Nervous System: Manual Therapy for Pain

By: Kyle D. McIntyre, PT, DPT, CFMT

Pain is a normal part of life, and without the perception of pain we would not survive. However, pain should be a temporary experience versus an ongoing sensation when no threat is present.

If you, or someone you care about, have chronic pain, the questions you’re likely asking are: “Why?” and, “What can I do to make it stop?

In the medical and holistic fields, our understanding of what triggers pain has increased greatly during the past 15-20 years. This expansion of knowledge has led to innovative pain treatments, especially for those living with ongoing discomfort.

What causes pain?

While injured or inflamed tissues cannot feel pain, these tissues (via nerves) do activate your brain’s nociceptive (the potential for pain) pathways.

Essentially, the over-activation of nerves, by the tissues, causes your spinal cord to become more sensitive (at the area of the spinal cord where those nerves are entering), allowing a flooding of inputs to go up to your brain. Your brain processes the input, just as it constantly manages all of the inputs from your body, at a subconscious level.

Your brain will then become hyper-focused on the area of your body where those nerves are coming from. If your brain perceives the threat to be serious, it will produce a pain output.

Over time, with continued nociceptive inputs, the related nerves will have a reduced threshold for activation and will then start firing at lower levels of stimulation – even from stimulations (movement or sensory inputs) that previously would not have produced pain.

This sensitization of your nervous system can lead to things beyond just pain: it can cause mood swings, fatigue, appetite changes, sleep disturbances, loss of concentration, and depression.

How do I make the pain go away?

The pain can be managed, and often eliminated, by changing this vicious cycle of neural sensitization:

  • Recent research reveals just having a better understanding of pain leads to a reduction in discomfort.
  • Aerobic exercise has also been known to reduce pain.
  • Sleep hygiene is also important; good sleep enables your nervous system to relax and restore itself at night. (There are some great sleep tips in Cathy Logan’s recent article “ONDAMED Sleep Protocol + At-home Tips”)
  • Treat the source of the pain input (at the tissues) through function manual therapy (FMT).

As an FMT practitioner, I work to desensitize a client’s pain and decrease the stress on the tissues.

Generally, at the areas where pain originated, there was a mechanical dysfunction (that increased stress on the tissues and elevated the pain perception in that area). Through manual therapy, we can reduce the stresses on the tissues, which also increases blood flow and oxygen, and detoxifies by helping to eliminate waste from the area.

Reducing the inappropriate mechanical stress on tissues can dramatically change the activation of the nociceptive pathways, and, therefore, cause a positive trickle-up affect to the brain. Ultimately, pain is significantly diminished or eliminated.


Kyle is a Physical Therapist with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy; he is also a Certified Functional Manual Therapist.

Nervous System: 10-Steps to Relaxation

Glynda Cullen, LMT, LE

It’s a little known fact… relaxation is a learned skill. Why? Your body’s autonomic nervous system has two distinct branches: sympathetic and parasympathetic.

The ever-elusive nervous system balance – of work and rest – is one we all seek (or should). But, the ability to ‘let go’ of stress (that accumulates in your mind, body or spirit) is not a built-in human function or inherent talent.

So, how should you de-stress? Watching a movie on the sofa won’t help you to release the stress. However, a 5-10 minute relaxation ritual will help.

Why relaxation is so elusive

The sympathetic nervous system responds quickly and forcefully to any crisis we encounter. Unfortunately, the pace of modern life creates a low-grade fight or flight reaction within many of us all day long.

When this sympathetic activation persists, it creates chronic tension – you may even experience a host of ongoing stress symptoms such as headaches, racing heart, decreased respiration, and digestive and mood disorders.

Gracefully enter the parasympathetic nervous system: the fuzzy, calm, relaxed feeling you get when its finally your turn to lie down on the massage table or climb into a cozy bed at night. It should be easy to relax under these circumstances, right?

Well, you can’t just say to your body, “It’s time to relax!”

Successfully switching gears to the nourishing, restorative parasympathetic experience of your autonomic nervous system (ANS) is essential to your wellbeing.

