A Simple Miracle: Treatment for Mysterious Foot Pain
Under the old ICD-9 diagnosis codes, there was actually a diagnosis for "adventures in medical mismanagement" to describe patients who had been run down the rabbit hole of poor case management and care. I encountered one of those patients in my office today.
Electrotherapy Gives Hope for Patients With Spinal Cord Injury
There has been little optimism for recovery from a spinal cord injury because the central nervous system does not repair itself well. The severity of the injury depends on the affected area.
2018 Gallup-Palmer Report: Key Findings
The fourth annual Gallup – Palmer College report is out; here are some of the key findings excerpted directly from the executive summary regarding Americans' experiences with chiropractic care relative to the management of neck and back pain:
VA Chiropractic Reduces Veterans' Use of Opioids?
Utilization of pain medication – particularly opioids – has been massively high in among veterans for decades, but Veterans Administration guidelines that recommend nonpharmacological first-line treatment options create a greater opportunity than ever for VA chiropractors to make a dent in the opioid and overall pain-management crisis.
The Top 5 Strategies to Manage Your Reputation Online
You don't need an acupuncture website anymore! Okay, maybe that statement is a little over the top. But it's not that far from the truth. A recent study on Google searches revealed that 34 percent of all searches resulted in no clicks at all.
Knocking Down the Doors: Big Media Success for F4CP
Three articles authored by a DC or a chiropractic organization and promoting the value of chiropractic care – par for the course if you're Dynamic Chiropractic, but if you're Forbes, BOSS Magazine and Becker's Spine Review, three media outlets tailored toward high-level executives and decision-makers, we're talking about an entirely different story.
A New President for AOMA: A Conversation With Mary Faria
Dr. Faria was formerly a health care executive for over 30 years, the last 17 of those years as vice president and chief operating officer of Seton Southwest Hospital in Austin. She chairs the board of Austin Mayor's Health and Fitness Council.
VA Choice Claims Denied? Here's How You Can Get Paid
The VA Choice Program (PC3 as well) indeed pays for chiropractic care including manipulation (CMT 98940-98943) and some physical medicine services.
Cynicism and Burnout: It Can Happen to You
Trying to achieve fulfillment as a doctor in today's health care environment is a "rigged game" and physicians are programmed to burn out. At least this is the opinion of Dike Drummond, MD, in his thehappymd.com blog.
News in Brief
A Comprehensive Model of Spine Care; Dr. Christine Goertz Appointed Vice Chair of PCORI Board of Governors.
Malpractice Insurance: Understanding the Cover Letter
Purchasing medical liability insurance is quick, easy and not terribly expensive. The benefits are clearly listed on a certificate—but do you really know what you are getting with that peace of mind?
Bad for the Back! Exercises That Can Prevent Healing
The questions "Who gets well? Who doesn't? Why?" prompted the following observations based on my close to 40 years of chiropractic practice.
A Guide to CBD Dosing: The Correlation Between Dose & Potency
There is an abundance of information available about the daily use of whole plant hemp CBD oil to help maintain and support a healthy lifestyle, however there remains a lack of sound guidance on CBD oil dosing.
Goodbye, Year of the Dog: Two-Thousand-Eighteen Comes to a Close
As Year of the Dog (2018) comes to a close we can look back and see the progress this profession has made. For example, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) added traditional medicine codes, which were released in June.
The Raw Food Debate: Practitioners Discuss Nutrition & TCM
Licensed acupuncturist and fellow blogger Elissa Gonda joins this month's column for a conversation about raw food diets. She brings her perspective on the healing potential of a raw primal diet.
The Truth About Malpractice Claims Against DCs (Pt. 1)
Over the past 20 years of active practice, I have seen a number of scary case scenarios regarding signs, symptoms and patient presentations in my office. These presentations scream, This patient is going through an event or This patient does not need chiropractic care, they need emergency care.
Dietary Supplements That Help Restless Leg Syndrome
It is estimated that 7-10 percent (possibly up to 15 percent) of the U.S. population has restless leg syndrome. It is a bit more common in women than men.
Year in Review: DC's Best of the Best for 2018
As 2018 winds down, let's highlight the most popular articles in Dynamic Chiropractic by month (December – this issue – excluded, of course).
