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News in Brief
New President / CEO Takes Office at Yo San University. Electroacupuncture for Constipation?
6 Steps to Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet
People often ask me what defines success. Success, for me, is simple: doing exactly what you want to do in life. Whether it's the kind of practice you run, your life at home, your hobbies or something else, it's achieving anything you put your mind to.
Molecular Motors: Tiny Machines Behind the Rhythm of Life
In the clinic, we aim to restore healthy patterns of movement for qi that has gotten trapped or misdirected, or may have even collapsed. We may be focused on freeing stagnation, releasing heat or redirecting counterflow qi, but it often comes down to helping re-establish a flow of sorts.
Herbs for Digestion: The Power of Bitter
Many cultures (and indeed herbal clinicians) around the world have long respected the role of bitter herbs and foods for promoting digestion. For example, aperitifs – drinks consumed before a meal to stimulate appetite and digestion – were originally derived from bitter herbs.
Little Sticker, Big Impact
It's the end of an election year. Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump were the subject of conversation for everyone, everywhere for the entire 2016 calendar year. I don't think any of us can deny that this election affected us all very deeply on a personal level.
A Letter to the Profession from the New President at AAAOM
Volunteering for a national, nonprofit organization brings with it such highs, lows, and accomplishments, as well as a steep learning curve.
Assessing Core Stability and ROM: 5 Basic Checks
One of the first steps in addressing core stability is assessing static posture, ranges of motion, and motion of the pelvic bones, sacrum, femurs, lumbar spine and thoracic spine.
Chiro School Reunion: Whatever Happened to...?
I opened the door to the closet slowly, carefully, since I knew it contained a large number of precariously stacked file boxes. It also held numerous outdated gizmos with electrical cords of various lengths that could trip or strangle a person.
Another Chance to Make a Difference
Just a few months ago, "the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Hurricane Sandy" hit Louisiana. During this storm, one area experienced 31 inches of rain in 15 hours as almost 7 trillion gallons of water rained down in just one week across the state.
Overuse Injuries in Young Athletes (Pt. 2)
Most overuse injuries are benign, but there are some high-risk injuries that, if unrecognized or inappropriately treated, can result in significant loss in time from the sport or even require leaving the sport.
What We Can Learn From Spine Surgery
Patients with lumbar stenosis presumably present for conservative care to improve their quality of life and avoid surgery. However, providing clear guidance to these patients can be difficult for a number of reasons.
A Q & A About Updated Codes
Yes, indeed there was an update to ICD-10 on Oct.1, 2016. This is a regular update to the diagnosis coding system and this type of update will occur every Oct. 1, just as it did when the ICD-9 system was in place.
Can a Multivitamin Reduce Breast Cancer Recurrence?
There is a great deal of controversy regarding the value of multivitamin supplements in cancer prevention. However, with respect to preventing breast cancer recurrence, an important study was published in the Journal of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment in 2011 by Kwan ML, et al.
A First for the Profession: CCE Accredits First Chiropractic Residencies
The Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) has awarded accreditation to all five chiropractic residency programs currently administered at Veterans Administration facilities, "the first residency programs in the nation ever to be awarded this distinction, a significant advancement in the evolution of chiropractic education," according to a VA press release announcing the milestone.
Meshing TCM With Environmental Pediatrics: Where's the Overlap?
Pediatrics has a long history within Chinese medicine dating back to the late Han dynasty (i.e., the late 200s CE), with the two primary areas of emphasis being herbal medicine and xiao er tui na (pediatric massage).
Dedicated to Defending Chiropractic
Whether you're a veteran DC or a first-trimester student, the name George McAndrews should be part and parcel of your professional vernacular, as familiar as the word chiropractic.
A Simple Protocol for Holiday Stress
It's winter, a time when we should be deep in reflection, eating warming foods and sleeping long hours. Following nature's rhythms, we restore our bodies and minds in preparation for the renewal of spring.
Branding: Set Your Practice Apart
Dr. Brad started his practice seven years ago on a shoestring budget. He created his generic logo in five minutes using a website because he didn't have the time to figure out how to make something special.
