Saturday, December 22, 2018

Rehabilitation Methods for Embouchure Dystonia VS Standard Performance Technique Methods - Including Jacobs Method

It would seem common sense that when one is facing embouchure dystonia or even another type of injury, that the rehabilitation process would require both a different approach and mindset focused on the body, rather than focusing on standard techniques to facilitate recovery efforts. Yet, we unfortunately see so many turning to standard techniques to alleviate their symptoms. Even worse, we see teachers and professors trying to help their students the same way.

It is is not anyone's fault that the symptoms of embouchure dystonia are mistaken for bad technique or faulty mechanics (which it is most certainly not the case) because the symptoms are similar to most setbacks in the early stages.

It would help to understand what having embouchure dystonia is like if more musician with the disorder were open about explaining further details and consistently reminding the public that it is a neurological disorder; or to put it in layman's terms - similar to a sensory disorder. Nonetheless, any setback should be approached with less focus on technique.

As Albert Einstein says, "We cannot solve our problem with the same thinking we used when they were created." 

That is definitely not meant to imply that embouchure dystonia is due to negative reinforced thinking, a mental or emotional block, paralysis by over thinking and perfectionism,  or some type of psychogenic issue; which is unfortunately the most common misconception thrown around.

The quote is simply meant to imply that our focus now must be shifted to what the body is telling us and what we can learn from it. In this way our mindset and approach changes to recovery-mode.

In order to become better attuned with our body and what it is asking of us, we must take on what some consider mindfulness, or what I call body awareness. It is an awareness of not what signals or lack-there-of (sensory feedback from our body) are being sent to us as we adapt. It also involves studying our body functions as a whole which can be understood through learning about body somatics, body mapping, and anatomy. To take it a step further, it helps to learn about other physical traumas and diseases to the face, teeth, glands, nerves, muscles, tissue, and upper body.

In brass playing we are limited to being taught about one muscle called the obicularis oris, and sometimes the buccinator and masseter muscles if lucky. Even then, there is little known about what all is actually involved in the use of an embouchure when it comes to form and function. The embouchure is a complex wiring and intricate system involving many small and large muscle groups of the upper body, face, tongue, nerves, jaw joint, skeletal/teeth structure, and lungs. There are many who avoid going into further detail or even bringing the subject of embouchure form and function into lessons.

The teachers that do bring up embouchure form and function tend be very strict about how an embouchure should look and move, and this is usually tied heavily to Farkas studies. Most often their students are the ones subjected to embouchure changes (sometimes drastic changes when unnecessary), which is seen as one of the many possible gateways into developing embouchure dystonia.

With embouchure dystonia, it helped me to deprogram the entire embouchure. Although if feels like the the signals from the brain are causing overwhelming and unpredictable muscles hyperactivity, it paradoxically allowed me to begin understanding how my body functions as a whole through accepting, observing, and exploring the dysfunctional movements that where happening.

I learned how my dysfunctional embouchure functioned in order to start deprogramming "playing mode" and disassociating the "embouchure setting", and then rebuilt from the ground up.

Throughout rehabilitation, it is important that the mindset shift to one focused on curiosity, exploration, with the determination to embrace the hard work, while continually loving and accepting the sound coming out of our horn despite the lack of control and stability.

In order to really understand the disorder as a whole, we must dig deep to find knowledge to support our understanding of embouchure dystonia, as there are few publically accessible and promoted  resources; scientific research, case studies, information on non-traditional and traditional treatments, knowledge on causes and cures of similar maladies or trauma to the face and upper body, and body somatics in one place.

We also must be open yet objective to everyone's views on what has helped or not helped them find progress or recovery, and most importantly we must be in a good place psychologically in order to not rush rehabilitation and risk creating a secondary injury as a result.

Do not underestimate how important a healthy environment can be as well; i.e. not performing in a high demanding group or continually doing performances in the beginning stages that would take away time from investing in recovery efforts and continually putting stress on an unstable embouchure. However, not everyone can step away due to performance demands, commitments, and even harder when it is what provides ones primary income and sustains their career and reputation.

Almost every musician you speak to who has dystonia will bring up the fact that musician's dystonia is a very individualized experience and requires a personalized recovery plan or at least one that adapts to their needs as they improve. The reason they say this is because the truth is that only they know their body better than anyone else ever will. Only they can navigate through the complex and messed up signals being sent to their embouchure, can tell from day-to-day what symptoms have surfaced and which ones are a more subdued over time. Most importantly, they decide what works and doesn't work best for their own recovery.

The most noticeable symptom with having embouchure dystonia is the lack of feedback you receive from touch/sensory. The best example that I can give is that there is no sense of where your mouthpiece should set on your lips (referred to as the "sweet spot" sometimes), no feeling of grasp on the surface of notes, and an overall foreignness in the face while playing...however, this is not to be confused with tingly or needle/prickly sensations...more like a dull lack of sensation, a lack of familiarity, and no ability to taste the notes. The reason I avoid tingly feelings, is because that is usually associated with a different type of injury such as nerve damage, nerve entrapment, muscle tears, or other more severe health issues.

I constantly compare embouchure dystonia to a sensory disorder. Both dystonia and sensory disorders involve a traffic jam of signals from the brain, and both are neurological-based, yet completely different disorders.

I have a weird description of what dystonia feels like. I liken it to a leg that has fallen asleep (without being aware of it). When you try to stand up and walk, you are suddenly surprised at not knowing what part of the foot to apply pressure to, and therefore your knees begin to buckle under because you have no sensation to guide your movement of the entire leg, and you need to slow down and think about what you are doing in order to keep your balance. All you can think about is how much lack of control you have and 90% chance you'll fall flat onto the floor, so you start panicking. In the meantime, there is someone hitting your knee with a reflex hammer every time you decide to move, which makes it even more frustrating and confusing!

Like I stated above, it is hard to grasp just the surface of a note, let alone hold one out. There is definite sense of foreignness and for some they can't even distinguish the feeling of vibration, vitality, or flexibility in the embouchure.

This is why no set detailed rehabilitation method applies to all, nor can cure all. That is not to say recovery is impossible, as there are a few of us who have, and progress is definitely possible if you put in the time and effort.

How is the focal dystonia individualized you might ask? Does it really vary that much? Yes, in the smallest most delicate subtle movements. It also depends on specific symptoms, and what multiple factors may be contributing to that individuals onset of dystonia. It also depends on what effects them the most, and what helps too.

One person might find that using a sensory trick by touching an area of their face while playing reduces or eliminates a tremor on one specific note, or it could reduced in a specific range, or it could only be when they are playing loud or only when playing soft. A 2nd person might find that no sensory trick or geste works, and after trying a medication (that didn't work for the previous person) works for them and they can actually return to playing at a decent level. A 3rd person might have cervical dystonia or oral mandibular dystonia and it led to them having embouchure dystonia symptoms (coming about as a secondary disorder is very rare though). A 4th person might find that their dystonia symptoms reduce significantly after taking a nutrient supplement.

When it comes to embouchure dystonia there are common symptoms that occur; tremors, twitches, air leaks, muscle pulls/jerks, jaw closure/jaw lock/aperture clamping. But when individuals describe their symptoms in detail, about when/where/how they occur, it can vary greatly. Not everyone has all of the symptoms, and not everyone has the same severity of embouchure dystonia symptoms, and not everyone has the same reaction to different treatments.