A Soy Isoflavone That Packs a Punch: Genistein
Soybeans contains unique substances called isoflavones, most notably genistein and daidzein, which have been shown to block the buildup the dangerous type of testosterone in the prostate gland linked to prostate enlargement and prostate cancer.
Reaching for Our Roots: Healing Digestion With a Simple Traditional Therapy
Are you ignoring a powerful tool in your doctor's bag? Many acupuncturists realize that Spleen Qi deficiency has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. Yet, we don't prioritize educating our patients about the importance of warm, cooked foods.
Map It: Understanding the Customer's Journey
One of the biggest marketing mistakes most practice owners or administrators make is not putting themselves in their prospective or current patients' shoes. How do they think and feel about you and your practice? What makes them take action?
ACA Champions H.R. 7157; ICA Voices Major Concerns
While the American Chiropractic Association recently penned an open letter – signed by not only the ACA, but also the Congress of Chiropractic State Associations, Association of Chiropractic Colleges, Clinical Compass and a number of state associations.
Exercise Therapy Following Motor Vehicle Trauma (Pt. 2)
In cases of cervical spine trauma, particularly trauma related to a motor vehicle accident, my plan is to teach the patient one exercise per session and build a progression. This is an effective approach I call an "activation circuit."
Reality Check: Do We Need to Try Harder?
While waiting for a flight to a recent chiropractic event, I overheard the ticket agent at the gate next to mine on his cellphone. His side of the conversation went something like this: "Where are you now? How long before you think you can be at the gate? OK, that will work, see you soon."
When Computers Cause UCS: Adjusting Strategy
With the widespread use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, the incidence of "text neck" has reached almost epidemic proportions. But there is another challenge to the spinal health and well-being of our technology-driven society.
Acupuncture in Hospital Systems: Transitioning From Tolerated to Celebrated
I've had the pleasure of working with Susan Luria, Director of University Hospitals Health Systems Connor Integrative Health Network (CIHN) for the past year on the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC) Board of Directors and Federal Policy Committee.
March, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 03
Working With Clients Who Have Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome
By Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB
My last article on hyperthyroidism prompted some interesting responses. In that article, I mentioned I had an unusually difficult time finding any useful information on alternative treatment options for hyperthyroidism patients who wanted to avoid surgery or radioactive treatments to their thyroids (because of the increased risk of developing hypothyroidism).As usual, you came through in a big way. Here's an excerpt from one of the most hopeful letters I got:
This month's column is dedicated to a condition quite different from thyroid dysfunction. Over the course of my time with Massage Today, many readers have requested some information on a disorder that is not at all well understood, even by the professionals who try to treat it. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome is a condition involving an initial injury (usually) to an extremity (usually), which results in a disproportionate amount of pain, disability, and trophic (growth-related) changes to the damaged tissue. In some cases the symptoms of RSDS can move progressively through the body and affect areas distant to the original trauma.
In October 1864, a group of doctors compared their observations of Civil War soldiers recovering from gunshot wounds. Their comments were remarkably astute, and constitute a vivid picture of the experience of the condition eventually termed "causalgia" from the Greek kausis (burning) and algia (pain).
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome: What Is It?
RSDS involves tissue damage, overactive sensory neurons, an excess of pain-sensitizing chemicals, and resulting inflammation followed by atrophy of the affected area. Because it is called so many things, and the criteria for making a diagnosis varies by medical specialty (orthopedists use different methods than general practitioners or internists, for instance), it is extremely difficult to pin down and get any solid statistics on its incidence or demographics.
Part of the confusion around this disorder lies its name. Chronic progressive pain syndromes have many labels, and RSDS just happens to be the one that is most popular at this moment in time. Here is a short list of other labels for this or very similar conditions:
The most conservative discussions of RSDS limit it to problems that begin in the hand or arm. This discussion won't limit the damage to the upper extremity, but please be aware that clients who live with this condition may have learned to call it by a different name, depending on where it has affected them, and what kinds of professionals they work with for treatment.
Etiology: What Happens?
