Posts Tagged ‘deep tissue massage’

Journey to the Heart of the Knee

January 24, 2015

Being at the San Francisco Yoga Conference made me think about my “knee journey” because at last year’s conference, my knee was causing me a fair amount of pain.  The more intense the asana, the more my knee groaned in protest.  This year, I was able to do most postures and concluded that my knee is 90% healed.  Last year I was so concerned about my knee that I was willing to try almost any healing therapy!

My friend, who is experiencing knee pain, said, “Patience is my best friend on my healing journey, but Patience doesn’t always show up when I need Her.”


I suppose the first time I felt my knee ache was just after we sold our Seattle condo.  At that time, I helped move all of our belongings to Ocean Shores, and then we promptly left for a long road trip to Southern California.  At rest stops, I was barely able to straighten my legs.  This was the first sign of injury.  Over time, the pain got worse.  It settled into my left knee.  Later, back home, I continued to teach, but held back on certain poses, choosing not to demonstrate any pose that exacerbated the pain.

The first therapy I sought was a deep tissue massage.  The massage therapist focused on my knee, lower leg, ankle, and foot.  The therapist turned my ankles this way and that.  I patiently submitted to an hour of prodding, kneading, flexing and straightening of the knee.  At some point, the massage therapist told me:

Your knee feels torqued. You know, the discomfort in your knee is there to give you a message. Knee pain reflects some imbalance in yourself or in your life. I know you’re a vegetarian, but have you considered eating meat? Your body type needs meat.

Meat? I failed to see the connection between eating meat and knee health. I tried to be open-minded.  The bleak thought that age was creeping up on me flitted across my mind, but I successfully dismissed that thought.  Instead, I thought about the deep tissue massage therapist’s words.  I carefully scanned the scaffolding of my life and tried to look at the various culprits causing the supposed imbalance in myself or in my life.  I did not come up with any answers, and the pain persisted.


I went to various deep tissue massage therapists for further massage. I was in search of relief for my knee.  While the massages felt wonderful (and sometimes intense), the knee pain did not go away.

I tried icing my knee, and then alternating ice and heat therapy.  I tried soaking in hot tubs. On weekends, I did very little and rested my knee completely.  Still I had no relief.

Monkey soaking away knee tensions at a natural hot spring

One of my friends does a type of massage called the Onsen Technique.  She is one of the best in her field, and she worked on my knee.  The Onsen Technique seems to be a combination of osteopathic and chiropractic work.  In addition to the Onsen Technique, she also did quite a bit of rubbing, creating friction and heat to break up the scar tissue in my knee.  Sadly, this did not help diminish the pain in my knee.  I was determined to get to the bottom of this problem.  I refused to believe knee pain is a natural process of aging, as one person boldly suggested!  I was working very hard to banish this thought.

Next, I had an MRI and guess what?  Nothing abnormal showed up.  I was beginning to wonder if this was some sort of phantom pain I was experiencing.  I became more eager to get to the heart of the pain, to understand it, and to overcome it with patience and the appropriate healing strategy.  I started talking to people.  One person went so far as to explain things this way:

Knee problems indicate you are stuck in the Ego.  A lot of people with knee issues are too proud to bend.

There could be some truth to these words, and I do try to be open to different ideas, but my logical mind eventually filed away the Knee-Ego Connection as nonsense.

Ego vs. Nature

Enter the scene: Physical Therapy.  A certain Physical Therapist came highly recommended to me. Unfortunately, he was not covered by my health insurance, and I had to pay an arm and a leg (and a knee?) to be told I have tight IT bands!  I am not sure I know anyone who doesn’t have tight IT bands.  “Your IT bands,”  he said as if lowering the hatchet, “are tight. Very tight!  And they are torquing your knee.”  With stern expression, he told me to roll the outer edge of my thigh on a foam roller every day and asked me to come back in two weeks.  I dutifully used the foam roller daily and came back in two weeks. My knees were still giving me grief.  Not even a small improvement had taken place.  And this time I left the office with a new gadget, a hard-rippled torture-inducing foam roller for daily use.  I was $222 poorer and my patience was running thin.



Next I tried acupuncture.  I had the treatment in San Francisco at last year’s yoga conference because doing intensive yoga for five days in a row was taking its toll on me.  What did I have to lose?  On the Richter Scale of Pain, my pain was nearing a 7.5. I listened very carefully as the acupuncturist explained the following in a hard-to-follow Chinese accent:


Knee represent Kidney.  Kidney emotion (is) Fear!  Symptom of pain in knee indicate you have Kidney Function Disorder and Kidney Energy Deficiency. With  healthy Kidney you never get knee problem.


