resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Vaccines and Chiropractic: Evidence-Based Medicine or Medical Dogma?
Right or wrong, the chiropractic profession has historically been against vaccinations. However, a growing trend within the profession is seeking to reverse this position.
Why You Should Include the Single-Leg Stance Test in Every Patient Assessment
The single-leg stance (SLS) test, also known as the single-limb stance test, unipedal stance test or one-legged stance / balance test, is often used in the geriatric population to assess static postural and balance control.
Finders Keepers: The Secret to Relationship-Based Marketing
Becoming a successful practitioner has less to do with what you learned in school, and more to do with your ability to find new patients and keep them!
New Medical Technologies You Need to Know
We're all familiar with how fast computers become obsolete, as well as the rapid pace of development in the field of cell phone technology. The latest smart phones are far more powerful than desktop computers were only a few years ago.
Are You a Bad Chiropractic Patient?
My father was a great DC. In fact, as you might expect, he was the doctor of chiropractic I measured all other doctors against. Sadly, he died at age 61 when I was in my early 30s.
The Science of Stretching
In 1986, Rob DeCastella set a course record by running the Boston Marathon in 2:07:51, just 39 seconds off the world record.
Building From the Bottom Up
I caught up with my dear friend Honora Wolfe, in her Colorado painting studio where, if she is not praying in Bhutan or doing charitable work in a Nepali free clinic, she spends most of her time now.
Physical Exam 101: The Hands
I am sure you are familiar with the old adage: "When the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail."
Coding for the Subluxation: ICD-9 vs. ICD-10
When I attended chiropractic school, I was taught that chiropractors approach health care differently than the traditional medical establishment.
A Chinese Medicine Story: An Interview with Mazin Al-Khafaji
Mazin Al-Khafaji's work has interested me for years. In February 2014, we invited him for the second time to speak at the Southwest Symposium in Austin, Texas.
By the Numbers: 3 Common Financial Mistakes With Major Consequences
Warren Buffett is on record for sharing the hidden art of becoming wealthy and making it simple enough for anyone to grasp.
Knee Pain From the Kinetic Chain
As practitioners of manual medicine, chiropractors often treat patients suffering from knee pain.
Fibromyalgia: Put the Pain in Its Place
While some fibromyalgia patients respond favorably to regular chiropractic care, others experience minimal relief. Unfortunately, many of these patients must rely on pharmacological management to relieve their constant pain.
Immunizations by Colorado DCs: Really?
You probably didn't hear about it, but back on Nov. 21, 2013, the Board of Directors of the Colorado Chiropractic Association (CCA) adopted "immunization authority" for Colorado DCs as its No. 2 legislative goal.
Medical Qigong for the Heart: Part III
Part 1 and Part II of this series focused on the physical aspect of the Heart and mental emotional aspects of the Heart respectively. Now, I would like to focus on the spiritual aspect of the Heart.
Curbing Label Overwhelm
For the average consumer, reading a food package can be overwhelming: natural, organic, non-GMO, gluten free, free range ... you get the picture.
A History Worth Telling
The popularity and the use of acupuncture for the treatment of animals in the United States is at its peak.
Remembering Clarence Gonstead and 50 Years of the Gonstead Clinic
Dr. Clarence Selmer Gonstead (1898-1978) took chiropractic practice from back-alley bone setting to an understandable biomechanical science. His life was dedicated to clinical competency.
Peer Points: Always Seeking To Grow
Ellen "Kiki" Geary has spent the last decade honing her craft. As a specialist in integrative holistic care, she went straight from completing her master's degree in acupuncture and chinese herbal medicine from Bastyr University to building a successful and thriving practice in the small community of Anacortes, Washington.
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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