resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
The Tide is Rising in the Acupuncture Profession
Former President Ronald Regan said, "When the tide rises all boats float." The tide is rising for the acupuncture profession. Many forces outside the profession are helping the tides to rise.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
First Do No Harm?
There's no questioning the frightening nature of breast cancer, which strikes one in eight women in the U.S. – eclipsed only by skin cancer in terms of prevalence.
Spieth Thanks His Chiropractor After Historic Masters Win
Jordan Spieth didn't just capture the hearts of golf enthusiasts worldwide with his record-setting, wire-to-wire victory at the 79th Masters Tournament.
Professional Credentialing and Board Certification: An Ethical Faux Pas
Because of the Affordable Care Act, health care systems are coordinating care through accountable care organizations (ACOs) in order to reduce the cost of care and improve quality of care.
We Get Letters & Email
A House Divided? (May 1 issue) provoked significant response from readers. Here are several of the surprisingly similar comments we received.
Animal Acupuncture: A Case Study in the Treatment of Traumatic Injury in the Equine
The rise of animal acupuncture in the U.S. began in the early 1970's as a result of the work by members of the National Acupuncture Association in Westwood, Calif.
Rethinking Musculoskeletal Pain – A Public Health Perspective
The American Public Health Association (APHA) is the world's oldest and largest association of its kind, founded more than 140 years ago and boasting over 25,000 members.
Integrating Art with Clinical Practice for Patients with PTSD: The Artemis Project
Are you restricted by those one-on-one clinic dynamics? Why not join colleagues and clients in experimental group settings? Three of us volunteered to do just that in Austin on behalf of women veteranss from all branches of the service.
PCOM Granted Regional Accreditation
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) recently announce it has received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This achievement reflects five years of hard work on the part of faculty, staff, and students.
The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine
My Masters thesis was titled, "The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine," which highlighted several reasons why it is hard for these two worlds to mix.
ACA or ICA: Which Best Represents You?
Last June, I was honored to represent Texas ICA members as their representative assemblyman at the ICA Annual Meeting in Kansas City.
Green Tea Improves Cognitive Function in Elderly Subjects
Publishing their results in the journal Nutrients in May 2014, researchers showed that drinking the equivalent of 2-4 cups of brewed green tea (or bottled tea) daily improved cognitive function or reduced the progression of cognitive dysfunction in elderly subjects.
Our Biggest Challenges to Compete in Wellness Care
In the first article in this four-article series [May 1 DC], I made the case that chiropractors should either embrace offering lifestyle wellness in their practices or face the possibility of losing their place in the wellness care marketplace.
Giving Vets the Care They Deserve
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the largest integrated health care system in the United States.
Reducing the Autogenic Inhibition Reflex: Making Weak Muscles Strong
The autogenic inhibition (AI) reflex is a sudden relaxation of a muscle in response to excess tension.
The Acupuncturist's Problem
I want share with you some observations and insights into what seems to be the most common problem my colleagues in the acupuncture profession struggles with. If you also struggle with this problem, I hope you get a valuable "aha" moment from reading this.
Medicine is Clumsy, Don't You Be
All medical systems have clumsiness in them. If the technique isn't, the practitioner is. Everyone in every form of medicine is striving to improve. That is why we call it practice.
5 Tips for Using Pinterest to Market Your Practice
Pinterest is a very popular, but often under-utilized, social media platform where people can bookmark, or "pin," fun and interesting things from all across the internet.
How Much Do You Know About the Benefits of Birds Nest?
Edible bird's nest is the nest made by the Swiftlet bird of Southeast Asia that is usually prepared as a soup and prized in Chinese culture as a healthful delicacy.
Marijuana, Apathy and Chinese Medicine, Part 1
This article was written in response to the unheeded acceptance of marijuana as a harmless substance that potentially does good when used for the medical relief of pain.
Leg-Length Inequality and Pelvic Fixation: A New Approach to the Negative Derifield (Part 2)
As we noted in our previous article, with a positive Derifield (+D), the doctor observes the reactive (shorter) leg in the prone position that becomes longer or "crosses over" in the flexed position.
June, 2006, Vol. 06, Issue 06
The Phrenic Circuit
By Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD
Let's return to some basics in anatomy and physiology that support the notion that placing your awareness and working from the "inside-out" facilitates the healing process for our clients.Appreciating the influence of the phrenic nerves has assisted me to serve my clients with chronic problems. The very nature of chronic illness and pain requires that the body somehow distribute both the internal physiological pressures within it and the external musculoskeletal strain placed upon it.
