resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
How to Humanize Your Content to Create Stronger Relationships
Content marketing is about building relationships, whether that is through updates on social media, offers on your website, blog posts, email campaigns, or even printed material. Now days a business needs to make a human connection.
Spine Surgery: A Tale of Greed and Corruption
All too often, where there's substantial money to be made, greed and corruption inevitably follow.
Integrative Medicine Can Shape the Profession
As the AOM profession struggles to define the role of "integrative" medicine within their practices their schools and organizations, students, faculty, alumni and administrators at schools wrestle with discussions of how much, where, how, and what to "integrate."
From Antiquity to Modernity: Huang Qin Tang at Yale Medical School, Part 1
Traditional Chinese medicine is a coherent medical system with several unique characteristics: it originated almost 3,000 years ago; in its area of origin, it has been practiced without interruption since its inception.
Preventing ACL Injuries in Female Athletes
For female athletes, the key to optimal athletic health lies in preventing ACL injuries. In medical terms, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the primary restraint to the anterior displacement of the tibia on the femur at all angles of the knee flexor.
Forgotten Options for Musculoskeletal Health
Challenges with musculoskeletal health are of tremendous concern for many people today.
The MRI: When and Why to Order One
As I lecture around the country to both chiropractors and medical specialists, it's clear one of the main disconnects between the two professions is that of an accurate diagnosis.
The Roots of Insomnia
One of the most common clinical presentations is insomnia. Next to digestive disorders, sleep disorders are one of the most common complaints the clinician will encounter in daily practice.
The Future of Functional Neurology
Functional is the hot buzzword in health care these days; witness the rising popularity of functional medicine, functional testing and yes, functional neurology.
Percussion Therapy: An Experiment
My study of qi began more than 20 years ago — long before my study of TCM, points or pathways. It all started with an awareness in my hands and physical manifestations in the way of blockages while working on clients.
Do You Teach Patients How to Breathe Properly?
Spinal manipulation often produces quick results in terms of pain alleviation and improved range of motion. Unfortunately, once the patient is no longer in pain, they may discontinue therapy, only to be plagued by the same complaint at a future date.
Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2016
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) published its annual fitness trend forecast in the November / December 2015 issue of ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal.
The Amazing Clinical Versatility of Milk Thistle (Part 1)
Most of us know that the standardized extract from the seeds of milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is probably the best-proven herb for protecting the liver from chemical and inflammatory damage.
Sell Out: Using Research for the Wrong Reasons
The above chorus is from the ska band Reel Big Fish's 1997 hit song, "Sell Out," from their album, "Turn the Radio Off." In the song, the singer sarcastically relates the plight of a musician who is tired of "flipping burgers" and is willing to get "lots of money" by playing "what they want you to hear" in order to get a recording contract.
Elevated Shoulder? Check the QL
As you know, posture reveals a great deal about the body. Posture is a unique mental and physical landscape revealing compensations and adaptations to life. It's a classic mind-and-body story.
Osteoporosis Isn't Always the Case
What is your diagnosis? The patient is a 58-year-old female with back pain. I am sure all of you see the compression fracture at L2; however, there are some findings that suggest this is not a compression fracture due to osteoporosis.
Asking the Insurance Rep the Right Questions
One of the first or last questions a potential patient often asks is: "Do you take insurance?" An ill-informed or optimistic, "yes" can result in delayed or non-payment. Instead, just say: "Let me check if you are eligible first."
Interprofessionalism: What it Means and Why You Should Care
Interprofessionalism in education and in practice is a growing trend across health care in the United States. The idea that team-based care and collaborative practice can improve health care has been around more than 50 years.
Changing the Cultural View of Medicine
Many hospitals in the U.S. are incorporating integrative clinics that include Traditional Chinese Medicine. Cleveland Clinic has led the charge for adding a traditional Chinese herbal medicine clinic to their existing acupuncture program.
Ethics: The Glue That Holds Us Together
Kudos to the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) for creating a code of ethics for the nationwide profession and for deciding to make courses in ethics a requirement for certification renewal.
News in Brief
A Winner in and Out of the Office; Ready for the "Have-A-Heart" Campaign? New Integrative Medicine Journal.
Window of the Sky Points
The acupuncture points known as Window of the Sky are a modern creation. There is no reference in Chinese medical texts for an acupuncture point category called Window of the Sky.
East Meets West
Gung Hay Fat Choi. Welcome to the year of the Monkey. There will be fireworks for both January and February this year. What great celebrations.
