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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.
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.
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.
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.
News in Brief
F4CP MEmbership Milestone Reached; ICA Challenging New California Vaccine Law; TCC Names New President; New Provost at UWS.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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%.
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.
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.
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.
We Get Letters & Email
Our Medicare Challenges Aren't an Education Issue; Passion to Succeed: More Pivotal Than GPA?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
February, 2016, Vol. 16, Issue 02
A Bridge to Reducing Chronic Anxiety and Panic Attacks
By Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD
One of the most important "aha's" in my career was developing an understanding of the paradoxical breathing reflex and discovering that re-calibrating this reflex was an effective therapeutic bridge for reducing the severity and frequency of chronic anxiety and panic attacks.
There are a range of definitions for paradoxical breathing.1 Here, I propose a description that comes from more than 35 years of empirical clinical experience: When the cervical muscles are initiating the breath wave instead of the diaphragm muscle initiating it, one is caught in the reflex of paradoxical breathing. This state of inefficient breathing is characterized by the SCM's and the scalenes unnecessarily lifting the thoracic cage. It is a complete reversal of the typical neuromuscular sequence involved in normal breathing, especially when the body is at rest. This proposed definition fits the description of "labored breathing" in some texts.2
Certainly, other soft tissues can be recruited beyond the SCM's and scalenes as part of a paradoxical breathing pattern. I am referring to this as a reflex because the client is unaware of it and is unable to restore a normal pattern without sensory guidance and tissue re-calibration. You will not find this listed as a reflex in medical textbooks.
Additionally, the reflex of paradoxical breathing has implications for co-perpetuating a plethora of chronic physical complaints such as neck pain, migraines, upper radicular syndromes, TMJ dysfunction and pain, etc. It is a very long list. I am selecting chronic anxiety and panic attacks simply because I have observed that these symptoms are much more common within our client population than many might think and I sense we, as a profession, can assist in resolving this patterned behavior once we comprehend the primary physical variables involved.
The five most common physical correlations to chronic anxiety and panic attacks include:
My experience with clients suggests that those with a history of highly emotionally charged events, whiplash, head trauma, asthma and respiratory allergies, or the many forms of lung dysfunctions or disease complications, most commonly experience physiological states that trip the neurological switch that activates this reflex.
Repeating for emphasis and clarity, the paradoxical breathing reflex is active when the client is initiating their breathing from their neck rather than from the diaphragm muscle. This is observable, yet, if one doesn't know that this reflex exists, it is easily missed amid the vocalized constellation of painful symptoms clients so often present to us. We often are swept up in our sincere desire to help, allowing the client to direct our therapeutic focus to where they hurt rather than to observe and assess them as a whole.
If a client presents with a chronic somatic dysfunction, then I encourage you to include paradoxical breathing as one of the usual suspects in your initial assessment. The first step is to observe the client while breathing as they sit on the side of your table. Observe them from the front and from both sides. If their chest is rising and lowering, up and down with the rhythm of the breath, it is a potential sign of paradoxical breathing. And, if in addition, their belly does not move with their breath, then there is a very high probability that they are experiencing the reflex of paradoxical breathing.
Is the pattern I am calling paradoxical breathing ever normal? Yes, it is! When you exercise and your heart rate rises, your cervical muscles will initiate the breath wave normally to increase the anterior to posterior dimension of your chest in order to increase your oxygen intake. It is characterized by the heavy breathing we all experience after exercising. Speaking of heavy breathing, another time that paradoxically breathing naturally occurs is when one approaches and experiences sexual climax. Then, as our heart rate lowers and our neural system shifts to parasympathetic tone, our breathing initiation returns to the more normal pattern of the inferior descent by the diaphragm creating the space for the lungs to expand. The third most common natural activation of this reflex is in the latter stages of pregnancy. The expansion of the uterus which then occupies so much space within the abdominal-pelvic cavity is the obvious stimulus for this shift of neuromuscular function. My description of this phenomena in an article written in the mid-90‘s, "Freeing the Breath Wave During Pregnancy," is the most often requested article I have written to date.3
Once paradoxical breathing has been assessed, the next step is to assist your client in re-normalizing their breathing pattern. Sit on the table next to them. Request they close their eyes. Place one of your client's hands on your upper abdomen and the other hand on their upper abdomen and request that they breath in tandem with you for 6 to 10 cycles while you embody a normal, diaphragmatically initiated breath pattern.
Then, move their hand from your belly to their upper chest while the other remains on their abdomen. Have them continue normal breathing for another 6 to 10 cycles directing their intention to notice which hand moves first. Even if they are unable to make a complete shift toward a normal pattern, most clients will register the distinction between whether they are initiating from above or from below.
This technique is using the principle of kinesthetic entrainment, and I have found that it is the quickest way to give your client a sensory experience of what is more normal. It also gives them the psychological and physical permission to release the tension of their abdomen.4
As the diaphragm descends, your abdomen will normally expand slightly forward, but many consciously or subconsciously restrict this motion. Yes, this is another reason that perpetuates this reversal of function: People don't want to be perceived as fat. Next, have your client lie supine, placing one hand on their upper chest and the other on their upper abdomen. Request that they intentionally initiate their breathing from their neck muscles for 2 to 3 cycles then switch back to diaphragmatic breathing for 3 to 5 cycles.
The key to this method of recalibrating the paradoxical breathing reflex is to consciously initiate the dysfunctional pattern "on purpose" so the nervous system develops a sensory recognition and discernment between the two. For many, a few rounds of feeling their diaphragmatic breathing restored and then intentionally initiating from their cervical muscles again will be enough to interrupt the reflexive cycle. For others with entrenched physical or psychological trauma, it will take a few or even many sessions to restore the normal neuromuscular sequencing of the breath cycle.
If deprived of air for 3 to 5 minutes, most of us would die. We all know this instinctively, so some breath is better than none, even if it is feeding our chronic anxiety or functions as a pre-disposition to our panic attacks. Most of our clients simply do not understand how their bodies really work. Identifying this dysfunctional pattern is one way that our profession can educate them, serving them at multiple levels with knowledge, touch, and compassion.
One caution: do not focus on the breath re-calibration process for more than about 10 to 12 minutes, especially if a client is not making progress. This doesn't occur very often, yet frustration fatigue can set in quite quickly for any of us. Instead, allow yourself to use other therapeutic tools you already possess to relax the additional structures identified earlier in the article. Or, if your context is principally to give a client a relaxing full body massage, trust that this will assist them. At the end of the session, you can ask them if their breathing feels more normal. You will be surprised just how many will say yes.
In a future article, I will expand on the other physical variables that have shown themselves to be associated with this paradoxical breathing reflex.
Click here for more information about Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD.
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