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Adventures with the Pericardium
My previous column on the San Jiao deserves equal time for SJ's loving partner, the pericardium. I nicknamed SJ the travel meridian – but pericardium can also play a crucial role in air travel.
Are Probiotics Doing More Harm Than Good?
Considerable controversy exists concerning the efficacy of probiotic supplements. Very few human studies show any real positive impact on the microbiome or health. The "promise" of probiotics is based on the few animal studies that suggest a positive effect.
International Congress on Integrative Medicine
"Bridging Research, Clinical Care, Education and Policy" was the theme for the International Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health 2016 (ICIMH).
MPA Media Wins More Publishing Awards
The American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) has honored Dynamic Chiropractic with a national award and two regional awards for editorial excellence, and sister publication DC Practice Insights with two regional awards for graphic design excellence.
Code Connection: Guidelines for the Use of Modifier -52
Modifier -52 identifies that a service or procedure has been partially reduced or eliminated at the physician's discretion. This is to indicate the basic service described by the procedure code has been performed, but not all aspects of the service have been performed.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists more than 80 common autoimmune diseases including asthma, Crohn's disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
A Study of Relationships
Sa-Ahm's five element acupuncture method is known to be one of the most effective acupuncture techniques in Korea because it gives an instant response at the time of treatment and has a high success rate in resolving chronic problems.
The Professional and Practice Benefits of Political Activism
Welcome to election season, a vital part of our American culture. Every two years, without fail, we are bombarded with TV, print materials and phone messages seeking our vote.
Time to Fight for Your Medicare Right
I have heard a lot of noise and a lot of debate about what is going on with Medicare. As an ACA delegate, I often get asked: 'What is the ACA even doing?'
Less Time Than Required
Q: When is it appropriate to use a modifier -52? Can I use it for a timed service when I do less than the time required by the code?
Overuse Injuries in Young Athletes (Part 1)
More than 45 million children ages 6-18 participate in some form of organized athletics, and 75 percent of American families with school-aged children have at least one child participating in organized sports.
Let's Talk About Biceps Injuries at the Elbow
While most muscles cross over only one joint, the biceps crosses two joints: the elbow and the shoulder. Injuries to the lower biceps cause considerable elbow pain. Here's how to assess and treat an injury to this area conservatively.
Don't Ignore the Lower Half of the Pelvis (Part 1)
When your patient complains of lower back or pelvic pain, but your usual treatments are not getting the job done, what do you examine and treat? You may be missing important structures in the lower half of the pelvis.
Illuminating the Hidden, Freeing the Source
Amongst the Primary Channels, from a classical point of view, the small intestine is perhaps the most important channel to understand. It is one of the least used acupuncture channels in modern acupuncture, yet it within it can be found a wealth of theories from the Ling Shu.
Lessons from Functional Neurology
Chiropractic neurology, also known as clinical neuroscience or functional neurology, is moving the chiropractic profession forward by leaps and bounds.
Chiropractic in the Eyes of the Public: 2nd Gallup-Palmer Poll
The second Gallup / Palmer College poll has been completed, yielding significant additional data regarding Americans' experiences with and perceptions of chiropractic care.
Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine in Taiwan Hospitals
This spring, a team of Western medical doctors and TCM practitioners from Cleveland Clinic traveled to Taiwan to visit Kaiser Pharmaceutical Co. (KP), and China Medical University (CMU), Taiwan's leading integrative medicine hospital.
What's New in the NCCIH Strategic Plan
The NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) released its draft strategic plan 2016-2021 for public comment in early spring of 2016.
Work Stress and Musculoskeletal Health: Do Your Patients Get the Connection?
Most people underestimate the impact their job has on their health, especially if that job isn't particularly physically demanding. Big mistake.
Analyzing Acupuncture Case Studies
Confirm the answer quickly by the elimination method. Take this case study as an example. After two treatments for back pain, a patient presents for a third session complaining of rapid breathing and wheezing that is made worse during cold weather.
Know Your Research: Tips for Evaluating Literature Reviews
Clinical and experimental studies are not the only types of published research we might encounter as we look for evidence to inform our practices. One of the most useful types is the literature review, which summarizes a group of studies.
What are the Meridians?
The meridian and collateral system (jing luo, hereinafter referred to as "Meridians") is comprised of the main meridian channels (jing mai) and the collateral vessels (luo mai). Jing takes from meaning of the Chinese word pathway (also jing) and are the main branches of the system.
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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