We Get Letters & Email
In the Dec. 1, 2015 issue, we have Donald Petersen reporting on "the adapting chiropractic practice," which includes multidisciplinary practice as an option; a ChiroPoll indicating 59 percent of DCs are seeing at least 21 patients per day and 27 percent are seeing more than 40.
Billing and Coding for Moxibustion
Q: I am trying to locate a code for cupping and moxibustion, and have had various fellow acupuncturists indicate that they bill using the existing codes for heat, 97010 hot packs or 97026 infra-red for moxa and 97016 vasopneumatic device for cupping.
March, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 03
Evaluating Neurological Symptoms
By Whitney Lowe, LMT
In massage therapy, the tendency is to focus on the role of muscles in pain or injury, sometimes to the exclusion of other soft tissues. Nerves are one of these often forgotten tissues, yet they play a critical role in many pain complaints. Neglecting these tissues can lead to inadequate treatment and the development of chronic pain conditions.
With all the work we perform on soft tissues throughout the body, the absence of knowledge of nerve-tissue disorders is serious. Massage can be an exceptional treatment approach for numerous nerve pathologies because soft-tissue therapy can successfully address nerve compression and tension disorders. Effective treatment of these disorders must begin with accurate evaluation of the client's primary problem. When performed effectively, simple manual examination is one of the most effective tools for evaluating nerve system function.
One might be inclined to think evaluation of nerve-tissue disorders should be left to primary care professionals who have access to MRI, EMG and nerve-conduction testing. However, while high-tech diagnostic studies are effective in certain circumstances, they are not always accurate. For example, median nerve compression does not always show up in nerve-conduction tests for carpal tunnel syndrome.1,2 While no single testing method is always correct, manual neurological examination has a high degree of reliability and should always be a part of a comprehensive evaluation.3,4
Structure, Function and Pathology
The motor versus sensory fiber make-up of peripheral nerves is an important characteristic to note when evaluating neurological symptoms. Most major nerve pathologies affect the peripheral nerves. Peripheral nerves have a dorsal root that carries sensory information and a ventral root that carries motor signals (See Figure 1). The nerve roots blend together shortly after leaving the spinal cord, converging to create the major trunks of the peripheral nerves. These nerves then course through the upper and lower extremities as well as other regions of the body. Most peripheral nerves carry both motor and sensory fibers, but a few carry one or the other almost exclusively.
Compression pathologies are the most common type of nerve injury. Compression can occur anywhere along the length of the nerve from the nerve root all the way to the distal end of the nerve. Pressure on a nerve root is called a radiculopathy. Examples include herniated intervertebral discs, spinal tumors, bone spurs and spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the intervertebral foramen where the nerve root exits the spine (See Figure 2).
When pressure is applied to a nerve further along its length in the upper or lower extremity, it is called a peripheral neuropathy. Common examples of peripheral neuropathies include carpal tunnel, thoracic outlet and piriformis syndromes. In a peripheral neuropathy, the nerve can be compressed by muscle, fibrous bands, bone, tendon, local inflammation or other factors. Treatment focuses on reducing compression on the affected nerve, so the practitioner must distinguish where that adverse compression is occurring.
Evaluating for the location and type of nerve pathology is necessary for selecting the most appropriate treatment strategies. Evaluation seeks detailed information on the client's symptoms. Acquire as much detailed information from the client as possible through the history and physical evaluation.
Most of the large peripheral nerves carry both motor and sensory fibers, which have different symptom patterns. Consequently, when there is damage to the nerve, there may be motor and sensory symptoms. However, some nerves carry a much larger percentage of either motor or sensory fibers. In these cases, it is more common to see one type of symptom pattern than another.
For example, if the piriformis muscle is entrapping the posterior femoral cutaneous nerve in the gluteal region (See Figure 3), symptoms are most likely to be pain or paresthesia in the posterior thigh because this nerve is predominantly a sensory nerve innervating the posterior thigh. If the piriformis is compressing the superior gluteal nerve, the most common symptom is weakness in the hip abductor muscles because the superior gluteal nerve is mostly a motor nerve supplying the hip abductor muscles.
The most common sensory symptoms from nerve compression are pain, paresthesia (pins and needles), numbness, burning or electrical-type sensations. Sensory symptoms from nerve compression usually are felt distal to the site of compression. There are exceptions to this guideline, but it generally holds true.