Relaxation how-to in 10 steps…

Try incorporating a 5-10 minute relaxation ritual into your daily routine; doing so can greatly improve your stress symptoms. The simple meditation below is called Favorite Place.

  1. Lie down in a warm, calm and peaceful place in your home.
  2. Begin your relaxation ritual by extending the muscles in your arms and hands; stretch and create tension. When it feels right, release.
  3. Continue this systematic relaxation practice, by extending the muscles in your legsand feet; create tension and release.
  4. Open your mouth wide;maintain tension for a short time and release.
  5. Notice the sensation of ‘rest’ after you’ve worked your muscles; sink into this deeply restful feeling.
  6. Begin to do slow, even and smooth diaphragmatic breaths.
  7. Imagine a place you love…is it the beach or a forest?
  8. Begin to incorporate your senses:see the colors, hear the sounds, feel the textures. Can you hear the birds chirping or the gentle waves on the shore? Try to feel the sand.
  9. Open yourself to the feelings of peace within. Stay with this warm,calm sensation for several minutes.
  10. When you’re ready, stretch your arms and legs. Then,wiggle your fingers and toes and begin to bring your awareness back into your space.

* For an added boost to your atmosphere (before you begin), light a few candles and try diffusing your favorite essential oil. I love the comforting smell of Peace and Calming by Young Living, which we carry at CH.

** Listening to a guided meditation can be really helpful if you have trouble performing the above mediation on your own.

Now, take this feeling of balance with you throughout your day, and into your dreams at night.

It’s hard to believe maintaining a healthy nervous system can really be this simple: it is, and the positive effects are cumulative. It’ll take regular practice to retrain your sympathetic nervous system to let go of the chronic stress, but meditating for a few minutes each day can really make a difference.

After a couple weeks of practice, you’ll notice an ability to achieve a deep relaxation-state more quickly. Make the choice to let go of stress today, and embrace the joy in your life.


Glynda is a licensed Massage Therapist and a licensed Esthetician. She offers therapeutic massage and facial treatments (and after-hours appointments). 

Nervous System: How to Minimize Stress from EMFs

By: Carol Heckman, RN, CHNP, CNC, MH

These days, managing internal, external and environmental stressors is a full time job! Some we can control, some we cannot. One significant form of environmental stress, which may affect our nervous systems, that we’re all exposed to daily is EMFs.

What are EMFs? Invisible, yet ubiquitous, Electro Magnetic Fields are created by electric, magnetic, and wireless energies. Some EMFs are good for you, some are not…

Natural EMFs are created by: visible light (prisms of colors); the Earth’s magnetic field (which can be measured by a compass); and the spin of our planet that creates gravity. EMFs also occur in the human body as part of our brain waves, nerve impulses, and heartbeat.

While EMFs can be healing, when part of color therapy, Reiki, and prayer, the harmful EMFs (ones that don’t occur naturally) are what we should all be aware of and learn to avoid or minimize.

Harmful EMFs and Health Consequences

Harmful EMFs are generated by manmade technologies, including: electric grids and power lines, radio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellphones and towers, microwaves, smart meters, computers, TVs, and gaming systems.

In 2011,the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer stated EMFs from cellphone usage may indeed cause cancer in humans: the agencies classified EMFs as a Class 2B carcinogen.

As well, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has been following the impact of harmful EMFs (particularly from cellphones). NIEHS has led studies to examine the effects of long term exposure (from radio frequency radiation) – especially related to the nervous systems of children who use cellphones.

In addition to potential cancer risks, some symptoms of harmful EMF exposure include: fatigue, altered concentration, mood changes, mental confusion, headaches, behavioral changes, and immune system weakness.

So, what do I do?

You may now be thinking, “Carol technology is here to stay. Since we’re all exposed to more harmful EMFs than ever before, how do I mitigate risk of exposure and preserve my (and my family’s) health?”

Glad you asked. Here are some preventative measures you can start right now:

  1. Reduce usage. Yep, using less EMF-emitting technology is the easiest first step to a healthier lifestyle.
  2. Unplug. Turn tech and other machines off (and unplug the cords if possible) when not in use.
  3. Protect with a barrier. Add an EMF shielding device to tech and appliances. In our office, we recommend Safe Shield products. Call our front desk or stop by to learn more.
  4. Increase your distance. The impact from tech-driven EMFs decreases with distance.