2016: A Year in the Life of Acupuncture
Happy Holidays, may you, your family and friends have peace, joy and blessings throughout this special time of year. As 2016 comes to a close, we can look back and celebrate the many events and accomplishments for the profession of acupuncture.
End of an Era Looms at NYCC
New York Chiropractic College recently announced that Dr. Frank Nicchi will retire in August 2017 after 36 years with the college, the past 17 as president.
DVT: Know the Signs and You Could Save a Life
I lost a friend several months ago. He died from a pulmonary embolism (PE) secondary to a deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) that originated in his lower leg. Bobby was in his mid-60s, soft-spoken and had a big heart.
Southwest Acupuncture College Brings It to Division 1 Athletes
When Michael Phelps' photograph with the distinctive round marks left by cupping went viral, the Division 1 student athletes treated through the Dal Ward Athletic Center at the University of Colorado (CU) could relate.
October, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 10
Part III: Chronic Problems Related to Gallbladder Dysfunction/Disease
By Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD
In part two of this series, I invited you to consider how the progression of dysfunction/disease of the gallbladder may: participate in the progression toward diabetes; reduce the efficiency of the gastrointestinal processes of assimilating nutrients and eliminating waste by affecting the physiologic functions of the pancreas and the small and large bowel; and slow or restrict venous and lymphatic drainage back to the heart creating a bog of congested fluids beneath the respiratory diaphragm.1
My clinical experience suggests that progressive venous and lymphatic congestion is a significant contributing source of our clients' various somatic complaints and pain, especially when these have become chronic.Facilitating the rate and volume of these fluids in their return to the heart is a significant contribution to the healing process of every client. Understanding the web of why, where and how the body typically adapts is the purpose of the Inside-Out Paradigm.
Many years ago, Deane Juhan offered our profession an elegant analogy: conceive of the fluids below the diaphragm muscle as the Agricultural South returning blood and lymph to the Industrial North for reprocessing. In the ecology of the body, venous blood and lymph are necessary raw blood products for the cardiopulmonary system to generate newly oxygenated and nutritious blood.2 If the rate of flow or the volume of these fluids is insufficient to the demand, what's the body going to do?
The body will either endeavor to find alternate routings back to the heart or it will endeavor to push the blood through the thousands of miles of arteries and veins with more push and speed to maintain an adequate supply. The rate of return and the volume of return (the amount of fluid available for processing) are both significant variables for the cardiovascular system to maintain its efficiency. The important factor determining the amount of blood pumped by the heart is still the rate of entry of blood into the heart.3
The heart typically receives most of its venous blood from below the diaphragm muscle via the inferior vena cava while venous blood from above the diaphragm flows into the superior vena cava. However, when the portal or the caval system below the diaphragm is impeded, as would be the case with an inflamed gallbladder, the body selects to route its southern venous return through the superior vena cava.
Most of what has been written about alternate venous routings back to the heart is based on pathological conditions, liver disease such as cirrhosis or cardiac failure. References use the language of impeded or obstructed blood flow of the portal vein and/or the inferior vena cava.4,5 Under normal circumstances the entire abdominal gastrointestinal tract drains toward the liver by means of the portal system and then into the inferior vena cava.4 Given the portal vein's intimate juxtaposition and fascial connection to the gall- bladder, it is exquisitely vulnerable to any distention or inflammation of the organ.
The alternative venous return pathways that nature has provided are both deep and superficial. The deeper alternative pathway includes the azygous, hemiazygous, accessory hemiazygous veins and the vertebral venous plexuses.5 The more superficial routing includes a complex anastomosis (connection of two or more vessels) between the upper abdomen including the lower esophagus, the pelvic floor, and those associated with the veins of the abdominal wall that communicate into the bilateral thoracoepigastric venous channels. These eventually drain into the axillary veins which become the subclavian veins.4,5
In this article, we will explore the deeper venous pathway depicted by Figures 1 and 2. Additional pictures of these routings to more fully appreciate their significance are listed in the reference section of this article.6
Figure 1 depicts the deeper alternate routing for venous return from the "inside-out." I encourage you to consider that congestion within this internal scaffolding is a contributing factor to the back pain and stiffness of your clients. Allow your kinesthetic memory to engage Figure 1. Reflect on how frequently you palpate muscular contracture and spasm along the erector muscles on a daily basis. It's pretty amazing how it is a mirror image of where many or most of our clients report that they experience somatic difficulties a fair amount of the time.
