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News in Brief
NBCE Launches Computer-Based Testing Era; California Chiropractors Get Expanded DOT Exam Privileges; New Jeff Hays Documentary.
Improving Our Political Effectiveness
The November 2014 elections are right around the corner; members of Congress, governors and state legislators are all running. Now is a good time to talk frankly about our overall political involvement.
When Big Pharma Meets Chinese Medicine
Earlier this year, Bayer made a media splash with their decision to buy the Dihon Pharmaceutical Group Co., a Chinese TCM manufacturer.
The Problem With Prolonged Sitting
We need to constantly talk to our patients about spending less time sitting and about what can go wrong with poor sitting postures. The fact is we sit too long in repetitive malpositions.
Rethinking GMO: Less Panic, More Context
Some of you may have noticed that after writing parts 1 and 2 of “Genetic Modification of Organisms for Human Consumption” a while back [Nov. 15, 2013 and Jan. 1, 2014 issues], part 3 never appeared.
If You Get a Request for Records, Respond!
In our previous two articles, we discussed two of the main reasons for denial when chiropractic records are reviewed by Medicare contractors.
Healing Community Trauma in Israel and Palestine
It's the beginning of August and Israel and Hamas have just agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire after a month of brutal fighting. In the last four weeks, 1,830 Palestinians and 67 Israelis have been killed.
MPA Media Wins Seven Publishing Awards
MPA Media, publisher of Acupuncture Today, among other titles, has been recognized for editorial and design excellence with an unprecendented seven publishing awards by the ASBPE, the nation's largest organization for business-to-business publications.
Get Ready For AOM Day
This year, AOM Day 2014 falls on Friday, (October 24th). This is a great opportunity to make your AOM Day celebration or event even bigger by extending it throughout the weekend!
Help Secure Our Future by Sharing It
The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) conducts one of the most comprehensive surveys of the U.S. chiropractic profession every 4-5 years.
A Commonly Missed Spinal Fixation: The Upper Lumbar Spine (Part 1)
When we think of lower back pain, we tend to think in terms of the lower lumbar spine and the SI joint. These joints and their discs are obviously important. However, we tend to miss fixations that occur just above – in the upper lumbar spine. Three questions come to mind: 1) Why is the upper lumbar spine so important? 2) Why do we miss the fixations here? 3) How can we adjust them?
The Science Behind Happiness
Are you happy right now? Whether yes or no, there are a myriad of reasons why you feel that way. A whole academic discipline has developed to find out what causes or obstructs happiness, and how to amplify it.
Uncle Sam Needs You
Scrutiny into the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) continues to grow after efforts to reform the DVA by the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, were deemed "a stunning period of dysfunction" by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The Spirit of the Point
After receiving a large amount of positive feedback on my San Zhen Protocols series, I have decided to focus this article on some relevant clinical aspects of acupuncture therapy prior to moving on to San Zhen Protocols III.
History of Animal Acupuncture: Part II
In Part I of this article, I had gone back to 1969 and tried to describe the atmosphere and events of that year that engulfed many of the younger generation, some who were all the core members of the National Acupuncture Association.
The Truth About Herbs
I appreciate the effort and research put into the article written in the June issue of Acupuncture Today regarding pesticides and Chinese herbs.
Let the Patient Tell Their Story
Often when a patient presents with an injury, they want to tell their story. People by nature like to talk about themselves, particularly when they're worried about their health.
A Healthy Dose of Failure is Vital to Your Success
As an acupuncturist I tend to see people after they have already suffered for years and "tried everything." They are so desperate for some relief that they want to know everything about how to get better, right now.
A Glimpse Into China's Top Brain Hospital
The sounds of the city pass through the open window are overwhelming the microphone - car horns, construction machinery - and then there's the family at the adjacent bed talking loudly on cell phones, yet you can still hear the faint beep of our patients monitoring equipment.
Thoracolumbar Syndrome: The Great Mimic
The thoracolumbar junction is a common area of joint dysfunction. The most obvious cause is dysfunctional breathing or lack of diaphragmatic breathing. Treating this breathing problem will ultimately be the long-term cure for the syndrome.
Thoughts to Live By
When speaking to your patients about their health make sure to ponder the following points and have them assess if they are making themselves even more sick by the thoughts they have about life. Are these some of the traits and thoughts that your patients might have?
March, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 03
Working With Clients Who Have Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome
By Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB, Massage Therapy Foundation President
My last article on hyperthyroidism prompted some interesting responses. In that article, I mentioned I had an unusually difficult time finding any useful information on alternative treatment options for hyperthyroidism patients who wanted to avoid surgery or radioactive treatments to their thyroids (because of the increased risk of developing hypothyroidism).As usual, you came through in a big way. Here's an excerpt from one of the most hopeful letters I got:
This month's column is dedicated to a condition quite different from thyroid dysfunction. Over the course of my time with Massage Today, many readers have requested some information on a disorder that is not at all well understood, even by the professionals who try to treat it. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome is a condition involving an initial injury (usually) to an extremity (usually), which results in a disproportionate amount of pain, disability, and trophic (growth-related) changes to the damaged tissue. In some cases the symptoms of RSDS can move progressively through the body and affect areas distant to the original trauma.
In October 1864, a group of doctors compared their observations of Civil War soldiers recovering from gunshot wounds. Their comments were remarkably astute, and constitute a vivid picture of the experience of the condition eventually termed "causalgia" from the Greek kausis (burning) and algia (pain).
