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News in Brief
ACA Adopts New Governance Model; ACA 2017 Awards; CCA Helps Calif. DCs "Share the Love"; $1 Million to Help Advance the Profession; D'Youville Raises the Bar on Anatomy Education; ErRatum.
Clearing Blocks: A Way to Improve Cosmetic Acupuncture
As a Five Element acupuncturist who teaches facial acupuncture classes nationally, I was surprised to learn that one of the basic principles I was taught in school is unfamiliar to most acupuncturists.
Bill With Confidence: Learn What to Collect
Q: I am trying to understand what I may collect from my patient when there is insurance. Do I have to accept the amount allowed by the plan or may I collect up to my billed amount? Please note, I am not a member of any insurance plan.
An Integrated Approach to Chronic Pain
Findings from a unique Medicaid pilot project in Rhode Island involving high-use Medicaid recipients from two health plans were recently presented to the state's Department of Health, demonstrating stellar outcomes with regard to medication use, ER visits, health care costs and patient satisfaction.
Eczema & Acupuncture: A Sound Solution (Part 1)
Eczema affects approximately 3.5 percent of the global population and is one of the most common skin complaints seen by dermatologists.
The Visual Error Scoring System: A Concussion Tool
Postural stability and oculomotor function are the most easily recognized physical indicators of neurologic motor dysfunction associated with concussions.
Women's Hormones: A Western & Eastern Perspective
Sometimes it may seem that you require a degree in medicine to understand hormones and how they function.
New Relationships, Old Trauma: AOM & Other Healing Strategies
Being in love is one the most beautiful and enjoyable experiences. Most of us are willing to pay almost any price to have that experience, and still often find it elusive or fleeting. Navigating the ups and downs of loving relationships are often challenging — even for the most psychologically balanced among us.
Universal Design: Principles & Practice
In many respects, universal design serves as the core of ergonomics. It's also a good tool to use when designing a return-to-work program for injured and/or ill patients. Let's take a closer look at universal design and why it should matter to you and your patients.
Raditation & Your Smartphone: Is it Worth the Risk?
If radial arteries could talk (and in my experience they can to some extent), they would say, "Step away from the smartphone." At least that is the message I am receiving loud and clear as I feel the pulses of many patients.
Is It Time to Rethink Mental Illness? (Pt. 1)
Invariably, patients will ask their chiropractor about depression or various mental illnesses. Some practitioners will reflexively offer a cervical adjustment, suggest St. John's wort or contemplate a referral to a specialist.
Creating Good Business Buzz
What do patients really think about working with you? Rarely do you hear the whole truth. Those who improve may be candid in their gratitude.
An Unexpected Diagnosis: The Result of Lacking Communication
A couple years ago I had a case that showed me the importance of open communication between health practitioners. We need to show up with less fear, and let go of our judgments so we can do better for the patient.
Give Yourself the Digital Advantage
When you see this article in the print version of this issue and swear you read it already, don't be alarmed: you probably did. That's because by that time, the May issue will have been available online in digital format for three weeks.
Balancing Spring Challenges
As the winter months come to a close and warmer spring weather appears, patients may begin to present with new challenging pattern presentations.
A Major Role in Back Pain: The Multifidus
Back pain affects roughly 80 percent of the population at one time or another and is one of the leading causes of doctor visits.
Why I Quit Doing House Calls
My father was a chiropractor who did house calls, so when I became a DC, I figured doing house calls was part of the job. My March article recalled my experience as a small boy, accompanying my dad while he went to patients' homes to treat them.
Taking the Chiropractic Message to the Press
"There is no better place on earth to have a news event," the National Press Club boasts, and it's easy to understand why: Every year, the 108-year-old Washington, D.C.-based organization hosts countless press conferences on the hottest topics impacting America and often the world.
A Daily Strategy for Heavy-Metal Detox
In modern society, we are constantly exposed to heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury. These heavy metals have no essential biochemical roles in our body, and conversely, can cause us a great deal of harm if they build up to toxic levels.
January, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 01
Flexor Hallucis Longus Dysfunction
By Whitney Lowe, LMT
Soft-tissue foot pain is widespread, especially in active people. Problems such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, or tarsal tunnel syndrome are common causes of chronic pain and disability.However, another muscle in the foot should be considered when investigating medial ankle or plantar-surface foot pain. Disorders of the flexor hallucis longus (FHL) are routinely overlooked and may frequently be misdiagnosed as some of these other foot problems mentioned above.1
The proximal attachment of the FHL is on the distal 2/3 of the posterior fibula and the interosseous membrane. It is one of three muscles in the deep posterior compartment of the leg, and shares that compartment with the tibialis posterior and flexor digitorum longus (FDL). These muscles course together through the tarsal tunnel on the medial side of the ankle (Figure 1). The FHL's distal attachment is on the plantar surface of the hallux (great toe).