Next, relate Figure 2 to the effects of congestion of the azygous vein to the frequency you palpate muscular tension associated with the upper right quadrant of the back and the right shoulder. Please consider from this moment forward to begin translating your palpation of external soft-tissue tension as an indication of internal fluid congestion.
The deeper venous pathway drains into the superior vena cava located in the upper right quadrant of the thoracic cavity. The azygous vein's typical anatomical routing is through the aortic opening of the diaphragm into the chest cavity traveling up along the right side of the spine to the heart. The thoracic duct also typically passes through the aortic opening moving lymph upward toward the left subclavian vein.
In contrast, nature's plan for the hemiazygous vein has selected for it to find its way into the thoracic cavity by piercing the right crus of the diaphragm and traveling up the left side of the spine with its venous return crossing the midline to join the azygous.4 The accessory hemiazygous vein originates to the left of the vertebral column in the upper thorax and descends downward draining blood from the 4th - 8th intercostal spaces and sometimes the bronchial veins. Commonly, it crosses between anterior to the 7th - 9th thoracic vetebrae and also contributes its fluids into the right-sided azygous vein.5
What's crucial for us to consider is that this venous complex already has a primary job. This is to drain the posterior body wall above the diaphragm via the intercostal veins, vertebral plexuses and sometimes, some or most of the lumbar veins. Consider the possible contribution to the back pain (upper, middle, or lower) of your clients when these vessels are doing double and triple duty. Let us remember that pain receptors primarily are activated when soft tissues are stretched or compressed. Internal congestion equals external tension and often pain.
An implication to heart function emerges when one considers that the descending aorta typically shares the aortal opening of the diaphragm with the azygous vein and the thoracic duct. It is a reasonable speculation to wonder about the possible effects of progressively increasing venous and lymphatic congestion upon the flow of arterial blood through the aorta. Appreciating the incredible distensibility of the venous and lymphatic vessels there certainly is a threshold beyond which the body's homeostatic responsiveness would trigger the heart to pump with more force to overcome this initial resistance.
Let us now consider the possible effects of an inflamed gallbladder upon the lymphatic system in the cisterna chili and its superior tributary, the thoracic duct. The same variables apply, rate of flow and volume, and the vulnerability of the confluence of the inferior lymphatic trunks to gallbladder distention or inflammation. Another interesting correlation exists as the thoracic duct crosses from its right-sided vertical routing along the spinal column to the left side of the column somewhere between the 5th and 3rd thoracic vertebrae, almost dead center between the scapulae. Consider how often your clients report tension, discomfort or pain between the shoulder blades. Internal congestion equals external tension and often pain.
I have wondered for years why nature had selected for 80 percent of the body's lymphatic fluids to drain into the left subclavian vein. It is my discovery and postulation that there is a relationship in symmetry and just plain functional hydrostatic balance since the superior vena cava may be called upon to receive potential overflow from or, become the primary alternate routing from the portal and inferior venous systems on the right side.
Now, let's briefly consider the other obvious alternative for the body to assist venous drainage, which is to drive the blood more forcefully from the heart in order to make it through the "60,000 miles of vessels." These are quotes from National Geographic. "The human heart beats 100,000 times a day, propelling 6 quarts of blood - 20 times the distance across the U.S. coast to coast."7 It is the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system that stimulates the heart to function as a stronger pump. It also stimulates the peripheral vessels to contract, (narrow) thus increasing the speed of blood flow. The bad news is that it also increases the resistance to venous return.2
It's long been known that various heart ailments are accompanied by the enlargement of the left ventricle in response to working harder to push arterial blood more forcefully from the heart. With even more acclaim, high blood pressure now is considered to be the axis of evil. However, let's consider that what starts out as a short-term adaptation to periodic or episodic stress becomes a necessary evil to keep the overall system flowing. This is when the grinding and degrading effects may subtly and perniciously trigger progressions toward pathology.