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome: What Is It?
RSDS involves tissue damage, overactive sensory neurons, an excess of pain-sensitizing chemicals, and resulting inflammation followed by atrophy of the affected area. Because it is called so many things, and the criteria for making a diagnosis varies by medical specialty (orthopedists use different methods than general practitioners or internists, for instance), it is extremely difficult to pin down and get any solid statistics on its incidence or demographics.
Part of the confusion around this disorder lies its name. Chronic progressive pain syndromes have many labels, and RSDS just happens to be the one that is most popular at this moment in time. Here is a short list of other labels for this or very similar conditions:
The most conservative discussions of RSDS limit it to problems that begin in the hand or arm. This discussion won't limit the damage to the upper extremity, but please be aware that clients who live with this condition may have learned to call it by a different name, depending on where it has affected them, and what kinds of professionals they work with for treatment.
Etiology: What Happens?
When a person experiences any stimulus on the skin, a sensory neuron carries that information to the spinal cord, where a reflex response begins. At the same time, that impulse travels up the spinal cord to the brain, where the stimulus is interpreted at a conscious or subconscious level. If the stimulus is perceived as something safe and relaxing, it initiates a parasympathetic response; if it is interpreted as threatening or painful, a sympathetic response follows.
In RSDS, as far as it is understood at this point in time, a stimulus initiates a sympathetic, but this response long outlives its usefulness. The affected part of the body goes through a localized cycle of pain, which causes sympathetic responses, which reinforces the pain, which exacerbates the pain response, ad infinitum. The healing processes that would normally interrupt this sequence are unable to break through the vicious circle of pain - stress - pain. Eventually, the physiological changes that occur when a specific part of the body is stuck in a sympathetic loop cause their own kinds of damage - damage that can be irreversible. Tissue that experiences chronic inflammation will become essentially "walled off" from the rest of the body, and develop severely restricted blood and lymph supply. This leads to atrophy, bone thinning, and permanent loss of function.
Although it happens only rarely, this pain cycle also has the potential to spread proximally on the affected limb, to the eyes, internal organs, and even to the contralateral limb.
Signs and Symptoms
Four main symptoms have been observed in most RSDS patients: constant burning pain with little or no stimulus; local inflammation and sweating; spasm of both skeletal and smooth muscle in nearby blood vessels; and chronic insomnia (which can contribute to increased pain perception, as sleep deprivation can disturb neurotransmitter levels).
RSDS can be broken down into three or four loosely defined stages. Overlap of these stages often occurs, so they are useful mainly as a time reference for how long a person has been affected by this condition, and what treatment options have the best chance of interfering with its progression.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Because the diagnostic criteria for RSDS and related disorders vary according to medical specialty, it can be difficult to reach a conclusive diagnosis in the early stages of the disease. This is a problem, because the long-term outlook for someone with this problem is significantly better if he or she can begin treatment in Stage I, rather than Stage IV.
Visible signs and patients' descriptions of symptoms are usually straightforward with this condition. Diagnosis can be confirmed with thermography: a test that measures blood flow and localized heat in the body. X-rays or bone scans may be used to look for signs of osteoporosis at the site of injury.
Stage I RSDS may be treated with simple analgesics: NSAIDs or short-term steroids if necessary. Patients get good benefit from heat, especially moist heat applications like paraffin baths or hot packs. Ice is generally not useful for RSDS patients in any stage. Stage II and III RSDS patients need to be more aggressive with their pain management. Anti-seizure medications and morphine pumps are used with mixed results. TENS machines are successful for some people but not all. Calcium channel blockers may improve blood flow and relieve pain. Eventually, a patient may consider a sympathectomy: the surgical severing of parts of the sympathetic nervous system in order to stop the endless cycle of repeating pain signals. This intervention can be successful, but many patients report that the benefits are short-lived and the pain comes back post-surgically.
Can Massage Help?
This is where it gets interesting. Usually, when I research a particular topic, I look up that subject plus "massage," and get exactly nothing. Then I try that topic and "alternative treatments" and often have marginally more success. But for RSDS, this acutely painful, poorly understood sensory dysfunction, I found much more information about massage than I usually do. I found testimonials of RSDS patients who felt their massage therapists had prevented them from developing contractures in their affected muscles; I found suggestions to use massage to help desensitize over-stimulated areas; and massage is frequently recommended along with some other alternative therapies for chronic pain management. I also got some feedback from therapists who specialize in working with RSDS patients; an excerpt from one letter follows:
The upshot of it all is that although RSDS is a painful, inflammatory, potentially progressive condition (all of these qualities raise some cautions for massage), bodywork can serve a useful purpose in the treatment options (or just coping options) for the person who is affected by this disorder. Exactly what modalities to use, and how to avoid causing more pain than necessary while working to maintain muscular and joint health, will depend on the tolerance of the patient and the skills of the therapist.
This is an excellent example of a condition in which a massage therapist should work as part of a health care team, not as a solo practitioner. For more information about RSDS, I highly recommend the following Web sites:
Next time, I'll discuss another frustrating, chronic, progressive condition, but one that has a generally more hopeful prognosis: adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder. Send me your success - and failure - stories, so we can all benefit!
Click here for previous articles by Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB, Massage Therapy Foundation President.
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