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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.
Pain Underfoot: Metatarsalgia
Foot pain can interfere significantly with normal activities and severely limit participation in sports. Metatarsalgia is foot pain involving the metatarsal bones in the forefoot – the complaint of pain on the bottom of the ball of the foot.
Waking Up the Gluteus Maximus
In previous articles in this series, we expounded on the importance of the gluteus maximus (GM) in athletic performance and protecting the knee from injury. We also know there is a link between iliotibial band syndrome and GM weakness.
News in Brief
National Chiropractic Health Month: Be Proactive; Collegiate Roundup: Academic Appointments at Parker, Logan.
Why Young People Need Chiropractic Now More Than Ever
According to a recent study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, "It is now widely acknowledged that neck pain (NP), mid back pain (MBP), and low back pain (LBP) (spinal pain) start early in life and that the lifetime prevalence increases rapidly during adolescence to reach adult levels at the age of 18."
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.
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!
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.
Don't Turn a 2 Into a 10
The Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale1 is so useful because it can be used by almost anyone. Patients can use the numbers associated with the faces depicted on the scale or select the face that demonstrates their current level of pain from 0-10.
A History Worth Telling
The popularity and the use of acupuncture for the treatment of animals in the United States is at its peak.
CCE Finally Takes a "Baby Step" Toward Reform
During a 16-month period from October 2010 to February 2012, I devoted four separate columns to the heavy-handed attempt by the Council on Chiropractic Education to radically change the chiropractic profession through the accreditation process.
Chiropractic Research in Review
Chiropractic Treatment of Lateral Epicondylitis; Cost / Benefit Analysis: Different Doses of SMT for Low Back Pain; Imaging for Occult Rib and Costal Cartilage Fractures; Treating Neck Pain: Thoracic Thrust Manipulation vs. Non-Thrust Mobilization.
9 Common Causes of Thyroid Imbalance and How You Can Help
How you sleep, how easily you wake up, and how much energy and stamina you have during the day are directly related to levels of the thyroid hormones.
A Vibrating Capsule for Constipation? Relevance to Your Chiropractic Practice
The relationship between gastrointestinal (GI) complaints and back pain is not typically written about or discussed.
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.
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.
MPA Media Wins 7 Publishing Awards
MPA Media, publisher of Dynamic Chiropractic and DC Practice Insights, among other titles, has been recognized for editorial and design excellence with an unprecedented seven publishing awards by the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the nation's largest organization for business-to-business publications.
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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