This is why it is so hard to diagnose. There is also the issue of misdiagnosis. If someone who claims to have embouchure dystonia and is easily recovered within a month, a few weeks, or even a year by focusing on only technique building or solely emotional therapy, it is most likely a misdiagnosis. Also another sign of misdiagnosis is if the musician's core issue is pain. Embouchure Dystonia is not overuse syndrome and does not elicit pain. Unfortunately a majority of musicians who have embouchure dystonia do not make it to a complete recovery, and even fewer return to playing professionally. Most that do report full recoveries spend years or a lifetime rebuilding their neuropathways and tend to have tried or used a multitude of treatments to overcome it.

With all of that said, I want to discuss the importance of why standard performance technique methods should not be used on musicians with embouchure dystonia. I should say that, it isn't that we cannot use certain techniques, but it is the manner of which it is applied.

When you have embouchure dystonia, you can not continually practice working on articulation, range, *air control, dynamics, efficiency/accuracy, endurance, speed, scales, repertoire, etc. Anything that requires repetitive practice/tasks will only further develop the dystonia. Intense playing or anything that requires endurance or advanced skills will only lead to over-exertion. Working on refining our motor skills will only create more tension and we risk creating an injury on top of already having a disorder.

When you have embouchure dystonia, the focus cannot be on anything resembling the Arnold Jacobs Method. "Singing the music in your head as you play....singing through the phrases...singing the pitch...wind and song."

Although I understand the intention of singing transcending technique (like a sensory trick) and how this might help people with embouchure dystonia not focus on the symptoms. However it does not help to completely ignore the dystonia symptoms, as this makes things worse. Also not to mention the fact that the symptoms can't just be "played through", as musicians with embouchure dystonia lack complete control of their playing and don't even have the ability to sometimes hold onto a note for 0.47 of a second.

Visualizations tend to help musician's sometimes. However, I am talking about manipulatives such as mirror boxes for hand dystonia sufferers, or visualizing blowing on hot tea in order to trick the brain into thinking it is doing something else.

That is not to say this method can't work in the later stages near the end of recovery, because I really do value the Jacobs Method and think it should be used more often in pedagogy practices for non-injured and non-dystonic musicians. But for a majority of the process it should be avoided.

Also a huge thing to mention here that Jacob's method is often used to re-establish correct habits via a focus on purely musicality. Embouchure dystonia is neurological. Meaning it has nothing to do with correcting bad habits, our musicality, level of technical mastery on the instrument, our way of thinking - positive or negative, nor is it about overthinking or perfectionism, or have to do with a lack of correct focus on a more musical-based mindset.

It literally has to do with the brain signal(s). Imagine a CD that has a tiny scratch on it, yet this tiny scratch happens to be in a spot that causes the whole CD to skip over several songs. It is like a domino effect or the domino theory; when one signal gets even slightly messed up, the rest comes tumbling down.

My neurologist brought up a theory that makes the most sense to me, even though no one knows what causes dystonia. He said that the human brain might be attempting hyper-efficiency in order to make things easier by streamlining the refined motor skills, but instead this backfires and turns into a maladaptive trait.

As musicians we refine our motor skills over years of repetitive practice, and the brain starts to refine the signal being sent out and our playing becomes more efficient. A scan of the brain's body map of a healthy musician's hand while playing guitar or piano will show the brain recognizing each finger as an individual limb, whereas a scan of the brains body map of a musician with hand dystonia has shown the brain clumping some of the fingers together into a big blob/blur.

Musician's with hand dystonia have a lot more research on their disorder, devices to help with retraining, and sensory tricks. What does help though as a sensory trick with embouchure dystonia in some cases is touching the area of the face where the tremor is happening while playing, and even sometimes mentally imagining they are touching the area where the tremor is happening reduces it (usually a sign of a more generalized dystonia though if that happens). Some find that ice-packing the face somehow allows them to temporarily regain playing abilities....but again, this is dangerous to work with and should be done carefully as it can easily cause other injuries or mask an already existing injury if you are not sure what setback you have. However, musicians with severe embouchure dystonia, sensory tricks do not always work, and the embouchure is more complex and less understood than a hand.

It's as one of my friends said, "The muscles in the face are meant to eat, chew, and talk, not to blow into a tiny mouthpiece and accurately hit a high C over and over again. It is the strangest body part we could use to create music. It an abnormal use of those muscles."

This brings me to my next point. With embouchure dystonia, the focus cannot be on standard embouchure formation function and correction. I won't write much on this because you could write a book on embouchure form and function. But for those who do not know about it, or haven't read Farkas's studies on the art of brass playing and horn playing, there are some commonalities found among healthy and/or professional embouchures. To put it in a very short description - there are two extremes of the embouchure; a full pucker (corners brought all the way inwards and lips moved outward), and a full smile (where the corners stretch outwards towards the cheeks and the lips become spread thin/flat).
An ideal healthy embouchure should be somewhere in between the two extremes. The corner muscles of our lips hold the bulk of the strength and allow the aperture to be flexible in adjusting size (the small opening between the lips). When the corners are working properly, the chin should remain flat and not bunched. The chin can be flattened by bringing the jaw down (and in lower playing - down and forward). If the chin is bunched it causes a lot of problems later on, and especially dangerous as it puts more pressure onto the upper lip which is spread thin, whereas the lower lip needs to provide the stability. The flatness of the chin allows for more flexibility and fluidity when crossing between registers, and it allows us to adjust the lower lip. With the embouchure set up this way we can also hit the center of the pitch more accurately...or as some say the lower part of the note. This ties into air.

With embouchure dystonia even putting the horn up to the face or going into "playing mode" or "embouchure setting" will cause the dystonia to kick in and go haywire. Like I stated above that we must disassociate this link and deprogram our entire body from recognizing we are playing the horn. I go over this in great detail in the video further down and show examples.

*When you have embouchure dystonia, the focus cannot be on standard breathing techniques or exercises (with some exceptions). Again, for those who do not know about standard breathing techniques or exercises, most often in our university studies we are taught about how to properly intake air and exhale it with fluidity while aligning with the metronome.

You hear a lot about hot air, breathing from the lower abdomen and not raising the shoulders, opening the throat, imagining things like inhaling a basketball, sometimes using words like "ho" or "toh", practicing breathing exercises with the metronome and increasing your lung capacity.
Learning about the anatomy of the diaphragm, learning about the difference between mouth/corner breathing and nose breathing, recognizing the sound of proper breathing, and sometimes use breathing devices to train and measure progress

We also learn about how to exhale well supported air and focus it into a solid stream or like a jet-stream or thread of air directed into the mouthpiece, reaching out past the bell and filling every corner of the room, focusing on filling the entire room up with your sound.
We learn about how to use our air to bend the note (note bending/air bending pitches) down (also why the chin being flat and brought downwards is important) digging into the bottom of a pitch against the resistance in order to find the center of the note where it rings and you can hear the overtones. ...again...could write an entire book on this subject.

We also are taught how to use the tongue to initiate clean articulation at the beginning of a phrase on the front of our notes. This ties into tonguing...another area I will save for later. But tonguing must be left out when recovering from embouchure dystonia, at least in the beginning stage and middle stages until the embouchure becomes more functional.