The symptom pattern for compression on a nerve root usually is different from compression on a peripheral nerve. This distinction has important ramifications for treatment. When pressure is applied to a nerve root, the symptoms might be felt anywhere within a specific dermatome. A dermatome is an area of skin supplied by a single nerve root. Figure 4 shows the C8 dermatome, which is the area of skin supplied by fibers that originate from the C8 nerve root (between the C7 and T1 vertebrae). Dermatome maps such as the one in Figure 4 are common in anatomy books. However, these are not absolute, nor is every person exactly the same. There can be slight variations in the dermatome due to anatomical anomalies. In some cases, nerve-root compression symptoms are only felt in a portion of the dermatome, which makes it challenging to pinpoint the problem.
The symptom pattern for compression on a peripheral nerve occurs in regions that overlap the dermatome. Each peripheral nerve supplies sensory innervation to a particular area of skin in the extremity; this is called that nerve's cutaneous innervation. For example, the cutaneous innervation of the ulnar nerve is limited to the ulnar side of the hand as shown in Figure 5. Recognition of nerve symptom patterns requires knowledge of each peripheral nerve's cutaneous innervation or each nerve root's dermatome. Clearly there is overlap between the cutaneous innervation of the ulnar nerve in our example and the C8 dermatome. Such overlap makes clinical analysis more challenging. So, how do you figure out where the symptoms are originating?
The best way to determine the site of compression is through accurate assessment. In general though, if symptoms exist throughout a complete dermatome, then you likely have a nerve root issue (radiculopathy). Choosing tests that further evaluate that nerve root would be the next step. If the symptoms are confined to one nerve's cutaneous innervation, then a peripheral neuropathy is likely. However, because nerve-root compression symptoms can occur in only a portion of the dermatome, further testing would be warranted to rule out nerve-root involvement.
For instance, if a client presented symptoms along the medial side of the arm and forearm extending into the hand, involving the C8 dermatome, it would indicate a C8 nerve-root pathology. If the symptoms were felt only on the ulnar side of the hand, the problem would likely be due to pressure somewhere along the ulnar nerve distal to the nerve root. But, due to dermatome and cutaneous innervation overlap, further testing would be warranted. In addition, further testing would be needed to determine the location of that compression along the path of the ulnar nerve. Treatment could then be directed to the most appropriate location.
When evaluating neurological symptoms, do not assume there is always a mechanical compression or tension problem. Numerous systemic disorders such as multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis or diabetes can also produce peripheral neurological symptoms, as could myofascial trigger points from distant muscles. These other pathologies should always be considered as a possibility, and referral is suggested.
Nerve pathologies affect motor function when motor-nerve fibers are involved. The most common symptom from motor-nerve compression is weakness or atrophy in the muscle(s) supplied by the affected nerve. Numerous anatomical references show where motor branches depart from major nerve trunks to supply innervation to muscles. As with sensory symptoms, the affected muscles are distal to the site of compression. Consequently, the more distal the compression site, the fewer muscles will be affected. Figure 6 shows a schematic for compression at two different locations along a nerve and how it affects the muscles innervated by that nerve.
Muscle weakness and atrophy are the most apparent symptoms from motor-nerve compression. However, in some cases pathologies develop from altered biomechanical patterns resulting from muscle weakness induced by nerve injury. Most of our movements involve complex coordination patterns of multiple muscles to accomplish a task. Weakness or atrophy from nerve compression in one of these muscles can cause resultant problems that might not seem related.
Here's an example of motor weakness contributing to a different pathology. The long thoracic nerve innervates the serratus anterior muscle, which is crucial for moving the scapula properly during shoulder abduction. Tightness in the scalene muscles can compress the long thoracic nerve and cause weakness in the serratus anterior muscle. Carrying a backpack, book bag or other heavy item with a shoulder strap could also compress this nerve. When the serratus anterior is weak, the coordination of movement between the scapula and humerus in abduction no longer functions properly and can lead to shoulder impingement syndrome. You might not think of nerve compression as a primary cause in this condition, but muscle weakness from nerve compression is at the root of the problem.
More massage therapists today are working in clinical environments and with clients who have a wide variety of pain and injury conditions. It is crucial that practitioners understand how the symptoms of nerve conditions might present. In some cases, the client should be sent to another health professional for further evaluation, especially when the problem is out of the practitioner's scope of practice or experience level. In other situations, massage can be an extremely important part of the treatment process because few other approaches treat the soft tissues with the degree of specificity of massage therapy. In future columns we'll explore treatment strategies that can be used to address various nerve pathologies.
Any practitioner who wants to address the full gamut of soft-tissue disorders is strongly advised to learn more about function and pathology in the nervous system. Understanding nerve structure and function will aid in treating these conditions. Applying quality clinical reasoning and evaluation skills is part of this process and can greatly improve the outcomes for clients.
Click here for more information about Whitney Lowe, LMT.
Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreementcomments powered by Disqus
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.