About MaryAnn Reynolds

Blogging about body, mind, heart, spirit, and well-being at The Well: bodymindheartspirit. Offering bodywork and changework at The Well in downtown Austin. Serving as a volunteer editor for the Truth Be Told Community blog.

When the healer needs healing: chronic pain in a sacroiliac joint

There’s an old saying that people go into healing professions to heal themselves.

I believe it’s true. I went to many healers seeking healing of my own body, mind, heart, and spirit. All of those healers helped me, and none hurt me.

Could I have saved pain, time, and money by knowing which kind of healer I needed most for what issue? Yes. I didn’t have a guide, just my own knowledge and intuition and willingness to see what worked.

For the longest time it never occurred to me that I could become a healer. I liked the people who worked on healing me. Their work seemed more interesting than my jobs in government and technology. They were obviously caring people who had honed various kinds of healing skills, and the healing work seemed to be an extension of who they were, not just a job they did.

When I finally began to think about what I wanted to do in “retirement,” healing came to mind…and here I am, not retired, in a new profession, offering massage therapy, bodywork, and changework.

For 19 years, since a car wreck on April 24, 1996, I have had chronic pain in one of my sacroiliac joints. My lap belt held, my shoulder belt didn’t, the air bag didn’t deploy, there were two head-banging impacts (I was knocked unconscious), and my sacroiliac joints took the brunt of the trauma.

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Last week I got the help I needed to know how to fix it.  Continue reading

Applying Cold and Heat Therapeutically

Healing an injury or treating a painful condition can be significantly impacted by the appropriate application of cold and/or heat. Both cold and heat relieve pain and help with tight muscles, but other considerations (especially inflammation and depth of injured tissue) apply.


Apply cold immediately following any muscle, joint, or bone injury to relieve swelling, reduce pain and inflammation, and decrease muscle soreness and tightness. You can use cold any time after that. Cold only penetrates about 1 cm below the surface, so it works best for initial swelling/inflammation and for superficial conditions.

Do NOT use cold on broken or irritated skin, on superficial nerves, or when circulation is impaired. Also avoid applying cold when these conditions are present: Raynaud’s disease, cold intolerance, cold allergy, any previous experience of frostbite, impaired mental ability or sensation.

How to apply: Wet a cloth in hot water, wring it to dampness, wrap it around the cold pack, and apply. Check the skin in 5 minutes. If it’s bright red or numb, add another layer of insulation. Leave cold pack in place until it warms to room temperature. Repeat if needed. Never apply a gel pack directly to skin.


Apply heat in the recovery phase of an injury and later. Wait 3 days after injury for inflammation to subside before applying heat to reduce pain, relax deeper muscles, and make dense, tight tissue more elastic and pliable.

Do NOT use heat on acute injuries, inflamed tissue, broken or irritated skin, or with recent or potential bleeding. Also avoid using heat when these conditions are present: edema, blood clots, pregnancy, malignancy, any previous episode of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, impaired mental ability or sensation.

How to apply: Use a moist cloth next to skin to even out the heat and increase the depth of penetration.

  • Apply prolonged mild heat for up to 8 hours with over-the-counter heat wraps. These also help with chronic pain, joint stiffness, and general aches and pains.
  • Use spike heat by turning your heating pad to high (uncomfortably hot). Then turn off the heat and allow it to cool against the involved area for 20-30 minutes. Repeat once or twice if needed.

Painful muscle spasms

Apply COLD over the area of spasm and use HEAT either above or below the area. Try both positions to see which works best for you.

Inviting deep, restful sleep: tips for positioning and good sleep practices

Positioning for Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is hugely important for your well-being. Use sleep positioning to align your bones, support your limbs, and open your joints, relaxing muscles and minimizing tension and pain so that your sleep is fully restful.

Have on hand a variety of pillows of various sizes and firmness as well as towels in various sizes to prevent rolling and add support. Special pillows support the neck and head.

When preparing for sleep, scan your body for tension and adjust to relieve tension. Re-scan and re-adjust. You may need to keep doing this for a few weeks as your body responds.

Sleeping on Your Back

Support your neck and upper back. Place a pillow with the bottom edge at the level of the shoulder blades or use a cervical support cushion under the upper spine and neck. You may prefer a pillow that cradles the back of your head as well.

For leg and hip comfort, make a wedge-shaped support under the thighs with the upper edge tucked under the buttocks to create a slight bend in the knees.

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If the small of the back is not resting on the bed, support it with a small cushion or rolled hand towel. If desired, place pillows along the body to support the arms and hands.

Sleeping on Your Side

Place a pillow between the armpit and the top of the pelvis to relieve pressure on the bottom shoulder and hip and keep the spine from sagging at the waist. Try several sizes to find one that works with your shape.

