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News in Brief
Call for Abstracts Announced - Parker Las Vegas 2016; Logan Adds Doctorate Degree; New Role for Dr. James Edwards.
Fertility and Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids
Starting or expanding one's family is a major milestone. It's something that more and more people seek out health care advice and support for.
Getting a YES: An Effective Strategy for Overcoming Patient Objections
Patients make more excuses for declining care from an acupuncturist than perhaps any other type of doctor. Various reasons hold them back from making a commitment to care.
Improving Communication Between AOM and Biomedical Providers
How comfortable do you feel talking to Western medical providers? If you are like me, you may not feel as comfortable as you would like. Some of my interactions with MD's haven't been the fruitful steps toward integrative medicine for which I had hoped.
An Acupuncturist's View of Medicinal Marijuana
The use of cannabis for medical purposes is very controversial. Use as a panacea by physicians uninitiated to the proper application of herbal medicine, as well as an excuse for recreational use have greatly confused the issue.
Dorsiflexion Dysfunction: Evaluation & Manipulation Techniques
Almost every condition from the foot to the hip can be attributed to the inability to dorsiflex the ankle mortice and other joints that participate in dorsiflexion. Let's start by understanding normal versus abnormal dorsiflexion.
Do Some Good and Grow Your Business with Cause Marketing
Cause marketing is truly one of the best ways that you can promote your services as a acupuncture professional. Cause marketing refers to a type of marketing where a business partners with a non-profit organization to help bring awareness to a charitable cause.
Practice Policy (Gone Bad): The Sign
Every once in a while, you see something and think to yourself, That's a really bad idea. Case in point: I went to see my medical doctor the other day. Just after being "roomed," as they say, the nurse checked my vital signs. Then she left.
What's Chiropractic Research Worth to You?
The Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research (PCCR), in celebration of its 20th anniversary, has announced it is spearheading a fundraising campaign to support chiropractic research.
The Short Leg Dilemma
When evaluating a new patient, it is common to note a relative shortening of one leg to the other. Some patients will even tell you they have one, and then pull out the store-bought heel lift they read about online.
The Food Conversation: Nutrition and Your Practice
It's morning and your first patient rolls in with a triple espresso steaming in one hand and a frazzled, desperate look in her eye. "You gotta help me, doc, I am constipated unless I drink one of these, and I am exhausted and anxious all the time."
Change Lives by Supporting Chiropractic Research: Are You In?
The Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research (PCCR), in celebration of its 20th anniversary, has announced it is spearheading a fund-raising campaign to support chiropractic research.
More Chiropractors Required
An intriguing study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine examines how "chiropractic care affects use of primary care physician (PCP) services."
Fish Oil: A Key Component of Positive Clinical Outcomes
Patients seem to be presenting with more complex problems, and many are responding to care more slowly or have completely unexpected results. Why?
A Chiropractor's Guide to Yoga
"Doctor, can I continue to do yoga while undergoing your care?" "Is it OK for me to go back to yoga while I'm getting my back treated?" "It is safe to start my yoga classes again after my neck pain improves?"
The Zen Art of "One Point"
We were always told in our Zen Shiatsu training (by Japanese and Japanese American instructors) that our ultimate aim was to to find that "One Point." To be so focused we could touch just one point to transform Qi throughout a client's body.
Practicing with Authenticity
To extrapolate from the above quote, patients love healthcare providers they can trust. One way to earn the trust of your patients is by practicing with authenticity. What does that mean, exactly?
Surprising Reasons for Orthotic Efficacy
Clinical outcome studies show orthotics are effective in the management of a wide range of injuries, including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis and patellofemoral pain syndrome.
Harvard Health References Flawed AHA Position Paper
In its special health report, "Stroke: Diagnosing, Treating, and Recovering From a 'Brain Attack,'" Harvard Health Publications includes information from the American Heart Association's 2014 position statement on cervical manipulation and cervical dissection – a statement the American Chiropractic Association emphasized in a letter to Harvard Health mixes "scientific facts with half-truths."