When a person experiences any stimulus on the skin, a sensory neuron carries that information to the spinal cord, where a reflex response begins. At the same time, that impulse travels up the spinal cord to the brain, where the stimulus is interpreted at a conscious or subconscious level. If the stimulus is perceived as something safe and relaxing, it initiates a parasympathetic response; if it is interpreted as threatening or painful, a sympathetic response follows.
In RSDS, as far as it is understood at this point in time, a stimulus initiates a sympathetic, but this response long outlives its usefulness. The affected part of the body goes through a localized cycle of pain, which causes sympathetic responses, which reinforces the pain, which exacerbates the pain response, ad infinitum. The healing processes that would normally interrupt this sequence are unable to break through the vicious circle of pain - stress - pain. Eventually, the physiological changes that occur when a specific part of the body is stuck in a sympathetic loop cause their own kinds of damage - damage that can be irreversible. Tissue that experiences chronic inflammation will become essentially "walled off" from the rest of the body, and develop severely restricted blood and lymph supply. This leads to atrophy, bone thinning, and permanent loss of function.
Although it happens only rarely, this pain cycle also has the potential to spread proximally on the affected limb, to the eyes, internal organs, and even to the contralateral limb.
Signs and Symptoms
Four main symptoms have been observed in most RSDS patients: constant burning pain with little or no stimulus; local inflammation and sweating; spasm of both skeletal and smooth muscle in nearby blood vessels; and chronic insomnia (which can contribute to increased pain perception, as sleep deprivation can disturb neurotransmitter levels).
RSDS can be broken down into three or four loosely defined stages. Overlap of these stages often occurs, so they are useful mainly as a time reference for how long a person has been affected by this condition, and what treatment options have the best chance of interfering with its progression.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Because the diagnostic criteria for RSDS and related disorders vary according to medical specialty, it can be difficult to reach a conclusive diagnosis in the early stages of the disease. This is a problem, because the long-term outlook for someone with this problem is significantly better if he or she can begin treatment in Stage I, rather than Stage IV.
Visible signs and patients' descriptions of symptoms are usually straightforward with this condition. Diagnosis can be confirmed with thermography: a test that measures blood flow and localized heat in the body. X-rays or bone scans may be used to look for signs of osteoporosis at the site of injury.
Stage I RSDS may be treated with simple analgesics: NSAIDs or short-term steroids if necessary. Patients get good benefit from heat, especially moist heat applications like paraffin baths or hot packs. Ice is generally not useful for RSDS patients in any stage. Stage II and III RSDS patients need to be more aggressive with their pain management. Anti-seizure medications and morphine pumps are used with mixed results. TENS machines are successful for some people but not all. Calcium channel blockers may improve blood flow and relieve pain. Eventually, a patient may consider a sympathectomy: the surgical severing of parts of the sympathetic nervous system in order to stop the endless cycle of repeating pain signals. This intervention can be successful, but many patients report that the benefits are short-lived and the pain comes back post-surgically.
Can Massage Help?
This is where it gets interesting. Usually, when I research a particular topic, I look up that subject plus "massage," and get exactly nothing. Then I try that topic and "alternative treatments" and often have marginally more success. But for RSDS, this acutely painful, poorly understood sensory dysfunction, I found much more information about massage than I usually do. I found testimonials of RSDS patients who felt their massage therapists had prevented them from developing contractures in their affected muscles; I found suggestions to use massage to help desensitize over-stimulated areas; and massage is frequently recommended along with some other alternative therapies for chronic pain management. I also got some feedback from therapists who specialize in working with RSDS patients; an excerpt from one letter follows:
The upshot of it all is that although RSDS is a painful, inflammatory, potentially progressive condition (all of these qualities raise some cautions for massage), bodywork can serve a useful purpose in the treatment options (or just coping options) for the person who is affected by this disorder. Exactly what modalities to use, and how to avoid causing more pain than necessary while working to maintain muscular and joint health, will depend on the tolerance of the patient and the skills of the therapist.
This is an excellent example of a condition in which a massage therapist should work as part of a health care team, not as a solo practitioner. For more information about RSDS, I highly recommend the following Web sites:
Next time, I'll discuss another frustrating, chronic, progressive condition, but one that has a generally more hopeful prognosis: adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder. Send me your success - and failure - stories, so we can all benefit!
Click here for previous articles by Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB.
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