Keep TV remotes on the coffee table versus next to you on the sofa or bed. The infrared radiation from remotes is higher than the EMFs emitted from computers.

Set up a designated spot (away from your main living areas) for as many EMF-emitting technologies as possible (e.g., Wi-Fi router, laptops, gaming systems, and cellphone charging stations).

Most importantly, keep your cellphone off of your person: don’t carry it in your pocket; keep it out of your bedroom at night; and always USE A HEADSET or earbuds instead of keeping a cellphone next to your head and neck.

Do you think EMFs may be impacting your health? Schedule a health consult with me and let’s find out!


Carol is a Registered Nurse, a traditionally Certified Natural Health Practitioner, a Master Herbalist, and a Certified Nutritional Consultant.

Nervous System: Respond vs. React

By Lisa Manning, , CST, CHt

We have little power to choose what happens in life, but we have complete power over how we respond to challenges. It’s not stress that kills us, it’s our reaction to it.

When a stressful situation occurs, the sympathetic nervous system is triggered and we enter into the infamous ‘fight or flight’ mode. The body is ready to fight, defend or protect itself.

At this point the higher mind needs to step in and mediate: “OK guys, let’s take a minute to calm down and think this through.” Learning how to respond (versus reacting) appropriately to a situation is vital to your health…

The difference between a response and a reaction may seem subtle, but each feels very different… and, usually, each yields very different results.

A reaction comes from the fears and beliefs of the unconscious mind. It (the reaction) tries to shift the discomfort of the moment and doesn’t take into consideration the consequences. Reacting might be cathartic in the moment, but doing so often leads to regret from fear- or anger-based actions that aren’t well thought out.

Choosing to respond (instead of reacting) is a controlled reflection of our values and who we want to be in the world. Choose is the power word in this scenario.

Unless you’re actually being chased by a tiger, the best first response is to take at least one deep and full breath in and out. The more deep breaths, the better. This signals the nervous system to turn down the heat, and to turn up the parasympathetic response of ‘rest and recover.’

Deep breathing creates the mental space and calm (breathing room!) needed to choose the most appropriate response; and, it also helps protect against the harmful effects of chronic stress.

‘Tend and befriend’ is another type of response that has been recently recognized. Oxytocin is released when we give or receive physical and emotional support. It’s the euphoria we feel when we fall in love and the healing power of a sincere hug. This is the cheapest medicine on the market!

Ways to Respond rather than React

Start with breath – This is the simplest and most powerful tool for slowing down an out of control nervous system response.

Look within – Make a habit of examining thoughts before they become words or actions. What’s really behind these feelings? What will this action get me? Is that what I really want?

Stay centered – The best decisions come from a healthy combination of emotion and intellect. We don’t have to turn off our feelings in order to moderate our responses.

Recognize choices – There are always options. Work on choosing the actions that create the outcomes you truly desire.

Each time you’re able to consciously and successfully respond to stress the process gets easier! “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” You will literally create new neural pathways in the brain that will help you to continually develop lifelong healthy-coping habits.

And, be generous with the hugs!


Lisa is a licensed Craniosacral Therapist. She’s also a Master Certified Hypnotherapist, specializing in Somato-Emotional Hypnosis to address chronic pain and anxiety.

Oral Health: Ayurvedic Gum Massage

By Glynda Cullen, LMT, LE

This month’s wellness topic is oral health; you may find it interesting that a Massage Therapist (and Esthetician) is writing this article. What could I add to this conversation, you ask? Good question!

My answer: massage of the gums (similar to full body massage), stimulates circulation allowing your immune system to fight infections that may start in the mouth.

Last week, Cathy Logan wrote about oil pulling (using pure oil to pull bacteria from the mouth versus using mouthwash). I recommend adding Ayurvedic gum massage with warm oil (from oil-pulling) to your oral care routine.