What people don't realize, is that even with strong air support, we are still exerting muscle control and using proper air isn't just all about air, or just all about muscle control and requires both, and there is a delicate balance between the two. I will talk more about that further below.


However, when it comes to embouchure dystonia rehabilitation, it is important to not focus on any of the standard techniques listed above. It must all be cleansed away out of your thoughts, as if you were brainwashed and need to undergo an exorcism of some sort. Do not follow or listen to the following Farkas diagram (I did the courtesy of crossing everything out for you and added a not-allowed sign...a bit over the top perhaps...but you get the point). My primary point is that standard technique can only be applied to functional embouchures. Put that stuff away and out of your mind for years to can only be reintroduced way further down the road when you are almost fully recovered.

Whenever a musician who does not have dystonia tries to use conventional standard methods to address your embouchure dystonia symptoms, ignore everything they say, as it will only make things worse. Embouchure dystonia is so far beyond dysfunctional that there isn't a word that exists for it. If dystonia had an ounce of functionality, then normal standard conventional methods/techniques would fix everything easily.

With embouchure dystonia, we must focus on completely letting the embouchure be loose and letting the air initiates the sound before all else; before the tongue, before the embouchure sets, before articulation, before we even try to control it. It is about the air passing through the aperture in its most basic and relaxed natural way, before everything else goes into action.

Most importantly, we do this in order to deprogram the embouchure. Think of it as uninstalling software. Letting air swell up in our cheeks, in our corners, even frowning our corners if have to. We must practice using different muscle groups than what we are use to, and especially ones that release tension and oppose the normal setting we are use to. The goal being to completely deprogram, then slowly start reprogramming. It is a difficult thing to navigate and requires a lot of body awareness and most of journaling/documenting your observations.

I also want to mention that in standard air technique, there is a delicate balance that must be recognized and kept aware of (this actually applies to both musicians who have dystonia and those who don't). That balance is: 1. Is the air guiding the direction of your embouchure? Is it guiding the function of the embouchure muscles and directing them? OR 2. Is the embouchure/aperture guiding the direction of the air? Is it controlling or overly supporting the sound?

Ideally we want a balance of both. But, the air should be the predominant guide always. However, it is not always easy to tell because we are not usually hyper aware during playing or have time to think about it while in action. Usually when you are a normal (non-dystonia) you just play and trust the feeling of ease and comfortability, and sometimes we get too caught up in the feeling that "It feels natural"  that we forget this delicate balance and how easily the tendency to start controlling the air/sound with solely the embouchure starts to sneak in and cause problems.This is where we can sometimes get in trouble if we don't actively try to keep track of what is going on with our body/face during intense playing periods of time.

I'm not saying that this is what causes embouchure dystonia at all...please don't misinterpret what I'm saying. What I am saying is that the focus on letting the air guide the embouchure is one of the several methods/tools we use to re-establish a production of sound out of the instrument, to deprogram, and then reform a connection. But even so, the method requires tweaking, which I talk a lot about it in this video I did over Beginning Rehabilitation Strategies below:

With FTSED our embouchure is easily thrown off by even the action of bringing the right (or left...whichever is predominantly used in playing) hand up to the face (sometimes not even with the mouthpiece). It is because our muscle memory/programming has developed a embouchure setting over years of practice and growth. Eventually when you go to play, the embouchure naturally sets (also called "embouchure setting"). I call this "Playing Mode". It is because we have this embouchure setting that is programmed to react instantaneously and the signal from the brain goes into "set for playing mode." But when the signal is damaged, such as in embouchure dystonia, how can you deprogram the reaction?

For me, the key was to take away everything; the horn, the mouthpiece, even the action of bringing your dominant arm(s), hands, and body into playing posture.

Sometimes focal embouchure dystonia is so bad it carries over to some of these basic actions. The answer is to bring it all back to simply practicing passing air through the lips gently and practicing using opposite movements in our embouchure than what we are use to using. This is most important in the first month(s) and year of rehabilitating. Some practitioners will have you focus on blowing on a windmill, feather, blowing through a straw, while relaxed. Just re-focusing on letting the air pass through the lips without going into "playing mode."

For some who start rehabilitating, this is the key focus in overcoming their embouchure dystonia, whereas others will require more focus on other areas of recovery once they've re-established a sound. That is why I believe some call it "air dystonia" or say that focusing on their air was key in recovery. It continually plays a role throughout rehabilitation; constantly letting the air guide your playing, however, there are other areas that require equal attention depending on your individual symptoms, and I don't want to give the impression that it is ONLY about this act of blowing gentle air support. Recovery is like peeling layers of onion and you've got 99 million problems, and air isn't just one.

Another huge fact that is overlooked is that when an embouchure sets, most of us bring our chin forward a little bit to align with the mouthpiece if we are downstream players (especially when dropping into the very low register on horn) and opens the aperture up more, thus, the sternocleidomastoid muscle along the sides of our neck flex in order to help support the jaw muscles and movement (even if minimal movement). Go ahead and try free-buzzing high and low while keeping one hand or a couple of fingers on the sides of your neck and you will feel them subtly flex. You can try this while playing too and feel it. Try touching both sides of your neck, and touching different areas of your upper body, face, and neck to locate muscles that activate when playing.
Keep a journal of it and what you become aware of....ex. if one area is more tense than another.

I can't say this for sure, as this is only a speculation. Sometimes I think the sternocleidomastoid muscle is overactive or tension more noticeable in certain people due to their individual anatomy or because the nerve connected to the muscle is easily disturbed. I believe this muscle along with the masseter causes over tension in the neck area when playing and sometimes leads to lock jaw, TMJ, or even just a basic restricting of the air flow because the neck tenses up. I know for me, I have to work on a relieving tension in my neck a lot in order to loosen up my jaw and then facial muscles.

However, that is not to say that muscle tension isn't necessary (every muscle in playing requires one to flex, and another to oppose it, as that is how the body works in balance - antagonist and agonist muscle groups), as it is naturally flexed, but that it often tends to be overly tensed when you have embouchure dystonia and I in particular have to take extra steps to massage and relax my upper body muscles.

I cannot stress the importance of focusing on relieving muscle tension (created by the dystonia/ muscles fighting/ signals clashing) through a variety of means, and the re-direction of letting the air stream pass through the mouth gently with no muscle control. When sound is reestablished, then focusing on practicing opposite muscle movements becomes an equally important area. I cover this in the second video below.

This post has gotten quite long and I could write much more, but will stop here. If you have any questions, comments, or topic suggestions, please let me know and I will respond! Hope that this provided some insight into the neurological disorder Focal Task-specific Embouchure Dystonia.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

New Website! - Focal Embouchure Dystonia

I finally designed a website to link to my blog thanks to a friend recently advising me to do so. I still have a lot more work to do on it, but maybe this will help me reach my advocacy goals and spread more awareness, and provide guidance. Thank you to those who take the time to check it out!

I'm also in the process of updating my blog and rewriting important blog posts, editing, and adding new sections. Thank you for your patience as I go through the process of cleaning house on my blog.

- Katie

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Embouchure Dystonia: I'm a Survivor

I was driving home yesterday and I heard this song called Survivor by Zach Williams and it brought me to tears.

This song hit close to home and relates to how I cope with living with embouchure dystonia, how I find the strength to keep going and use relapses or any life setbacks as fuel to my fire.

