resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
A History Worth Telling
The popularity and the use of acupuncture for the treatment of animals in the United States is at its peak.
9 Common Causes of Thyroid Imbalance and How You Can Help
How you sleep, how easily you wake up, and how much energy and stamina you have during the day are directly related to levels of the thyroid hormones.
Peer Points: Always Seeking To Grow
Ellen "Kiki" Geary has spent the last decade honing her craft. As a specialist in integrative holistic care, she went straight from completing her master's degree in acupuncture and chinese herbal medicine from Bastyr University to building a successful and thriving practice in the small community of Anacortes, Washington.
New Medical Technologies You Need to Know
We're all familiar with how fast computers become obsolete, as well as the rapid pace of development in the field of cell phone technology. The latest smart phones are far more powerful than desktop computers were only a few years ago.
News in Brief
National Chiropractic Health Month: Be Proactive; Collegiate Roundup: Academic Appointments at Parker, Logan.
A Vibrating Capsule for Constipation? Relevance to Your Chiropractic Practice
The relationship between gastrointestinal (GI) complaints and back pain is not typically written about or discussed.
Medical Qigong for the Heart: Part III
Part 1 and Part II of this series focused on the physical aspect of the Heart and mental emotional aspects of the Heart respectively. Now, I would like to focus on the spiritual aspect of the Heart.
Building From the Bottom Up
I caught up with my dear friend Honora Wolfe, in her Colorado painting studio where, if she is not praying in Bhutan or doing charitable work in a Nepali free clinic, she spends most of her time now.
Don't Turn a 2 Into a 10
The Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale1 is so useful because it can be used by almost anyone. Patients can use the numbers associated with the faces depicted on the scale or select the face that demonstrates their current level of pain from 0-10.
CCE Finally Takes a "Baby Step" Toward Reform
During a 16-month period from October 2010 to February 2012, I devoted four separate columns to the heavy-handed attempt by the Council on Chiropractic Education to radically change the chiropractic profession through the accreditation process.
Why Young People Need Chiropractic Now More Than Ever
According to a recent study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, "It is now widely acknowledged that neck pain (NP), mid back pain (MBP), and low back pain (LBP) (spinal pain) start early in life and that the lifetime prevalence increases rapidly during adolescence to reach adult levels at the age of 18."
Waking Up the Gluteus Maximus
In previous articles in this series, we expounded on the importance of the gluteus maximus (GM) in athletic performance and protecting the knee from injury. We also know there is a link between iliotibial band syndrome and GM weakness.
Chiropractic Research in Review
Chiropractic Treatment of Lateral Epicondylitis; Cost / Benefit Analysis: Different Doses of SMT for Low Back Pain; Imaging for Occult Rib and Costal Cartilage Fractures; Treating Neck Pain: Thoracic Thrust Manipulation vs. Non-Thrust Mobilization.
MPA Media Wins 7 Publishing Awards
MPA Media, publisher of Dynamic Chiropractic and DC Practice Insights, among other titles, has been recognized for editorial and design excellence with an unprecedented seven publishing awards by the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the nation's largest organization for business-to-business publications.
A Guide for Talking to Doctors about Acupuncture and Brain Chemistry
Before I begin any discussion of how to talk about the effects of acupuncture on brain chemistry, nervous and endocrine function, it is essential to understand just what physicians most need help with.
Pain Underfoot: Metatarsalgia
Foot pain can interfere significantly with normal activities and severely limit participation in sports. Metatarsalgia is foot pain involving the metatarsal bones in the forefoot – the complaint of pain on the bottom of the ball of the foot.
A Chinese Medicine Story: An Interview with Mazin Al-Khafaji
Mazin Al-Khafaji's work has interested me for years. In February 2014, we invited him for the second time to speak at the Southwest Symposium in Austin, Texas.
January, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 01
Solving a Client Puzzle
How To Know Whether It's Tennis Elbow Or Nerve Entrapment
By Whitney Lowe, LMT
Suppose a client comes to see you complaining of lateral elbow pain. She reports that the pain has been going on for quite some time despite efforts to treat it. A first consideration might be that the client has lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow; not an unreasonable assumption since lateral epicondylitis is a common problem. However, it's also entirely possible that the client's complaint derives from another condition called radial tunnel syndrome.
The most effective results occur when you choose treatment techniques whose physiological effects best address the client's existing complaint. Conditions and treatment techniques both have physiological effects, which are the specific ways in which tissues respond either to the pain/injury or the intervention. Treating a client suffering from radial tunnel syndrome with techniques appropriate for someone suffering from lateral epicondylitis would aggravate the problem rather than help it. So, let's take a look at these two problems and explore how one might mistake radial tunnel syndrome for lateral epicondylitis.
