Muscle of the Month: Sternocleidomastoid

Muscle of the Month

By: EriK Cannard, LMT

Sternocleidomastoid is unquestionably my favorite muscle. Not only does it have a fantastic name, its unique position in the body means it has significant effects on our daily lives. Originating at the top of the breastbone and collarbone near the midline, it attaches just behind the ear making it a major muscle in the front of the neck and one of the strongest rotators of the head. People often see their own sternocleidomastoid in the mirror but don’t even realize they are looking at a muscle. If it’s visible, it’s probably working to stabilize or move your heavy head.

The fact that it “pops” away from the neck when in use makes it a very easy muscle to isolate and massage from all sides. I have found sternocleidomastoid in most people to be very receptive to gentle compression and kneading. It often takes very little effort to achieve a significant amount of relief and relaxation in this area.

A slumped posture when working at a computer, holding a phone with your shoulder, tense winter driving and excess stress all contribute to an overly tight sternocleidomastoid. Symptoms of this muscle tension can include stiff neck, jaw pain and headache. If someone comes to me complaining of a tension headache above or behind their eyes, I can guarantee we’ll be doing some work with sternocleidomastoid.

No Bake Strawberry Pie

No Bake Strawberry Pie

By: Ashley Reed


  • Crust:
    1 cup almonds or pecans
  • ½ tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4-5 Medjool dates, pitted
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Filling:
  • 1 cup cashews (soaked 1-2 hours, or overnight)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ – ½ cup agave (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • ¾ cup fresh strawberries (if you choose to use frozen, thaw them completely first)
  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/8 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • Topping
    1-2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced


Crust: Place almonds or pecans in food processor fitted with the S blade. Process until roughly crumbled. Add coconut oil, sea salt and vanilla and pulse together. Add the dates last, one at a time and pulse until the crust holds together when squeezed. If the crust does not hold, add more dates (again one at a time). Press into coconut oiled pie pan. Chill in freezer while putting together the filling.

Filling: Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or high speed blender. Pour filling into cold pie crust, top with sliced strawberries. Place in freezer for 1-2 hours until firm. Because of the coconut oil, the pie will need to stay in the fridge or freezer to stay firm. Serve cold.

Spring Asparagus Risotto

Spring Asparagus Risotto

By: Leah Scott


  • 4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 oz dry white wine
  • 3/4 lb thin asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed, cut 2-inches long
  • 1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest for garnish


In a large saucepan, heat broth over medium-high heat. When it boils, reduce heat to a simmer and maintain over low heat, taste for salt and adjust as needed.

In a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil and add the shallots; sauté 3-4 minute. Add the rice; mix well so the rice is coated throughout and saute until the rice is slightly translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed.

Add a ladleful of the simmering stock; stir and wait until it is absorbed before adding another ladleful stirring gently and almost constantly.

Continue this process until the rice is creamy, tender to the bite, but slightly firm in the center. Add the asparagus along with the last ladle of broth and continue cooking 5 minutes, total time should be about 25-30 minutes from the time you started. When all the liquid is absorbed, remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice, parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serve immediately and top with fresh cracked pepper, lemon zest, and extra grated cheese if desired.

Makes over 4 cups.
Servings: 4 • Size: 1 generous cup as a main • Old Points: 5 pts • Points+: 7 pts
Calories: 255 • Fat: 4 g • Protein: 9 g • Carb: 43 g • Fiber: 2 g • Sugar: 0 g
Sodium: 630 mg

Seasonal Allergies and Chinese Medicine

By: Colleen Bunker LAc

Spring is here all in the magnificent grandeur typical to Portland. Coming from the east coast, I’m am still in awe of the diversity and magnitude of the flowering trees and shrubs! Unfortunately for many of people, it’s the onslaught of seasonal allergies. Just as the weather begins to break and people want to get outside to enjoy the sun and beauty, symptoms such as sinus congestion, wheezing, running nose, itchy and burning eyes, headache and fatigue are suffered by as many as 45 million Americans.

