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Synergy Doesn't Happen in Silos: Acupuncture in Hospitals and Other Healthcare Settings
As acupuncture and traditional East Asian medicine continue to intersect and integrate with biomedical approaches, the conversation about integration expands and becomes richer.
Recreational Cannabis Use and TCM
Many people are drawn to cannabis for its effects physically, mentally and emotionally. Medically, cannabis has some legitimate uses, however the scope of this article is limited to the recreational use of cannabis.
Primary Spine Care: Addressing Concerns & Criticisms
The Dec. 1, 2013 issue of Dynamic Chiropractic included an article describing the implementation of a training program for primary spine practitioners (PSP) within a metropolitan region and supported by a large BC/BS plan.
Impacting Chiropractic's Future With Technology
When it comes to electronic health records (EHR), Robert Moberg and Dr. Steven Kraus are two of the leading industry experts on the topic.
Will You Be an Amplifer or a Mute?
These times are changing, and changing quickly. There have been many challenges to this profession throughout the past few years. The challenge is to talk, then talk and talk some more about this medicine.
TCM Congress in Rothenburg is Largest in Western World
In the medieval town of Rothenburg, deep set within the Bavarian countryside in Southern Germany, the TCM Kongress Rothenburg each year draws around 1.200 participants from more than 40 different countries to attend the biggest TCM conference in the Western world.
Help Update the LBP Practice Guideline
The Council on Chiropractic Guidelines and Practice Parameters has announced the release of an updated Clinical Practice Guideline for Chiropractic Management of Low Back Pain for stakeholder review and comment.
Interpersonal Skills 101: Enhancing the Value of Our Patient Interactions
Recently, I read an interesting article in our local newspaper titled "The Value of Human Interaction." The article presented comments from a senior editor for Fortune magazine who discussed "Civility in the Business World."
The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biopsychosocial and Ecopsychologica Medicine
Chinese medicine speaks of alignment between humans, heaven and earth. It is a complex view with a focus upon relationship. These are comprehensive ideas with no specific terms in contemporary medical practice.
Atypical Femoral Fractures and Bisphosphonate Use: What to Watch For
Bisphosphonates (BP) are popular drugs, with more than 8 billion in sales in 2008; however, profits have declined as patents began expiring. Nonetheless, BP remain the most commonly prescribed drugs for patients at risk of osteoporotic fractures, with several million prescriptions written every year.
B Vitamins Improve Memory, Prevent Brain Atrophy
The 2010 OPTIMA study showed that the accelerated rate of brain atrophy in elderly with mild cognitive impairment could be slowed via supplementation with homocysteine-lowering B vitamins, which included folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6.
Expanding Access, Branch by Branch
The big news coming from Capitol Hill isn't merely the recent introduction of a pair of bills designed to expand chiropractic services in the Veterans Affairs and military health care systems; after all, similar legislation has made its way through Congress before, never reaching the Oval Office for presidential signature.
The Dietary Supplement Research Dilemma
I do not care what the truth is, one way or another; I just want to know it. And when it comes to dietary supplements, the truth can be hard to find for a number of reasons.
The Way We Are Designed: A Conversation with Gil Hedley, PhD
I was first introduced to the work of Gil Hedley by Tom DiFerdinando. He gifted me Gil's DVD series.
There Really is No Room for Sexism
Recently, Matteo* (a transgender male) approached me during a break in an advanced shiatsu class in Berlin where he was one of two men in a group of 20 women. "Pamela. Don't forget to remind the translator to include male endings."
A Reality Check – and a Chance to Educate
Imagine working in the public relations department of nutrition retailer General Nutrition Corporation (GNC) and reading the The New York Times announce...
Converting More Patients to Your Practice
In 2013 and 2014, the theme was "the money is in the list." This meant that if you had a big email list, you were really making some "cha-ching." Unfortunately, having thousands of emails doesn't equate to thousands of dollars in profit.
Low Back Pain: Posture and Movement Analysis
When performing static and dynamic movement analysis of the lumbopelvic hip area, begin with standing visual posture analysis of the pelvis, and then perform lumbar range of motion and assess what you might see during normal versus abnormal lumbar flexion motion.
A Well-Kept Secret: 5 Element Acupuncture, Part II
Supervising acupuncture interns at a TCM college, it has always struck me how funny it is to hear the clinic manager tell the patients that the Five Element clinic specializes in treating emotions, as if patients with physical pain have no emotions!
An Excerpt from TCM Case Studies: Pediatrics
This excerpt is reprinted with permission from Jamie Wu. TCM Case Studies: Pediatrics was released in 2014 by People's Medical Publishing House.
Avoid Random Treatment of Trigger Points (Part 2)
We must acknowledge that the fascia, which surrounds literally everything in our bodies, including every muscle fiber, is more than just a covering.
November, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 11
The Progression of Cervical Stenosis Toward Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy (CSM), Part 3
By Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD
Since beginning to describe the progressions of chronic dysfunctions last year, I propose that my research and intuitive extrapolations have tripped over many of the default settings of the human aging process.1 My instincts suggest that there are more progressions than what has occurred to me. Six appear to be clear.