As if right on cue, Fear entered the scene.  My sister died of Kidney failure from MS complications.  And OMG I probably have KFD and KED!  I submitted to the acupuncture treatment trying desperately to hold back the fear that something was dreadfully wrong with my kidneys.  The treatment made me very sleepy.  I felt exhausted.  I was asleep by 7:00 pm and slept like a shava all night until the alarm went off at 6 am.


As I awoke, my knees didn’t ache so much.

Because I was at the conference and still in search of the perfect knee fix, when I heard about a highly recommended body worker giving massages right there at the conference center hotel, I immediately booked an appointment.  I was led to a large room with some eight massage tables all set up in a circle.  My massage was to take place here. The lights were only slightly dimmed, so I could still see everyone in the room.  I was asked to disrobe and lie on the massage table.  There was no dressing room, no privacy, no robes.  There were both men and women disrobing, dropping their drawers without hesitation, and happily hopping onto their respective tables!  I would never make a good nudist.  If it were all women in that room, I would have felt comfortable, but there were also men present.  I wish I weren’t this way, but I felt very modest and ill at ease.  I did end up having the massage, but I forgot to tell the therapist to focus on my knee! I do, however,  remember what the therapist told me:

In practice, every time we move forward in Life or approach Change, we approach the Unknown. We may feel vulnerable or unsure. We may stand still, stiff-kneed, resisting the winds of change.


I felt better for a while, but slowly the steady thud of pain return to haunt my left knee.   One of my friends, who is into Somatics, suggested knee issues symbolize genuflecting to the will of another.  This Somatics explanation hit me in the gut.  After all, had I not practically given up my Seattle life to give living at Ocean Shores with my husband a try, a move that clearly was NOT working for me, a MOVE that made me feel cut off from the life and work I live for?  Didn’t the pain in my knee start right after the move to Ocean Shores?  Of course it was my choice to give living in Ocean Shores a whirl, and I have no one to blame but myself for making such a decision.

Next, I went to a person who does Organ Rearrangement.  Sounds frightening, I know!  I heard this therapist could work wonders on the body!  Living with knee pain for almost a full year was enough for me to go to anyone who offered the promise of a miracle!  I went to see this Shaman, but I don’t know if the therapy worked or not. I was worried the Organ Rearranger would relocate my kidneys, when in fact his hands never touched my skin. At some point during the treatment, though it was a warm summer day, I suddenly felt chilled and the OR covered me with a blanket. The blanket was itchy, but I continued to focus on the treatment.  I left the office and was on the bus when I felt the first itchy welt rise under the elastic of my underwear.  By the time I got home, I was in a panic.  My body was covered in flea bites. I dashed into the shower and washed from head to foot.  I washed every article of clothing in extra hot water and dried all my clothes on high heat.  I vacuumed.  I threw the vacuum bag into a dumpster. I called the therapist to tell him that the blanket he had covered me with was full of fleas.  He was in disbelief.  I wondered if he had a cat or dog who slept on the blanket?  I’ll never know.  And I’ll never go back.  I feel itchy just writing this paragraph.


The knee is where we assimilate knowledge.  It is where learning settles in on an energetic, spiritual level. This is why, in the olden days, one knelt when receiving gifts and rewards, from healing to prayer.  One knelt when being “knighted.”

Being Knighted

Last summer my sister gave me a Reiki session.  I found it calming and peaceful.  All I did was lie still and allow myself to receive universal healing energy.  I think her Reiki also was helpful, though she did not specifically focus on my knee.

The last therapy I sought was in October, a few months ago, a Cranial Sacral treatment.  I love Cranial Sacral Therapy, and I think this may have also been helpful.  Unfortunately, the therapist had problems keeping me on her books.  I set up a second appointment and she was treating another person when I showed up for my scheduled session.  This happened twice. I decided one session was enough.

Is it your left knee?  Yes?  This is important because the left knee specifically means that you are being pulled by the past, yet everything about you wants to embrace the present and a new vision for yourself.  The pain reflects the struggle to get away, change directions. Something is holding you back, and it takes a lot of emotional energy to move forward.

Fast forward 18 months, to the present.  A few days ago, I took part in Hiking Yoga, led by Laura Sleep.  Her name would suggest somnambulance, but instead she walked briskly and I found myself huffing and puffing up the hills of San Francisco for a two-hour stretch.  From time to time, we paused at a supposed viewpoint, and, looking out over dense fog, did a few yoga stretches before resuming our heart-thumping journey.  At each “viewpoint,” I stood looking out at the void caused by the fog, smiling, because I suddenly realized my knee is almost back to normal.

I believe my healing is a result of Time, Patience, and the various healing modalities I explored.   The passage of Time and being open to the healing process is what has enabled my knee to heal and return to practicing pain-free yoga!

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