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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.).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
News in Brief
NBCE Launches Computer-Based Testing Era; California Chiropractors Get Expanded DOT Exam Privileges; New Jeff Hays Documentary.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Spirit of the Point
After receiving a large amount of positive feedback on my San Zhen Protocols series, I have decided to focus this article on some relevant clinical aspects of acupuncture therapy prior to moving on to San Zhen Protocols III.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
July, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 07
The Risks of Vascular Compression in Soft-Tissue Therapy
By Whitney Lowe, LMT
The muscles in the anterior neck can become hypertonic or develop myofascial trigger points as a result of injury, poor posture, or simple overexertion. Some anterior cervical muscles are superficial and easily accessible, while others are deep and difficult to access with soft-tissue therapies.Because of sensitive neurological and vascular structures in the neck, it is important to reconsider the wisdom of applying treatments to the deep anterior neck muscles.
The two main muscles that lie closest to vascular structures in the anterior neck are the longus colli and longus capitis. Practitioners applying manual treatments to these deep neck flexors could run the risk of causing a serious injury to their client, such as stroke or drop in blood pressure, due to the proximity of the vascular structures.
One of the structures that can be impacted with pressure from soft-tissue treatment to the anterior neck is the carotid sinus, which is located at the division between the internal and external carotid arteries (Figure 1). There is a slight enlargement of the arterial diameter at this juncture where the two arterial branches separate. A group of very important sensory cells, called baroreceptors, are also located in the carotid sinus. The baroreceptors play a primary role in the regulation of blood pressure and heart rate.
Carotid Sinus Hypersensitivity
In a condition called carotid sinus hypersensitivity (CSH) or carotid sinus syncope, the carotid sinus develops an increased sensitivity to pressure. Syncope is a term meaning loss of consciousness or postural tone caused by a decrease in blood pressure to the brain. Unintentional pressure on the carotid sinus from massage treatment of deep anterior neck muscles could cause adverse effects on blood pressure or heart rate in a person with CSH.
For a person with hypersensitivity in the baroreceptors, even a mild stimulation to the neck can result in bradycardia (reduced heart rate) and a drop in blood pressure.1 However, CSH is not common so clients may not have any problem with pressure applied in this region. For the few that do have this sensitivity, the consequences of pressure on the baroreceptors could be serious. Unfortunately, a massage practitioner would not know if their client had this sensitivity in advance. It is also unlikely that the client would know they have the condition either. Consequently, it is a bit of a statistical gamble to perform massage on the deep anterior neck muscles. There are many practitioners moving away from this type of treatment for safety reasons.
There is another concern with pressure applied in the region of the carotid sinus. In addition to housing the baroreceptors, the shape of the carotid sinus allows this structure to be a repository for arterial plaque buildup. Plaque that has collected on the inner walls of the arteries is a well-known danger. Unintentional pressure applied to the carotid sinus could dislodge some of these plaque concentrations causing them to migrate through the arteries and cause a stroke.
Practitioners may think that by avoiding pressing on tissues with a pulse, they can feel confident that they are not pressing on vascular structures. However due to the multiple layers of soft-tissues, massage can put pressure on other nearby structures that subsequently press on the arteries, so this method is by no means foolproof.
The possibility of adverse affects for anterior neck treatment should lead the practitioner to explore alternatives in soft-tissue treatment for the deep anterior cervical muscles. Reducing hypertonicity can be accomplished by techniques that do not apply direct pressure, such as facilitated or static stretching. Facilitated stretching can be very effective in reducing tightness in the deep neck flexors without putting pressure on the carotid sinus. A position such as that shown in Figure 2 is used for these facilitated stretching methods.
However, the practitioner should be cautious even with stretching. Ironically, there is a risk of a different arterial compression with the neck flexor stretching position shown in Figure 2. The vertebral arteries run through the transverse processes of the cervical vertebrae on each side of the neck. They join to form the basilar artery, which then extends into the cranium to supply blood to the brain (Figures 3,4).
When the head is held in hyperextension or rotation (or a combination of both) the vertebral arteries can be compressed, causing a reduction in blood flow to the brain.2 Compression of these arteries is a condition called vertebrobasilar insufficiency (VBI). Symptoms of VBI include vertigo, dizziness, seeing stars, disorientation, ringing in the ears, or general feelings of sensory disturbance. If the practitioner is working in this area or moving the client's head into rotation or hyperextension and they report any of these symptoms, treatment should immediately cease and the client's head should be brought back to neutral.
The majority of problems with VBI result from hyperextension or rotation movements of the head. However, due to the location of the vertebral arteries it is possible that VBI could also occur from common massage techniques in which pressure is applied to the suboccipital region. While it is a rare occurrence, some people could have VBI from techniques such as those depicted in Figure 5, with only the weight of the head applying pressure. Techniques such as those used in CranioSacral Therapy where pressure is on the occiput and not the suboccipital soft tissues will not cause VBI. Problems occur when pressure is applied directly into the suboccipital soft tissues.
There is a way to test for the possibility of vertebral artery compression prior to performing massage techniques. This procedure is called the vertebral artery test and it is considered an accurate means of predicting VBI.3 To perform the test, the practitioner has the client in a seated position and instructs the client to hold their head in extension or extension with rotation (as if looking over the shoulder). If within about 30 seconds, the client reports the beginning of VBI symptoms, the practitioner should consider the client susceptible to arterial compression. Techniques that would put the client in a position that could aggravate the compression should then be avoided.
Massage is one of the safest interventions for treating soft-tissue pain and injury conditions in the cervical region. However, soft-tissue therapy is not benign. As these examples show, there are times when massage or other soft-tissue therapies could have serious detrimental effects and that requires the practitioner to think carefully about appropriate treatments to these sensitive areas.
Click here for more information about Whitney Lowe, LMT.
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