An additional learning emerged in researching this article that the tricuspid valve of the heart acts as a primary feedback regulator of pressure for the heart.3 The tricuspid valve normally is found just below the lower right end of the sternum close to the attachment of the 5th rib. It receives the blood from the inferior vena cava into the right atria. This relationship was very validating of my clinical experience with clients, as so often when palpating the degree of thoracic pressure along the intercostal space between ribs 5 and 6, there is line of horizontal tension that bridges across the midline of the anterior chest wall. I have come to correlate a softening of this tensional line coupled with greater ease of compression throughout the chest wall as therapeutic indicators that venous return has been facilitated. This also brings us back to the importance of assisting the body to maintain appropriate pressure differentials between the thoracic, abdominopelvic and cranial cavities.8 It is intention that matters, not technique.
Next, let's explore the possible relevance of gall bladder/pancreatic dysfunction and venous congestion to the high frequency of hiatal hernias and gastric reflux problems. The most common types of hiatal hernias are sliding and para-esophageal hernias. They both occur on the left side of the hiatal junction between the esophagus and the stomach. The common reason stated is that right-sided hernias do not occur because the weight and presence of the liver essentially protects this side.4
What first became curious to me was noticing that the right crus (leg) of the diaphragm muscle crosses the body's midline and wraps around the hiatal junction. Over many years, my hands have correlated gallbladder difficulties and contracture of the right hemi-diaphragm. I began conceiving of this junction as a gasket seal that, when pulled to the right by the crus of the diaphragm, would disturb its competence to close properly (re-sealing the gasket), thus becoming a possible contributing variable of gastric reflux. This seemed to make sense all by itself, and then I realized there probably were additional variables at play.
One variable that has clinically shown itself to be related has been contracture of the lessor omentum which crosses the midline from left to right.9 These distensible ligaments have a fan-like appearance with their moorings attached between the stomach, the liver and gallbladder, and the duodenum. It is my postulation that inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas as was described in the last article may stimulate a contraction of these fibers, not only to the right side but also downward, further weakening the upper left portion of the hiatal junction.1 Let's remember that the duodenum cradles the head of the pancreas while the curvature of the stomach cradles its tail.
The most significant variable to hiatal incompetence is to recognize that when either the portal system or the inferior vena cava flow is compromised, the esophageal veins and the left gastric vein participate in both the deep and superficial alternate routings for venous return. The bottom line is: If it can't get through, it backs up and it does so through the hiatal junction. I speculate that such congestion additionally weakens its capacity to function as a competent gasket. This is similar to my earlier speculation regarding the azygous vein and thoracic duct sharing the opening with the descending aorta.
In summary, please remember that these descriptions, based on my clinical experiences of what has helped my clients most consistently, are not immutable facts. Anatomy reflects the full spectrum of the genetic continuum.
Yet, do consider the possibilities postulated here: That one of the major sources of our clients' chronic somatic complaints may indeed be related to the subtle and insidious effects of progressively increasing venous and lymphatic congestion; that we may contribute at a much more foundational level to our client's health than we realize by intending to facilitate the systemic return of these fluids; and that gallbladder dysfunction/disease may be a possible tipping point in the progression of many disorders.
The essence of anecdotal clinical observation is to extrapolate possible connections and relationships not necessarily to confirm specific conclusions. To hold the many possible relationships between physiologic function, anatomical structure and human consciousness simultaneously is the essence of the inside-out paradigm.
In the final installment, we will connect these relationships to headache patterns including migraines and speculate on how the existential questions of life may be contributing factors to the progression of gallbladder dysfunction/disease.
Click here for more information about Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD.
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