resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
A New Era of Injury Awareness Means a New Focus on Prevention
Despite a dramatic Super Bowl last month, the National Football League has taken quite a few hits lately concerning player injuries, particularly concussions.
Leg Length and Pelvic Fixations
A common component of low back pain is sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Signs of SIJ dysfunction can include fixation with reduced range of motion, and localized pain or joint laxity and inflammation.
We Get Letters & E-Mail
We Have Come a Long Way – But There's a Long Way to Go; Grounded and Connected.
Reflections: The Art of Teaching Asian Medicine
Over the past three decades, my global workshops have been translated into German, Swiss German, French, Romansch, Spanish, Lithuanian and Xhosa. Time to offer you new teachers a few tips!
Case Histories from Bali: Treating Balinese Chidren with TCB and Shonishin
When I moved to the island of Bali in 2005, I offered my services in Bumi Sehat, which means Healthy Mother Earth, a free birthing center for poor and disadvantaged local women located in Ubud.
Finding Balance in the Clinic
This past December, I celebrated 11 years in practice. I seriously don't know where the time went. I feel beyond blessed and grateful to be practicing our profound and beautiful medicine and to be helping guide my patients restore a state of optimal health.
The Conscious Evolution of Healing, Part 2
The idea of transmission is very important in the Chinese medical classics. According to author Claude Larre, the ancient Chinese were highly interested in the connection between things. Nothing was looked at as an isolated entity.
Are You Really a Healthy Eater?
I always giggle a little bit (to myself) when someone comes into my office and informs me that they are a healthy eater. What exactly does that mean? Does that mean they eat sugar in moderation? And what's that, exactly?
Adjusting the Occiput on the Atlas
You may never see a particular set of patients in your office – the ones who are either afraid of neck adjustments or have had a bad experience. A vast majority of those who had a bad experience did not have a life-threatening vascular event.
What's Triggering That Point?
An orthopedic friend recently saw a patient of mine. He felt an injection of a trigger point (TP) at the upper trapezius and surrounding areas was necessary, since that was the patient's area of chief complaint and there was a tender, radiating nodule.
It's Time to Create a Strong Acupuncture Footprint
Footprints in the sand. Footprints in the snow. Where do these footprints go? Some are big, some are small, but footprints are made by all.
Neuroscience: Where Western Medicine and Chinese Medicine Can Come Together
The recent advances in neuroscience are truly incredible. With this expansion of scientific knowledge, I would like to see even more research into the neuroscientific basic of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.
It might have been a miserable start to the day in the heart of downtown San Diego. A heavy rain had soaked the large homeless population congregating near the intersection of Third Avenue and Ash Street as they waited for a free breakfast to be served at the First Lutheran Church on the corner.
Joint Supplements for Athletes (Part 1)
Maintaining joint health should be a daily focus for athletes. Joint health is a complex issue for everyone, but for athletes it poses a greater concern.
Put the Social Back Into Social Media
Social media is more than a passing fad, it is definitely here to stay. Social media apps and channels of distribution may evolve, but the concept of social media is now big business and a part of all our lives.
Acupuncture and Homeopathy: Bioenergetic Brothers
Acupuncture and homeopathy share an important healing principle: bioenergetics. "Bio" means "life," so bioenergetics is literally "life energy."
Online Efforts That Convert Traffic Into Patients
Most chiropractors are using "dinner with the doc," "refer a friend," customer appreciation days, grand openings, health fairs, chamber of commerce meetings, and other networking events to get new patients.
The Easy Way to Learn How to Document ICD-10
The 2015 Work Plan for the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) includes a focus on chiropractic services. This means chiropractors can expect to see more audits and reviews in the coming year because private payers pay attention to the OIG's focus as well.
Old TCM Sayings: Treat the Front to Treat the Back
Chinese medicine college was, and always will be, a memorable time. It was a time of massive personal and professional growth.
Connections Worth Making
"If most doctors are like me, [they are] isolated physically and professionally. I do not make the time to connect with other doctors and also a lot of doctors do not want to be connected for a lot of reasons. Dynamic Chiropractic keeps me grounded and connected.
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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