Many people suffer year in and year out, relying on pharmaceutical medications or by simply trying to limit exposure to the offending pollens. None of these approaches are curative, not to mention the many negative side effects and risks involved with long-term use of antihistamines. Besides sleepiness, low libido, and increased appetite; infertility, anxiety, impaired thinking and depression have all been linked to standard allergy medications.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers another alternative. Acupuncture, combined with herbs, can relieve acute symptoms and at the same time begin to build a person’s Wei Qi (similar to the western immune system). In TCM, anytime the body exhibits symptoms, there is an underlying weakness or imbalance that needs to be addressed. When a person has recurrent allergies, the most common weaknesses are found in the Lung, Spleen and Kidney energies. A skilled TCM practitioner will initially choose acupuncture points and herbs to alleviate the acute symptoms, while gently supporting the whole body. The proper time to begin really focusing on the underlying system weaknesses is after the particular offending pollens have passed. At this time, support and advice will be given on diet and lifestyle habits, along with acupuncture and herbal medicine, to rebuild and support Wei Qi, overall balance and good health. With the commitment of the patient, particularly between allergies seasons, to receive regular treatment and to implement immune building lifestyle changes, seasonal allergies can be greatly alleviated and in many, many cases, healed completely.

Spring Cleanse

By: Colleen Bunker Lac

Spring Soup with Poached Eggs

As spring approaches many of us are thinking about giving our bodies a little tune-up. For most people, simply eliminating all processed foods, sugar, alcohol and caffeine for a week or so allows for a gentle detox. For a deeper cleanse, you can also eliminate grains and dairy. Just by cleaning up your diet in this way, you give your digestive system, especially your liver, a much needed break and an opportunity to gently release accumulated toxins. Focusing on simple, whole foods and drinking lots of good water with lemon for 1-2 weeks is a good is way to prep your body for a more intensive detox with fewer dramatic side effects. Ideally, if you leave processed foods, sugar and trans-fats out of your diet year round, the need for a more intensive cleanse isn’t needed. I found the following recipe on a wonderful blog called The Ancestral Chef. It has only 3 ingredients and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner.



  • 2 eggs
  • 32 oz (1 quart) chicken broth
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
  • salt to taste


Bring the chicken broth to a boil.
Turn down the heat and poach the 2 eggs in the broth for 5 minutes (for a slightly-runny egg).
Remove the eggs and place each into a bowl.
Add the chopped romaine lettuce into the broth and cook for a few minutes until slightly wilted.
Ladle the broth with the lettuce into the bowls.

Spring Season

Lao Tzu, China’s founding Taoist philosopher wrote:
“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” (c.605 BC)

It’s been a long winter, colder than many of us expected and challenged by a nervous questioning of what we individually and collectively value and stand for. In Chinese Medicine, winter is the time we withdraw from the world and reside in a deeper sense of self. It is a time when we enter our personal darkness. The season is ruled by the Kidneys and the water element that welcomes us back into its amniotic fluid. Returning to this deepest part of self, we may come into confrontation with how comfortable we actually are in that space of confinement, solitude and quiet. We nestle in and attempt to create comfort. The attempt in and of itself is an act of self-preservation and regeneration.

Now, as the rain has sunken deep into the soil to nourish the seeds that laid dormant, as cold gradually gives way to warmth, the Tiger awakens. The Tiger represents the Wood element, the Gall Bladder and Liver; the spark of ferocious life that can no longer contain itself and has the courage and will to sprout. The Liver and Gall Bladder rule over our sinews and create the impulse to move, run, stretch and twist our bodies out of winter’s stagnating comforts. Wood seeks growth, expression and change. It is the element of self-transformation. Whatever that means in your life, now is the opportunity to use Spring’s impulsive surge to act on your goals and new year’s resolutions.

It takes new perspectives and flexibility (Gallbladder) to create change. For change to last however, vision and planning (Liver) are necessary. To support this process, Spring is the best time to detox physically and mentally, to exercise and stretch regularly, to spend time in the woods and begin to eat lighter foods (plenty of greens, sprouts and aromatic foods such as citruses, vinegars and bitters, less sugar, less fried food, less fats).

Remember, that although Spring is the time for self-transformation, trees do not grow in isolation. Find your forest, find the people that seek similar growth and support each other through your process. Let go of the old and make room for the new.

Wishing you all strength, courage and growth in this Spring Season!
Naike Swai, L.Ac & The North Portland Wellness Center Team

Nettle and Parsely Pesto

Nettle and Parsley Pesto

By: Leah Scott


  • 2 cups fresh nettle leaves
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¾ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¾ cup shredded parmesan cheese (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Stinging nettles are abundant in our part of the world and host many health benefits.  They are particularly useful in reducing inflammation and alleviating allergy symptoms, arthritis and skin complaints such as eczema.  As an iron-rich green, they are an optimal blood builder.  Foraging nettles is tricky due to the stinging quality, but wear gloves and gather the younger leaves on your next wander through the woods or along the banks of the Columbia.  The leaves must be blanched prior to use and the water can double as a nourishing tea to sip!

