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Physical Exam 101: The Hands
I am sure you are familiar with the old adage: "When the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail."
The Science of Stretching
In 1986, Rob DeCastella set a course record by running the Boston Marathon in 2:07:51, just 39 seconds off the world record.
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.
Immunizations by Colorado DCs: Really?
You probably didn't hear about it, but back on Nov. 21, 2013, the Board of Directors of the Colorado Chiropractic Association (CCA) adopted "immunization authority" for Colorado DCs as its No. 2 legislative goal.
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!
Vaccines and Chiropractic: Evidence-Based Medicine or Medical Dogma?
Right or wrong, the chiropractic profession has historically been against vaccinations. However, a growing trend within the profession is seeking to reverse this position.
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.
Are You a Bad Chiropractic Patient?
My father was a great DC. In fact, as you might expect, he was the doctor of chiropractic I measured all other doctors against. Sadly, he died at age 61 when I was in my early 30s.
Fibromyalgia: Put the Pain in Its Place
While some fibromyalgia patients respond favorably to regular chiropractic care, others experience minimal relief. Unfortunately, many of these patients must rely on pharmacological management to relieve their constant pain.
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.
Coding for the Subluxation: ICD-9 vs. ICD-10
When I attended chiropractic school, I was taught that chiropractors approach health care differently than the traditional medical establishment.
A Chinese Medicine Story: An Interview with Mazin Al-Khafaji
Mazin Al-Khafaji's work has interested me for years. In February 2014, we invited him for the second time to speak at the Southwest Symposium in Austin, Texas.
Knee Pain From the Kinetic Chain
As practitioners of manual medicine, chiropractors often treat patients suffering from knee pain.
Why You Should Include the Single-Leg Stance Test in Every Patient Assessment
The single-leg stance (SLS) test, also known as the single-limb stance test, unipedal stance test or one-legged stance / balance test, is often used in the geriatric population to assess static postural and balance control.
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.
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.
Curbing Label Overwhelm
For the average consumer, reading a food package can be overwhelming: natural, organic, non-GMO, gluten free, free range ... you get the picture.
Remembering Clarence Gonstead and 50 Years of the Gonstead Clinic
Dr. Clarence Selmer Gonstead (1898-1978) took chiropractic practice from back-alley bone setting to an understandable biomechanical science. His life was dedicated to clinical competency.
By the Numbers: 3 Common Financial Mistakes With Major Consequences
Warren Buffett is on record for sharing the hidden art of becoming wealthy and making it simple enough for anyone to grasp.
May, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 05
The Progression of Airway Obstruction
By Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD and Thomas M. Walsh II, DDS
Subtle progressions that reduce the quality of our clients' lives and contribute to many of our clients' chronic somatic problems continues as a theme for this column. Thomas Walsh, DDS offers his 33 years of clinical experience as a general dentist and extensive orthodontics training to bring to light the progression of airway obstruction.
Air is one of our greatest needs for survival as human beings. The "airway is the tube" through which we breathe. It begins at the opening of the nostrils and continues all the way to the lungs. Visualize this tube as the snorkel through which we breathe. The diameter, shape and volume of this tube regulates the rate of exchange between oxygen entering the lungs and the exiting of carbon dioxide out of the lungs. A large diameter airway encourages an easy passage of air whereas a small diameter airway generates a greater resistance to airflow in both directions.
This essential airway tube is formed in utero and continues to develop from infancy until the teenage years. The airway is comprised of multiple spaces including the: nasal chamber; sinuses; and the upper, middle and lower pharynx. In normal growth, these chambers need to form in proportion to the size of the individual. That is to say that one needs a tube to breathe through that is large enough in diameter to support respiration during sleep and daily activity. The genetic design (preprogrammed in our DNA) mediates the enlargement of the bones, muscles, connective tissue etc., of our face and throat, to provide room for these spaces of the airway.1
Unfortunately, many times this airway tube does not form properly. A malformed airway can wreak havoc with muscle tone and head position. Research has clearly correlated head posture with mandibular position and temporomandibular joint disorders.2-7 Many of your clients will likely have these problems. They may complain of pain in the following muscles: masseters, sternocleidomastoid muscles (SCMs), trapezius, scalenes, splenius capitis and cervicis, medial and lateral pterygoids, temporalis and even the muscles of the low back. Simply put, if an airway is obstructed, a person will instinctively modify their muscle function to optimize or open the airway. This postulation reflects the essence of the Inside-Out Paradigm.
