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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.
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?
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
News in Brief
Call for Abstracts Announced - Parker Las Vegas 2016; Logan Adds Doctorate Degree; New Role for Dr. James Edwards.
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
March, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 03
Treating Piriformis Syndrome
By Whitney Lowe, LMT
Sciatica is a term that describes radiating neurological pain that courses down the back side of the lower extremity. When the term is used, most people think of intervertebral disc pathology as the source of the problem. Lumbar disc pathology certainly can produce lower-extremity neurological pain, but other conditions can produce identical symptoms.
The sciatic nerve, formed by nerve roots from the lumbar and sacral plexuses, is the largest nerve in the body. It passes through a number of small spaces as it makes its way from the lumbopelvic region down the lower extremity. Along the way there are several sites at which sciatic nerve compression can occur. Nerve compression in any of these locations can produce symptoms identical to those of a herniated lumbar disc.
In the gluteal region, the piriformis muscle can compress the sciatic nerve, creating a condition known as piriformis syndrome. The sciatic nerve derives from the L4-S2 nerve roots and courses anterior to the sacrum, before passing inferior to the piriformis muscle (Figure 1). Tendinous bands at the edge of the muscle can compress the nerve. It also can be compressed between the piriformis and the sacrospinous ligament. Even a low level of pressure applied to the nerve for a long period of time can create symptoms.1
Other nerves in this region also are susceptible to compression and are variations of piriformis syndrome. The superior gluteal nerve can be squeezed between the piriformis and the greater sciatic notch (Figure 1). The superior gluteal nerve is primarily a motor nerve that supplies the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and tensor fasciae latae. Nerve compression produces weakness in the abductors of the hip, but radiating pain down the posterior leg does not occur, as the nerve is confined to the gluteal region. If neurological symptoms are confined to the posterior thigh and do not extend below the knee, compression of the posterior femoral cutaneous nerve could be the reason. The posterior femoral cutaneous nerve lies adjacent to the sciatic nerve and also can be compressed by the piriformis muscle.2
Certain anatomical variations play a role in piriformis syndrome. The sciatic nerve is composed of two divisions: the peroneal and tibial. Usually, they are bound together along the length of the nerve, but in some cases they divide as they pass the piriformis muscle (Figure 2). Sometimes one division goes through the muscle while the other goes below it. In other cases, one division goes above the piriformis while the other goes below. In a small percentage of the population, both divisions go directly through the piriformis muscle.3 It is easy to see how some of these anatomical variations cause increased neurological symptoms.
Piriformis syndrome routinely occurs from external pressure such as sitting on a wallet. In rare cases it results from a direct blow to the buttock area.4 As a result of trauma, adhesions can develop between the piriformis muscle, the sciatic nerve and the roof of the greater sciatic notch.
Myofascial trigger points in the piriformis or other gluteal muscles can create hypertonicity and lead directly to nerve compression. Trigger points in the gluteus minimus are known to reproduce symptoms identical to sciatica and could be confused with piriformis syndrome.3 Sacroiliac joint dysfunction also can perpetuate trigger points in the piriformis muscle and increase the likelihood of nerve compression.5
The most important factor in designing a treatment strategy for any soft-tissue disorder is to understand the nature of the problem and make sure the physiological effects of the treatment approach fit appropriately. The primary problem in this condition is nerve entrapment by a soft-tissue structure. Therefore, the goal of treatment is to reduce compressive force on the affected nerve(s). The piriformis muscle is the cause of the nerve entrapment, so treatment strategies emphasize reducing piriformis tightness.
After applying superficial effleurage and other general warming techniques to reduce tension in the gluteal muscles, treatment of the piriformis can begin. Keep in mind that this region can be very tender, so approach treatment with presence and compassionate pressure. Myofascial trigger points in the piriformis muscle are treated with static compression techniques. Apply pressure to the region and hold it for 8-10 seconds until you feel some degree of tissue relaxation under your treatment hand. Static pressure can begin with a broad contact surface such as the back of the fist to gain initial muscle relaxation. After warming up and relaxing the muscles with broad applications of pressure, use a small contact surface such as the thumb, elbow or pressure tool for specific trigger-point treatment.
Use caution when applying pressure to this region because you don't want to further compress the region of nerve entrapment. The muscles may be tender, but pressure on the piriformis region should not reproduce or aggravate the neurological symptoms. If pressure on the piriformis region aggravates neurological symptoms in the gluteal region or down the lower extremity, you need to reduce pressure and/or move to a different location.
Longitudinal stripping methods along the length of the piriformis muscle also help reduce tension. Stripping techniques are performed with the fingertips, knuckle, thumb, elbow, or pressure tool. The stripping motion can be performed from the sacrum toward the trochanter or from the trochanter toward the sacrum.
In some cases, you want to avoid putting direct pressure on the region of nerve entrapment. Muscle energy technique (MET) stretching is a great option in this case. To perform an MET treatment for the piriformis, begin with the client in a prone position. Bring the lower extremity into lateral rotation to shorten the piriformis. Instruct the client to hold the leg in that position as you attempt to pull the foot in a lateral direction (medially rotating the hip). Tell the client to slowly release the contraction. As the contraction is released, pull the foot farther laterally, which stretches (Figure 3).
Piriformis compression of nerves in the gluteal region is likely a cause of lower-extremity sciatic nerve symptoms. If piriformis syndrome is accurately identified as the cause of the symptoms, massage is a valuable treatment strategy as long as it is performed correctly.
Click here for more information about Whitney Lowe, LMT.
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