The New Age of Communication
In the age of technology, everyone, including the patient, is seeking faster, easier ways to communicate. With a wealth of social media, blogs, websites and videos, we are constantly barraged with information – to the point of overload.
Help: A Need at Every Level
One of the great gifts of training in acupuncture is the ability to take good care of oneself. I recently had a bout of frozen shoulder — an inflammatory syndrome which can be debilitatingly painful and take years to resolve.
Modernization of Chinese Medicine
Language – written, spoken, signed, or otherwise is learned as a means to express our individualized perceptions about the world around us. Language is designed to communicate our personal experiences.
Nuts Reduce Risk of Heart Disease, Cancer and Other Health Problems
Several recent studies suggest regular consumption of nuts may provide a significant degree of protection against certain types of cancer, heart disease, possibly type 2 diabetes and some neurodegenerative diseases.
Oriental Medicine on the World Stage
"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." This simple, yet powerful statement was lived out time and time again by so many of the athletes from around the world during the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.
Patient-Centered Care vs. Payer Restrictions: Your Ethical Obligation
Do you have an ethical obligation to evaluate your patients, make a diagnosis and provide evidence-based, patient-centered health care, irrelevant to the payer restrictions?
Acupuncture Rising: From Acupuncture Anesthesia to Assisted-IVF, Part 1
Acupuncture's cultural and historical roots go back to the emergence of Chinese civilization. For more than 2,000 years, acupuncture needling has been continuously practiced on the largest population in the world.
Healing Trauma: Cultivating Resilience and Presence Through Mindfulness, Part 2
In the last issue of Acupuncture Today, the first part of this article introduced the topic of trauma and resilience, and their relationship to the autonomic nervous system response and the concept of the spirit being grounded in the body, and suggested the importance of mindfulness as a tool for healing.
November, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 11
Short Leg Syndrome: Part Two
By Erik Dalton, PhD
A highly debated postural issue begging for a logical explanation is the "short right-leg syndrome" (Fig. 1). Although an inferred awareness of right-sided limb-length shortness has existed for centuries, along with decades of published research, no one has provided a universally acceptable answer to two very important questions:
Let's begin by reviewing notable research regarding functional and structural short right legs and then discuss theories, assessments and corrections that help deal with this troublesome disorder.As Sir William Osler once stated, "In order to treat something, we must first be able to recognize it." Any attempt to tackle limb-length discrepancy and associated compensations, armed with inadequate evaluation tools, surely will lead to failure and frustration. In the absence of radiographic measurements, massage therapists must develop keen palpatory and visual skills for detecting osseous and soft-tissue dysfunction. Aberrant patterns are best identified and classified using the acronym ART: Asymmetry, Restriction of motion, and Tissue-texture abnormality. Although numerous tests and treatment modalities have proven successful in treating short legs and associated compensations, we'll focus on only a few fundamental myoskeletal techniques that add to your toolbox of touch.