I have already proposed and described how gallbladder difficulties may underlie many of the gastrointestinal difficulties and their somatic expressions that accompany aging.2 Included in part 2 of that series, the connection between the progression of gallbladder dysfunction and the emergence of type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus was noted. In this present series, I am describing and postulating how many motor-coordination and chronic sensory complaints are likely to be associated with cervical stenosis progressing toward cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM).3
The other four proposed progressions include: osteoporosis, atherosclerosis (deposition of fatty materials in arterial walls), desiccation and dehydration, and senility (the cognitive decline associated with dementia and Alzheimer's). I plan to explore these in future articles, so I invite you to consider what other progressions may exist and either let me know or write about them yourself. Please send me a copy. Let's combine our profession's capacity for astute observation, our willingness to listen to our clients and, our collective common sense to make a lasting contribution to humanity.
One of the most reliable indicators that one or more progressions may be occurring is that a client presents with one or more chronic somatic complaints without a recent precipitating event. My clinical experience has repeatedly shown that for a large majority of clients, chronic difficulties are the "canary in the coal mine" of underlying degenerative progressions. These fly under the radar of medical testing because they take decades to undermine physiologic function until reaching a tipping point of degradation and clinically detectable expression. Understanding such progressions will add to our collective ability to assist clients to make more informed medical and lifestyle choices.
All of these subtle progressions contributing to declining capacity, function and pain have two common denominators: the body's capacity for delivering nutritious oxygenated blood and the length of time it takes for the return of venous and lymphatic fluids to deliver the raw materials so that the lungs and heart can make new blood. As massage therapists, facilitating the movement of bodily fluids is at the core of our training. We are uniquely oriented to assist our clients to maintain the quality of their lives as they age.
Returning to the progression of cervical myelopathy, let's begin with my own cervical MRI from the previous article. The process of having an MRI is fairly simple and painless, especially one that allows you to sit or stand. Reading the radiologist's report however, was more of an emotional experience than I had anticipated. Even though I have reviewed thousands of medical reports, to read one that described what is going on inside of my own neck was sobering yet very educational. Early detection translates into an increased field of choices for us all.
My report described C4-5, C5-6, and C6-7 as having moderate to severe disc compression with posterior bulging of the discs, one of which is impinging upon the left side of the thecal sac (the meninges). It also noted left-sided and right-sided foraminal narrowings (where the spinal nerves exit) between each of these vertebrae. The report certainly helped me to understand how and why my upper extremity pain and numbness could express itself on either side or bilaterally and why my left lower extremity has been more symptomatic over many years. There was no evidence of frank spinal cord compression, only the stenosis or pinching of the left-sided thecal sac at C4-5.
In a discussion with my personal physician, he noted that he has seen many such MRI reports that reflected more significant stenosis along with frank spinal cord compression, but without accompanying symptomatic pain or numbness; instead, the patient's motor coordination was generally more the presenting problem. I also requested that a retired radiologist take a look at the films to confirm what the report stated. His response was, "What are you going to do, Dale? You're 55; it's not bad enough for surgery." My response was a declaration that I was going to attend to the integration of my soul and personality, seek out excellent bodywork, refrain from working with my neck in extension and arms over my head, as I do trimming the tropical trees and plants in our yard, and seek out nutritional sources to quell the activation of the inflammatory process. "That makes sense," he concluded. He also noted that more information would have been obtained had the MRI been done with my neck in extension as this would more directly activate the cervical ligaments. So, do pass this on to any clients who might seek out such information for themselves.
When I subsequently asked an orthopedic physician who is a client and has had surgery for CSM himself for his opinion of my MRI results, he advised me that what he saw did warrant surgery. I didn't want to hear that. This is what our clients are very often faced with - real dilemmas with differing medical opinions. I took to heart my personal physician's distillation of the human condition from his many years of medical experience: "Clots and inflammation are what disable us leading to our eventual deaths." Thus, based on his advice, the course of action I am pursuing is to contain the inflammatory process through the use of prescription-strength omega-3 salmon oil, baby aspirin and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication at the first sign of an escalation, and regulating more judiciously the number of hours I work each day in my clinic. This approach has reduced my daily upper extremity pain and numbness dramatically.
I am pleased that I followed my instincts in seeking out more information. I consistently offer this caveat to clients: "If you don't look, you don't know." Medical tests have their place and they are not always conclusive. However, with additional information we all have more perspective from which to make a choice.
Based on my research thus far, my current guidelines for encouraging clients to explore a surgical option for CSM include the following somatic profiles (individually or in combination): unrelenting upper extremity/neck pain or numbness, atrophy of the deltoid muscle group or muscular hand wasting (usually associated with the muscles of the thumb or the central portion of the palm), the development of an ataxic gait pattern (a clumsy and jerky walking style), and an escalating frequency of urinary or bowel urgency or episodes of incontinence. This last symptom is the one that slides under the radar for many.
It is important to consider that more than one degenerative progression may simultaneously co-exist in the same body. This was the case for both of the clients with CSM for whom I was unable to stem the tide of its progression. One was a male client who has been chronically overweight for years and I suspect has gallbladder dysfunction and/or progressed into a pre-diabetic state. For the other, a female client, her osteoporosis had insidiously accelerated despite her best efforts to track it with periodic bone density tests.
Researching this progression has been a humbling and rewarding personal and professional experience. Humbling to experience the "zone of limits" that my genetics and trauma history may be signaling in my own aging process. Rewarding in the vast appreciation for how well our bodies do adapt overall and in the realization that the progression of CSM is truly a broad symptomatic continuum that affects some more than others, both functionally and clinically across a wide spectrum of somatic expressions.
In my next installment of this column, I will touch on the issue of gender and CSM, and finish up by discussing my studies of CSM.
Click here for more information about Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD.
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