Add a firm pillow under the head to keep it level with the spine.

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Place pillows in front of the body to support the upper arm and leg at the height of the side-lying body. To reduce joint strain, the elbow should be level with the shoulder and the knee level with the hip. The entire upper leg and foot should rest on the pillow. The legs can both be bent or either leg can lie straight with the other bent. Sleeping with the feet pointed can contribute to plantar fasciitis, so keep the ankles bent.

If You Change Positions During the Night

I recommend the Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow, which positions the upper spine, neck, and head optimally for back-sleeping and sleeping on either side. It helps with neck and TMJ disorder problems. Designed by a chiropractor and an ergonomic designer, you’ll need to measure your shoulder width to get the right size for your body since it comes in 5 sizes.

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Sleep Hygiene

It takes time to accept a new way of sleeping. Consistency is key. Position yourself for sleep, and if after a few minutes you are not asleep, locate the area of discomfort and adjust the cushioning. If you are still awake after another 10 minutes, throw the pillows out and start over the next night.

Continue positioning yourself with pillows every night. Within 30 days, your body will accept the new way of sleeping.

Eating, drinking, and exercising affect sleep

  • Regular exercise increases and deepens sleep. Avoid exercising for 2-3 hours before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine after noon and alcohol after 6 pm.
  • No naps after 3 pm.
  • Eat foods that have sleep-inducing properties (white meat turkey, fish, leafy greens, bananas, cherries, dates, figs, dairy products, whole grains, high-glycemic jasmine rice, chamomile tea, decaffeinated green tea). Avoid greasy or spicy foods. Eat several hours before bedtime.
  • Receiving a massage can help you sleep better. Some clients have reported that craniosacral therapy has relieved their insomnia.

Preparing for sleep

  • Create a sleep sanctuary that’s quiet, dark, and cool, without distractions. You can include soothing music, sounds to induce theta and delta brain waves, or white noise, and add a calming aroma. Make sleeping a priority in this room and avoid stimulating or upsetting activities.
  • Make sure your mattress is supportive; if not, it’s time to shop for a new one.
  • Let your day wind down. Develop routines or rituals around going to bed. An Epsom salt bath before bed can help relax you.
  • Stay up until you feel tired. Conversely, knowing when you need to get up and how many of hours of sleep you need, go to bed at the best time for you to wake up fully rested. If you get up at the same time every day, you’ll soon fall asleep when tired.

Inviting sleep

  • Learn to progressively relax each body part from toes to head, adjusting pillows to relieve strain. Then you will be able to simply scan your body for tension and release it. Don’t be surprised if you need to readjust the pillows after a few weeks as your body becomes more relaxed.
  • Do 4-7-8 breathing. When you are positioned for sleep, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your upper front teeth and keep it there. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat for a total of 4 breaths, then breathe normally. This oxygenates your body, releases carbon dioxide, slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and calms your nervous system. A second set of four breaths may be needed for your body to respond. You can also use this during the day to relieve tension.
  • If you still haven’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring until you feel sleepy again, keeping the lights dim.
  • If you awaken with something on your mind, jot it down and let it go until tomorrow.
  • Maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle, even on weekends.
  • If you still struggle with insomnia, I recommend a 5-week online program that offers cognitive behavior therapy. Find it at http://www.cbtforinsomnia.com.

An invitation to relax

One of the major challenges of modern life is managing stress. Our autonomic nervous system switches us between the sympathetic state (fight or flight) and parasympathetic state (rest and digest). Due to traffic, news, work pressure, social pressure, the clock, the lure of electronic devices, etc., many of us spend a large part of our waking time feeling stressed, which affects our sleep and can lead to adrenal fatigue. Our relaxation is superficial, rather than complete and deep.

Consider the ability to deeply relax a valuable skill that will enhance the quality of your life. I invite you to consider these questions:

How relaxed can I become and still be awake?

How can I accomplish this?

If you would like my assistance with any of these suggestions (sleep positioning, setting up a sleep sanctuary, 4-7-8 breathing, relaxation), I offer wellness coaching sessions at the same rate as my bodywork sessions.

My version of bulletproof tea, an excellent morning drink

You may have heard of Bulletproof Coffee. It even has its own listing on Wikipedia: Bulletproof Coffee! It’s a brand created by the man who blogs at Bulletproof Exec, who adds a proprietary “brain octane” medium-chain triglyceride oil to it.

The term is also used generically to refer to high-quality coffee blended with high-quality butter or ghee. The inspiration is butter tea, a traditional energy-giving drink in the Himalayan region that uses black tea, yak butter, hot water, and salt (using those pink Himalayan salt crystals, methinks).