Exploring the Conditions
Most people are aware that lateral epicondylitis is a chronic overuse condition affecting the common extensor tendons where they attach at the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. Despite the implication from its name, because it ends in –itis, epicondylitis is rarely an inflammatory problem and is not caused by the common explanation of torn tendon fibers. Instead, it is caused by collagen degeneration in the extensor tendons. Pain is most pronounced where the tendons attach at the lateral epicondyle of the humerus.
Epicondylitis presents several clear signs and symptoms that can be picked up during the evaluation process. There is likely to be pain with palpation of the extensor tendons and it is likely to be particularly tender where they attach at the lateral epicondyle. It is also common for pain to be reproduced when stretching the extensor tendons by moving the wrist into full flexion. Resisted wrist extension also reproduces the client's pain, especially if the affected tendons are palpated during the resisted wrist movement. (See Figure 1)
Unlike lateral epicondylitis, radial tunnel syndrome is not as common. However, when present, it can easily be confused with epicondylitis. Radial tunnel syndrome is frequently called resistant tennis elbow, because the symptoms are very similar to tennis elbow and they persist even after attempts at treatment (usually for lateral epicondylitis).
In the elbow region, the radial nerve divides into a superficial sensory branch and a deep motor branch. The primary problem in radial tunnel syndrome is compression of these branches as they course through fibro-osseous tunnels created by surrounding muscles, ligaments and bones. The deep motor branch innervates the wrist extensor muscles and is called the posterior interosseous nerve (PIN). Compression of the PIN most commonly causes weakness or atrophy in the wrist extensors because the PIN contains motor fibers almost exclusively. However, pain similar to lateral epicondylitis is possible because the superficial sensory branch of the radial nerve may also be compressed in this region. (See Figure 2)
Nerve compression occurs in radial tunnel syndrome where the PIN courses under the supinator muscle. The archway created by the edge of the supinator muscle under which the PIN passes is called the Arcade of Frohse. (See Figure 3) The Arcade of Frohse often has fibrous bands that compress the nerve causing the tunnel compression syndrome. These fibrous bands are small and deep under the extensor muscle mass, so they are challenging to palpate.
Although radial tunnel syndrome and lateral epicondylitis may initially present with similar symptoms, there are some key aspects of assessment that will help differentiate the problems. Lateral epicondylitis is most likely to cause pain during resisted wrist extension. Radial tunnel syndrome, on the other hand, is more likely to present with less pain but significant weakness during resisted wrist extension because it is the PIN motor fibers that are most affected.
Pain can be reproduced during palpation with both these conditions. However, when palpating the lateral elbow region, radial tunnel syndrome pain is more likely to be felt somewhat distal to the epicondyle in the soft tissues. Epicondylitis pain is predominantly in the extensor tendons and right at the epicondyle. In addition, pain arising from nerve compression in radial tunnel syndrome is likely to be less specific and extend into the forearm. Epicondylitis pain is usually far more local right at the proximal extensor tendon group and their attachments.
Based on her initial symptoms, our client could have either one of these conditions. This is a great illustration of why it is so important to perform a thorough assessment and not immediately jump to conclusions. Assuming she has lateral epicondylitis, the most likely treatment approach would include deep transverse friction of the common extensor tendons. The physiological effects of this treatment technique (stimulation of fibroblast activity which encourages collagen rebuilding) would match the physiology of the tissue injury (collagen degeneration). The friction technique would be valuable in addressing the chronic tendon degeneration of epicondylitis.
However, if the primary problem is radial tunnel syndrome, applying deep friction could significantly aggravate the problem by placing adverse pressure on the nerve. For radial tunnel syndrome it would be far more important to address muscular hypertonicity throughout the wrist extensors and the supinator muscle so they don't further compress the nerve. In addition, neural mobilization techniques for the radial nerve would encourage full freedom of movement of the nerve and eventually reduce symptoms. Neural mobilization engages gentle pulling actions during certain motions of the upper extremity that encourage smooth and free gliding of the nerve near any adjacent structures.
This case illustrates two very important points that will make your treatments more successful. It is valuable to know about soft-tissue pathologies in order to be able to distinguish between conditions. In addition, in cases like this, it is possible to make treatment errors that make a client's condition worse. Performing accurate assessment and considering the physiological effects of the treatment on the specific tissues being treated will make your treatments far more effective and successful.
Click here for more information about Whitney Lowe, LMT.
Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreementcomments powered by Disqus
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.