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A Poor Choice for Pain Relief
Acetaminophen is the most popular pain reliever in the U.S., accounting for an estimated 27 billion annual doses as of 2009. With 100,000-plus hospital visits a year by users, it's also the most likely to be taken inappropriately.
ACA or ICA: Which Best Represents You?
Last June, I was honored to represent Texas ICA members as their representative assemblyman at the ICA Annual Meeting in Kansas City.
5 Tips for Using Pinterest to Market Your Practice
Pinterest is a very popular, but often under-utilized, social media platform where people can bookmark, or "pin," fun and interesting things from all across the internet.
Rethinking Musculoskeletal Pain – A Public Health Perspective
The American Public Health Association (APHA) is the world's oldest and largest association of its kind, founded more than 140 years ago and boasting over 25,000 members.
Leg-Length Inequality and Pelvic Fixation: A New Approach to the Negative Derifield (Part 2)
As we noted in our previous article, with a positive Derifield (+D), the doctor observes the reactive (shorter) leg in the prone position that becomes longer or "crosses over" in the flexed position.
Animal Acupuncture: A Case Study in the Treatment of Traumatic Injury in the Equine
The rise of animal acupuncture in the U.S. began in the early 1970's as a result of the work by members of the National Acupuncture Association in Westwood, Calif.
The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine
My Masters thesis was titled, "The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine," which highlighted several reasons why it is hard for these two worlds to mix.
Marijuana, Apathy and Chinese Medicine, Part 1
This article was written in response to the unheeded acceptance of marijuana as a harmless substance that potentially does good when used for the medical relief of pain.
The Acupuncturist's Problem
I want share with you some observations and insights into what seems to be the most common problem my colleagues in the acupuncture profession struggles with. If you also struggle with this problem, I hope you get a valuable "aha" moment from reading this.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
Giving Vets the Care They Deserve
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the largest integrated health care system in the United States.
Medicine is Clumsy, Don't You Be
All medical systems have clumsiness in them. If the technique isn't, the practitioner is. Everyone in every form of medicine is striving to improve. That is why we call it practice.
We Get Letters & Email
A House Divided? (May 1 issue) provoked significant response from readers. Here are several of the surprisingly similar comments we received.
Our Biggest Challenges to Compete in Wellness Care
In the first article in this four-article series [May 1 DC], I made the case that chiropractors should either embrace offering lifestyle wellness in their practices or face the possibility of losing their place in the wellness care marketplace.
Integrating Art with Clinical Practice for Patients with PTSD: The Artemis Project
Are you restricted by those one-on-one clinic dynamics? Why not join colleagues and clients in experimental group settings? Three of us volunteered to do just that in Austin on behalf of women veteranss from all branches of the service.
Green Tea Improves Cognitive Function in Elderly Subjects
Publishing their results in the journal Nutrients in May 2014, researchers showed that drinking the equivalent of 2-4 cups of brewed green tea (or bottled tea) daily improved cognitive function or reduced the progression of cognitive dysfunction in elderly subjects.
How Much Do You Know About the Benefits of Birds Nest?
Edible bird's nest is the nest made by the Swiftlet bird of Southeast Asia that is usually prepared as a soup and prized in Chinese culture as a healthful delicacy.
Reducing the Autogenic Inhibition Reflex: Making Weak Muscles Strong
The autogenic inhibition (AI) reflex is a sudden relaxation of a muscle in response to excess tension.
PCOM Granted Regional Accreditation
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) recently announce it has received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This achievement reflects five years of hard work on the part of faculty, staff, and students.
First Do No Harm?
There's no questioning the frightening nature of breast cancer, which strikes one in eight women in the U.S. – eclipsed only by skin cancer in terms of prevalence.
The Tide is Rising in the Acupuncture Profession
Former President Ronald Regan said, "When the tide rises all boats float." The tide is rising for the acupuncture profession. Many forces outside the profession are helping the tides to rise.
Spieth Thanks His Chiropractor After Historic Masters Win
Jordan Spieth didn't just capture the hearts of golf enthusiasts worldwide with his record-setting, wire-to-wire victory at the 79th Masters Tournament.
January, 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 01
The "Sacs and Tubes Theory of Stress"
By Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD
In 1996, while considering the treatment principles I had accumulated from many advanced trainings throughout my clinical career and the results they had produced for my clients, a deeply intuitive experience of anatomical understanding inspired me to conceive of the human body as composed of mostly sacs and tubes:
Integrating this personal epiphany with an understanding of Han Selye's General Adaptive Syndrome, my clinical thesis became clear: in response to "stress," the sacs around organs "cringe," while the tubes within them and between them "shorten and narrow and often twist." The intensity, duration and repetition of the stressor(s) are all relevant variables which may be reflected in the "degree" of these internal responses.1,2
As most body tubes are comprised of longitudinal and circular fibers, this notion of shortening and narrowing was not such a big theoretical leap.3 The notion of the "cringing of the sacs" was initially a "felt sense" of my own body's responses to positive as well as negative anticipation. Yet, supporting anecdotal evidence emerged recently when a client who had been a biology teacher for 35 years reminded me that during dissections of live frogs, the frog's heart would swell to twice its size when the pericardial sac was retracted.4
What are some of the possible effects of this proposed cringing, narrowing and shortening? To my perception, this clinical insight provides a credible explanation for the downward and forward pull of the head upon the neck, so often referred to in our profession's literature as forward head position. Let's take a look inside the body to appreciate just how many structures, especially viscera, are suspended from the anterior portion of the axial skeleton and have specific, palpable soft tissue linkages back to the cervical spine.