Leg Length and Back Pain
In two exquisitely designed studies (1962 and 1983), Denslow and Chase measured leg-length discrepancy in 361 and 294 subjects presenting with low back pain.1 Using the most advanced radiographic technology currently available, their papers (published in the American Academy of Osteopathy) reported the following findings concerning limb-length discrepancy:
By comparing sagittal-plane femoral-head height and sacral base angulation (Fig. 3), the authors concluded that innominate bones rotate around the sacrum (iliosacral tilt). Transverse plane images revealed that the pelvis also can rotate as a block around the vertical lumbar spine. Denslow and Chase's pioneering work helped biomedical researchers understand how shortened limbs torsion the pelvis, creating painful lumbar compensations. Their data not only confirmed leg-length findings conducted by previous researchers but also prompted new, more sophisticated imaging studies. In 2004, John H. Juhl, DO, reported that 68 percent of 421 low back pain patients presented radiographically with short right legs.2
Functional Leg-Length Assessments
Through the years, manual therapists have developed many creative ways to differentiate functional (fixable) from structural (true) limb-length differences. Screening exams taught in educational programs often place too much emphasis on supine leg-length assessment in determining pelvic disorders. Commonly, one leg will appear shorter during visual observation of the supine client's medial malleoli (Fig. 4) when, in fact, the leg lengths actually are equal or just the opposite of how they appear radiographically when standing. For example, in the presence of a true (structural) short right leg, standing ASIS measurements should show an inferior slope on the short side. However, when the client lies supine (removed from vertical gravitational compression), the left leg may suddenly test shorter than the right. While many factors may contribute to this finding, one of the most common culprits is length/strength imbalance in deep intrinsic postural muscles such as the quadratus lumborum (QL). When unilaterally short and tight, the QL can 'hip hike' the left ilium as the client assumes an off-weighted supine posture. Confusion mounts as the left leg now appears shorter than the right. Figure 5 presents an effective contract/relax/assist maneuver to lengthen the hypercontracted left QL.
Although leg, hip and pelvic corrections shouldn't be based solely on supine test results, helpful information is derived by combining it with other exams such as prone leg-length tests. These oft-neglected prone assessments offer therapists additional clues for solving the limb- length puzzle. When prone, both ASISs are "pinned" to the table, thus preventing ilial rotation and allowing the therapist to isolate sacroiliac and axial skeletal joint dysfunction. Here's a quick reference for differentiating supine from prone limb-length assessment:
Supine: Tests leg-length differences resulting from iliosacral rotation, typically due to muscle imbalance.
Prone: Tests leg-length inequality as the lumbar spine attempts to adapt to sacral-base unleveling in the presence of SI joint dysfunction.
Depending on the degree of leg-length shortness, compensations may travel all the way up through the cervical spine and into the cranium (Ascending Syndrome). Conversely, "key" restrictions sometimes begin in the head or neck and travel down the kinetic chain (Descending Syndrome), causing pelvic obliquity and adaptive leg-shortening (Figs. 6A and B).
During the course of an examination, several simple tests help uncover the biomechanical root of the shortened leg. However, none are adequate to fully assess all possible causes. The Derifield (deer-field) Maneuver3 and others discussed below are useful in "weeding out" spinal and pelvic disorders.
The Derifield Maneuver
The neurological basis for body balance is found in the brain's reticular system, where the inhibitory and facilitory systems maintain muscle balance. Cranial or cervical fixations can affect lower-limb musculature via tonic neck reflexes, resulting in the appearance of one leg being short when viewed with the client in the prone position. Typically, comparisons are made by observing the feet, with knees in extended and flexed positions, noting any leg- length disparity (Fig. 7).
To determine if head/neck restrictions might be altering leg length, the therapist places the thumbs inferior to the medial malleoli. The client is asked to turn their head to one side and then the other. If cervical joint restrictions and/or bony spurs "snag" the dural membrane, head-turning can twist and torsion the sacrum, resulting in leg-length changes. Sometimes, the apparent leg-length discrepancy is resolved or even reversed during these cervical rotation maneuvers.
The second phase of testing begins with the client's head in neutral with the therapist's thumbs evaluating medial malleoli height. Once a visual measurement has been noted, the therapist's hands slightly plantar-flex the client's feet while slowly bending the knees to 90°, examining for any changes in heel height. Four possible findings may be noted during this test.
2. Short leg gets shorter. Sacroiliac and lumbar spine dysfunction can create muscle hypertonicity that shortens the leg in appearance as it is flexed. Figures 9A and B show effective myoskeletal springing maneuvers for derotating the pelvis to correct sacroiliac and lumbar spine asymmetry.
