resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An Unexpected Diagnosis: The Result of Lacking Communication
A couple years ago I had a case that showed me the importance of open communication between health practitioners. We need to show up with less fear, and let go of our judgments so we can do better for the patient.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.