Along its path, the tendon must curve around the sustentaculum tali, a prominent bony landmark on the medial side of the foot (Figure 1). One common cause of FHL dysfunction is friction and irritation of the tendon at this site. The FHL tendon also passes between two sesamoid bones at the metatarso-phalangeal joint where the first metatarsal meets the hallux. Irritation of the tendon or its synovial sheath can also occur at this area.1
The FHL muscle is difficult to palpate along most of its length because it is so deep in the posterior compartment. It is easier to palpate around the medial malleolus near the tarsal tunnel. It is the most posterior of the three tendons that curve around the medial malleolus. When palpating in an anterior direction from the Achilles tendon on the medial side of the heel, it is the first tendon encountered (Figure 1). The tendon also becomes more prominent to palpation during resisted toe flexion.
In most cases of FHL dysfunction, normal anatomical structures are the root of the problem. However, anatomical anomalies can account for the same symptoms as well. These anomalies may not be identifiable without more detailed investigation such as MRI. For example, one author reported a case where there were persistent symptoms of FHL dysfunction that did not respond to conservative treatment. Upon surgical investigation, the patient was found to have an accessory FHL muscle that could account for the larger muscle mass and symptoms of irritation resulting from activity.2 This anomaly may not be as rare as it seems because it has appeared in other references as well.3-4
The most common problems with the FHL are tenosynovitis, muscle strains and tendinosis. These conditions often occur together due to constant friction or irritation of the muscle. As a result, the collection of these conditions is sometimes called flexor hallucis syndrome.1,5
Of these different pathologies, stenosing tenosynovitis is the most common. Stenosis means narrowing, and tenosynovitis is an inflammatory irritation between the tendon and its surrounding synovial sheath. Not all tendons are surrounded by a synovial sheath so tenosynovitis only occurs in certain tendons. Most tendons with a synovial sheath are found near the distal extremities as they pass under a binding retinaculum (Figure 1). In FHL dysfunction, stenosing tenosynovitis occurs at the tendon's narrow channel where it passes the posterior aspect of the talus and the sustentaculum tali. Repeated pressure against these surfaces causes irritation.
Stenosing tenosynovitis of the FHL is reported most commonly in ballet dancers, but also occasionally in runners.4,5 High levels of tensile stress are placed on the FHL when the dancer goes en pointe (Figure 2). In this position, there is a forceful plantar flexion as the entire weight of the body is being borne on the tips of the toes. The toes are held in flexion and the foot is in extreme plantar flexion. The strong tensile load on the FHL tendon may cause irritation when it is pressed against the sustentaculum tali.
A condition called hallux saltans may also develop as part of FHL overuse. Hallux saltans is the development of a nodule along the FHL tendon and/or its sheath. This nodule may produce a sort of popping effect of the hallux during contraction and elongation because the nodule drags across adjacent tissues. The popping sensation is the same process that occurs with trigger finger in the hand. This popping or triggering is accentuated by friction between the nodule and the flexor retinaculum that lies immediately superficial to the tendon (Figure 1).
Problems may occur with the FHL tendon on the plantar surface of the foot as well. Scar tissue from tendon irritation or plantar fasciitis may cause the tendons of the FHL and flexor digitorum longus (FDL) to adhere to each other (Figure 3). Adhesion between these structures is evident if there is a significant clawing of the other toes when the FHL is activated during attempted flexion of just the great toe.
In addition to problems with the tendon and the tendon sheath, the FHL is susceptible to overuse muscle strains near the distal musculotendinous junction. In the FHL, the distal musculotendinous junction is located just posterior to the medial malleolus. Strains in this region may be accentuated by friction forces of the muscle and tendon against the posterior aspect of the tarsal bones just before the tendon enters the tarsal tunnel.
Due to its anatomical arrangement, the FHL muscle is vulnerable to many overuse conditions. However, FHL dysfunction is not as common as other foot pathologies, so problems in this muscle-tendon unit are often misdiagnosed. All of these dysfunctions can benefit from soft-tissue treatment, so it is valuable for the massage practitioner to have a thorough understanding of this pathology, as well as how to evaluate and treat it. In a future issue, we'll explore how best to identify and treat FHL dysfunction.
Click here for more information about Whitney Lowe, LMT.
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