3. Short leg becomes longer. A posteriorly rotated and fixated ilium (usually left) shortens the leg. When accompanied by an adhesive right-anterior hip capsule, increased rectus femoris pull during knee flexion shortens the right extremity causing the left leg to appear as long, or longer, than the right. This is termed cross-over. The therapist should perform spring tests for a posteriorly fixated left ilium and anteriorly fixated, right hip capsule (Figs. 10A and B).
4. Heel Drop: With knees flexed 90°, the therapist allows both heels to drop toward the buttocks to see if one leg falls farther than the other. The heel falling farther usually is a positive indicator of a posterior sacral rotation on that side. This finding is noted as a positive Webster's sign.4 A variety of spring tests can be used to identify and correct the torsion.
Neurological Explanations for Short Legs
When a short-right-legged client stands with each foot resting side by side on bathroom scales, a measurable weight-shift typically occurs to the low side. The Leaning Tower of Pisa demonstrates this normal law of physics. However, the Tower does not possess a nervous system. Several researchers including Kappler, Previc and Pope5,6,7 believe that some individuals unconsciously resist this gravitational pull by sideshifting body weight to the left side, through a prenatal organizational system called cerebral lateralization. Their research theorizes that motor dominance overrides anatomical and gravitational factors in these individuals. It's thought that right motor dominance has roots in fetal positioning during the third trimester, resulting in the brain's lateralization process.8
In the brain, motor dominance typically crosses cortexes from left to right (left brain controls right side of the body). Conveniently, left vestibular dominance, which assists in balance, coordination and orientation, travels ipsilaterally down the left leg to allow left-sided weight bearing during right motor-dominant activities. For instance, a right motor-dominant person typically balances on their left leg to perform tasks such as kicking a ball (Fig. 11). Combining right motor and left vestibular dominance often results in a left-side-shifting maneuver of the pelvis over the vestibularly long left leg during standing (Fig. 12). This neurological postural shift helps explain many unusual pain patterns seen in clinic.
Short Leg Symptoms
Those with short right legs who bear more to the short right side usually report greater SI joint pain in the right hip and low back area. Examination of the sacrum often reveals a deep right sacral base, positive spring test for anteriorly fixated ilium and tender iliolumbar and sacroiliac ligaments. Conversely, motor-dominant clients who side-shift over the left leg usually experience greater left-sided SI joint pain and a positive spring test for a posteriorly fixated ilium. Symptoms worsen during prolonged walking or running, as overstretched abductors grind against the greater trochanter, creating bursitis, gluteus medius tendinosis and piriformis syndrome.
Since the human body rarely is symmetrical side to side, testing for loss of joint play often provides more reliable information than analyzing anatomical landmark findings. For decades, therapists have utilized spring tests to determine the presence (or absence) of joint-play in ankles, feet, hips and shoulders. Regrettably, spring tests are not as commonly used to evaluate spinal and sacroiliac joints. Therapists can benefit greatly by observing for common postural patterns during gait, checking anatomical landmarks, and spring-testing questionable structures to see if the findings have relative value.
Iliosacral, SI joint, and lumbar spine spring tests are valuable assessment and treatment tools that fit perfectly into a massage therapy format. Following the supine and prone leg-length tests, specific springing maneuvers can be used to verify findings and correct motion-restricted joints.
Since short limbs arise from biomechanical as well as neurological factors, therapists must take time to fully evaluate the client looking for common compensatory patterns such as the short right leg. Visual observation of the client's gait alerts the therapist to the possibility of cerebral lateralization and accompanying pelvic side-shifting. Supine and prone exams should be compared with other anatomical landmark findings to determine whether iliosacral, sacroiliac or head and neck restrictions are responsible for limb-length problems. Discrepancies greater than 2 cm can be associated with scoliosis, pelvic obliquity and alterations in the normal walking cycle. From a functional standpoint, there is strong, though not conclusive, evidence of an associated increase in the incidence of low back pain and hip joint osteoarthritis.
Click here for previous articles by Erik Dalton, PhD.
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