I realized a few years ago that – after drinking coffee for my whole adult life – that I didn’t even enjoy the taste, always doctoring my coffee with cream and sugar (waaaaay back in the day before I went dairy- and sugar-free).

Even freshly ground, organic coffee beans just didn’t and still don’t taste good to me. Too acidic and too much caffeine. Smells good, though.

Then I discovered green tea. I enjoy the taste, the lower level of caffeine, the health benefits, and the way my stomach feels. So it was natural to experiment and come up with my own version of “bulletproof tea”.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 10.43.04 AMEquipment:
Have a mug with lid and a built-in infuser ready (or mug plus strainer, whatever you’ve got).

green tea
pu-erh tea
yerba maté
coconut oil or grass-fed ghee
very hot water
lemon juice
stevia to taste (optional)
salt to taste (optional) Continue reading

Beet kvass: The easiest, quickest fermented drink you can make

I just made this for the first time, and I want to share how easy it is! I found it full of umami flavor – earthy, salty, and tangy.

Everyone is learning how good fermented foods are – tasty and a way to get probiotics into your gut without expensive supplements that may or may not actually get those probiotics to exactly the right place in your digestive tract.

Beet kvass is something you can easily make at home that is ready to consume in just two days! And…it’s a time-tested traditional food known to have health-giving qualities.

beet kvass, The Well

Continue reading

Orthopedic massage for injuries and conditions

In the Advanced Program at the Lauterstein-Conway Massage School, I’m currently in the segment learning Orthopedic Massage, as taught by Jan Hutchinson, PT, LMT, and assisted by Lizabeth Franklin, LMT extraordinaire.

I feel very fortunate to be able to get this training, because I’m learning how to work on specific soft tissue injuries and ailments beyond simply relieving muscle tension. It’s very different from a full-body Swedish/integrative massage in that the focus of a session is on the injured/ailing part rather than working on the full body. I’ll get a history of the injury, observe, palpate, do range-of-motion and resistance tests, and treat.

foot milagroSo far, I’ve learned techniques for working on plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, and anterior compartment syndrome.

I just learned some fabulous foot exercises to teach for homework that can help strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the feet, the ones that don’t get used much because we wear shoes and walk on hard, flat surfaces all day. Using these muscles can prevent and relieve many foot issues.

Some of you are first-hand familiar with these conditions/injuries, and I want you to know that while I am in this program, I’m offering half price sessions so I can put into practice what I’ve learned in class. I’m a pretty good student, so you’ll get your money’s worth. If you are in the Austin area, I’d sure like to see you on my table.  Continue reading

What is ‘enlightenment,’ really?

Here’s a new quote I just added to my Favorite quotes page:

One idea that really hampers us is to believe that people get ‘enlightened,’ and then they’re that way forever and ever. We may have our moments, and if we get sick and have lots of things happening, we may fall back. But a person who practices consistently over years and years is more that way, more of the time, all the time. And that’s enough. There is no such thing as getting it. ~ Charlotte Joko Beck

Courtesy of Tricycle Daily Dharma. Click here to link to an interview with her in which she shares more about how to practice.

For more quotes from Joko Beck, click this link to read what I posted right after her death.

Check out my new massage therapy website!

Here’s the link: http://http://thewell.massagetherapy.com/home. And if you don’t mind, while you’re there, please click a “share” button on the left or a “follow” button at top right. It helps with search engine rankings.

The Well website

This is just a screenshot! Click the link to view the actual website!

It’s a work in progress, but it is complete enough at present to go public with it. I’ll be adding images, videos, and more as I have time.  Continue reading

Stay hydrated all the time, not just after a massage

I’ve written about this before. I tell my clients to stay hydrated, rather than asking them to drink “extra water” after a massage to “flush the toxins out.”

Water makes physiological processes, especially the brain, work better, so getting enough is important. Whatever measure you use – a gallon a day, half your body weight in ounces, until your pee is clear – most of us don’t drink enough, and we need extra to make up for sweating, diarrhea, etc.

Now New York Times health writer Gretchen Reynolds addresses the issue, interviewing an expertContinue reading

The best chicken liver paté recipe ever

I eat a Paleo diet, and right now I’m being rather strict about it: no grains, no dairy, no sugar, and lots of healthy meat and veggies. My energy levels are good!

My nutritionist, Olivia Honeycutt, tells me how good it is to eat liver. I’m pretty sure it was not one of my favorite childhood flavors (actually, my dad didn’t like it so my mom didn’t cook it, but she — having grown up on a ranch where they raised a lot of their own food — liked it).

As an adult I tried liver and onions and came to like it enough to eat occasionally, but not very often.

Liver is loaded with nutrients. One ounce (28 grams, or about 2 tablespoons) contains the following: Continue reading