My clinical experience has consistently demonstrated that the diaphragm muscle and its phrenic nerves together are one of the body's primary circuits for distributing strain. The phrenic nerves are the sole motor nerves of the diaphragm muscle; a direct efferent supply from the neck to the diaphragm. Its afferent system however is extensive as it receives sensory supply from all of the following sources; the peritoneal sac, the gall bladder, the capsule of the liver, the pancreas, the pericardial sac of the heart, the pleurae of the lungs and from the subclavius muscles1. Wow! That's a lot of current to handle.
Distribution of strain and allocation of resources are crucial components of physical healing. The notion of compensation within the musculoskeletal system when one has experienced an injury is a simple way to conceive of what is meant by distribution of strain. But it's only the tip of the iceberg. Allocation of resources refers to the body's remarkable genius to commandeer energetic and nutritional sources to support general physiology during times of increased demand. The body does all of this and more but, often at a price which lowers the quality of our lives.
What few have made sense of is that the pain in your client's neck actually might be emanating from their gut tube, heart or lungs, and might even be a major contributing source of their pain or the numbness in their shoulder, arms, elbow, wrist or fingers that just won't go away. How does that happen, you might ask? The phrenic nerves exit the spinal cord from C3, C4 and C5. This overlaps and shares the circuitry within the spinal cord of the brachial plexus C4 - T2, the origin of the neurocirculatory supply to the upper extremities.
Imagine water filling up within a sink, which, if not diverted back into the drain pipe, overflows the container. Thus, tensions within the organs of the "phrenic circuit" build to a tipping point and spill over into the relationships of the brachial plexus and are expressed as symptoms in the neck, upper back, and/or upper extremities. How many times have you used, or heard the phrase, "I've had it up to here" as an expression of feeling stressed, exasperated or overwhelmed? Often, people actually raise their hand to the level of their chin, which interestingly is approximately the level of the 4th cervical vertebra.
Let's remember, I previously have described the stereotypical effects of stress as the "cringing of the body's sacs and a shortening and narrowing of its tubes."2 Three of the four major sacs within the body feed direct sensory supply into this phrenic circuit.
Imagine what happens to body posture when the large sac within your abdomen cringes. Feel it within your own body. Next, add the cringing of the sacs of the heart and lungs, a shortening of the esophagus (the major tube between the head and the abdomen), and now, add the tightening of the diaphragm and a shortening of one or both of the iliopsoas muscles. Where do you feel the strain? Obviously, in the back and/or the neck. The head and neck literally are being pulled forward and down. The entire extensor reflex system is activated from the occiput to the sacrum. Little wonder our clients present so often with neck and upper, middle or lower back pain.
Make the connection within your own body. Tensions from within are distributed, expressed, and discharged into the musculoskeletal system from the "inside out." More specifically, these tensions are shared across as broad an area as possible for as long as possible until the pressure builds to where this distribution of strain affects the allocation of resources to the point that physical, energetic or psychological symptoms emerge and become chronic.
Psychologically, the physical symptoms you can now relate to the phrenic circuit are strongly correlated with anxiety and depression. The "mind" generates predictions which stimulate our emotions, which leads to the cringing of the sacs and the shortening of our tubes. Sadly, the mind is organized to predict negative outcomes under the guise of protecting us.3
Over time, we become tied up into knots, anxious about what might happen, then becoming depressed that we can't make any significant changes for ourselves. The cycle repeats itself over and over in so many of our clients' lives.
It is my consistent clinical experience that phrenic relationships are associated in most upper extremity dysfunction and pain syndromes. It's only a matter of degree. This includes cervical dysfunction and pain, frozen shoulder, encapsulitis, chronic rotator cuff problems and radicular symptoms (pain and numbness) into the arm, elbow, wrist, hand and fingers. These reflect the build-up of the tensions within the phrenic circuit and the body's attempt to distribute the strain.
What is the source of our stress?
Please refer to the articles co-authored with Lansing Gresham, "Move Your Mind and Engage Your Brain" (see the February 2006 issue of Massage Today, www.massagetoday.com/archives/2006/02/01.html) and "Your Mind Is the Source of Your Stress" (see the April 2006 issue of Massage Today, www.massagetoday.com/archives/2006/04/02.html). In this article, I have endeavored to introduce the anatomical relationships that consistently have assisted me to serve my clients. More in-depth anatomical descriptions of the relationships of the phrenic circuit will follow.
Click here for more information about Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD.
Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreementcomments powered by Disqus
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.