Benefits of gum massage with natural oil

Ayurvedic gum massage, with warm sesame oil, is a natural, effective alternative to antibacterial mouthwash. Did you know, OTC antibacterial rinses can create potentially resistant strains of bacteria in your mouth, and it can kill helpful probiotics that live there, too?

Conversely, the benefits of natural gum massage (and oil pulling) are pretty amazing:

  • Helps prevent gum disease
  • Reduces plaque build-up
  • Decreases inflammation of the gums
  • Minimizes risk of mouth bacteria traveling to rest of your body!

Researchers believe the massaging and rinsing of the warm oil reduces bacteria’s ability to adhere to teeth and gums.

Traditionally, warm sesame oil is preferred because of the decrease in inflammation of the gums noted during research studies. You can also use coconut (thank goodness, I love coconut oil!) or olive oil (which receives only slightly less praise by researchers).

DIY: Oil massage for gums

Follow the directions Cathy provided for oil pulling (but don’t rinse immediately); or, simply gargle with 1 to 2 teaspoons of sesame, coconut or olive oil for 10 to 20 minutes. Then, expel the oil into the trash can.

Let a layer of oil remain in your mouth and begin the massage:

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. With your thumb and forefinger, use bilateral pinching to make firm, circular motions on all areas of your gums (from the back to the front of your mouth).
  3. Keep massaging for 5 minutes. Be mindful to stimulate and circulate the healing oil, flushing the tissues.
  4. Do a quick rinse with water.

That’s it! So easy and healing. Smile, knowing you’re healthy and beautiful from the inside out thanks to Ayurveda!

Check out the research of Case Adams, a California Naturopath, for the details of the studies I referenced.


Glynda is a licensed Massage Therapist and a licensed Esthetician. She offers therapeutic massage and facial treatments (and after-hours appointments). 

Oral Health: Alleviating Jaw Pain Naturally

By Kyle D. McIntyre, PT, DPT, CFMT

Do you suffer from jaw pain? Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), or jaw pain, is a common issue affecting an estimated 5 to 12% of the general population.

Holistic functional manual therapy (FMT) can identify the cause(s) and alleviate your pain, without primary doctor or dental visits and expensive treatments such as braces.

Why does my jaw hurt?

The temporomandibular joints (TMJ), are synovial joints, like your knees or shoulders. The joint capsule has a disc, which splits the joint into two separate cavities. There are also muscles and ligaments supporting the joints in your jaw.

So, jaw pain can result from issues with the disc, muscles and/or ligaments – as well as teeth alignment and other issues.

When people have pain, they commonly seek help from a primary care physician. In the case of TMD, many go to a dentist of orthodontist. (Dental treatment of jaw pain includes the use of retainers, braces, injections, surgery, and/or medications.)

However, very few people realize the benefits of natural, mechanical treatment of their jaw.

FMT: a holistic approach for jaw pain

Using the functional manual therapy (FMT) approach, we assess a client’s cranial, facial and cervical structures, in addition to the TMJs.

We commonly find many other dysfunctions that can drive jaw pain. FMT offers natural solutions to alleviate pain and correct the source of the problem. For example:

Bite/teeth alignment – With FMT, we can mobilize your palate (roof of your mouth) and teeth to correct over- or under-bite issues, the same way that braces or a retainer corrects a bite. The advantages of FMT: we can be much more focused and specific for short, direct treatment. By assisting in correcting teeth alignment, we can help you avoid expensive braces.

Neuromuscular and motor control – In addition to mechanical assessment and treatment, in the FMT approach we assess neuromuscular and motor control. In the case of TMD, good head and neck control is needed along with proper control of the TMJs directly.

In the medical field, this an often overlooked issue that can be causing pain and dysfunction. If your quadriceps muscle was weak, or wasn’t firing properly, how would you expect to have a healthy knee? The same concept can be applied to your TMJs.

For jaw pain – and any other body aches or pains – FMT is a complete and natural solution.

We’re able to identify the often complex, multiple contributing-factors causing a client’s pain, which is the key to resolving pain issues: finding the main cause and treating it holistically, without medication, costly appliances (e.g., braces) or surgery.


Kyle is a Physical Therapist with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy; he is also a Certified Functional Manual Therapist.