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How to Find and Fix TL Nerve Impingements
The thoracolumbar junction (TLJ) and the peripheral sensory nerves that exit from it are frequent, important and rarely recognized sources of lower back, pelvic and hip pain. Let's outline a clear exam protocol for diagnosing the problem.
Recording and Appropriate Billing of Timed Physical Medicine Services
There is a common misunderstanding about timed therapy services and although you do have some knowledge of timed service documentation, based on your comment on the 8-minute rule, your understanding is correct, but incomplete.
News in Brief
A Moment of Silence for Dr. Stephen Press; New ACA President Elected; F4CP Offers New MemBership Benefit.
An Interview with Amanda Shayle
JW: Can you share with us some of your history and how you became an acupuncturist? What did you do prior to becoming an acupuncturist? Where did you go to school?
NCCAOM Launches New Membership Organization
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) recently launched a new national membership organization, the NCCAOM Academy of Diplomates.
The Rest of the Patient Story
I've written previously about allowing a patient to tell you their story – about taking the time to listen and engage all the aspects of their case history, the injury in question, and the related issues.
Constructing Our Reality: The Primary Channels and Perception, Part 1
My favorite topic of discussion within Chinese medicine is the acupuncture channel systems. First of all, each of us have them. They are part of our bodies; not something external to us. To learn about the acupuncture channels is to learn about ourselves.
Asking Patients the Right Questions
When was the last time you asked a patient a question? Maybe 30 seconds ago? But, are you asking the right questions to elicit valuable and useful information? As a healthcare provider, you've likely spent hundreds of hours learning to ask the right questions to gather critical health information from your patients.
The Value of Melatonin in Breast Cancer Prevention and Adjunctive Treatment
Although melatonin (MLT) is best known for its sleep-aid properties and as a natural remedy to prevent jet lag, extensive experimental studies suggest it possesses anticancer activity through several biological mechanisms.
Building Relationships and Referral Networks with Allopathic Practitioners
Dr. Doug, an orthopedist of 20 years, had heard stories from patients who tried acupuncture. While he was able to address many of their complaints effectively, some appeared to gain additional benefit when their care included TCM.
Transparency is Key at ASA First Annual Meeting
On March 4th and 5th the American Society of Acupuncturists (ASA) held a successful first annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Filling the Gap: The Role of Alternative Practitioners in a Broken Health Care System
I have been asked many times what got me into alternative medicine. My answer is simple: I want to truly help and make a difference in people's health.
The IME System: A Current Public Health Risk and Solutions That Are Working
I strongly believe in the independent medical examination (IME) system. There are far too many doctors in every profession who are not following E&M protocols and never claim MMI (maximum medical improvement) has occurred for their patients, which has caused financial stress for many private and public carriers.
Health and Wellness Partnership
Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and The Wellness Center at the LAC + USC Historic General Hospital recently joined forces to extend care to the residents of Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles.
Business Lesson #1: Adapt or Else
My wife and I recently enjoyed an excellent meal at a restaurant recommended by some friends. We often have concerns about restaurant recommendations, as many have been disappointing.
Energy: For Life and For Death
Energy is a deep topic in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Qi is understood to underlie all of existence, animated or not, and the qi of the living is studied with special attention.
Vitamin D Fails to Help Knee OA? The Proper Perspective
The March 8, 2016 issue of JAMA includes a study about vitamin D supplementation for osteoarthritis of the knee. This is a really weird study.
The Art of Listening
One of the most important clinical concepts for me was voiced by the legendary physician William Osler. "Listen to your patient, he/she is telling you the diagnosis." After treating literally thousands of patients, it can become almost second nature to quickly discover clues which reveal the underlying diagnosis.
Essentials of Assessment: The Squat
The squat is a simple, fast and functional tool to evaluate patient symmetry and function. As simple and easy as it is to implement, it can yield considerable amounts of valuable, clinically relevant information.
Roots in the Community, Branches Far Beyond
The Jung Tao School of Classical Chinese Medicine (JTS) was founded in 1998 by Sean Christian Marshall in Sugar Grove, North Carolina, a small community near Boone in the state's westernmost mountains.
The Power of Eccentric Exercise: Hamstring Injury Prevention and Rehab
For almost 20 years, I've worked with professional athletes who make a living by running really fast. It goes without saying that hamstring injury (HSI) prevention and rehabilitation is a big part of what they expect from a sports chiropractor.
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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