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A Glimpse Into China's Top Brain Hospital
The sounds of the city pass through the open window are overwhelming the microphone - car horns, construction machinery - and then there's the family at the adjacent bed talking loudly on cell phones, yet you can still hear the faint beep of our patients monitoring equipment.
The Problem With Prolonged Sitting
We need to constantly talk to our patients about spending less time sitting and about what can go wrong with poor sitting postures. The fact is we sit too long in repetitive malpositions.
A Healthy Dose of Failure is Vital to Your Success
As an acupuncturist I tend to see people after they have already suffered for years and "tried everything." They are so desperate for some relief that they want to know everything about how to get better, right now.
Get Ready For AOM Day
This year, AOM Day 2014 falls on Friday, (October 24th). This is a great opportunity to make your AOM Day celebration or event even bigger by extending it throughout the weekend!
History of Animal Acupuncture: Part II
In Part I of this article, I had gone back to 1969 and tried to describe the atmosphere and events of that year that engulfed many of the younger generation, some who were all the core members of the National Acupuncture Association.
Rethinking GMO: Less Panic, More Context
Some of you may have noticed that after writing parts 1 and 2 of “Genetic Modification of Organisms for Human Consumption” a while back [Nov. 15, 2013 and Jan. 1, 2014 issues], part 3 never appeared.
Thoracolumbar Syndrome: The Great Mimic
The thoracolumbar junction is a common area of joint dysfunction. The most obvious cause is dysfunctional breathing or lack of diaphragmatic breathing. Treating this breathing problem will ultimately be the long-term cure for the syndrome.
Healing Community Trauma in Israel and Palestine
It's the beginning of August and Israel and Hamas have just agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire after a month of brutal fighting. In the last four weeks, 1,830 Palestinians and 67 Israelis have been killed.
If You Get a Request for Records, Respond!
In our previous two articles, we discussed two of the main reasons for denial when chiropractic records are reviewed by Medicare contractors.
News in Brief
NBCE Launches Computer-Based Testing Era; California Chiropractors Get Expanded DOT Exam Privileges; New Jeff Hays Documentary.
Thoughts to Live By
When speaking to your patients about their health make sure to ponder the following points and have them assess if they are making themselves even more sick by the thoughts they have about life. Are these some of the traits and thoughts that your patients might have?
Help Secure Our Future by Sharing It
The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) conducts one of the most comprehensive surveys of the U.S. chiropractic profession every 4-5 years.
Uncle Sam Needs You
Scrutiny into the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) continues to grow after efforts to reform the DVA by the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, were deemed "a stunning period of dysfunction" by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The Science Behind Happiness
Are you happy right now? Whether yes or no, there are a myriad of reasons why you feel that way. A whole academic discipline has developed to find out what causes or obstructs happiness, and how to amplify it.
MPA Media Wins Seven Publishing Awards
MPA Media, publisher of Acupuncture Today, among other titles, has been recognized for editorial and design excellence with an unprecendented seven publishing awards by the ASBPE, the nation's largest organization for business-to-business publications.
A Commonly Missed Spinal Fixation: The Upper Lumbar Spine (Part 1)
When we think of lower back pain, we tend to think in terms of the lower lumbar spine and the SI joint. These joints and their discs are obviously important. However, we tend to miss fixations that occur just above – in the upper lumbar spine. Three questions come to mind: 1) Why is the upper lumbar spine so important? 2) Why do we miss the fixations here? 3) How can we adjust them?
Improving Our Political Effectiveness
The November 2014 elections are right around the corner; members of Congress, governors and state legislators are all running. Now is a good time to talk frankly about our overall political involvement.
When Big Pharma Meets Chinese Medicine
Earlier this year, Bayer made a media splash with their decision to buy the Dihon Pharmaceutical Group Co., a Chinese TCM manufacturer.
The Truth About Herbs
I appreciate the effort and research put into the article written in the June issue of Acupuncture Today regarding pesticides and Chinese herbs.
Let the Patient Tell Their Story
Often when a patient presents with an injury, they want to tell their story. People by nature like to talk about themselves, particularly when they're worried about their health.
Medicalization and Mindfulness
The past several years have seen a veritable explosion of research on mindfulness. Research abstracts we've published in each issue of Health Insights Today under the heading "Mind-Body News" have increasingly reported on studies about mindfulness interventions.
August, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 08
Don't Get Married, Part 2
By Erik Dalton, PhD
Humans are designed to move in order to survive - locomotion must precede all other activities. The past few decades have witnessed the emergence of two diverse schools of thought, each with their own biomechanical explanations detailing the seemingly simple act of walking.
Both disciplines generally agree that cross-patterned gait (opposite arm and leg moving at the same time) is a normal function of walking and running. However, advocates of the traditional "pedestrian model of gait" insist the legs are the main-event in locomotion and upright walking is a basic design where the legs propel the passive passenger - the trunk - through space. Pedestrian model groupies tend to lump the torso, arms and head together and generally dismiss the upper body as a critical player in gait mechanics.
As discussed in part 1 (Feb. 2008 issue), Canadian nuclear physicist Serge Gracovetsky, PhD, rebuked the pedestrian model by declaring that counter-rotation of the shoulders and pelvis is an essential key to locomotion and force is not generated by the legs, but instead arises through a complex muscle/skeletal interaction propelled by what he calls a "spinal engine."1 He further explains, "Evolutionarily, locomotion was first achieved by the motion of the spine. ... The legs came afterward as an improvement, not as a substitute."
If Gracovetsky's theory that the spine is the primary engine driving the pelvis has "legs to stand on" (no pun intended), then manual therapy assessments and rehabilitative corrections must be modified accordingly. Since low back pain is the most common disability among people under the age of 45, the consequence of this reinterpretation of spinal function could be far-reaching. Today, researchers and clinicians worldwide are experimenting with Gracovetsky's intriguing hypothesis.
Tempted to Marry
Since both schools of thought are supported by sound research in the gait-analysis community, I'm trying hard not to marry a single model of locomotion. To prevent the suffering that accompanies divorce, I've developed assessments and corrections based on gait studies conducted by two renowned experts in the field, Serge Gracovetsky and my mentor, Philip Greenman.2 This osteopathic and physics collaboration paints a broader, more comprehensive picture of the walking cycle. Unfortunately, in the process of marrying the two methods, some of Gracovetsky's brilliant spinal-engine concepts have been altered. To avoid misrepresenting the views of either researcher, the proposed model in part 2 will simply be referenced as the "myoskeletal engine."
The Myth of Leg Locomotion
Dr. Gracovetsky convincingly asserts, "If the legs were truly the mobilizing force propelling the body through space, a competitive sprinter with huge powerful legs and a small torso should be the fastest." (Figure 1) Obviously, this image does not fit the picture we'll see at the Beijing Olympic Games or even in the photo of a 21-year-old South African double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius, who finished second against the world's top athletes in a 400-meter race at the Golden League Meet last year in Rome. (Figure 2)
Initial observation of Pistorius' stride reveals a rhythmic cross-patterned gait and strong pelvic/shoulder counter-rotation that appears as the driving force propelling his lower extremities. Figures 3A and 3B illustrate global and core muscle "slings" that store and release kinetic and elastic energy that help him run at such high speeds. In the absence of lower legs and feet, one might conclude these anterior and posterior spring systems alone provide enough thrust to propel Pistorius' pelvis and extremities. But apparently, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) disagreed. They voted to ban him from formal competition based on the conclusion this artificial "springing" mechanism somehow amplified his interaction with gravitational ground forces.
Appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and subsequent studies confirmed the carbon-fiber blades did not give him an unfair advantage. So, does Pistorius run fast because of the recoil delivered by curved blades, or are humans endowed with a similar recovery pulse capable of transmitting gravitational forces up the kinetic chain to enhance power in the other spring systems?
Flat Tire - Flat Foot
Since the human body relishes energy conservation, it's reasonable to assume kinetic (movement) energy shouldn't be lost into the ground as described in the pedestrian gait model. Gracovetsky uses the analogy of running in sand versus on a firm surface to make a point that efficient movement demands a recovery pulse that springs from the arch, up the leg and through the pelvis and torso to help drive the spinal engine. Furthermore, it makes sense that any "kink" along this myofascial or skeletal (myoskeletal) chain would be reflected as a kink elsewhere in the system that would only serve to slow down the engine.