Clients rarely sense that they have a problem with their airway. (Dr. Walsh: "After 33 years of practicing dentistry, not one growing child or adult client has ever reported to me that they have a small airway.") The development of the airway is controlled by the autonomic nervous system of the growing child. Nature (your biologic engineer) detects this progressively developing constriction in the airway and makes alternate plans involving compensatory patterns of the musculoskeletal system.
For example, if the constriction is in the nasal cavity, the growing child will start to breathe through the mouth instead of the nose. The muscles of the face will pull open on the lower jaw, the mandible, and redirect the growth of this mandible to a more vertical or open position.8 If the airway obstruction occurs in the middle to lower oral pharynx (throat) the individual will likely extend their head forward to help open this airway tube.9-11 Again, this occurs without any conscious awareness within the individual. The head has now extended forward beyond the normal plane of vertical posture.
Forward head posture is very common and easily misunderstood. It is the opinion of these authors that many cases of forward head posture relate back to early childhood airway disorders, and improper muscle function of the oral cavity and have been clinically correlated to a congenitally short or an emotionally reactive esophagus.12
That being said, it is very difficult to separate the primary cause or etiology. We have the case of the proverbial chicken and the egg scenario, i.e., which came first? For some individuals the muscle function was altered first and in other children the airway obstruction occurred first.
There are many contributors to airway obstruction. Common influences include the following: improper swallowing habits developed from bottle nursing, air pollutants, food allergies, junk foods, broken nose, deviated septum, improper growth of the jaws (the maxilla and mandible), improper tooth position, imbalanced facial muscles, oral habits such as thumb sucking and many more. The thread that links all of these issues to you and your practice tends to be the compensatory forward head posture and associated muscle pain.
Feel this. Your head weighs about 12 pounds much like a bowling ball. Imagine if we placed a stick inside the hole of the bowling ball. Supporting this ball would not be difficult assuming the stick were directly under the bowling ball. Now, let's extend the bowling ball (your head) out beyond the stick (your spine) at a 45-degree angle. Suddenly the force on your spine from your head is dramatically increased. Forward head posture associated with airway obstructions places your neck and shoulders at a leverage disadvantage. It is reasonable to expect cervical bone remodeling and muscle pain to occur over time.
Airway obstructions and improper oral muscle balance commencing near infancy or in a growing individual have been linked to many systemic disorders later in life. These include the following: dental malocclusions, TMJ joint disorders, distorted faces, obstructive sleep apnea in children and adults, bed wetting, migraine like headaches, neck and back pain, lower IQ, stunted growth, criminal behavior tendencies, heart damage and increased risk of heart attack, arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis, stroke, acid reflux and digestive disorders, anxiety and depression associated with lack of proper REM sleep, increased risk of occupational accidents and the list goes on.13-18
The following images graphically display the difference between normal and obstructed airways. These images have been acquired through cone beam imaging technology similar to CT scanning but with dramatically reduced radiation exposure as part of a comprehensive dental examination to evaluate patients for temporomandibular joint, orthodontic and sleep disorders. Figure 1 depicts the size and shape of a normal airway from a side view (coronal) and figure 2 from a cross-sectioned view looking downward (transverse). Notice the area identified by the pointer. Figures 3 and 4 demonstrate the reduced airway from both a coronal and transverse view. Note the constriction of the airway.
The diameter of the constricted airway is equivalent to the diameter of drinking through a straw. "Imagine the experience of breathing through a straw" all day. This client was completely unaware of any obstruction in the airway yet suffered from many clinical symptoms including lack of sleep, grinding of their teeth, pain and spasms in the neck and shoulders.
In summary, many of our clients suffer from airway obstructions that progress and worsen through life. As massage therapists we see many individuals with underlying problems as have been described here. Clients with head and neck pain including forward head posture are likely to have airway obstructions and are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea, a known contributor to decreased quality of life and reduced longevity. Your sharp observations can actually save lives.
Click here for more information about Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD.
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