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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.
March, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 03
Freeing the Heart, Part III: Elongating the Esophagus
By Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD
The premise asserted in the first two articles of this series is that physically freeing the space around the heart can make a significant contribution to the quality of life for your clients and may reduce the chronic component of their ongoing somatic difficulties.The last article described a technique for equalizing the pressure between the thoracic and abdominal-pelvic cavities. This same technique has also shown itself to assist mobilizing the posterior vertebral/rib articulations of the region.
It is proposed that reducing the pressure within the thorax both decreases the internal resistance to the heart's expansion resulting in greater cardiac output and enhances the efficiency of venous and lymphatic return back to the heart. Two additional steps were added to the initial screening assessment protocol. (A review of the assessment protocol and the suggested techniques can be accessed online at www.massagetoday.com).
This article proposes that elongating the esophageal tube can contribute to freeing the heart. The heart actually enfolds the muscular tube of the esophagus. Even less appreciated is that the upper 2/3's of esophageal fibers are striated fibers while the lower 1/3 -- the part that is juxtaposed to the heart as it pierces the diaphragm and becomes the stomach -- is comprised of smooth muscle fibers.1
There are many implications of this dual innervation and its potential participation in heart-related problems. Selecting the most obvious, consider how any type of cervical whiplash could re-set the resting length of the striated fibers of the esophagus toward varying degrees of chronic contraction or spasm. And, that this shortening of the esophagus may lie dormant for years going undetected yet, adding a posterior resistance to the heart's expansion, as well as influencing the onset of hiatal hernia symptoms and the reflux of stomach acid leading to chronic "heartburn." A shortened esophagus adds friction between itself and the sac of the heart, the pericardium. Friction begets irritation and irritation eventually incites inflammation. Chronic inflammation is increasingly considered the bridge between stress-related ailments and the onset of many pathological progressions during the aging process, including cardiovascular disease.2
Common sense suggests that the sac around the heart cringes in its attempt to prevent the acid from penetrating its protective sheathing. And, should the acid reach the fibers of the heart muscle, it creates an irritable reaction within them. Might this relate to a host of the different heart ailments that increasingly are described both in abnormalities of electrical transmission within the heart and the increasing frequency of atrial fibrillation?
Many years ago I had the unique opportunity to work with an exceptionally gifted physical therapist who was known for her success with helping infants and children. An infant was bought to her office with a diagnosis of non-epileptic brain seizures. As she was a graduate of Ohio State University, she called there and was referred to a Pediatric GI specialist. On the conference call, we both had a galvanizing learning moment as the specialist described that the infant may have been born with a congenitally short esophagus and that the seizures may stem from its central nervous system's attempts to elongate the tube.3 What a concept. He further noted that it was a fairly rare condition but that he had seen it enough times that his model for dealing with such unexplained seizure activity now included this as a possibility.
The epiphany for me was that along a continuum of genetic possibilities, not only could the esophagus be congenitally short, but that in many individuals, it is predisposed to contracting strongly and may re-set its resting length in response to intense emotional reactions and prolonged stress, in addition to the physical provocations described earlier. The most pertinent physical implication of the esophageal fibers bunching is its potential to limit the heart's expansion phase posteriorly. Thousands of clinical experiences with clients now validate this notion for me. The neurological implications of a shortened esophagus will be explored in the next article.
It has long been known that mid-sternal pain more likely relates to esophageal contraction or spasm, whereas pain associated with the left breast area is more likely to relate to some aspect of possible heart dysfunction or impending crisis.4 I carefully inquire with new clients to make sure that they have had a cardiology work-up if they present with either of these and insist that they see their physician if they haven't. It is prudent for us all to encourage clients to rule out any possible pathological or congenital predisposing scenarios.
The addition to the screening protocol I have found to be consistent with esophageal involvement is to palpate along the occipital ridge for the space and ease of distraction of the occiput from the atlas bone. The more close packed and resistant to distraction, the more the esophagus is a variable has become my clinical interpretation. Another primary myofascial structure that co-participates in the compaction of the head upon the neck are the SCM's (sternocleidomastoid muscles). It is my clinical experience that the SCM's function as the guard dogs of preserving the cranium's safety in the event of a sudden shift in position of the head as may happen in a fall, the body flung forward or backward (bicycle or motorcycle accident) or impact trauma of all kinds. So, the answer to the question of what can you do to help your clients is to use whatever techniques you have learned to reduce the tension of the SCM muscles.
A unilaterally contracted SCM or bilaterally so, compresses the jugular foramen through which both the vagus nerves and the accessory nerves exit from the brain. Old time anatomists suggested that the accessory nerve functions as an overflow valve for vagal tensions.1 And, let's remember that the accessory nerve innervates the trapezius muscles as well as the SCM's. Thus, tight traps are also a tip off that compression of the jugular foramen is a variable and that a contracted esophagus may be a crucial variable flying under the radar as a soft tissue structure that we need to treat.
Assisting the esophagus to elongate is accomplished by anchoring the occipital ridge and softly compressing the left side of the sternum along its length toward the left hip with an emphasis around ribs five and six and then into the soft tissue of the abdomen just beneath the left costal arch.5
In the next installment to this series, we will further explore the role of the esophagus along with those of the pericardial sac and explore the possibility that sometimes the heart may shift form its normal position in the thorax. It is my clinical experience that all of these variables can be positively influenced through bodywork, massage, movement and energetic therapies.6
To date, this series has endeavored to offer an assessment sequence and a couple of fairly specific techniques that have clinically shown themselves to assist an easing of thoracic rigidity. The clinical inference is that by doing so we are reducing the workload of the heart to deliver newly oxygenated and nutritious blood systemically.
Assessment Sequence for Freeing the Heart
The central theme is to assess the degree of pliability and distensibility of the thoracic cage. My experience suggests that when the left sternal border and the intercostal space associated with ribs five and six are rigid that the heart is definitely having to work harder to push out newly oxygenated and nutritious blood. Restriction to the lateral excursion of either or both hemi-diaphragms only adds to the workload of the heart.
Technique Review for Freeing the Heart
Let's review one "inside-out" technique that can jump-start the easing of thoracic pressure. Its effectiveness relies on the loosely organized areolar connective tissue along the posterior margin of the diaphragm muscle.
Click here for more information about Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD.
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