resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Vitamin D Fails to Help Knee OA? The Proper Perspective
The March 8, 2016 issue of JAMA includes a study about vitamin D supplementation for osteoarthritis of the knee. This is a really weird study.
An Interview with Amanda Shayle
JW: Can you share with us some of your history and how you became an acupuncturist? What did you do prior to becoming an acupuncturist? Where did you go to school?
The Art of Listening
One of the most important clinical concepts for me was voiced by the legendary physician William Osler. "Listen to your patient, he/she is telling you the diagnosis." After treating literally thousands of patients, it can become almost second nature to quickly discover clues which reveal the underlying diagnosis.
Roots in the Community, Branches Far Beyond
The Jung Tao School of Classical Chinese Medicine (JTS) was founded in 1998 by Sean Christian Marshall in Sugar Grove, North Carolina, a small community near Boone in the state's westernmost mountains.
How to Find and Fix TL Nerve Impingements
The thoracolumbar junction (TLJ) and the peripheral sensory nerves that exit from it are frequent, important and rarely recognized sources of lower back, pelvic and hip pain. Let's outline a clear exam protocol for diagnosing the problem.
The Value of Melatonin in Breast Cancer Prevention and Adjunctive Treatment
Although melatonin (MLT) is best known for its sleep-aid properties and as a natural remedy to prevent jet lag, extensive experimental studies suggest it possesses anticancer activity through several biological mechanisms.
The IME System: A Current Public Health Risk and Solutions That Are Working
I strongly believe in the independent medical examination (IME) system. There are far too many doctors in every profession who are not following E&M protocols and never claim MMI (maximum medical improvement) has occurred for their patients, which has caused financial stress for many private and public carriers.
Asking Patients the Right Questions
When was the last time you asked a patient a question? Maybe 30 seconds ago? But, are you asking the right questions to elicit valuable and useful information? As a healthcare provider, you've likely spent hundreds of hours learning to ask the right questions to gather critical health information from your patients.
Musculoskeletal Disorders Take Center Stage
Looking for the latest on the musculoskeletal pain epidemic and the increasing premium placed on preventive strategies including chiropractic? Check out The Impact of Musculoskeletal Disorders on Americans – Opportunities for Action.
NCCAOM Launches New Membership Organization
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) recently launched a new national membership organization, the NCCAOM Academy of Diplomates.
Filling the Gap: The Role of Alternative Practitioners in a Broken Health Care System
I have been asked many times what got me into alternative medicine. My answer is simple: I want to truly help and make a difference in people's health.
Essentials of Assessment: The Squat
The squat is a simple, fast and functional tool to evaluate patient symmetry and function. As simple and easy as it is to implement, it can yield considerable amounts of valuable, clinically relevant information.
Business Lesson #1: Adapt or Else
My wife and I recently enjoyed an excellent meal at a restaurant recommended by some friends. We often have concerns about restaurant recommendations, as many have been disappointing.
News in Brief
A Moment of Silence for Dr. Stephen Press; New ACA President Elected; F4CP Offers New MemBership Benefit.
Energy: For Life and For Death
Energy is a deep topic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Qi is understood to underlie all of existence, animated or not, and the qi of the living is studied with special attention.
The Rest of the Patient Story
I've written previously about allowing a patient to tell you their story – about taking the time to listen and engage all the aspects of their case history, the injury in question, and the related issues.
Transparency is Key at ASA First Annual Meeting
On March 4th and 5th the American Society of Acupuncturists (ASA) held a successful first annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Building Relationships and Referral Networks with Allopathic Practitioners
Dr. Doug, an orthopedist of 20 years, had heard stories from patients who tried acupuncture. While he was able to address many of their complaints effectively, some appeared to gain additional benefit when their care included TCM.
Recording and Appropriate Billing of Timed Physical Medicine Services
There is a common misunderstanding about timed therapy services and although you do have some knowledge of timed service documentation, based on your comment on the 8-minute rule, your understanding is correct, but incomplete.
Health and Wellness Partnership
Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and The Wellness Center at the LAC + USC Historic General Hospital recently joined forces to extend care to the residents of Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles.
Constructing Our Reality: The Primary Channels and Perception, Part 1
My favorite topic of discussion within Chinese medicine is the acupuncture channel systems. First of all, each of us have them. They are part of our bodies; not something external to us. To learn about the acupuncture channels is to learn about ourselves.
