resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Is the New Medicare Reporting Exemption Right for You?
What you've heard is not a rumor – there will be exemptions for providers of Medicare patients, with no penalties assessed for offices that do not do Quality Payment Program (EHR, PQRS, MACRA and MIPS) reporting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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