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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Is It Time to Rethink Mental Illness? (Pt. 1)
Invariably, patients will ask their chiropractor about depression or various mental illnesses. Some practitioners will reflexively offer a cervical adjustment, suggest St. John's wort or contemplate a referral to a specialist.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
May, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 05
Scalene Muscles: Playing Havoc with Your Clients
By Nicole Nelson
As a massage therapist, I am quite grateful to the scalene muscles as they have offered me a great deal of job security. Trigger points in the scalene muscles have been attributed a wide array of myofascial pain and motor disturbance, extending from head to toe.Trigger points in the scalene muscles are known to refer pain anteriorly, laterally, and/or posteriorly.1 Pain in the scalene muscles is routinely felt just about everywhere but in the scalenes themselves. How can these three (occasionally four, but for the sake of this article three) muscles wreak so much havoc and what strategies are most effective for clients suffering from laminated, matted down scalene muscles? It is important to understand the basic anatomy of the scalene muscles so therapists can utilize some basic treatment strategies to perform on clients that have scalene trigger points and brachial plexus entrapment syndrome.
Anatomy and Function
The three scalene muscles are located between the sternocleidomastoid and the anterior portion of the trapezius. Without getting too specific (most anatomy books will do a far better job at illustrating precise attachments), the scalene muscles attach to transverse and costal processes of C2 and attach onto the superior surfaces of the first two ribs. The brachial plexus and subclavian artery share passage around and sometimes through anterior and middle scalenes. Therefore, it is not uncommon for clients with tight scalene muscles to complain of paresthesia, anesthesia, coldness, claudication and lymphedema in the involved extremity.2
The scalene muscles when contracting bilaterally elevate the ribs during inhalation and flex the neck. Unilateral contraction (with the ribs fixed) laterally flex the neck to the same side, and rotate the head and neck to the opposite side. The scalene muscles also serve in a stabilizing role for the cervical spine against lateral movement. Additionally, the scalene muscles have been credited with being essential auxiliary muscles of respiration.3 Evidence goes so far as to support the scalene muscles as having a more primary role in respiration rather than just an accessory muscle of inspiration.4
What is clinically significant is understanding the mechanical advantage these muscles have on the upper ribs and cervical spine. The anterior and medial scalene, when chronically shortened, has the ability to elevate, rotate and fixate the first rib.5 An elevated first rib will certainly limit the space of the thoracic outlet, creating a strong potential for neurovascular and subclavian artery entrapment.
Bilaterally, contraction of these muscles flex the neck and pull the head forward. Like it or not, forward head posture is here to stay; driving, typing, gaming and empathetic listening all involve subjecting our bodies to this postural pitfall. Unilateral tightness in the scalene muscles typically expresses itself with an elevated shoulder. This unilateral shortening can result from leg length asymmetry, whiplash injuries, poor sleeping habits, heavy bouts of coughing, carrying awkwardly large objects or even swimming.6 To sum up, if your clients have ever slept, taken a labored breath, stood at a bar with reckless disregard of gravity, done any work on a computer, sat with crossed legs or had a cold, scalene work is necessary.
Any structural integrationist or alignment expert will tell you that a successful treatment plan addresses the entire body and that we as therapists must consider all deviations as relevant in coming up with our bodywork strategy. Some therapists start at the feet and credit them as the platform of all postural aberrations. Others would argue that the rotations and anomalous curvatures of the spine are the root of chronic pain. I believe they are all probably correct in some way. Regardless of your approach, consider the following strategies a piece of the puzzle in formulating a course of treatment for clients experiencing signs of brachial plexus entrapment or have pain patterns that correlate with the scalene muscles.
One of the first things that I establish with clients, regardless of their exercise history or yoga and pilates proficiency, is to assess how they breath. Paradoxical breathing is huge contributor to scalene trigger points. Clients should be able to breathe diaphragmatically in sitting, standing and supine positions. I strongly suggest evaluating their breathing in all positions. What you will find in practice is that a client might successfully diaphragmatically breath in a supine position, yet have difficulty doing so in a sitting or standing position. Depending on which position you have observed a breathing deficiency, you must have them retrain appropriate breathing in that position. The best technique I have found, courtesy of Travell, is to have the client place their right hand on their chest and left hand on their abdomen. With their eyes closed, instruct them to inhale through the nose to a four second count then exhale through the mouth (also to a four second count), allowing the abdomen to relax and retract to the starting position, extending their bellies into the left hand. Corrective exercise like this takes time for motor re-patterning to occur; therefore, the should be repeated for 30 to 60 seconds every hour throughout the day. Sixty seconds is adequate time to practice this without overly fatiguing the muscles. Diaphragmatic breathing certainly helps reduce the overworking of the scalene muscles and it is a very useful strategy in helping clients deal with scalene trigger points. But, those who have mastered good breathing practices are not out of the woods.
Postural strain patterns is next on our list. If a client is at their computer all day, or holding babies on a hiked hip or is attached to their cell phone, you can be assured body alignment will need addressing. Thomas Meyers suggests in his book, Anatomy Trains, to have your client observe their own posture in a mirror and ask them what they see. Take a picture of the client which is imposed on a postural grid and show it to them and get their impressions of their own alignment. I have found that when you take a more team approach in analyzing posture, the message is accepted fairly well and the client's awareness is heightened that much more. From here, postural alignment tips such as chin tucking exercises or discussing their workstation set up will not only be appreciated, but they will be far more compliant in applying these suggestions.
Now, as far as the actual act of bodywork. Basic compression and stripping of these muscles will do the trick. No muscle produces more amazed comments from clients. A useful tip when beginning this work is to communicate the possible referral patterns that can light up when working on these trigger points. Mentally, set your treatment pace at slow and then perform it even slower. I like to start with the scalene muscles in a slightly shortened position. The bit of slack will make the initial work far more tolerable and it better enables you to scoot under the SCM. With the client supine, laterally slightly flex (maybe 10 degrees) the neck to the side you are treating, and gently glide across the entire length of the tissue. Depending on the size of the neck, I either use my thumb or middle finger. Once you notice some softening to these structures, begin the same gently stripping process with the client's head in a more neutral cervical alignment, once softening occurs in this position, rotate the head away from the side you are treating and elevate it slightly off the table. In this position, place your thumb or index finger between the sternal and clavicular heads of the distal attachment of the SCM, have your client take a deep breath upon exhalation, and friction the scalene muscles underneath the clavicle. Finish with some pin and stretch anywhere you feel restriction.
Mobilizing the first rib is a key part in the success of scalene work. The scalene attachments can place the first rib in awkwardly fixated, elevated and/or rotated position.7 Take care of the rib if you want your scalene work to have lasting results. Don't let rib mobilization scare you, this is not a chiropractic adjustment, simply steady pressure. With your client supine, palpate the posterior aspect of the first rib in front of the upper trap with your thumb. It should feel like a flat surface; however, if rotated it will feel more like a sharp edge. Simply apply a steady downward pressure (in the direction of the client's heel) once you feel the surrounding tissue soften, have the client flex their shoulder, while you continue to pin the rib down. Additionally, flexing the clients head to the contra-lateral side while pinning the rib should also prove to be effective. Patience will prevail and remember to set your treatment pace at slow and then go slower.
Any client that breathes will benefit from scalene work. These entrappers are associated with a wide range of upper extremity issues ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to tennis elbow. This article is hardly exhaustive in it's treatment suggestions, but will hopefully serve as a good starting point.
Nicole Nelson a licensed massage therapist in Jacksonville, Fla. She has a masters degree in Health Science from the University of North Florida and is a certified Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist through ACE.
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