First blanch the nettles for a few minutes in a rolling boil, strain and allow leaves to dry thoroughly.  In a food processor, add garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.  Alternate adding nettles and parsley in pulses with pine nuts and cheese (if you choose) until the pesto comes together in a paste with some texture still.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Check in with Your Body

Check In With Your Body Series – Body Awareness

By: Nicolette Wood

It is well known that regular massage therapy is good for increasing relaxation, decreasing muscle tension and generally improving ones well-being. In addition to the physical benefits, massage therapy can also contribute to body awareness. Sometimes the daily grind of life prevents us from noticing our bodies’ indications that a treatment may be in order. Busy schedules and life responsibilities can allow you to ignore that trigger point in your shoulder, tension in your hips or tightness in your low back. Incorporating a massage session into your busy month as a regular “to-do” item can allow you to catch and address those muscle pains and allow you to increase your well-being, and therefore, productivity. Receiving monthly massage can also give you more body awareness to know which muscles or areas of your body are needing regular or additional attention. You can expect as a part of a routine massage session that a massage therapist may notice potential abnormalities on exposed skin during a session and note them to the client to be addressed further. To help keep your body in check, make an appointment and set aside an hour each month to increase and maintain your own body awareness.

Free Ear Seed Treatments as part of Walk Williams Wednesdays

Walk Williams

Join the Wellness Center for a free Ear Seed Treatment every second Wednesday of the month from 12:45-1:30 through June 14th! This New monthly Walk Williams event kicks of Feb. 8th and continues the second Wednesday of every month. From 5-9 pm, Walk Williams and explore the Williams District. Discover one-of-a-kind Williams District deals from unique businesses. Follow the lighted balloons in the evening to old favorites and brand new hot spots. Join your neighbors for a social night out. Find all your needs in Williams District – food + drink, shopping, recreation, medical and services. Gather stamps at each participating business to be entered in to win gift certificates from area businesses. See the link below for a complete list of participating businesses.

Reset, Revive and Resource Yourself in Just 1-minute

Reset, Revive and Resource Yourself in Just 1-minute.

By: Tamra Holder, LMT

If you sit at a computer regularly for long periods, you’ve probably felt it, that pain in your upper back, shoulders and neck from the posture you’ve sunk into while your eyes are locked into the narrow focus obliged by a computer screen. Well, you are not alone, this happens to most everyone, but you do not have to submit to this painful state of being. Freedom from suffering in relationship to your computer can be yours without imposing a rigid and equally painful militaristic posture. So, how can you RESET your posture and find neutral, a place of ease and dynamic equilibrium in relationship to gravity and it’s opposite: ground reaction force? How can you REVIVE yourself, break free from the tension holding you in that familiar statuesque position of Rodin’s “The Thinker” to feeling the dynamism of being wholly alive in each moment? How can you gain access to all your inner RESOURCES in just 1-minute?

Well, set your timers for once every thirty minutes AND TRY THIS:

Starting position:set the height of your seat so your hips are 1”- 2” higher than your knees and scoot to the edge of your seat so your thighs are mostly off of the seat. Use a firm cushion if your seat will not adjust to the height you need. Rest your hands on your thighs. Inhale here.
Flexion:give a slight push into your feet and rocking on your sitting bones, send the top of your pelvis (the back of your waist) backward as you begin to melt your spine into a fairly even curve. Begin to exhale about midway as you sink into this C-shape in your spine. Feel the support of your pelvis while you let yourself relax into flexion. Allow your hands to slide out toward your knees.
Prepare for Extension:On the pause after your exhale, take your C-shaped spine and it rock slightly forward on your sitting bones. Slide your hands up close to the crease at the top of your thighs.
Extension:Now, push down into the ground through your sitting bones, feet and hands to give you the upward impulse for coming into your fullest length. Inhale just after you push off, enjoying a new deep breath.
Finding Neutral:As you exhale, rock back on your sitting bones just enough to center your pelvis and allow your spine to settle with gravity into balance. Feel this new place of supported alignment in neutral.
Repeat entire sequence 3-6 times (about 1-minute)or longer when you want to unwind more deeply held tensions.
If you’re having difficulty getting your muscles to release tension, make an appointment and one of our practitioners will be happy to assist you so you can let go the burden of tension and enjoy the freedom and ease of being fully alive again.