resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Will You Be an Amplifer or a Mute?
These times are changing, and changing quickly. There have been many challenges to this profession throughout the past few years. The challenge is to talk, then talk and talk some more about this medicine.
Converting More Patients to Your Practice
In 2013 and 2014, the theme was "the money is in the list." This meant that if you had a big email list, you were really making some "cha-ching." Unfortunately, having thousands of emails doesn't equate to thousands of dollars in profit.
Keep Seniors Safe: Age-Proofing the Home
I want to give Dr. Claudia Anrig kudos for her Dec. 1, 2014 column, which highlighted safety issues youngsters might encounter in the home.
There Really is No Room for Sexism
Recently, Matteo* (a transgender male) approached me during a break in an advanced shiatsu class in Berlin where he was one of two men in a group of 20 women. "Pamela. Don't forget to remind the translator to include male endings."
The Way We Are Designed: A Conversation with Gil Hedley, PhD
I was first introduced to the work of Gil Hedley by Tom DiFerdinando. He gifted me Gil's DVD series.
News in Brief
ACA Exec. Vice President Out, Acting EVP In; F4CP Executive Director Retires; New ED Named.
Pain Is Only a Piece of the Puzzle
More often than not, when a patient presents to the office, it is for a pain complaint: headache, neck pain, low back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel, etc.
TCM Congress in Rothenburg is Largest in Western World
In the medieval town of Rothenburg, deep set within the Bavarian countryside in Southern Germany, the TCM Kongress Rothenburg each year draws around 1.200 participants from more than 40 different countries to attend the biggest TCM conference in the Western world.
Managing Tibialis Posterior Tendon Injuries
The tibialis posterior is the deepest, strongest and most central muscle of the leg, with fibers originating from the tibia, fibula and interosseous membrane.
Recreational Cannabis Use and TCM
Many people are drawn to cannabis for its effects physically, mentally and emotionally. Medically, cannabis has some legitimate uses, however the scope of this article is limited to the recreational use of cannabis.
Viewpoints: Massage Reduces Nonspecific Shoulder Pain, Improves Function
While seemingly universal, pain and stiffness in the shoulders can be a significant cause of disability. Often a pain that does not go away on its own, shoulder complaints tend to linger, sometimes for 12 months or longer.
Treating GERD and Incontinence: Focus on Trigger Points
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is defined as the regurgitation of stomach acid in the esophagus. Previously, it was thought that GERD was caused by a hiatal hernia, but recent trials suggest the cause is an inability of the hiatal sphincter to contract normally.
What Do You Know About Physician Compare?
Physician Compare is a website that allows consumers to search for and obtain information about physicians and other health care professionals who provide Medicare services.
The Need for a New Medical Model: A Challenge for Biopsychosocial and Ecopsychologica Medicine
Chinese medicine speaks of alignment between humans, heaven and earth. It is a complex view with a focus upon relationship. These are comprehensive ideas with no specific terms in contemporary medical practice.
A Well-Kept Secret: 5 Element Acupuncture, Part II
Supervising acupuncture interns at a TCM college, it has always struck me how funny it is to hear the clinic manager tell the patients that the Five Element clinic specializes in treating emotions, as if patients with physical pain have no emotions!
Treating Beyond Pain
More often than not, when a patient presents to the office, it is for a pain complaint. Headache, neck pain, low back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel... The pain is often the focus of the patient's mindset, and they don't often have any thought of what comes after the pain.
Older Patients, Stroke Risk and Manipulation
The first population-based study in the United States to evaluate stroke risk following spinal manipulation – and the first involving older adults – suggests that "[c]hiropractic cervical spine manipulation is unlikely to cause stroke in patients aged 66 to 99 years with neck pain.
Synergy Doesn't Happen in Silos: Acupuncture in Hospitals and Other Healthcare Settings
As acupuncture and traditional East Asian medicine continue to intersect and integrate with biomedical approaches, the conversation about integration expands and becomes richer.
God and the Chiropractor
My wife went to church last Wednesday night and brought home a CD of the pastor's message. As she handed it to me, she said, "You should listen to this; you'll like it." Our family regularly goes to church and our faith plays a major role in our lives.
How We Can Help the Injured Brain
The majority of patients with mild traumatic brain injuries recover within seven to 10 days. If concussion signs and symptoms continue beyond seven days, the diagnosis changes from acute concussion to post-concussion syndrome.
An Excerpt from TCM Case Studies: Pediatrics
This excerpt is reprinted with permission from Jamie Wu. TCM Case Studies: Pediatrics was released in 2014 by People's Medical Publishing House.
The Dietary Supplement Research Dilemma
I do not care what the truth is, one way or another; I just want to know it. And when it comes to dietary supplements, the truth can be hard to find for a number of reasons.
Striking a Blow to the Medical Monopoly
The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a landmark ruling in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v Federal Trade Commission.
Joint Supplements for Athletes (Part 2)
A fairly recent discovery in nutrition supplemental medicine has proven to be a breakthrough in maintaining athletic joint health. Research suggests a combination of undenatured type-II collagen and tetrahydro-iso-alpha acids helps revitalize joint function and performance in athletes.
July, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 07
Understanding Lumbar Disc Herniation
By Whitney Lowe, LMT
Practitioners are frequently concerned about whether or not it is appropriate to work on clients with herniated discs. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation about this condition.Disc herniations are sometimes blamed for back pain when they are not actually the cause. It is important to understand the anatomy and symptoms of disc herniation to make proper clinical decisions. Massage can be an effective adjunct treatment for clients with this condition.
When x-ray technology first emerged that could show herniations of the lumbar intervertebral discs, there was a rush to assign blame for low back pain on the bulging intervertebral disc, which clearly appeared to be protruding towards nerve roots. For decades it was assumed that if a person had back pain it was from a lumbar disc herniation. Sadly, this led to an excessive number of – and in many cases unnecessary - surgeries. Soft-tissue treatments are now proving to be quite effective at helping in pain relief for this condition.
In addition, it is now understood that many people with herniated discs function without any pain at all. With the advent of the MRI, disc herniations were proven to occur in a large percentage of the population. More interesting is that many people with disc herniations have no back pain whatsoever.1,2 Thus it is important to know that the presence of a disc herniation is not enough to assume that the disc herniation itself is the cause of the pain. Consequently, sound assessment (including referral if needed) is critical for determining what causes a person's pain.
The following is a more detailed look at the structure of the intervertebral disc and what occurs in pathological herniations in the lumbar region.
Anatomy Of The Disc
Intervertebral discs are made of a dense fibrocartilage. There are two component parts to the disc: the inner gel-like substance called the nucleus pulposus and the denser layered fibrocartilage on the outer rim called the annulus fibrosis (Figure 1). Compressive loads applied to the intervertebral disc cause the inner nucleus to push against the annulus fibrosis. With continued pressure over time, the annulus loses its structural integrity and breaks down causing the disc to change shape.
As the disc changes shape, it will push out in the direction with the least restraint. The most common direction with least restraint is in a posterior and lateral direction. The intervertebral foramen is located close to this region and this is also where nerve roots exit the spine (Figure 2).
There is various terminology used to describe the change in the disc's shape as it is impacted with chronic compressive loads such as protruding, herniated, prolapsed, bulging, or ruptured disc. Also frequently heard is the misnomer, slipped disc, which is technically misleading because the disc has not slipped anywhere, it has just changed shape. An effort has been made to update the terminology so it is consistent with the differing levels of severity of the disc herniation. The terms shown in Figure 3 reflect the types and severity of disc herniation and are preferable for describing disc herniation.
Signs And Symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of disc herniation involve sensory or motor impairments. Sensory symptoms include sharp, shooting, electrical-type pain sensations, as well as paresthesia (pins and needles) or numbness. Motor impairments are evident with either muscle weakness or atrophy. Lumbar nerve roots feed the nerves of the lower extremities, so symptoms from lumbar disc herniation are generally felt in the lower extremity, although pain may be felt in the back as well.
The region of the lower extremity where the impairments are present helps indicate the corresponding affected nerve root. For example, in the upper lumbar region the nerve roots primarily feed into the femoral nerve and therefore symptoms are generally felt in the anterior thigh region. If the disc herniation is in the lower lumbar region, symptoms will generally be felt down the posterior side of the leg because these nerve roots feed the sciatic nerve. Other nerve compression pathologies can produce symptoms similar to disc pressure on a nerve root. Assessment will help determine crucial information about where the nerve compression is originating.
A key question for massage therapists is whether or not it is appropriate to work on somebody with a herniated disc. Massage therapy can be a valuable means of helping to reduce the aggravating factors that perpetuate lumbar disc herniation and the subsequent pain and dysfunction that result. As with other potentially serious medical conditions, it is a good idea to obtain a doctor's clearance before treating the client.
Many of the muscles in the lumbar region, and especially those attaching directly to the lumbar vertebra, increase compressive loads on the intervertebral disc when they are tight. Consequently, reducing tightness in the lumbar muscles helps decrease compressive stress on the intervertebral disc, thus relieving symptoms. Massage will not reverse the process of disc herniation that has already occurred, but it can help reduce compressive forces that can further deform the disc.
A common concern expressed by massage therapists is whether or not working in the lumbar region will press the protruding disc against the adjacent nerve roots. Note that in Figure 4 we see the relationship between the lumbar muscular structures, the transverse processes of lumbar vertebra and the nerve roots. The transverse processes prevent direct pressure on the nerve root. While the specific massage techniques will not directly compress the disc against the nerve roots, it is possible to aggravate pain from a disc herniation with massage in the lumbar region indirectly by moving the vertebral bodies.
Because the disc does not always protrude in the same direction in relation to the nerve root there is no way to know for sure which motions or positions will aggravate nerve root compression. A good general rule of thumb is that if any motion or position or technique further aggravates the client's symptoms, it should be immediately stopped. However, relieving muscular tension in the lumbar region is an important step to reducing disc compression.
Because herniated discs are more common than once thought, it is likely you have had clients with this condition. In general you should consider it relatively safe to work on clients who have disc herniation. A standard rule of caution should be that anything that further aggravates the client's neurological symptoms should be immediately stopped. As usual, if it is at all possible to get further clarification of the exact nature of the problem from a physician you should definitely try to do that. Massage therapy can be a valuable adjunct treatment for clients with disc herniations, so the more you know about this condition the more effective relief you can provide your clients.
Click here for more information about Whitney Lowe, LMT.
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