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The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine
My Masters thesis was titled, "The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine," which highlighted several reasons why it is hard for these two worlds to mix.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
Integrating Art with Clinical Practice for Patients with PTSD: The Artemis Project
Are you restricted by those one-on-one clinic dynamics? Why not join colleagues and clients in experimental group settings? Three of us volunteered to do just that in Austin on behalf of women veteranss from all branches of the service.
Sleep, Less Sleep or No Sleep?
I had a dream I wasn't getting enough sleep. It was a very realistic dream, even though I was probably slightly awake and not really deep dreaming. Most likely I had been dozing, caught in that twilight of sleep and wakefulness.
Medicine is Clumsy, Don't You Be
All medical systems have clumsiness in them. If the technique isn't, the practitioner is. Everyone in every form of medicine is striving to improve. That is why we call it practice.
The Acupuncturist's Problem
I want share with you some observations and insights into what seems to be the most common problem my colleagues in the acupuncture profession struggles with. If you also struggle with this problem, I hope you get a valuable "aha" moment from reading this.
Marijuana, Apathy and Chinese Medicine, Part 1
This article was written in response to the unheeded acceptance of marijuana as a harmless substance that potentially does good when used for the medical relief of pain.
Turning a Blind Eye to History – and Reality
The American Medical Association is taking the Supreme Court's Feb. 25, 2015 decision exactly as it always does – by turning a blind eye to history, legal precedent and reality.
PCOM Granted Regional Accreditation
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) recently announce it has received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This achievement reflects five years of hard work on the part of faculty, staff, and students.
Animal Acupuncture: A Case Study in the Treatment of Traumatic Injury in the Equine
The rise of animal acupuncture in the U.S. began in the early 1970's as a result of the work by members of the National Acupuncture Association in Westwood, Calif.
5 Tips for Using Pinterest to Market Your Practice
Pinterest is a very popular, but often under-utilized, social media platform where people can bookmark, or "pin," fun and interesting things from all across the internet.
The Tide is Rising in the Acupuncture Profession
Former President Ronald Regan said, "When the tide rises all boats float." The tide is rising for the acupuncture profession. Many forces outside the profession are helping the tides to rise.
Term Limits: What's in a Word?
It was the French historian and philosopher Voltaire who once declared the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire.
Functional Hip Impingement (Part 1)
Every time I sit down to write an article, I realize how much more there is to know about musculoskeletal pain. I also learn something new every time. (I want to give special thanks to Lucy Whyte Ferguson for assisting with this article.)
How Much Do You Know About the Benefits of Birds Nest?
Edible bird's nest is the nest made by the Swiftlet bird of Southeast Asia that is usually prepared as a soup and prized in Chinese culture as a healthful delicacy.
A View From the ER
The University of Western States has inked an innovative agreement with local nonprofit health system Legacy Health whereby UWS sports-medicine fellows can experience observational clinical rotations in emergency-room settings within the Legacy system.
Optimism = Compassion = Trust
A randomized clinical trial recently published online in JAMA Oncology examined how patients viewed their doctor based upon how the practitioner presented bad news to the patient.
Talking to Patients About Lumbar Facet Denervation (Medial Branch Neurotomy)
Lumbar facet denervation, more appropriately termed medial branch neurotomy (MBN), is a procedure that may be considered when patients suffer from recalcitrant non-radicular axial back and/or leg pain.
Low Back Pain in Professional Golf: A Common Muscular Relationship
Every sport creates its own unique demands on the body. Some sports require such a myriad of body positions that assessing pathology is often difficult and unpredictable.
Applying the Thin Skull Principle
The "thin skull" principle, also known as the "you take your victim as you find them" principle, is a legal principle that can be summed up by the following statement.
December, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 12
Osteoporosis: Another Insidiously Silent Progression, Part III
By Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD
The premise in writing this series is that many "chronic somatic conditions" include the silent progression of osteoporosis for both genders. If one's bones are insidiously weakening, then how do you imagine the body is going to pick up the slack during the weight bearing activities of standing and movement, let alone the more fun activities of running, twisting, jumping, golfing and dancing?
