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Building Kidney Yang and Jing
Kidney yang, if we include mingmen fire, is the energy and heat source for the whole body. Jing is the essence of yang, and is stored in the kidney, extraordinary channels, and in the bone marrow, which in TCM also includes the brain.
A Very New Year: It's Time to Track
As we enter 2017, we find "affordable care" is not so affordable for many individuals. They are discovering what employers learned long ago: Health care is expensive – and keeps getting more expensive.
Change on the Horizon? New White House Spells Shift in Health Care Policy
On the morning after Election Day, many in our country were surprised to learn that not only did the Republican nominee win the White House, but also that the House of Representatives and the Senate remain under GOP control.
The Key to Recovery
Starting in the 1970s and developing over a decade of assessment and improvement, the South Bronx's Lincoln Recovery Center staff refined the method of using five basic ear-points, which became the NADA protocol for the treatment of addiction.
Herbs for Digestion: The Power of Bitter
Many cultures (and indeed herbal clinicians) around the world have long respected the role of bitter herbs and foods for promoting digestion.
What Are Prebiotics – and Why Should You Care? (Part 1)
In previous articles, I spoke about the different kinds of fiber and their effects, and the potential risks of taking probiotics without also consuming prebiotic soluble fiber (PSF) in foods and/or supplements [see August & October 2016 issues].
Case Study of Benign Hand Tremors
Patients without degenerative diseases causing tremors are often given the diagnosis of essential tremors, for which treatment options are limited to lifestyle changes and medications.
Increase Your Practice Income With Retail Products
With only so many hours in a day, there is a cap on the revenue an acupuncturist can generate by way of appointments. Once your appointment book is filled, you can't really add more without burning yourself out.
The Mysterious Divergent Channels
The divergent channels are among the most mysterious entities in all of Chinese medicine. They are rarely mentioned, lacking reference in modern TCM study, and rarely used within popular Chinese medical treatment.
Losing Your Mind? Try Coconut Oil
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is currently the 6th leading cause of death in America according to the CDC. It affects over 5 million Americans and 50 percent of nursing home residents (2014), and is projected to spike to 16 million by 2050.
Top 2017 Health & Fitness Trends
We really did sign up for a career of learning and development. Now that you have built a strong foundation of your manipulation skills, nutrition base, movement assessments and business knowledge, it's time to keep up with the American College of Sports Medicine's 2017 worldwide health and fitness trends.
MD-DC Affiliations Under Fire
I am George P. McAndrews, lawyer for the chiropractors in the Wilk, et al., v AMA, et al., antitrust suit that resulted in an injunction against the AMA and others, banning them from interfering in lawful professional relationships between medical physicians and doctors of chiropractic.
Your Patients With Cancer Need You
It was a chilly Minnesota morning in March 1999 when she asked to speak to me alone. My then-busy chiropractic practice wasn't built for much privacy, but I quickly scooted the 60-some-year-old, white-haired patient to my exam room, as the open adjusting area was buzzing with excitement.
An Education in Stroke Risk and Chiropractic
Dr. Steven Shoshany's ninth appearance on "The Dr. Oz Show" may prove to be his most significant, as he addressed questions related to the death of Katie May, who suffered two strokes in February 2016, hours after her third visit to a chiropractor for what she described in a Twitter post as a pinched nerve in her neck experienced during a photo shoot days earlier.
Scope of Chiropractic Practice: Time for Change?
The University of Bridgeport, College of Chiropractic Student Government Association sponsored a panel discussion on Oct. 25, 2016.
Acute Locked-Back Syndrome: Cause and Correction
As we all know, occasionally a patient will present with acute-onset low back pain with or without a precipitating incident. A distinguishing feature of the presentation is visible lateral antalgia, both standing and walking.
Scar Reduction With Acupuncture & Microneedling (Part 1)
Applied correctly, modern skin needling techniques can form part of a holistic treatment and incorporate the principles of Chinese medicine.
Clinical Outcomes & Safety for TCHM
The practice of Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine (TCHM) may appear archaic to those who misunderstand the theories and principals that guide it. In fact, TCHM continues to evolve and new systems are consistently being discovered and applied within the tradition.
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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