For example, if a car has a low tire and the tread begins wearing unevenly, the vehicle will begin to shake sooner or later. As the vibration makes its way through the suspension system, the tie rods start working loose. If left untreated, damage spreads to the motor mounts. Eventually, the "shaky" engine sputters to a halt. Although the low tire was the root of the problem, it's tempting to blame the engine because the car no longer runs.
In this regard, it's easy to see how a deflated tire might perpetuate a chain of events manifesting as compensations elsewhere. To remove kink(s) from the system, an experienced mechanic won't immediately pull the hood and begin checking for loose spark plugs and battery cables. Tracking down the dysfunction typically starts by consulting with the owner, conducting a thorough history of onset, symptoms, etc., and then performing a detailed inspection that leads to the "key lesion" - the low tire. From information garnered during the evaluation process, the mechanic is able to systematically work their way though the suspension system, motor mounts and fuel-injection system to restore optimal motor functioning.
The same applies to the client with a flat foot and short leg. A good body mechanic doesn't treat a hyperpronated foot in isolation but looks for compensations along the kinetic chain that might have developed as a result of the shortened extremity. Kinks traveling from the head down (TMJ, O-A, scoliosis, cranial distortion, etc.) are labeled descending syndromes, while asymmetry caused by pronated feet, short legs, knock-knees, etc. are referred to as ascending syndromes. (Figure 4) Any soft-tissue or bony compensation that distorts the vertebral column's S-shaped curve will overwork the anterior and posterior spring systems, resulting in stress and pain.
Stirrup Spring System
The automobile analogy provides a nice segue for introducing a third biomechanical "sling" critical in driving the myoskeletal engine. Known as the stirrup spring system (SSS), this antigravity propulsion pump delivers energy from the tibialis anterior/peroneus longus stirrup through the biceps femoris and sacrum to provide rotary torque that "winds up" intervertebral joints and deep collagen structures. Figure 5 depicts a few key SSS muscles activated during running. Although, I agree with Gracovetsky that efficient movement requires humans to possess some kind of recovery pulse to avoid loss of kinetic energy into the ground during gait, the biomechanics of how that pulse is delivered is debatable.
Gait analysis is best understood when viewed just prior to heel strike, as illustrated in Figure 5. For the SSS to achieve optimum elastic recoil, two neurologically driven maneuvers must orchestrate in perfect harmony. With hip extensors (biceps femoris and G-max) maximally stretched:
Walking and running trigger various degrees of force through the stirrup, knee, lateral thigh, biceps femoris and sacrotuberous ligament. The amount of force at heel strike determines how much lumbopelvic counter-rotation takes place and what muscles/ligaments are recruited. Once the pulse reaches the pelvis, the mechanics become more complex.
At this point, Gracovetsky and I part ways. He believes the recovery pulse at right heel strike possesses sufficient strength to travel unimpeded up the leg, through the sacrotuberous and long dorsal sacroiliac ligaments, and into the ipsilateral multifidi, longissimus and iliocostalis. Erector spinae contraction then causes right lumbar sidebending and reciprocal pelvic counter-rotation. Although this intriguing firing order does play a major role in running, it differs a bit from my interpretation of Greenman's heel strike mechanics during walking.
Myoskeletal Engine Possibility
Notice in Greenman's illustration (Box 1, Figures 1 and 2) at right heel strike, the sacrum, pelvis and lumbar spine are all left rotated. This implies that during the walking cycle, heel strike probably doesn't transmit adequate force to sidebend the lumbars and counter-rotate the pelvis, as Gracovetsky infers. A myoskeletal-engine firing order that seems to best fit Greenman's illustration has the stirrup pulse traveling through the biceps femoris and sacrotuberous ligament, tugging on the lateral sacral angle, and (with help from the quadratus femoris and G-max), left-rotating the entire pelvic bowl in a transverse plane.
Gracovetsky's spinal engine theory is based on the assumption humans possess no muscles capable of directly rotating the pelvis. But if one follows the chain of events beginning at heel strike to the stance phase, it appears the sacrum and pelvis perform complex maneuvers enhanced by many smaller but extremely important muscles that do possess the capability to directly and indirectly rotate the pelvis. At first glance, it seems an insignificant point, so long as the final result is a smooth cross-patterned gait. However, it implies the possibility of a different SSS firing-order pattern traveling through the lumbopelvis and thus the need for alternative assessment and treatment sequences.