I usually don't share this kind of stuff. Although I am not religious and don't belong to any denomination, I am still spiritual in my own undefined way and I respect everyone's beliefs or lack-there-of. So don't want to be labeled as pushing religion on others.

I just wanted to share something a little more personal and that uplifts me. Don't know if anyone else can relate to it, but felt I should share a daily dose of what inspires me to continue overcoming focal embouchure dystonia.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Explorer

Having Embouchure Dystonia is like this....except -50 steps behind the beginner level student. Imagine if you had the knowledge, understanding, years of training, and experience of what it takes to be a professional, but you can no longer execute a single note out of your instrument naturally.

It really sucks. I mean, it is one of the hardest setbacks to deal with, yet  I love this quote. It is the right mentality despite how many highs or lows that overcome us. We must be willing to be a beginner in order to start recovery and maintain it. Even more so I prefer the term explorer; i.e. wide eyed, creative, open minded, and always searching for answers. We are constantly exploring and building new neuropathways in order to adapt to dystonia.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Related Natural Remedies and Supplements for Various Maladies

For the past year I've dived heavily into trying various supplements, herbs, vitamins, etc. Very non-traditional stuff.

I tried to find different maladies that were somewhat related to embouchure dystonia, embouchure injuries, facial nerve damage, and related diseases that can cause similar symptoms too.

What I found was that there were a lot of commonalities between the remedies. Therefore I listed a little asterk * next to the reoccurring ones below. Apologies if there is a lot of repetition. I have yet to edit this, and might not get around to it's a lot to edit!!

It's still too early to tell if anything has helped me, as I am also having to get use to modifications and adjustments of levels taken. You should always consult with your doctor before trying any of these, and I am in no way promoting using what is listed here by any means, but merely sharing what I've been trying and testing to see if it helps me. As I will literally try anything, as long as it isn't harmful and damaging, in order to see if it helps me along my journey of recovery.

I have found a large improvement overall though with a combination of the supplements Ginkgo Biloba, Tremor Miracle, Women's 50+ vitamins (contains: Vitamin A, C, D, E, K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, Biotin, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, Iodine, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Copper,Manganese, Chromium, Molybdenum, Chloride, Potassium,Nickel, Silicon, Vandium, Lutein), Enzyme Q10, L-arginine, Creatine, Chaga extract, Apple Cider Vinegar and water, Glucosamine Chondroitin & MSM, Tens Unit, stretches, and massage. I still have a long list of things to try though. I rotate them each day, so that way I'm not taking them all in one day, but more over the course of a week, and instead of taking 2, I take only 1 pill or extract a day.

Here is the information I've found on various remedies. I only added in one additional thing - the mouth guard information. Again, this is not medically proven to cure anything and the information below should be taken lightly, and if you decide to want to try any of these, please consult your doctor first and/or look up more resources and information on it!


Coenzyme Q10  (1,200 milligrams daily): A powerful antioxidant that can help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Studies have shown that very low levels of coenzyme Q10 in the brain and blood of Parkinson’s patients. Mitochondria are responsible for the production of energy for our cells, but during production, a by-product of spare electrons is created. When these electrons escape the cell, they are known as free radicals that are responsible for oxidative damage to the brain and linked to cognitive problems. To combat the damage, every cell of the body contains a powerful antioxidant called coenzyme Q10, but people with high levels of oxidative damage can afford to consume even more.

*Vitamin C (750 milligrams, 4x daily): Can be used as an antioxidant to prevent free radical damage. Also supports strong immune function.

*Vitamin E (400 IU daily): An important antioxidant that supports the brain.

Green vegetables powder supplement: Make sure the formula includes spirulina, chlorella or wheatgrass to provide critical minerals and help with detoxification.

*Omega-3 fish oil (1,000 milligrams daily): Helps reduce inflammation and supports neurological health.

*Vitamin D: To maintain bone health, make sure your diet includes plenty of calcium and vitamin D. People who are over the age of 50 should consume 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily along with at least 800 IU of vitamin D (from the sun, foods and supplements).

Essential oils for Parkinson’s: Using essential oils may effectively reduce and calm some of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease such as depression, sleep trouble, skin inflammation and digestive issues. Helichrysum and frankincense oil have been shown to reduce inflammation of the brain, and vetiver oil has been found to reduce tremors. Rub 2 drops frankincense, helichrysum and vetiver oil on the temples and neck two times daily or put 2 drops of frankincense on the roof of the mouth.

CBD Oil/Cannibis Oil - I've tried a CBD tincture through CannazAll brand.

Salivary Gland Stones:
Lemon juice can be a great home remedy for salivary gland stones and just about anything. Juice of one fresh lemon can be added in a glass and taken each morning. This is a great detoxifying drink and aids in alkalizing the body.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Salivary Gland Stones:
Apple cider vinegar is a simple tonic and an effective home remedy for a variety of illness. It aids in alkalizing the body. It is also known to be effecting in many with calcium deposits. You can use 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water sipped throughout the day.

Borax is a natural home remedy for calcium deposits. For men a typical dose of borax is ¼ teaspoon of borax in 1 litre of water to be consumed over the course of a day. This is to be done 4 days in a row and 3 days off in the week. For women, the dose is 1/8 teaspoon of borax in 1 liter of water.

*Castor Oil as a Home Remedy for Salivary Gland Stones:
Castor oil is known to have excellent healing properties and is beneficial for pain relief. It can be poured in to a cloth and help against the painful and swollen area for 20 minutes, two times in a day. Apart from this, castor oil can also be massaged over the painful or swollen area.

Vitamin supplements like magnesium can be taken as a home remedy for salivary gland stones.
Epsom salt can also be used for treating salivary gland stones.

Chanca piedra, Dandelion, Gravel root and Hydragea are other such lithotrophic herbs which can be used for treating salivary gland stones. These herbs can either be taken as tea, or in form of capsules.

*Turmeric as a Home Remedy for Infected Salivary Gland Stone:
Turmeric is a wonderful herb that aids with pain, inflammation and infection. 1 teaspoon of turmeric can be mixed in milk, almond milk and taken two times in a day.

Oregano Essential Oil for Infected Salivary Gland Stone:
Oregano essential oil can be used to aid with infections caused by salivary gland stones. They can be brought in a capsule or supplement form and taken internally. One drip of oregano essential oil can also be added to 1 teaspoon of extra virgin coconut oil and can be used in oil pulling or swishing in the mouth for about 20 minutes.

Tremors and Essential Tremors

*Magnesium. This mineral helps to regulate nerve impulses and muscle contraction. Magnesium-rich foods include sesame seeds, beans, nuts, avocados and leafy greens. To ensure that you’re getting enough magnesium, consider taking a supplement. Typical dose to ease tremors: 200 mg to 400 mg daily.

*Fish oil. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil offer proven anti-inflammatory effects—systemic inflammation is implicated in neurodegenerative diseases such as MS and Parkinson’s disease. Fish oil is abundant in fatty fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and herring. Aim for two servings per week. If you don’t like fish, consider trying a supplement. Typical dose to ease tremors: 1,000 mg to 1,500 mg daily.

Valerian, skullcap and passionflower. These calming herbs have been successfully used as part of a regimen to ease tremors. The supplements can be found in combination products, including capsules, teas and tinctures. Follow instructions on the label.

