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Help: A Need at Every Level
One of the great gifts of training in acupuncture is the ability to take good care of oneself. I recently had a bout of frozen shoulder — an inflammatory syndrome which can be debilitatingly painful and take years to resolve.
Healing Trauma: Cultivating Resilience and Presence Through Mindfulness, Part 2
In the last issue of Acupuncture Today, the first part of this article introduced the topic of trauma and resilience, and their relationship to the autonomic nervous system response and the concept of the spirit being grounded in the body, and suggested the importance of mindfulness as a tool for healing.
A Chiropractor's Guide to Yoga
"Doctor, can I continue to do yoga while undergoing your care?" "Is it OK for me to go back to yoga while I'm getting my back treated?" "It is safe to start my yoga classes again after my neck pain improves?"
Fish Oil: A Key Component of Positive Clinical Outcomes
Patients seem to be presenting with more complex problems, and many are responding to care more slowly or have completely unexpected results. Why?
Nuts Reduce Risk of Heart Disease, Cancer and Other Health Problems
Several recent studies suggest regular consumption of nuts may provide a significant degree of protection against certain types of cancer, heart disease, possibly type 2 diabetes and some neurodegenerative diseases.
Improving Communication Between AOM and Biomedical Providers
How comfortable do you feel talking to Western medical providers? If you are like me, you may not feel as comfortable as you would like. Some of my interactions with MD's haven't been the fruitful steps toward integrative medicine for which I had hoped.
Do Some Good and Grow Your Business with Cause Marketing
Cause marketing is truly one of the best ways that you can promote your services as a acupuncture professional. Cause marketing refers to a type of marketing where a business partners with a non-profit organization to help bring awareness to a charitable cause.
An Acupuncturist's View of Medicinal Marijuana
The use of cannabis for medical purposes is very controversial. Use as a panacea by physicians uninitiated to the proper application of herbal medicine, as well as an excuse for recreational use have greatly confused the issue.
More Chiropractors Required
An intriguing study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine examines how "chiropractic care affects use of primary care physician (PCP) services."
The Food Conversation: Nutrition and Your Practice
It's morning and your first patient rolls in with a triple espresso steaming in one hand and a frazzled, desperate look in her eye. "You gotta help me, doc, I am constipated unless I drink one of these, and I am exhausted and anxious all the time."
Harvard Health References Flawed AHA Position Paper
In its special health report, "Stroke: Diagnosing, Treating, and Recovering From a 'Brain Attack,'" Harvard Health Publications includes information from the American Heart Association's 2014 position statement on cervical manipulation and cervical dissection – a statement the American Chiropractic Association emphasized in a letter to Harvard Health mixes "scientific facts with half-truths."
The Short Leg Dilemma
When evaluating a new patient, it is common to note a relative shortening of one leg to the other. Some patients will even tell you they have one, and then pull out the store-bought heel lift they read about online.
News in Brief
Call for Abstracts Announced - Parker Las Vegas 2016; Logan Adds Doctorate Degree; New Role for Dr. James Edwards.
Getting a YES: An Effective Strategy for Overcoming Patient Objections
Patients make more excuses for declining care from an acupuncturist than perhaps any other type of doctor. Various reasons hold them back from making a commitment to care.
Patient-Centered Care vs. Payer Restrictions: Your Ethical Obligation
Do you have an ethical obligation to evaluate your patients, make a diagnosis and provide evidence-based, patient-centered health care, irrelevant to the payer restrictions?
Acupuncture Rising: From Acupuncture Anesthesia to Assisted-IVF, Part 1
Acupuncture's cultural and historical roots go back to the emergence of Chinese civilization. For more than 2,000 years, acupuncture needling has been continuously practiced on the largest population in the world.
Surprising Reasons for Orthotic Efficacy
Clinical outcome studies show orthotics are effective in the management of a wide range of injuries, including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis and patellofemoral pain syndrome.
Fertility and Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids
Starting or expanding one's family is a major milestone. It's something that more and more people seek out health care advice and support for.
Practicing with Authenticity
To extrapolate from the above quote, patients love healthcare providers they can trust. One way to earn the trust of your patients is by practicing with authenticity. What does that mean, exactly?
The New Age of Communication
In the age of technology, everyone, including the patient, is seeking faster, easier ways to communicate. With a wealth of social media, blogs, websites and videos, we are constantly barraged with information – to the point of overload.
Change Lives by Supporting Chiropractic Research: Are You In?
The Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research (PCCR), in celebration of its 20th anniversary, has announced it is spearheading a fund-raising campaign to support chiropractic research.
Practice Policy (Gone Bad): The Sign
Every once in a while, you see something and think to yourself, That's a really bad idea. Case in point: I went to see my medical doctor the other day. Just after being "roomed," as they say, the nurse checked my vital signs. Then she left.
Dorsiflexion Dysfunction: Evaluation & Manipulation Techniques
Almost every condition from the foot to the hip can be attributed to the inability to dorsiflex the ankle mortice and other joints that participate in dorsiflexion. Let's start by understanding normal versus abnormal dorsiflexion.
Oriental Medicine on the World Stage
"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." This simple, yet powerful statement was lived out time and time again by so many of the athletes from around the world during the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.
The Zen Art of "One Point"
We were always told in our Zen Shiatsu training (by Japanese and Japanese American instructors) that our ultimate aim was to to find that "One Point." To be so focused we could touch just one point to transform Qi throughout a client's body.
Modernization of Chinese Medicine
Language – written, spoken, signed, or otherwise is learned as a means to express our individualized perceptions about the world around us. Language is designed to communicate our personal experiences.
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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