resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
An Emerging Partnership Model
Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) has educated integrative health and wellness practitioners for the last 40 years, originally as an acupuncture clinic and school. The institution's transformative, relationship-centered programs integrate traditional wisdom with contemporary science
Acupuncture's Impact on the World
For several years, I have been hearing about the town of Rothenburg, Germany. It seemed just a dot on a map until I arrived. It is the home of the TCM Kongress which began in 1968. It has been held annually for 47 years and it has only missed one year.
A Long-Overdue Win for Oregon Medicaid Patients - and the Implications for Other States
Beginning July 1, 2016, Oregon Medicaid patients with spinal pain (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, pelvic) who are determined to be low risk based on a biopsychosocial assessment tool (STarT Back – Keele University) can receive four chiropractic visits per episode.
Introducing the Acupuncture Today Digital Edition
In response to the changing habits of our readers, Acupuncture Today will introduce a digital edition of the publication (in addition to our print edition) beginning with the August 2016 issue.
Beating the Odds: Interview With Para-Powerlifter Adeline Dumapong-Ancheta
Since October 2015, the FICS Foundation, the charitable organization affiliated with the International Federation of Sports Chiropractic (FICS), has been supporting disabled athletes internationally.
Believe it or not, an estimated one-third of your patients have eaten some form of fast food within 24 hours of their appointment with you.
Multivitamin Supplement May Reduce Breast Cancer Recurrence
There is a great deal of controversy regarding the value of multiple vitamin supplements in cancer prevention.
Treating Hip & Groin Pain With Abdominal Release of Upper Lumbar Nerve Impingements
Have you encountered patients with groin and hip pain you can't seem to solve? You know it's not a worn-out hip; you suspect the pain is somehow connected to the spine. But somehow, you just can't help them break through.
What You Say Isn't Always What Patients Hear
A few years ago, my aunt Edna (name changed for the purpose of this story) suffered a stroke. After a short hospital stay, she was transferred to a nursing home for rehabilitation. When she arrived at the nursing home, Edna requested a private room.
Increasing the Value of Spine Care: CMS Approves New Low Back Pain Registry
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved the Spine IQ Low Back Pain Registry as a qualified clinical data registry for the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) in 2016.
Three Tips to Help You Analyze the Acupuncture Case Studies of the NCCAOM Exam
Confirm the answer quickly by the elimination method. Case study:
After two treatments for back pain, a patient presents for a third
session complaining of rapid breathing and wheezing that is made worse
during cold weather.
AOM Hospital-Based Practice: A Future Reality?
The natural evolution of health care on the planet is integrative health. We may have some challenges ahead, but based on my research, all indicators are pointing in a positive direction. There seems to be an evolving consciousness among our patient population that is "getting it."
Acupuncture Muscle Trigger Point and Oriental Medicine Sports Therapy
It is difficult to ascertain the internal condition of professional basketball player Lebron James during game one of the 2014 NBA finals, in which he developed debilitating muscle cramps that led to his premature removal from the game.
The Pertinent Negative
We all have to perform evaluations on patients. Most of us don't like doing it – exams take time, and worse it takes even more time after the evaluation to put together a narrative summary of the findings. Sometimes, this process becomes downright tedious.
Tai Chi Documentary Premier
First Run Features recently announced the world theatrical premiere of Barry Strugatz's documentary The Professor: Tai Chi's Journey West, which premiered last month at the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles.
Adventures with the San Jiao
Those of us who have been in practice for several decades relish the way meridians and points reveal new diagnostic clues and new insights. I love to encourage my students to see this as an adventure that goes way beyond the textbooks.
What's New in Phytonutrition: Mangifera Indica, "The King of Fruits"
One hundred percent pure Indian green mango fruit (mangifera indica), harvested at a special degree of ripeness for efficacy and taste, can now be concentrated as a phytonutrient nutraceutical powder.
An MD Who Understands the Opioid Epidemic
Doctors of chiropractic have an important role to play in ending the opioid epidemic and dealing with chronic pain by conservative means (see our top story in this issue) – but who's to blame for opioid dependence and abuse in the first place?
Sit or Stand? Analyzing a Mixed Message
I'm more than a bit confused. At my age, that seems to be a rather common occurrence. However, today more than ever, I'm getting a mixed message.
Chronic Pain: Become Part of the Solution
I have lectured to more than 7,000 chiropractic physicians over the past five years regarding the chronic pain and opioid epidemic in this country.
How to Stay Sane During the Elections: Understanding Through the Lens of Chinese Medicine
In Chinese Medicine philosophy, everything consists of Yin and Yang. The law of polar opposites – one cannot exist without its opposite.
Insuring Quality Control in Herb Importation: An Interview with Wilson Lau
Wilson Lau is the vice president of Nuherbs, a Chinese herb importation company based in San Leandro, California. Before joining Nuherbs, he trained as a lawyer specializing in FDA law.
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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