My postulation is that, as bones weaken, the human body will increase the internal pressure within its cavities promoting the cringing of body sacs and the shortening and narrowing of the tubes within organs and between organs including the arteries throughout the body. Such cringing, shortening and narrowing of the body's core structures stimulates a reflexive tightening of the soft tissues, includingligaments, tendons, muscles and fasciae associated with all of one's joints.1
Also, as one's bones progressively weaken, their myofascial tissues will endeavor to function more like bone. The autonomic nervous system begins to alter the consistency of soft tissues by becoming fibrotic and resetting their length and tone to a calibration of bracing from within and along the body's sleeve to add structural support.2
Consider the association of the silent progression of osteoporosis to the chronic somatic problems clients present to you in your office. Especially those persistent problems that just won't go away. It is one, among many, variables to consider. Yet, one that I believe has long been under-appreciated.
Chronic problems tend to be multi-factorial in their nature. Other physiologic progressions may co-exist simultaneously along with the compensatory/substitution matrix that inevitably emerges as traumatic events and/or illnesses accrete over the course of one's lifetime. Or, as a result of a undiscovered genetic predisposition within an individual of any age.
When I sense osteoporosis might be a variable, I do inquire with a client as to whether they have had a bone density test or DXA scan done and, if not, I encourage them to do so.
DXA is most often performed on the narrow neck of one's femur bone, just below the hip joint and a picture of the lumbar vertebrae is also usually taken. The narrow neck of the femur is a good predictor of one's risk of hip fracture, which is the most serious complication of osteoporosis. Other testing technologies include CT imagery, ultrasound and high-resolution MRI. Some of these are specific to checking the density of the forearm, wrists, fingers, ankle or the heel. The key concept that we all need to anchor in our understanding is that bone loss can accelerate in different parts of the human body at different times and in various places.3 I am clinically suspicious of wrist/hand, ankle/foot or rib fractures that occur with clients in the 45 to 65 age range.
The somatic markers for our consideration as massage therapists is to palpate our clients wrists and ankles with an increased sense of awareness. What do you perceive their density to be? Sounds fantastic yet, by simply attuning yourself, you will be amazed at your ability in a very short period of time to pick up on cues and clues that previously you did not notice before. When the soft tissues of a client's low back continue to splint even after you have done everything you can to assist, this can be a flag that the splinting is being driven by the soft tissues valiantly trying to do the job of the bones.2
Most importantly, mobilize your client's hips in any way you know how. It is the key to how we might assist to slow the progression of osteoporosis in my clinical experience. The father of osteopathic medicine, Andrew Still, had a notion that when the head of the femur bones were squarely in the center of the hip joints, all physiologic processes work better.2 This presumption has borne itself to be accurate in my opinion over 31 years. I evaluate and treat every client's hips, every session. It is core to any clinical orientation to therapeutic massage and bodywork.
The central question to ask a client is whether their mother or grandmother became bent forward as they aged. I ask about fathers and grandfathers too, but the maternal line tends to be more closely correlated. If the answer is yes, then the probabilities of them experiencing some degree of osteoporosis are much higher and preventative steps need to be taken as early as possible.
Let's return to our exploration of osteoporosis so that we cover the main points of this controversial progression. Is the incidence of osteoporosis actually increasing? According to Dr. Alan Gaby M.D., author of Preventing & Reversing Osteoporosis, "more than twice as many osteoporotic fractures occur now, compared with 30 years ago, and this difference cannot be explained by the aging of the population."5 His premise is that the "degenerative diseases of modern civilization are caused in part by chronic nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances and environmental pollution." He strengthens his assertion by citing a forensic study of skeletons recovered from a London church dating from 1729 to 1852. The rate of bone loss in the hip was found to be significantly greater in modern-day women than in the women's skeletons from two centuries ago, both before and after menopause.5
What are the most appropriate sources of calcium and other substances crucial to the health of our bones? Boy, is there a diversity of opinion on this question! If you read the more traditional medical literature on osteoporosis you will find a consensus that calcium from dairy products is not only acceptable but preferred. They don't disregard the importance of dark green leafy vegetables and a balanced diet, however, it seems ironic that they emphasize dairy products in face of the fact that the the top dairy consuming countries report the highest incidence of osteoporosis.6
Dr. Gaby further asserts in his book that magnesium, vitamins D and K, DHEA, the judicious use of progesterone, and a host of micronutrients have shown themselves to be superior to the more traditional emphasis on calcium intake, hormonal therapy and exercise alone.