Stance Phase Is True Coupled Motion
The myoskeletal SSS theory relies on Harrison Fryette's 1st Law of Spinal Motion3 which (paraphrasing) states that in the presence of normal lumbar lordosis, vertebral and sacral rotation and sidebending occurs to opposite sides. (Figure 6) Gracovetsky believes this coupled motion takes place at heel strike and I see it happening during the stance phase. In my model, the following actions occur during the one-legged stance phase (right limb):
Last, but not least, the lateral spring system (LSS) depicted in Figure 8 might be one of the most unappreciated of all the body's antigravity structures.
Driven by the hip's abductors, this elegant myofascial gait-enhancer "cocks' the ipsilateral innominate and, just prior to push-off, right-sidebends the rotating pelvis so the other three spring systems can smoothly swing the left leg through. (Box 1, Figure 5) All is well if gluteus medius and minimus are properly toned and firing in correct sequence. Regrettably, this spring system commonly is skewed as other abductor muscles overpower the weak glutes.
Figure 9 illustrates the need for greater contralateral OL recruitment in athletes such as hurdlers and running backs. However, during normal gait, both quadratus muscles should be relatively silent. Thus, the ideal abduction firing-order pattern from stance through toe-off should be: gluteus medius/minimus; co-contraction of the ipsilateral adductors; tensor fascia latae; piriformis (synergistic stabilizer) and quadratus lumborum.
A greatly underestimated source of discogenic and facet joint pain arises when the ipsilateral QL fires first, "hip-hikes" the innominate, and forces the ipsilateral leg to try to swing through.
These people walk like a block with a labored gait. Seen in many golfers and other athletes who participate in one-sided sports, this common QL substitution pattern is quite easy to assess and correct. Figures 10A and 10B demonstrate two QL releases that help drag down a hip-hiked (posteriorly rotated) ilium. Unfortunately, fixing the QL problem won't completely restore proper firing order if the glute medius/minimus are weak. Fast-paced spindle-stim techniques and "clam" home re-training exercises using resistance tubing are a simple solution. Although most clients like deep gluteal massage and stretching, these traditional bodywork maneuvers alter the hip-abductor firing order and destabilize the pelvis. Weak glutes = future hip replacements.
Sports and the Spring Systems
Many athletes (and therapists) believe if a little stretch is good, more is better. Bombarding the physiologic barriers through over-stretching and excessive deep-tissue work not only jeopardizes ligamentous stability, but also causes loss of recoil and balance in the body's intricate spring systems. No one questions that chronically shortened (fibrosed) tendons, fascia, ligaments and joint capsules require restoration of flexibility, but what about weak, overstretched and neurologically inhibited tissues? Certain structures such as the thoracolumbar and lower abdominal fascia must retain a certain amount of stiffness to store and release elastic energy while providing core stability. Myofibroblast receptors embedded in deep fascial tissues might prove to be the missing link responsible for enhancing power in the four spring systems.4 See Box 2 for spring-system balancing tips.
Fast-paced myoskeletal spindle-stimulating techniques combined with Vladimir Janda's upper- and lower-crossed syndrome balancing routines are a complementary and essential starting point in the myoskeletal engine method. Tonifying typically weak muscles via "spindle-stim" maneuvers and home re-training exercises helps establish proper firing-order patterns while restoring cross-patterned gait. Loss of reciprocal (coupled) motion between the lumbar spine and sacrum probably is the leading cause of chronic low back pain. A testament to this assertion is the fact the L5-S1 intervertebral disc receives more surgical procedures than any other spinal segment. Bottom line: Discs hate sustained compression but love storing and releasing rotary torque.
The theoretical approaches presented in this two-part series represent an ongoing personal journey into the captivating world of gait. Attempting to blend Gracovetsky and Greenman's gait-analysis theories has opened a Pandora's Box of additional inquiries questioning how ascending and descending syndromes (flat feet, TMJ, knee injuries, etc.) destabilize pelvic and lumbar spine balance. What seems clear is the necessity for restoring perfect coordination and antigravity function to all four spring systems. Energy conservation during walking or running demands all systems fire in a precise order at just the right moment to accomplish this task. I've become married to the idea that all the body's global and core structures must work harmoniously to produce rhythmic and effortless movement during normal activities and athletic endeavors. Try experimenting with spring system balancing routines and elevate your hurting clients and competing athletics to a new level of health.
Click here for more information about Erik Dalton, PhD.
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