Tooth Pain/Infections

Clove Oil
People have been using clove oil to help with tooth pain for thousands of years. Cloves are not only a delicious addition to baking and curries, it is good for easing the pain. Clove contains a strong chemical called eugenol. It is both an anesthetic and an antiseptic. This means that it numbs your nerves, and it also prevents further infection.

Using a salt water rinse
Creating a salt water rinse is a good way to sanitize your mouth. This saline mix is an antiseptic, which means that it prevents bacteria from growing. Keeping your mouth clean will help to prevent and even infection. This will reduce the amount of pain that you feel. Rinse your mouth after each meal, when you wake up and before you go to sleep.

Peppermint essential oil
Have you ever wondered why so many oral health products include peppermint?

Peppermint includes menthol, an active ingredient that has strong anti-bacterial properties. These properties may also help relieve your tooth pain naturally. As a plus, peppermint will give you minty fresh breath!

 Cayenne pepper
It may seem counter-productive to add a hot and spicy element to your sore mouth, but it can work wonders. Cayenne pepper is a good source of capsaicin, an active ingredient that can really help with your tooth pain. It is an anti-inflammatory and will reduce swelling. This can really help reduce your tooth pain.

Garlic not only makes your food taste delicious, it can help ease the pain of a toothache. When you crush garlic cloves, they release allicin. This is a natural antibacterial agent, and it can help you with your tooth pain. Consider chewing on a piece of raw garlic, or rinsing with garlic water. That said, you may want to follow up with some peppermint!

Room temperature cucumber
You may already know about cucumber’s soothing effects. This is the reason why so many people use it as a remedy for puffy eyes. It has hemostatic properties, which means that it helps to keep blood within a blood vessel.

If you want to use cucumber on your tooth pain, slice a piece and hold it to the affected area. You can also make a mixture of cucumber and sea salt and use it as a paste on the tooth.

Is your cucumber in the fridge? Bring it up to room temperature before applying it to your sensitive teeth.

Raw Onions
Sure, they’re a tasty addition to food – but did you know that onions are antiseptic? It’s true – they are packed with antimicrobial properties. This can help raw onions kill the bacteria in your mouth and reduce your pain. Place a raw onion on the affected area. It might make your eyes water, but dentists agree that it will likely help dull the pain.

* Turmeric paste or powder
Turmeric is one of the most medicinal spices on the planet. It has a whole series of uses and benefits. Turmeric contains an active ingredient called curcumin. This has many antiseptic, analgesic and antibacterial properties. Curcumin can help stop your tooth pain and can prevent infections and abscesses.

If you want to use turmeric to help with your tooth pain, make a paste. Add a teaspoon of turmeric powder into a small amount of water. Add some of this paste to a cotton ball, and apply it directly to your sore tooth. You can even mix this paste with raw honey to improve taste.

Thyme oil, tea or fresh leaves
Thyme is a great herb to use in cooking. It has many antimicrobial properties. Thyme is full of thymol, an antifungal and antiseptic active ingredient. This can make it a great essential oil for tooth pain and infections.

You can add the essential oil directly to your tooth and gums. You can also sip thyme tea or chew fresh thyme leaves. Thyme leaves are very small, so it is a good idea to chew them on the opposite side of your sore tooth. If the small leaves get into the infected area, you could cause more problems.

 Chew raw ginger
Ginger is a powerful antiseptic, and it tastes great. Fresh ginger is packed with active ingredients. These include gingerone, shogaols, and gingerols. Chewing raw ginger is a great way to reduce certain bacteria in your mouth.

Reducing certain bacteria can help with pain and can stop further infection. In addition to chewing on raw ginger, you can add fresh ginger to your food. It has great benefits and tastes delicious.

 Apply an ice pack to your face
If you have a sore tooth, your face might appear swollen and puffy. If this is the case, you can apply an ice pack to your cheek. The cold nature of the ice will reduce your swelling. Remember – if your face is swollen, you might have a serious infection. You might even have an abscess. If this is the case, you need to consult with your dentist as soon as possible. He or she can advise you on further treatment.

 Apply a vitamin K2 rich oil to the tooth
Your body has vitamin K2 dependent proteins that are released from the dental pulp to fight tooth inflammation called osteocalcin. Eating a diet with plenty of vitamin K2 rich foods may help fight toothaches naturally.

For a topical solution,  keeping Emu oil on hand is one of the richest natural sources of vitamin K2. WalkAboutmu Oil,  is a high-quality natural remedy for a toothache.

Professional Mouth Guards (If you clench and/or grind your teeth at night or need to help jaw relax):

About twitches/spasms and Alkaline Levels:

Scar Tissue:

*Vitamin A stimulates collagen synthesis and increases the strength of scar tissue so that it doesn't tear. Prescribed steroids for a wound or infection prevent inflammation and wound healing, but vitamin A can stop that from occurring. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends speaking to your physician before taking a vitamin A supplement, especially if you're scheduled for surgery. Vitamin A is found in eggs, fish liver oils and dairy products. You can also manufacture vitamin A through the beta-carotene in dark, green leafy vegetables and yellow and orange fruits and vegetables.

*Vitamin C is essential for the growth and mending of tissue throughout your body. It’s required to manufacture collagen, repair wounds and make scar tissue. The disease scurvy, a result of vitamin C deficiency, has symptoms related to weakened collagen, such as poor wound healing and bruising easily. Adults need between 75 and 90 milligrams of this vitamin a day. It’s prevalent in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli and potatoes.

*A deficiency in the B-complex vitamins can hinder your ability to heal from injury or surgery because these nutrients link collagen and deliver oxygen and nutrients to the site of injury. The University of Maryland Medical Center specifically indicates that thiamine and pantothenic acid, or vitamins B-1 and B-5, can heal wounds and promote skin health. Pantothenic acid supplementation and application of pantothenic ointment may speed the healing process, strengthen scar tissue and boost the number of fibroblasts required to secrete collagen, but more research on human subjects is needed to confirm these effects. B vitamins are found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, avocado, sweet potatoes, legumes, peas, red meat, poultry, fish, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals and dairy products.

*Your body relies on vitamin E to maintain healthy skin. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble, antioxidant vitamin. It reduces inflammation and offers you protection from the sun. There are a variety of over-the-counter topical treatments containing vitamin E for scars, but speak to your physician before trying them. A 2009 paper in American Family Physician stated there is minimal research showing vitamin E can help scar tissue. It may actually reduce the strength of scar tissue and cause contact dermatitis.

Muscle Dystrophy:

*Vitamin D
*Whey Protein
*Omega 3 Fatty Acids - EPA and DHA

Myofascial Pain:

*Magnesium Citrate (500 mg daily).
Fibromyalgia has been linked to magnesium deficiency and research shows that magnesium supplements may help to reduce troublesome symptoms, including pain. According to a study published in the journal Rheumatology International, women given 300 milligrams of magnesium citrate daily for eight weeks experienced improvement in the number of tender points, tender point index, FIQ and Beck depression scores.

In addition to pain relief, magnesium supplements may also dramatically improve insomnia, sleep time, sleep latency and sleep efficiency according to a study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences. In this double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, participants were given 500 milligrams of magnesium or a placebo daily for eight weeks. As sleep problems are common for those with fibromyalgia, a high-quality supplement and boosting intake of magnesium-rich foods should be a top priority and can help as a natural fibromyalgia treatment.

