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Putting POLITE Into Practice
First came the acronym RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), which eventually became PRICE (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Then in 2015, we started hearing POLICE (Protect, Optimal Loading, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
Dealing with a Pain in the Butt
The patient came into my office with the classic antalgic stoop. She was bent over almost to ninety degrees, leaning on her husband for support and staggering to walk. She had been under supportive care for a long time, but this new pain scared her.
CE Regulations Are Hurting Chiropractic
During my 35 years in the chiropractic profession, I have been forced to attend available continuing-education programs that were occasionally incredibly beneficial, but frequently not worth my time.
HVLA Technique: Addressing Myths
In the annals of chiropractic history and literature, and in the imagination of the public, there is one manual adjusting technique that can produce a wide range of responses, both from patients and casual observers.
Physical Examination in an Evidence-Based World
I have always had a fascination with physical examination procedures, particularly orthopedic tests. The origin of my fascination began just after graduation when I began the chiropractic orthopedics program.
Concerns Regarding CDC Guidelines for Pain Management
In response to the epidemic rates of opioid and heroin addiction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) set new guidelines for physicians regarding treatment for pain.
Comparing Costs of Care: DCs, MDs or PTs - Who Costs More?
In a health care era where evidence is increasingly the benchmark for insurance coverage, patient care and even cultural authority, we get plenty of it courtesy of a retrospective cost analysis spanning 10 years, more than 660,000 "covered lives" and nearly 7.5 million claims from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.
Sacroiliac Joint Fusion: Where's the Wisdom?
We should be very skeptical of the purportedly less invasive version of the already defrocked sacroiliac fusion surgery, "minimally invasive" sacroiliac joint fusion; and concerned this procedure simply represents the device manufacturer's attempt to find yet another new market.
The Drug Epidemic: Are You Guilty, Too?
Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has become epidemic among children in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of school-aged children diagnosed with ADHD has grown from 7.8 percent in 2003 to 11.0 percent in 2011.
Letter to the Editor
On December 7, 1999, the U.S. FDA reclassified the status of acupuncture needles from class III (investigative devices subject to investigative device exemptions...) to class II (special controls).
We Get Letters & Email
Our Medicare Challenges Aren't an Education Issue; Passion to Succeed: More Pivotal Than GPA?
Case Study: 2-Year-Old Suffering From Urinary Reflux
A19-month-old female child presented to my office for treatment. Her mother reported the child had been diagnosed with urinary reflux and associated urinary tract infections, recurrent bouts of otitis media and inability to sleep.
Patience vs. Patients
How long have you been in practice? I began my journey more than 20 years ago and opened my first acupuncture clinic in 2008. Just like you, I've learned a lot over the years. Recently, I sat in an interview and was asked what made me successful.
Acupuncture Earns BLS Unique Code
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced that acupuncturists will have their own unique occupational code in the 2018 BLS Handbook. The new Standard Occupational Code (SOC) is 29-1291, will be included in the next edition of the BLS Occupational Handbook, which will be published in 2018.
Infertility: Managing Irregular Menses
Infertility is an area where Chinese medicine is particularly helpful. In the main, in women below the age of 38 without organic disturbance, the success rate using TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) should exceed 85%.
Acupuncture's Essential Role
Acupuncture should play a more prominent role in U.S. healthcare during and after this post-Affordable Care Act era when chronic care and population health management are key concerns for all healthcare providers.
Six Things Every Chiropractor Should Know About Opioids
An increase in addictions and deaths due to opioids has raised significant concern and media attention. We offer this brief overview on this important public health problem for the practicing chiropractor.
The Lung Official
The Lung is known as the "Official Who Receives the Pure Chi From the Heavens." The act of breathing in, known as inspiration, brings oxygen into the body from the atmosphere. Each exhalation or expiration removes and releases carbon dioxide, a waste product of the body, into the atmosphere.
University of Bridgeport Acupuncture Students Make Rounds at Sisters of Notre Dame
Nuns are not stereotypical acupuncture patients, Dr. Jennifer Brett acknowledges with a laugh. But then again, acupuncture has gone mainstream, just like cappuccinos and recycling. "It's changed a lot from the '70s and '80s," said Brett.
Forward Head Carriage and the Feet: What's the Connection? (Pt. 2)
Clinical evaluation of standing posture using relatively low-tech tools has been confirmed as valid and reliable by several studies. The original device used to evaluate posture was the plumb line, which served as a reference line for the effects of gravity on body alignment.
NBCE Fumbles Computerized Testing Process
Imagine being a student again, about to take one of the four tests required to become a doctor of chiropractic. You've studied almost nonstop for the past few weeks. You can feel your anxiety level rise as you sit down in front of the computer screen.
Why We Need to Fix the Mechanoreceptors (Part 2)
The muscle spindle, a particular type of mechanoreceptor, is located deep within the muscle belly, encapsulated in fascia made up of intrafusal fibers, all within the extrafusal muscle fibers.
The Most Important Vitamin You've Never Heard Of: K2
Imagine if one in every three patients who walked through your door was afflicted with a debilitating, yet completely preventable and treatable disease.
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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