictive, etc) so a scale from 1-10 with regards to the level of discomfort can be helpful. A 1 is simply feeling contact from the therapist and a 10 might be you wanting to jump off the table in agony. I never want to get you to a 10. I’m looking to find that sweet spot on the scale where you can comfortably breathe through the discomfort you’re experiencing. When working, we might find an area that catches you off guard making you want to hold your breath and label it an 8 or 9. That’s when I back off the muscle, adjust, and reapply pressure until you are at no more than a 6 or 7. This is that “hurts so good” level of massage that so many are surprised to find effective. At a 6 or 7 I expect my clients to be able to breathe slowly, deeply, and without additional tension, bringing the focus into the area being worked on. This allows the nervous system to slow down and gives the body a chance to work its own innate magic of healing. Often times when working with this scale people notice their numbers decrease after 2 or 3 exhalations. And if the number stays steady, it’s not something to worry about. It’ll release in its own time.

It’s important to note that everyone experiences discomfort differently so for some people a 4 is all they can comfortably breathe through and for others it’s a 6 or 7 and that’s ok. Remember that the session is about finding what works best for your body to heal. So come in and get on the table soon and let's work together to find you comfort and ease.

Look What's New!

Hey there!

Spring is here and following the themes of renewal, fresh starts, and more sun in our lives I have taken the time to redesign the Pacific North Wellness website. After being in private practice for one year, I felt the need to have a site that reflected how I feel about massage. I’m not a designer by any means and this has been a fun and interesting excursion in figuring out how to convey my love for bodywork in a thoughtful and cohesive manner. I’ve been questioning what it means to be professional and how I want to project that image while still maintaining my personality and sense of whimsy. The new site is brighter, easier to navigate, and has more information about me and the work that I love to do. I hope you'll take the time to browse through it and check back for future blog posts.

Spring Special!


Let me help you get ready for any of those spring activities that you want to conquer with a massage special! New clients always receive a discounted first massage and for those who haven’t received bodywork for a while, let’s treat your next session as though it were your first. If were you last on the table in 2016 come back in March or April and receive your first session of 2017 at the new client rate of $30/$60/$90 for a 30/60/90 minute session. Check out the new site and book your next appointment.


I look forward to seeing you soon,