Fortunately, there are plenty of low-FODMAP foods that are also rich with magnesium.  Add cooked spinach, bananas and pumpkin seeds to your diet to boost this essential mineral that may help relieve both pain and sleep problems for those with fibromyalgia.

*Fish Oil (1,000 mg daily).
Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, taking a high-quality fish oil supplement may help to reduce inflammation and pain, as well as improve immune system functioning. Select a high-quality omega-3 fish oil or cod liver oil. They are both packed with vitamins and nutrients beyond just essential fatty acids.

As a precaution, if you are on high blood pressure medications, anticoagulants, have asthma or are pregnant talk to your doctor before taking a fish oil supplement. Fortunately, it is safe for most people to enjoy omega-3 rich foods. Several times a week, enjoy wild-caught fish including salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring as well as walnuts and eggs.

*Vitamin D3 (5,000 IU daily).
Vitamin D deficiencies are astoundingly common today, with some researchers estimating nearly 90 percent adults being deficient in this essential nutrient. Vitamin D deficiency can exacerbate autoimmune conditions including fibromyalgia and in a meta-analysis published in the Korean Journal of Pain, patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia have a significantly lower level of vitamin D serum levels than those without a diagnosis. Boosting your vitamin D intake could be a helpful natural fibromyalgia treatment.

Vitamin D3’s proven health benefits include enhancing the immune system, improving mood and strengthening cognitive functioning. The best way to boost your vitamin D serum levels is to get out in the sun for 10 to 20 minutes each day — without sunscreen. In addition, there are plenty of foods that are low-FODMAP that you can enjoy to increase levels, including wild-caught fish.

D-Ribose (5g 3x daily).
Ribose is a sugar found in our bodies that fuels organs and tissues in the body and it is often used intravenously to measure heart damage and as a treatment for certain symptoms associated with myoadenylate deaminase deficiency as well as for those diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and coronary artery disease.

Research indicates that taking a ribose supplement may help to improve sleep, improve energy levels, improve your sense of well-being and decrease pain for those diagnosed with fibromyalgia. A small study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found D-Ribose significantly reduced clinical symptoms for those with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. In the study, participants were given 5 grams daily and 66 percent of patients experienced significant improvement.

If you are diabetic, D-ribose may lower blood sugar and if you are on insulin or other common diabetes medications including glimepiride, glyburide, pioglitazone, glipizide and others, you should not take D-ribose. In addition, there is evidence that D-ribose interacts with aspirin, alcohol, choline magnesium trisalicylate, propranolol and salsalate. Use extreme caution if you take any of these medications.

Ashwagandha (500–1,000 mg daily).
Adaptogen herbs like rhodiola and ashwagandha help to normalize physiological functions after stress and may help to increase your tolerance against stressors. While the medical community is still exploring potential health benefits, ashwagandha shows promise in the treatment of chronic pain.

In a small study published in the Journal of Ayurveda Integrated Medicine, researchers found that ashwagandha shows analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Participants who were given 250 milligrams daily experienced significant reduction in pain. Additionally, ashwagandha promotes restful sleep and boosts the immune system while rhodiola is shown to enhance mental and physical performance, boost immune system response and improve memory function.

*Turmeric (1,000 mg daily).
Many of the proven health benefits of turmeric can help relieve common symptoms of fibromyalgia including pain, inflammation, gastrointestinal upset and depression. In fact, according to a study published in Oncogene, curcumin is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents available, beating both aspirin and ibuprofen. Select a high-quality CO2-extracted form of turmeric that also has black pepper, or piperine to make sure it is absorbed into your system.

Can also apply Arnica or apply Po Sum Oil (Menthol)

Bell's Palsy:
Moist Heat.
Many find that a warm cloth may help resolve pain and discomfort. To relieve tension and promote restful sleep, add one or more of my favorite essential oils for anxiety like lavender, rose, ylang ylang or chamomile. Repeat the warm compress whenever pain reappears, or you need to relax.

Ask your physical therapist for massage techniques that you can do at home. Many patients find gentle massage of the face can ease symptoms and discomfort. In addition, ask for a referral to a licensed massage therapist with experience in Bell’s palsy treatment and book an appointment for not just the face, but for the whole body as the benefits of massage therapy include inflammation reduction, stress and anxiety relief, and improved immune system functioning.

According to the Mayo Clinic, acupuncture stimulates nerves and muscles, providing relief to patients. In fact, many experience improvement after just one or two treatments. The key is to find an acupuncture practitioner in your area with expertise in treating Bell’s palsy. The sooner you can begin acupuncture sessions, the better.

*Vitamin B12.
Associated with nerve growth and reduction in inflammation, vitamin B12 may be more effective than prescribed steroids, according to a small study from 1995. Patients in the study were given vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) injections, steroids, or vitamin B12 injections and steroids. Complete recovery was significantly shorter in the vitamin B12 group with the mean recovery time of just two weeks, in comparison to nearly 10 weeks for those on just steroids.

In addition to enjoying vitamin B12-rich foods like grass-fed beef and beef liver, sardines, wild-caught fish, cottage cheese and eggs, adding a high-quality B12 supplement may help your recovery. In the study, the B12 injections were given directly into the damaged nerves. Talk to your physician about injections and whether you are a candidate for this treatment.

Vitamin B6.
Associated with healthy nervous system function and eye health, ensuring you are getting enough vitamin B6 is imperative in any Bell’s palsy treatment plan. As B6 is water soluble, supplementation is not typically recommended; it is far better to consume vitamin B6-rich foods like free-range turkey breast, grass-fed beef, blackstrap molasses, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and chickpeas.

Found in every cell of our body, zinc is an essential trace mineral that must be a part of every Bell’s palsy treatment plan. Used for 1,000s of years to heal wounds, boost immune system response, and support healthy thyroid function, it is also a proven treatment for colds, certain respiratory illnesses, and viruses. Adding zinc-rich foods to your diet like lamb, pumpkin seeds, grass-fed beef, chickpeas, cashews and others can help you heal quicker from the virus or underlying condition causing your symptoms.

Meditation and Relaxation.
Relieve muscle tension and chronic pain with guided meditation, yoga, regular exercise and deep breathing exercises. Some studies show that stress may exacerbate symptoms, and there are some reports that chronic stress may lead to relapses.

Castor Oil Compress.
Used for 1,000s of years to improve circulation, prevent the growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and to support lymphatic function, castor oil compresses may help to spur healing by enhancing blood flow to the affected areas. Gently warm a tablespoon of castor oil and massage into your face. Cover with a warm damp washcloth, and leave it one for 20–30 minutes. Repeat the castor oil compress twice a day until the symptoms have abated.

Bell’s Palsy Exercises.
A physical therapist can provide you with personalized facial exercises that can improve the brain-to-nerve functioning. Simple exercises include wrinkling your nose, smiling wide, frowning, opening your mouth wide, raising eyebrows, winking and blinking your eyes can help to promote healing. Do your exercises a couple of times a day for best results.

Used for decades to treat a wide array of ailments and conditions including stress, insomnia, chronic pain, and muscle tension, there is evidence that supports biofeedback therapy as a Bell’s palsy treatment. Researchers believe that electromyographic feedback improves motor function of facial muscles, helping patients return to normal.

Locate a therapist in your area by searching The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, Inc.’s practitioner directory on their website.