The Power of Eccentric Exercise: Hamstring Injury Prevention and Rehab
For almost 20 years, I've worked with professional athletes who make a living by running really fast. It goes without saying that hamstring injury (HSI) prevention and rehabilitation is a big part of what they expect from a sports chiropractor.
March, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 03
Rib Pain "Can't Get No Respect"
By Erik Dalton, PhD
The legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield coined the phrase "can't get no respect." After careful consideration, I think the same thing could be said of rib pain. It is amazing how little attention or appreciation rib pain receives in the massage therapy community.
Clients typically blame "between-the-blade" pain on tight muscles. Session after session, the therapist beats on the rhomboids and lower traps, only to amplify the problem. In many cases, a simple functional evaluation leads to the true culprit: fixated ribs and intervertebral joints. Not to say muscles don't play an important role in creating and perpetuating rib misalignment, but the muscle itself usually is not the primary pain generator. Highly innervated joint capsules, spinal ligaments and nerve dura often prove to be the main events (key lesions) responsible for long-term pain and disability.
Hypertonic knots palpated in the lamina groove indicate joint dysfunction and an exquisitely tender iliocostalis muscle at the lateral rib angle tells us the rib is fixated in either internal or external rotation (See Fig. 1). I've found external rib torsions to be more common and symptomatic. Below is an example of a sequence of events leading to development of this condition.
Luke, a marathon cyclist, acquired a bad habit of hyper-extending his head, neck and shoulders during training and racing events (See Fig. 2). He presented with dull and sometimes stabbing shoulder-blade pain particularly after a long ride. Luke confided he'd become a "therapy-junkie" over the past three years and sported bruises along his scapular border to prove it. Seated examination revealed tissue-texture abnormality (palpable knots) in the lamina groove at the T3-4 level on his right side. Although neck hyperextension failed to reproduce his symptoms, chin-tucking did flare sharp scapular pain and also caused bony knots to rotate back against my fingers (See Fig. 3).
It was apparent the T3 vertebra was unable to glide forward on T4 during neck flexion, causing the transverse process of T3 to rotate to the side of the motion-restricted joint (See Fig. 4). Adhesive facets usually are an easy fix in acute cases, but long-term cartilage jamming might lead to tissue degradation, protective muscle splinting and osteoligamentous canal pain.
I opted for greater mechanical advantage and specificity by placing Luke in a lateral Sims position (side-lying with arm behind the back). With thumbs meeting in the lamina groove, a slow sustained pin-and-stretch technique was applied to the T3 transverse process as Luke resumed chin-tucking (See Fig. 5). Soon, the deep fibrotic rotatores, multifidi, intertransversarii and levator costalis began to melt, allowing the T3-4 facets to disengage. When it was no longer possible to feel the T3 transverse process pushing against my thumbs, Luke was asked to repeat the neck-flexion test. Although range of motion and pain during chin-tucking had greatly improved, he still felt a deep ache at the extreme end of neck flexion.
In the presence of a dual fixation (rib and vertebral blockage), the associated rib must be carefully evaluated and treated. It's not uncommon for ribs to lose joint-play due to ongoing mechanical stress (microtrauma). To assess, simply follow the T3 rib out to the iliocostalis muscle attachment at the rib angle (medial scapular border) and palpate for extreme tenderness (See Figure 6). Since Luke had a positive "jump reflex" at the iliocostalis, we were able to confirm the presence of an externally torsioned T3 rib.
Fortunately, treatment for the rib torsion is almost identical to the pin-and-stretch technique above, except the thumb pressure is now applied to the superior border of the rib shaft. As Luke began the chin-tucking motion, I asked him to slightly left rotate his head to increase stretch on the rib. This enhanced the ability of my thumbs to internally rotate the rib shaft back into sequence with the rest of the costal cage. However, the rib torsion was a little more stubborn than the vertebral fixation, and when it did completely release, I could hear some crepitus in the costovertebral and transverse joints. To maintain mobility, he was given home-retraining exercises and advice on repositioning his bicycle seat to decrease head hyperextension.
