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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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Knee Pain From the Kinetic Chain
As practitioners of manual medicine, chiropractors often treat patients suffering from knee pain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
March, 2006, Vol. 06, Issue 03
Spondylolisthesis: An Elusive Cause of Low Back Pain
By Whitney Lowe, LMTLow back pain (LBP) is one of the most prevalent orthopedic problems in the world. Yet, the cause of much LBP is poorly understood, which sometimes leads to improper treatment. Many times LBP is caused by muscular tightness or myofascial trigger point activity, and is effectively treated with massage. However, serious structural problems can exist in the spine. These conditions need to be referred to a physician for proper evaluation. Spondylolisthesis is just such a problem.
The term spondylolisthesis is derived from the Greek spondylo, meaning "spine," and listhesis, "to slide down an incline." Spondylolisthesis results from a stress fracture in a region of the vertebra called the pars interarticularis (Figure 1). Left untreated, the stress fracture might fully separate, causing one vertebra to slip forward in relation to another (Figure 2). The slippage is most common at the articulation between L5 and S1 junction due to the downward pull of gravity and the anterior and inferior sloping of the L5-S1 junction. If only a stress fracture exists without the vertebral sliding, the condition is called spondylolysis. Because the stress fracture occurs before the forward slippage of the vertebral body, spondylolysis generally is a precursor to spondylolisthesis.
The compressive forces that aggravate the condition are magnified if the individual has an exaggerated lumbar lordosis. When the lumbar lordosis is increased, the posterior vertebral arch bears a greater percentage of the upper body weight.
In addition, the exaggerated lordosis tilts the lower lumbar vertebrae even farther in an anterior and inferior direction, making forward slippage more likely.
Individuals engaged in certain sports or occupations are particularly susceptible to spondylolisthesis, especially if it involves repetitive flexion and extension of the spine. It is common in gymnastics, rowing, diving, swimming (especially the butterfly), tennis, wrestling, weightlifting and football. An increased incidence also has been identified in loggers and soldiers carrying heavy backpacks.1, 2 The condition is prevalent in adolescents due to the extremes of physical exertion in athletics and bones that are not fully formed.3 Females are affected more often than males, possibly due to strength differences in bone structure.
Hamstring tightness is evident in many individuals with spondylolisthesis. The hamstrings tighten in an effort to posteriorly rotate the pelvis. The posterior pelvic rotation decreases the potential for forward slippage of the lower lumbar vertebra and helps stabilize the lumbar region.1
The most common symptom in spondylolisthesis is dull, aching pain in the lower lumbar or upper sacral region. Pain also extends into the buttocks or posterior thigh in some cases. The client generally reports some repetitive flexion or extension activity prior to the onset of symptoms. Consider the client's report of recent activities that might produce aggravating stress on the posterior vertebral arch, especially if there is a corresponding exaggerated lumbar lordosis.
There usually is tenderness in the soft tissues in the lower lumbar and upper sacral region. However, the tenderness usually is not the primary pain-producing sensation of the stress fracture or vertebral slippage. Attempting to palpate tissues in this region also can produce pain because there is anterior pressure being applied to the vertebral structures. The anterior pressure might push the vertebra further into the position of slippage and aggravate the pain. In addition to tenderness, hypertonicity in the lumbar erector spinae, quadratus, lumborum, gluteals and hamstring muscles is likely.
In spondylolisthesis, pain increases with lumbar extension. Flexion decreases the pain, as this motion pushes the vertebra back toward the normal position. Pain might be aggravated during either lateral flexion or rotation, although there is not a clearly established pattern of this pain. Hip flexion with the knee in extension generally is limited due to hamstring tightness.
A special test called the one-leg lumbar extension test might help isolate spondylolysis or spondylolisthesis. To perform this test, the client is standing on one leg and balancing. While in this position, the client attempts to bend backward, thus extending the spine (Figure 3). The test is repeated on the opposite side. If back pain is felt during the spinal extension, there is a strong likelihood of a stress fracture in the pars interarticularis. If the stress fracture is only on one side, standing on the ipsilateral leg produces more pain.
If spondylolisthesis is suspected, the client should be referred to a physician for appropriate evaluation. Forward slippage of the vertebra has to be confirmed by X-ray and is not testable with physical examination alone. Soft-tissue therapies like massage can be helpful in reducing overall muscular hypertonicity associated with spondylolisthesis, but it's important to consult with the client's physician about appropriate treatment goals. For example, working on the hamstrings to relax their hypertonicity actually could be detrimental to the condition because the hamstring tightness is helping reduce forward vertebral slippage. Awareness of conditions such as spondylolisthesis highlights the importance of proper assessment so an appropriate referral and/or treatment approach can be developed.
Click here for more information about Whitney Lowe, LMT.
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