One of the strongest anti-viral herbs available, echinacea boosts immune system function, reduces inflammation, and fights viral infections, including those commonly linked to this condition. Select a high-quality liquid Echinacea supplement for best absorption. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service indicates that for immune system function, the proper dose is 10 milligrams per one kilogram of body weight, for a total of ten days. Use an online calculator to determine the best dose for you.

Another outstanding antiviral herb, elderberry has been proven to reduce the duration of colds, lessen flu symptoms, fight sinus infections and respiratory infections – all conditions that are linked to common symptoms. A wide variety of elderberry products is available including teas, syrups, ointments, lozenges, and pills. Elderberry is considered safe. However, it should not be used by individuals taking laxatives, TheoDur, some diabetes medications, diuretics, immune-suppressing drugs including Prednisone, and those undergoing chemotherapy.

*Mushroom Extracts:

Reishi Mushroom Extract:

Lion's Mane Extract:

Chaga Muschroom Extract:

Lyme Disease:

*vitamin B-1
*vitamin C
*fish oil
alpha lipoic acid
cat’s claw
olive leaf

*Vitamin D: Vitamin D3 naturally boosts immunity and plays a role in regulating inflammation. I recommend you supplement with around 5,000 IU daily, especially if you’re vitamin D deficient, live in the northern region of the world and don’t get much direct sunlight exposure (the best way for your body to make its own vitamin D).

*CoQ10: CoQ10 can help protect your brain and nervous system from degradation and inflammation, while also lowering symptoms like joint pain and aches. It’s commonly used by patients with ongoing fatigue and autoimmune disorder symptoms, including those with fibromyalgia. Most physicians recommend taking 200 milligrams twice daily.

*Medicinal mushrooms: Studies show that medicinal mushrooms (this includes cordycep, reishi and maitake mushrooms) promote an adaptive immune system which helps control autoimmune reactions. These can be found in various supplement forms and have been proven to reduce reactions to inflammation and stress. Medicinal mushrooms boost an intracellular antioxidant called superoxide dismutase (SOD) that protects your cells. They can also increase function of natural killer cells that can kill off bad bacteria.

*B-Complex: B vitamins support many metabolic and cellular functions, plus they help fight infections and improve neurological health. Vitamin B-6 is especially important for Lyme patients, or just about anyone dealing with the affects of stress or fatigue.

*Omega-3 fatty acids: These fatty acids are highly anti-inflammatory and support neurological/cognitive functions. In addition to consuming food sources of omega-3s (for example, wild-caught fish and nuts and seeds), I recommend supplementing with 1,000 milligrams of fish oil daily, specifically one that contains astaxanthin which boosts absorption.

*Magnesium: Magnesium is an electrolyte with hundreds of roles in the body, from supporting nerve signaling to reducing muscle aches. Many people are magnesium deficient, and those with Lyme disease can’t afford to run low since stress and illness only increases the body’s need for more.

*Turmeric: Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory that can help reduce joint pain, headaches, and damage to blood vessels or nerves.

Probiotics: In addition to consuming probiotic-rich foods, I recommend supplementing with probiotics with at least 8 strains and 50 billion units daily. I believe this is the most important factor in destroying Lyme.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Moving to the very South West Denver area soon!

I'm moving soon! I'll be taking a trip to Washington though to visit family before moving in late October. Danny and I are looking forward to being somewhere more peaceful near the southern foothills, and away from the traffic. We really have been needing to find sanctuary.

Did I mention I got to see my friend/mentor who is a great horn player this summer! Was awesome seeing Thomas and his family again. I've been lucky to see them almost every summer, and their kids seem even more talented and skilled at music year after year. Here's a picture of us all hanging out at the Reihn Haus in LoDo. I thought I would take them there due to their roots in German heritage! I also didn't know Thomas spoke German...which is surprising because I've known him for 9 years now.

Currently I feel happy and a lot less stressed out than I have been in a year thanks to refocusing on finding balance and health. I've already been getting back to activities that I love and have a lot more energy. I've definitely started practicing more on top of working out, which matters to me most!

Friday, August 3, 2018

July & August Videos 2018

I have a couple of videos I uploaded. One was made yesterday on the 2nd briefly going over mouthpieces and lower-lip struggles, but the lighting and resolution turned out not so great. The other video covering scales high and low was filmed back in early April, but I hesitated to post it because I really did not look that good and I am angry at myself (health-wise right now). haha! However, I am very proud of how far I've come in being able to add back in tonguing, and moving up and down through each register step-wise/scale-wise. That's all that really matters, is showing my rehabilitation efforts.

Honestly, one of the reasons I haven't been posting as many videos is because of my health unfortunately. I haven't been in the greatest shape, thus my huge hiatus from blogging and facebook in order to refocus on my efforts to get in shape. Exercise is really important to me, and I have been happy with losing 20 pounds since then, yet I have a long way to go still.

Mouthpieces and Lower Lip Struggles with Embouchure Dystonia Part 1

Mouthpieces and Lower Lip Struggles with Embouchure Dystonia Part 2

Scales High and Low, Fast and Slow

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Practice Journal: June 17th, 2018

I haven't had time to add some information on here about changes in my routine. Lately there's been three huge noticeable differences in my playing. 1st - I have shifted my mouthpiece to cover more lower lip than upper lip. 2nd, I've been having to do a ton of stretches - nose scrunches with the apples of my cheeks going upwards, and also moving the tops of my corners of my lips upwards towards my nose while scrunching my upper lip.

This has been tedious work because I can tell that the muscles near my eye that run down along the sides of my nose and to my upper lip are lacking control/sensation. It takes intense concentration to get them to do what I ask. I can pinpoint more clearly which muscles are limp or not around my face. Another area is my lower left lip; the muscle that runs from my lower left lip and my corner down through my chin lacks control, which I've been writing about working on. I have to use extreme concentration to practice moving those muscles back and forth while doing stretches. I find myself looking for muscles that don't want to move easily and put all my focus on those. A lot of the practice is scrunching and tensing my muscles and then releasing those muscles while looking in the mirror and being aware of what I feel.

I've started to feel strength building in my upper lip. For many years it felt dull, then it felt sore or weak, and then it felt like it could handle a little more and more over time. Now I feel it giving me signs when it needs a break...which hasn't happened since pre-dystonia. I will play for 23 minutes and it's that feeling of "okay, I need a break, my muscle can't handle much more"...when you try to exercise the day after you did a huge workout. I would stop and stretch constantly to relax and take breaks.

Lastly, I've been actually playing through some concertos. Nothing spectacular, but it's been helping me notice what signals are being sent to my brain in certain circumstances. For example; I can play a (going downwards) C, G, E, middle C, G, E,C....C arpeggio downwards......I can pivot down into my lower register with less difficulty, but if I start from the bottom of the arpeggio and go upwards, I struggle a lot with pivoting. I can tell that the opening of my aperture and the way I'm set is too relaxed and my muscles don't handle going from relaxed to tense very well, because they already overshoot into tense mode quickly. SO I have to play my higher C first and keep that setting, then drop down to my pedal C without changing anything and go up from there. It's a lot of manual work getting the ball rolling in some areas.