This technique uses bones as levers to release myospasm in the deep transversospinalis and erector spinae groups. Once vertebral and rib fixations have been properly assessed and corrected, normal tone usually is restored to neighboring paravertebral tissues. Once these articular structures recover normal movement within the kinetic chain, deep-tissue work in the area is painless and enjoyable. However, if this articular stretching routine fails to free the dual fixation (due to chronically degraded cartilages), refer the client to high-velocity thrust.
Another commonly misassessed "between-the-blade" pain generator is termed a dorsal dish. Inaccurate understanding of the biomechanics of this dysfunction frequently causes therapists to escalate the pain and sometimes injure the client. Visual observation and thoracic spine palpation reveal a flat spot (approximately T3 to T7) where there should be a convex curve (See Figure 7). If you have access to a plastic spine, contour it until you've established normal lumbar, thoracic and cervical curves. Then, place the spine prone on a table and notice how the T-spine's gentle convex curve continues through the shoulder blades. Now, with a couple fingers, press down on the T5 transverse processes and observe what happens. If your pressure is equal with both fingers, the facet joints will approximate each other causing the intervertebral joints to close bilaterally.
Therapists unfamiliar with the Laws of Spinal Motion commonly dig on the bony knots lying deep to the thick layer of paravertebral tissue, thinking they're releasing trigger points or muscle adhesions. Unfortunately, placing downward pressure on already chronically locked joints really hyperexcites joint mechanoreceptors. Prolonged over-approximation of joint surfaces compacts and, in time, degrades the articular cartilage. Tissue damage might stimulate an inflammatory response that hyperexcites the sensitive chemoreceptors. When mechanoreceptors and chemoreceptors "gang-up" and bombard the neuronal pool with continual noxious stimuli, pain-delivering nociceptors fast track the information to the thalamus, gray matter and other cortical centers. The brain usually responds by locking down the area with protective myospasm. Session after session, the therapist digs on the fibrotic knots until the client finally terminates therapy and moves on in search of someone who can help break their pain-spasm-pain cycle.
Fixing the Flat Spot
Since we're dealing with joints that won't open, examination and treatment follow the same side-lying T3-4 protocol discussed in Luke's case, with two exceptions.
When evaluating the dysfunction, begin spinal-groove palpation one segment below the flat spot and proceed headward with client in flexed position performing chin-tucks. So, if your client has a T3 to T7 dorsal dish, begin at T8 and move up segment by segment, assessing and correcting all vertebra and rib problems on the client's right side. Then, roll them over and perform the identical routine on the opposite side.
Once normal vertebral/rib motion is restored, deep-tissue techniques must be performed with the client prone. Standing on the client's right side, reach across and place extended fingers in the lamina groove so you can hook and scoop the spinalis, longissimus and paravertebral fascia medial to lateral. Ida Rolf used to say, "Dig a hole to allow the spine a place to come back to." After you dig the "guy wires" out of the groove and restore left-sided paravertebral muscle extensibility, walk to the other side and repeat the procedure. Once spinal compression and buckling are removed and extension is restored to the dorsal dish, it's time to share a simple home-retraining exercise.
My favorite (of many) is still the "wall press." With the client standing away from the wall, arms extended, ask for a deep inhalation effort and chin to chest flexion maneuvers. To help neurologically reprogram thoracic extensibility, simply tap with a finger at the T5 spinous process as the client inhales and chin tucks. Engaging the respiratory diaphragm helps expand the costal cage front-to-back and side-to-side. This inhalation movement (respiratory enhancer) activates the scalene, which pull up the top two ribs, the pectoralis minor which helps lift ribs 3-5 and the serratus anterior and posterior, which provides a little "bucket-handle" movement through the lower costal cage.
Pain manifests if a rib loses the ability to properly coordinate movement with the rest of the ribs and spine as part of a functional unit. This would be similar to a rowing team where one oarsman uses his oar out of sequence with the group. Altered rib function can cause difficulty breathing, restricted shoulder movement, referred pain to other areas, and reactive muscle guarding.
Additionally, misaligned ribs can pinch intercostals nerves, sending excruciating pain through the length of the rib and, occasionally, the chest wall (the old heart attack scare). Since rib dysfunction is frequently misassessed and, therefore, improperly treated, do your clients a favor and incorporate some spinal biomechanic principles and articular stretching routines into your toolbox of touch.
Click here for previous articles by Erik Dalton, PhD.
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