resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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