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Another Chance to Make a Difference
Just a few months ago, "the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Hurricane Sandy" hit Louisiana. During this storm, one area experienced 31 inches of rain in 15 hours as almost 7 trillion gallons of water rained down in just one week across the state.
Meshing TCM With Environmental Pediatrics: Where's the Overlap?
Pediatrics has a long history within Chinese medicine dating back to the late Han dynasty (i.e., the late 200s CE), with the two primary areas of emphasis being herbal medicine and xiao er tui na (pediatric massage).
Herbs for Digestion: The Power of Bitter
Many cultures (and indeed herbal clinicians) around the world have long respected the role of bitter herbs and foods for promoting digestion. For example, aperitifs – drinks consumed before a meal to stimulate appetite and digestion – were originally derived from bitter herbs.
Molecular Motors: Tiny Machines Behind the Rhythm of Life
In the clinic, we aim to restore healthy patterns of movement for qi that has gotten trapped or misdirected, or may have even collapsed. We may be focused on freeing stagnation, releasing heat or redirecting counterflow qi, but it often comes down to helping re-establish a flow of sorts.
DVT: Know the Signs and You Could Save a Life
I lost a friend several months ago. He died from a pulmonary embolism (PE) secondary to a deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) that originated in his lower leg. Bobby was in his mid-60s, soft-spoken and had a big heart.
Assessing Core Stability and ROM: 5 Basic Checks
One of the first steps in addressing core stability is assessing static posture, ranges of motion, and motion of the pelvic bones, sacrum, femurs, lumbar spine and thoracic spine.
A Letter to the Profession from the New President at AAAOM
Volunteering for a national, nonprofit organization brings with it such highs, lows, and accomplishments, as well as a steep learning curve.
A Simple Protocol for Holiday Stress
It's winter, a time when we should be deep in reflection, eating warming foods and sleeping long hours. Following nature's rhythms, we restore our bodies and minds in preparation for the renewal of spring.
Overuse Injuries in Young Athletes (Pt. 2)
Most overuse injuries are benign, but there are some high-risk injuries that, if unrecognized or inappropriately treated, can result in significant loss in time from the sport or even require leaving the sport.
Can a Multivitamin Reduce Breast Cancer Recurrence?
There is a great deal of controversy regarding the value of multivitamin supplements in cancer prevention. However, with respect to preventing breast cancer recurrence, an important study was published in the Journal of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment in 2011 by Kwan ML, et al.
All Fiber Is Not Created Equal
Sometimes the best place to start is at the end. So, the conclusion of this article is that all fiber is good ... but some fiber is better. Let's break it down. There are two main types of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
6 Steps to Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet
People often ask me what defines success. Success, for me, is simple: doing exactly what you want to do in life. Whether it's the kind of practice you run, your life at home, your hobbies or something else, it's achieving anything you put your mind to.
Southwest Acupuncture College Brings It to Division 1 Athletes
When Michael Phelps' photograph with the distinctive round marks left by cupping went viral, the Division 1 student athletes treated through the Dal Ward Athletic Center at the University of Colorado (CU) could relate.
2016: A Year in the Life of Acupuncture
Happy Holidays, may you, your family and friends have peace, joy and blessings throughout this special time of year. As 2016 comes to a close, we can look back and celebrate the many events and accomplishments for the profession of acupuncture.
Dedicated to Defending Chiropractic
Whether you're a veteran DC or a first-trimester student, the name George McAndrews should be part and parcel of your professional vernacular, as familiar as the word chiropractic.
Little Sticker, Big Impact
It's the end of an election year. Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump were the subject of conversation for everyone, everywhere for the entire 2016 calendar year. I don't think any of us can deny that this election affected us all very deeply on a personal level.
News in Brief
New President / CEO Takes Office at Yo San University. Electroacupuncture for Constipation?
End of an Era Looms at NYCC
New York Chiropractic College recently announced that Dr. Frank Nicchi will retire in August 2017 after 36 years with the college, the past 17 as president.
Chiro School Reunion: Whatever Happened to...?
I opened the door to the closet slowly, carefully, since I knew it contained a large number of precariously stacked file boxes. It also held numerous outdated gizmos with electrical cords of various lengths that could trip or strangle a person.
A First for the Profession: CCE Accredits First Chiropractic Residencies
The Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) has awarded accreditation to all five chiropractic residency programs currently administered at Veterans Administration facilities, "the first residency programs in the nation ever to be awarded this distinction, a significant advancement in the evolution of chiropractic education," according to a VA press release announcing the milestone.
What We Can Learn From Spine Surgery
Patients with lumbar stenosis presumably present for conservative care to improve their quality of life and avoid surgery. However, providing clear guidance to these patients can be difficult for a number of reasons.
Branding: Set Your Practice Apart
Dr. Brad started his practice seven years ago on a shoestring budget. He created his generic logo in five minutes using a website because he didn't have the time to figure out how to make something special.
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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