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Extraordinary Vessels and Emotional Healing
In addition to the 12 primary Organ-related meridians in the body, there are other energy circulation channels that have been mapped out by Traditional Chinese Medicine. Probably the most significant of these are called the Eight Extraordinary (or Extra) Vessels.
The Monkey on Your Back
Many practitioners run their clinic without any extra help—at least initially. I've always been pretty good at multi-tasking. Having nine kids taught me how to wear multiple hats and juggle a lot of responsibilities. Running a clinic is similar.
If you visit the website of the JAMA and search on the word chiropractic, more than 200 results appear. If you sort that list chronologically and look at the oldest entry, you will find "Medical News" that includes the following.
Keeping Up With Western Medicine Advancements: The Amazing World of Imaging Studies
When patients with neuromuscular problems come to you for treatment there is usually a lot you can do for them to improve their mobility or reduce their pain, whether it is a middle age woman with a frozen shoulder.
Study: Acupuncture for Acute Low Back Pain More Effective Than Drugs
New research by Korean doctors of Oriental Medicine suggested that an acupuncture method could reduce acute lower back pain faster and more effectively than conventional drug injections.
10 Life Lessons That Will Change the Way You Practice
"What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?" I have posed this question for years to groups I've spoken to across the country and around the world.
Three Essential Herbal Products For Your First-Aid Kit
There are three Chinese patent medicines that belong in everyone's first aid kit. All three are for topical application, and all three provide extraordinary benefits unavailable from any domestic over-the-counter.
Dry Needling is Acupuncture: But What of Education? What of Public Safety?
One of my patients told me recently, that their physical therapist used a "dry needle" and that it wasn't acupuncture. Apparently, physical therapists (PT) are taught to tell their patients that "only acupuncturists practice acupuncture."
Weight Training: Are Cheat Reps Worth It?
While resting between exercises at the gym recently, a young lifter asked me for a spot on a set of barbell bench presses. The bar was loaded with a moderately heavy amount of weight that at first glance appeared to be too heavy for his frame.
A Medication Primer for Alternative Health Care Practitioners (Part 2)
Morphine is arguably the greatest drug of all time, at least in the sense that it is so powerful in relieving pain.
Obesity is a Shen Problem
The expressions "obese" and "obesity" are not pejorative terms. They are scientific terms, determined solely by the Body Mass Index scale, which combines a person's height and weight in a mathematical formula. A number of 30 and above denotes "obesity."
Becoming a Concussion Expert in Your Community: What You Need to Know (Part 2)
What makes an individual an expert in concussions? Obtaining education about concussions and treating concussed patients are two factors that lead to expertise.
Pre-Conception Wellness: What Do Your Patients Need to Know?
Deciding to have a baby is one of the most important decisions a woman will ever make. But how many women are really prepared for a healthy pregnancy?
Treating Rib Joints to Protect Thoracic Stability
It is an exciting world that awaits us when we go to work every day. We deal with all types of people who present with varying health conditions we can (hopefully) help alleviate.
We Get Letters & E-Mail
The "Great Opportunity" for Chiropractic: Expanded Scope of Practice; The SOAP Note: An Effective Tool for Documentation; Treating Patients Goes Beyond Following Established Protocol.
Chiropractic Care for Veterans: Serving Those Who Served (Pt. 2)
To what extent do you think the role of chiropractors in the VA can serve as a model for greater chiropractic integration elsewhere in the American health care system? That's a very important question.
Lateral Femoral Cutaneous Nerve Entrapments
The lateral femoral cutaneous nerve arises from the 2nd and 3rd lumbar nerves. It is formed in the psoas muscle and emerges from its lateral border to cross the iliacus muscle and exit the pelvis.
Weaving Eastern & Western Medicine Together: Q&A with Beijing's Dr. Kezhen Zhang
Dr. Kezhen Zhang M.D., is currently the founder and president of Beijing Taijitang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital.
Healing the Qi: The Boston Marathon Bombing
On Monday, April 15 2013, locals and visitors from around the globe gathered for the world's largest marathon in the city of Boston. With 23,000 participating in the race and many more on the sidelines, the marathon represents a Boston institution.
It's About the Word
The new patient was already a fan of chiropractic. "I liked the guy a lot," he said of the previous DC he had consulted. "But he is on the other side of town, and I just can't get there after work. So he sent me to you, since you're his buddy."
Beauty is Averageness
After seeing Kim Kardashian's face all over the Internet -and my inbox- following her posting on getting facial acupuncture, I recalled the work of Michael Cunningham who was at the University of Louisville when I was doing my doctoral work.
The Physiology of Anger
Most of us recognize and have felt anger at some point in our lives. Anger can be seen as a natural response to some kind of pain, whether emotional or physical.
Protein and Weight Loss
Recently I was asked by the staff at Dynamic Chiropractic to referee some of their water-cooler discussions regarding nutrition. Topping their list was this one about protein and weight loss: "Why is protein important for weight loss and how much should I eat?"
News in Brief
In Remembrance: A Moment of Silence for Robin McKenzie (1931-2013); DC Re-Elected to Co-Chair AMA Code Review Board; WFC Celebrates 25 Years.
A Solution for the Primary Care Crisis?
A white paper generated by the ACCAHC Primary Care Project and UCLA Center for Health Policy Research Senior Research Scientist, Michael Goldstein, PhD, addresses a clear oversight noted in recent workforce analyses designed to assess the nation's primary care needs.
Maintaining Professional Boundaries in a Facebook World: Social Media Guidelines for DCs
A few months ago, I received an unexpected message on my Facebook account: "Hi Doc, do you remember me? I'm so happy to find you here on Facebook. It's been years since I have seen you and I'm glad to reconnect with you.
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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