Wading into this same calcium controversy are those who assert that the maintenance of a normal pH within the body's narrow homeostatic range is the crucial tipping point to prevent the slide into osteoporosis. That our culture's high intake of protein actually is one of the major reasons that the body is forced to pull calcium from the skeleton in order to buffer the acidic environment created by a high protein consumption. Amy Joy Lanou, PhD and Michael Castleman have described this process their book entitled, Building Bone Vitality, asserting that calcium, estrogen, and medications are not the answer, again, with compelling discussions of possible alternatives for people to consider.6
Encourage your clients to research this topic for themselves and find a philosophy that fits for them. "Doing nothing", is not a plan.
Dr. Fred Harvey M.D. in Sarasota wrote to me how he approaches caring for his patients with this common sense perspective; "Bone density tests are helpful, but if normal, they do not indicate that the bone will remain healthy. There is a blood or urine test called N-telopeptide (NTx) that assesses the rate of bone loss. It looks at the health of the bone matrix by examining turnover of bone collagen. I use this test as a screening test and between bone density tests to assess progress." He goes on to further describe how he believes this test can in combination with a DXA scan predict future bone health and maybe even more importantly, to track whether a therapeutic regime for a person with identified osteopenia or osteoporosis is actually working or, not.8 I like this style of logic and the fact that there are at least some reliable ways to monitor treatment options.
The NTx-telopeptide test is one of 4 bone marker tests according to the Mayo Clinic that are used to track both bone resorption(breakdown) or bone formation3. It is important for us all to remember that no medical technology is perfect nor can be absolutely comprehensive because as stated in the last article there are many aspects of bone loss that have yet to be clearly understood. Which is all the more reason for us to educate ourselves as professionals.
What additional medically related difficulties promote the escalation of osteoporosis or, may fly undetected under the general diagnosis of osteoporosis? According to the Mayo clinic, there are many secondary causes of osteoporosis progression. These include certain diseases, surgical procedures or medications that accelerate bone loss. These are listed in Table I at the end of the article.3 Read this list carefully, especially if you have an aging parent or work with elderly clients. Encourage them to review their medications with a pharmacist with an emphasis on whether any medication they are taking could accelerate their bone loss.
One physiological progression which I will highlight and sometimes is not considered by competent physicians is the role of the parathyroid hormones. If serum calcium drops, whatever the provocation, it is the job of these hormones to pull calcium from the bones to maintain its appropriate level. It has been my clinical experience that many peri- and post- menopausal women have thyroid and parathyroid difficulties and, occasionally younger women, too. I have had my best success in helping these individuals by encouraging them to seek a thorough evaluation by an endocrinologist, an internist who specializes in dysfunctions of these crucial endocrine glands or, a nutritionist who uses blood and hair analysis in their evaluation. Typical presenting symptoms include a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, sleep disorder, an intolerance to cold, periodic systemic sweating and chronic pain. More sensitive thyroid tests are needed to discover this insidious hormonal slide.
I have come to recognize that my palpation skill sets can help many but not all without the assistance of more sophisticated medical testing. We are a crucial link in the medical health delivery system in our country because we take the time to listen, by recognizing our limitations and by referring clients to their physicians or other alternative health practitioners when our best efforts fail to assist our clients to regain their quality of life.
How effective are the many medicines prescribed for osteoporosis? This answer depends on what your professional experience has validated and whose perspective you tend to believe. My experience professionally suggests that the myriad of medications that retard the resorption of bone have their place as a one to two year regime. But to take them for the rest of one's lifetime defies common sense to me.
One obvious exception are men who are chemically castrated as part of their prostate cancer therapy. There really are no other options at present than for them to rely on the bisphosphonate medications (detailed in the previous article) and, there are many women with complex medical problems for whom this is true as well.
It has been my intention in this article series to delineate many of the categories for your further research. It is my personal intuition that there exists 6 to 7 distinct regimes of diet, exercise, vitamin supplementation, hormonal support and medications that would enhance the bone health for those who are aging in our nation based on familial genetic history, race, blood type, body type, level of exercise and lifestyle choices. I encourage each of you to research the references I have detailed in this series on osteoporosis as each has something to offer. In conclusion, moderate exercise, periodic medical testing, therapeutic massage and bodywork, and an intelligent diet are together the least expensive and most reliable form of maintaining one's healthy bones.
Table I: Secondary Causes of Osteoporosis in Adults
The following medications, diseases, and procedures can accelerate bone loss, increasing your risk of osteoporosis.
Click here for more information about Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD.
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