Anyways, I've been trying to remain optimistic and remind myself that being able to play through some concertos again or solos is a good thing. Like most others I assume with dystonia, it's frustrating to play a concerto that once was so easy, to find it is like a triathlon. The main thing is it doesn't sound bad on the surface, but underneath the hood, I can feel my muscles getting their workout and constantly adjusting to overcome challenges. It's nothing as bad as it use to be, and I'm glad that I can get through a concerto with more ease and finding that there are less and less difficulties. However, it still feels like there's a million miles to go. It's like driving your car for 10 hours and realizing half-way through it that even though you basically drove all day, you still have 10 more hours to go before you get to your destination. Glad to get so much done, but the work isn't done yet!

I won't give up, and like I've said before. If it takes me until I'm 98 years old to play horn in an orchestra again with 99% normalcy in my playing or at least have the smallest shot at earning my graduate degrees on it, I will do it. If I die trying, then so be it. Call me a fool or whatever, but I am stubborn and haven't given up yet. I've been through a lot worse than this and I know there's a way....even if it doesn't come in my lifetime, I at least I had the courage to start a trail of steps in the direction of possibly finding an answer for futre generations.

I also think moving in October will help me too. We're going to be looking at houses around Denver. I believe not practicing in a tiny apartment and instead in a more wide open room will help me practice more often too. I'm really looking forward to it. I've started traveling to practice rooms again around the city.

This summer I am excited to see my friend and horn player Thomas Jostlein and his family again! I have the energy outside of work to focus on the things I love most and that I can pour all my time and dedication into. I also need to consider other areas of my life, as it's undergone a lot of huge changes lately....I'll talk about that later! ;-)

Thank you for stopping by and checking in! :-) - Katie

Friday, June 8, 2018

Month of June Resource Links

Hi everyone! Please forgive me for not tending to my blog lately. I'll be taking some time away this summer to focus on other areas of my life. I do promise though that I won't forget to come on here and update things at least every 2 months at the latest, and hopefully by either September or October I will be diving back into focusing on my blog! I have been going through a lot of changes lately and excited to write more about that later. I just celebrated my birthday...since it is in early June, so thought I'd stop by and update things too while I'm on cloud 9. Also apologies to those who have written to me and I haven't replied back yet. I will be getting around to that tomorrow! :-)

Here are three links I came across recently that I found informative and interesting....

The first one is an article published in the Australian Dental Journal back in 2002 called Specific Orofacial Problems Experienced by Musicians.

Secondly, an article by Medical News Today called "What Causes Your Lip to Twitch?" which covers the different types of reasons a person might experience facial tremors or spasms. This isn't meant to say that what you're experiencing isn't embouchure dystonia if you think you have it, but to hopefully open our eyes to other disorders or situations that cause tremors, and what is typically done in those individual cases, and also most of all how important it is to get diagnosed by a neurologist in order to rule out any of these other possible health concerns.

Lastly, a post by Dr. Kenneth Casey at the Department of Neurological Surgery at Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan over Hemifacial Spasms (spasms in the face)....published on the Benign Essential Blepharospasm Research Foundation (BEBRF) website. This one is great because it covers in more detail the neurological-related reasons of how spasms/tremors occur, and the characteristics of each one. Again, not posting this to try to prove that no one has embouchure dystonia, but the importance in understanding other disorders and causes of involuntary muscle contractions. Also studying these other maladies can help us learn to pinpoint similar and varying characterstics of embouchure dystonia, in both symptoms and treatment.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Feedspot: Top 15 French Horn Blogs and Websites to Follow has selected this blog as part of it's Top 15 French Horn Blogs and Websites to Follow based on google reputation and search ranking, influence and popularity on social media, quality and consistency of posts, and then overlooked by the editorial team and expertly reviewed. You can check it out by clicking on the highlighted link above.

A huge thank you to the founder Anuj Agarwal for notifying me and giving me a badge!! It's an honor to know that my efforts to raise awareness for musicians with dystonia has not gone unnoticed.

As I look back to 2009 when I first started experiencing onset of focal embouchure dystonia, I remember looking for more information on the subject, and it appalled me that there were so few resources or documentation of it. It's as if it were never talked about or documented. Fast forward to today, I can't explain how relieved it makes me feel to see how much both focal embouchure dystonia and focal hand dystonia (musician's dystonia) is being talked about, researched, known about, and being brought up in lectures at conferences, taught about at universities, and just spoken about in general. I feel like in a short 10 years the topic of performance related injuries and disorders has come to the forefront, and I can't wait to see how many more answers and advancements we make in helping injured and/or disabled musicians find help, knowledge, resources, and recovery methods. I am truly honored to be a small part of the huge group of musicians, doctors, physicians, teachers, etc. who have brought light to this very important subject!

...and thank you to my blog readers. I appreciate all those who have reached out to me over the years. I know most of you do in order to ask questions, find answers, find help, share stories, share articles/research, but I can't explain how much you have helped me not feel so alone too throughout all this, and you've done more for me than you know!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Just wanted to share my mantras in both Latin and English. These give me the greatest amount of inner strength no matter when or what I'm going through. I use them during meditation or when playing horn or in prayer. One of my biggest strengths is perseverance, and these mantras accurately reflect my mentality whenever encountering obstacles/life challenges. They resonate so well with me and I always keep them close to my heart. Happy Valentines day everyone, I hope these help your inner strength shine through as well.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Rehabilitation Video Journals Updated

Just stopping by to update my inventory of videos over rehabilitation (you can see the whole inventory here: .... There's a couple over the last few years I haven't added on here and needed to. Just wanted to start it off with a before vs after video first to show the progress over the years. :-)

Before I got dystonia 2006-2009: I don't have many recordings except for from 2006-2009... but tried to smash a few excerpts together to show a bit of my abilities.

During height of Dystonia and right before diagnosed with it: 2011/2012:....first video of playing in January of 2011, and there was a lot I was too embarrassed to put on camera. But I had been trying to recover my playing since June 2010. The 2-4 videos are of taking an inventory of my symptoms at the time in 2012.

After: Fast-forward to January 2017 ....this is a video of me warming up before teaching lessons. I'm testing the waters and checking to see how my embouchure felt. I recovered a great deal from 2011-2013.

I stopped rehabilitation practice from 2014-2015 due to graduate school, and 2015-2017 due to focusing on teaching. I didn't necessarily stop playing, I just didn't focus on recovery efforts as much or logging things.

Now in 2017 I started focusing on regaining the last percentage of my playing again and started taking some gigs! :-)


Currently onto 2018.....I recorded this yesterday 02/12/18. Doing some light-touch rehabilitation. Testing how long I can hold a note out for and how lightly I can do it for. Notice how there is less spasms or involuntary flexes in the chin muscles as there were in the past.

When I start to get louder, I'm basically doing that to stretch/tense my muscles really quickly in order to relieve tension, and then diminuendo into a lighter sound when possible. My camera died, but I will film the rest of my upper register today.

March 2017: Filmed my playing on other instruments; clarinet, trumpet, trombone. 

February 3rd, 2017: Playing, and speaking about my progress on larger interval jumps in rehabilitation.

July 2nd, 2016: Playing and speaking about collapsed vs puckered embouchure, tonguing vs air puffs and its affects during rehabilitation.

April 2nd, 2016: Playing and speaking about puckered vs collapsed embouchure formations in rehabilitation.

May 1st, 2014: Rehab log

January 13th, 2014: Rehab Log after acupuncture

February 17th, 2013: Rehab Log...might have already posted this under my videos.