resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
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.
A Guide for Talking to Doctors about Acupuncture and Brain Chemistry
Before I begin any discussion of how to talk about the effects of acupuncture on brain chemistry, nervous and endocrine function, it is essential to understand just what physicians most need help with.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
A History Worth Telling
The popularity and the use of acupuncture for the treatment of animals in the United States is at its peak.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Knee Pain From the Kinetic Chain
As practitioners of manual medicine, chiropractors often treat patients suffering from knee pain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
May, 2005, Vol. 05, Issue 05
The Pinched Nerve Conundrum
By Erik Dalton, PhD
For decades, manual therapists, biomedical researchers and neuroscientists have battled over the conceptual ideology of pinched nerves. One group holds the belief that spinal misalignments cause or contribute to disease by choking "nerve energy" to body tissues.Others generally agree that the human body probably does possess some sort of universal energy system, but quickly point out that nerves do not appear as conductors of this "life-force" energy. To allow the reader to grasp both sides of this very important issue, this article will provide an overview of current theories that spur the controversy. Following an initial review of the various nerve impingement theories, let us review the two most pressing, yet basic, questions:
One age-old premise supporting the pinched nerve theory follows this logic: If a spinal segment is not in its normal position, nerve pathways between the vertebrae (intravertebral foramina) will partially close resulting in nerve impingement. As the nerve root undergoes compression, soft tissues and organs supplied by the pinched nerve suffer from decreased nerve energy flow to the affected body parts. Thus, according to this theory, alterations in joint structure and function result not only in pain but an increased susceptibility to disease from spinal obstructions impinging on these nerves.
Detractors counter that nerves do not emit a flow of energy. Since nerves are gland cells, their primary function is to produce and release a hormone that causes muscle cell inhibition or contraction. Basically, that is all they do - no more, no less; therefore, these supporters believe that nerves do not actually conduct electricity or any other form of energy.
When a nerve cell undergoes its function of hormonal secretion, changes occur in its outer cell membrane allowing electrically charged ions to move in and out of the cell in a step-by-step fashion along the full extent of the nerve. This is often referred to as "conducting an impulse" or "firing." A spinal nerve as it exits the intervertebral foraminal opening is actually a thin tube of connective tissue containing extensions of millions of nerve cells. These extensions are axons or "fibers." The latter term appears misleading for it connotes a certain firmness similar to fine electrical wires. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.
Axons are delicate, flimsy structures. Since they consist of elongated or drawn out parts of cells, nourishment is needed along with the cells that make up their sheaths. Vital nutrients are supplied by blood vessels embedded in what is termed a "visible-level nerve." If acute nerve compression does not directly kill the axons, they may die from compressive forces blocking blood flow within the vessels of the nerve. Nerve occlusion prevents axoplasmic flow of nutrients to be properly transported up and down the length of the nerve.
Another Snapshot of Pinched Nerves
The nerve root itself has been dismissed by most researchers as a pain-sensitive structure, although most clinicians do agree that nerve compression from herniated discs, spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis can cause radiculopathies such as sciatica. Acute compression of a normal healthy nerve may lead to paresthesias, motor loss, sensory deficits and reflex abnormalities, but pain is absent. However, if an inflamed nerve suffering intraneural edema is compressed, pain is present. This "silent nerve root compression syndrome" hypothesizes that time is required for functional alterations, such as nerve tethering, to cause mechanical nerve fiber deformation and resulting pain.
Compression of an inflamed nerve anywhere along its extent can cause it to secrete its specific hormone. Pressure on an inflamed sensory nerve cell can cause the brain to experience pain (nociception). If an obstruction compresses a motor nerve cell, the hormone secretion can cause a muscle cell to contract (protective muscle spasm). When motor nerve cells to a skeletal muscle die from complete occlusion, the muscle becomes paralyzed as observed in extreme cases of sciatica and thoracic outlet syndrome. One of the first signs of complete nerve occlusion is muscle atrophy followed by a loss of normal neurological reflexes.
Nociceptive ... or Pinched Nerve Pain?
Over the past decade, researchers working with magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) have demonstrated that no matter how much a normally functioning spine is compressed or twisted, there is ample room in the intervertebral foramina for free movement of the nerve. It is postulated that in a healthy spine, nerve root compression shouldn't exist even with all the intervertebral discs removed. Still, another viewpoint bears consideration.
While conditions such as intraneural edema and ischemia from prolonged nerve-root abuse certainly causes pain in a certain percentage of the population, it is also possible much of the reported pain may be due to sensory receptor overload from postural imbalances. For example, recall what happens when the typical client injures their back. As the spine is subjected to sudden asymmetrical loading, the major stress focuses at the capsule of the articular facets as the joint is moved beyond its acceptable range of motion (physiologic barrier).
Sprained capsules and ligaments cause joint mechanoreceptor hyperexcitability and protective muscle guarding. Muscles aren't designed to be restraining tissues even though the deepest transversospinalis muscles are often awarded that task. As deep intrinsic muscles are subjected to abnormal sustained loading, nociceptive stimuli warn the brain of the possibility of tissue damage.
When nociceptors fire in response to actual tissue damage from macro- or microtrauma during routine daily activities, they quickly become major myofascial and spinal pain generators. Through a process called sensitization, an aberrant hard-wiring pattern is "burned" into the central nervous system (CNS). Long-term CNS agitation from angry nociceptors causes the brain to twist and torque the body in an effort to avoid pain.
Understanding and Treating the Dysfunction
As discussed earlier, the joint receptor concepts attempt to override the idea that pain is primarily a consequence of "pinched nerves" that could ultimately be freed by removing the bony or muscular obstruction. Many neurophysiologists now believe that restoration of proper postural alignment and range of motion successfully reduces pain by stimulating mechanoreceptors in fibrous joint capsules, spinal ligaments and transversospinalis muscles. To achieve a noticeable reduction of increased excitability in the neuronal pool, the pain-generating stimulus must be interrupted until the memory burned into the nerve cells has been completely "forgotten." For many chronic pain cases, a "serial-type" deep tissue therapy works best where clients are seen twice weekly until hyperexcited receptors feeding the CNS are quieted.
Although spinal nerves travel through small intervertebral foramen openings, rarely does a bone-on-nerve dysfunction occur. Significant facet hypertrophy, disc collapse or intraneural edema must accompany the vertebral misalignment before the client experiences pain. While commonly associated with the spine, pinched nerve compressive lesions are actually rare.
What has made the "pinched nerve theory" so popular is that therapists viewing anatomy texts or cadavers can easily visualize how spinal nerves could become entrapped as they make their way through the bony little holes between vertebrae. Regrettably, nociceptors and mechanoreceptors cannot be seen.
For most of mankind, it is far easier to believe something we can see versus something invisible to the naked eye. Despite this human tendency, massage therapists must understand that spinal joints and muscles have massive nociceptive innervation that is profoundly affected by sustained compressional loading from tension, trauma and poor posture. While not clearly apparent, sensory receptors are the primary reason for client visits.
Click here for more information about Erik Dalton, PhD.
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