My understanding of the following anatomical references are based on seven years of study with Dr. Jean Pierre Barral DO, developer of the Visceral Manipulation approach to bodywork. I do wish to again gratefully acknowledge his dedication to articulating precise anatomical landmarks from his work with cadaver dissections and his ongoing exceptional teaching to the breadth of all professions that comprise the manual therapy field.5 His therapeutic ideas and anatomical assertions have been core to what has assisted me to help so many.
During embryological development, the heart and diaphragm muscle descend from C2 and remnant fibers to this origin remain throughout our lives. Less appreciated is that the heart and the diaphragm muscle are like siamese twins, conjoined at the inferior pericardium and central tendon of the diaphragm, meaning that one would have to cut them apart to separate them. The heart and lungs are suspended down and forward from the anterior surfaces of C4 - C6 by an overlapping system of suspensory visceral ligaments.
The liver is suspended down from the caudal surface of the diaphragm muscle via the coronary ligament which as noted above is related to C-2. In women, the uterus receives suspensory support from the contiguous relationship between the falciform ligament of the liver and the round ligament, which is composed of the obliterated umbilical arteries and veins.5 From C2 and from C4, 5 and 6 and all the way to the pelvic floor in women, any one of these relationships is symptomatically and therapeutically significant and when one considers that these viscera may become increasingly immobile and congested due to trauma or disease, they can become essentially "dead weight" pulling downward and forward on the cervical spine.
And, if this wasn't significant enough, my clinical work with clients suggested there was another anatomical linkage that can literally pull the "head down upon the neck" and that is the length and tension of the esophagus which is moored from the basilar portion of the occipital bone and then descends down and forward through the mediastinum and esophageal hiatus of the diaphragm becoming the stomach.6,7
The esophagus is a muscular tube composed of circular and longitudinal fibers. Imagine its fibers shortening and narrowing. Given its superior mooring from the cranium might esophageal tensions relate to clients presenting with recurrent headache patterns, neck pain and upper back symptoms?
Just stop for a moment and remember the last time you were highly nervous or anxious. For many of us, this provokes tension within our stomachs. What hasn't been considered is that a contracted esophagus may communicate this tension all the way up to the base of our craniums.
How might these combined vectors of compression affect the delicate nerve fibers exiting the brain, especially the vagus nerves and the superior origins of the sympathetic chain ganglia? How might the jaw respond to such a downward and forward pull? How might such compression rippling down the length of the human spine contribute to how easily our bodies congest fluids?
I perceive all of these anatomical actors flow from one to the other influencing our bodies' strain patterns that are reflected in our clients' presenting chronic symptomatic profiles. Now, also please consider that the right crus of the diaphragm literally wraps around the esophagus. Netter's anatomy plate #253 clearly shows this. What is not so commonly appreciated is that this aspect of the right sided diaphragmatic crus is contiguous with the ligament of Treitz which superiorly adds support to the 20 -25 feet of the small intestine by hooking around the douodenal-jejunal flexure.8,5
Might cringing of the peritoneal sac, the shortening and narrowing of the small intestine and the tension of the longitudinal fibers within the esophagus itself in combination be related to the incomplete closure of the cardiac sphincter more commonly known gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD?7
Next, consider the mesenteric root of the small intestine which is moored down, forward and diagonally from the left anterior face of L2 all the way to the right sacroiliac joint.9 Given the diagonal element of this anatomical relationship, might the compressive force of chronic stress be a co-conspirator in chronic low back dysfunction and pain and be related to torsional elements so often found when one assesses the osseous landmarks of the pelvis?
The connections of the mesenteric root includes the same douodenal-jejunal flexure noted earlier so we actually have a proposed anatomical routing of manipulable soft tissue from the sacrum to the cranium in both genders. Little wonder the head is pulled down and forward for so many of us in response to how our "innards" react to stress.
We need to additionally appreciate the role of the flexor-extensor reflex systems in chronic somatic dysfunction. The downward and forward pull of the above described anatomical relationships will eventually and inevitably activate their respective reflex systems constantly. These reflex systems are governed by subcortical elements of our nervous system and, as such, we do not register their activation consciously or proprioceptively until something within the kinetic chain of the axial skeleton becomes dysfunctional. Once this occurs, whatever the reason, it is the job of the soft tissues to protect the joint or joints in distress usually by contracting along a continuum until they spasm, which really gets the person's attention.10
It is my assertion that the described anatomical relationships and the constantly activated flexor-extensor reflex system when viewed as a dynamic whole are prime contributors to the progression of osteoarthritis and joint degeneration in both the axial and appendicular skeleton.
These relationships allow us a novel view of our internal architecture. They also allow us in particular to re-consider the means by which progressions of dysfunction toward pathology may proceed. Principle among these stealth physiological progressions that underlie many chronic somatic problems are cardiovascular disease, cervical stenosis and gall bladder dysfunction/disease.
Compression, congestion and coordination or, more precisely, dis-coordination are a simple way to conceive of the downward spiral in the quality of our lives as we age and, how such progressions are related to "chronic stress."
Stress provokes cringing, shortening, narrowing and twisting functionally, "inside of our bodies." The soft tissues of the body support whatever comes to be the new normal. We can get used to damn near anything as human beings. That's the good news and is testimony to our species' adaptive capacities. The bad news is that once we do adapt, our bodies reflexively resist a return toward normal function.
As massage therapists who have a desire to assist clients to resolve their chronic somatic dysfunctions, it is our task to learn how to relieve these intrinsic forces of compression and to facilitate the movement of bodily fluids to redistribute areas of stagnant congestion. We can learn to assist the nervous system to re-coordinate its nerve and blood supply to include all the body tissues again and assist it to re-coordinate the movement of our body parts. When these skill sets expand, wondrous possibilities for healing emerge. I have seen this thousands of times. It is an amazingly satisfying experience.
Click here for more information about Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD.
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