An Update From the Acupuncture Now Foundation
Since launching the Acupuncture Now Foundation (ANF), our volunteer leadership has continued to work to achieve our vision of "Creating a World Where the Benefits of Acupuncture are Known and Available to All.
Multichannel Access: Software for a Better Customer Experience
It is no secret that today's consumer has high expectations when it comes to how and when they can contact a business. In fact, one of the reasons clinic management software has become so popular with acupuncture practitioners is they allows customers to book appointments and make payments online day or night.
The Importance of the Scapulohumeral Rhythm
The shoulder has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body. What is often overlooked in shoulder mechanics is that motion in the shoulder is not purely at the glenohumeral joint.
A New NCCIH Director ... One That Backs Acupuncture
The third time is a charm—the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced it's newest director, Dr. Helene Langevin.
The Origin of Blood
The Roman doctor, Galen, (2nd century AD) did pivotal work to prove that blood, which he thought was produced by the liver, and the cardio vascular system existed. He conceived that the arteries and veins were two separate networks.
UHC Up to Its Old Tricks With Latest Headache Policy
A decade ago, UnitedHealthcare announced changes to its chiropractic services policy that declared manipulative therapy for headache unproven and ineligible for reimbursement.
X-Ray: To Be or Not to Be - That Is the Question
For the past year, I have been asked by many practicing chiropractors, college presidents, faculty and others what my opinion is on the "Choosing Wisely" guidelines the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recently adopted for its members.
Support Patients With Multi-Channel Customer Service
It's no secret that today's consumers have high expectations when it comes to how and when they can contact a business. In fact, one of the reasons clinic management software has become so popular is that they allow patients to book appointments and make payments online day or night.
Easy, Inexpensive Tools for a Successful Practice (I Promise)
Successful practitioners are the ones who know how to run a business, first and foremost. I became a licensed acupuncturist in 2006. After having worked in chiropractor's offices for nine years, I opened my own office in 2015: four treatment rooms, a back office and a waiting room.
The Science Behind the Efficacy of Cosmetic Acupuncture
The beauty industry continues to boom and grow constantly, from topical creams, lotions and potions all the way to cutting edge cosmetic surgeries.
"Don't Crack My Neck": What Do You Do Next?
It's Monday morning and your first new patient of the day, a 35-year-old female, presents with chronic headaches and neck pain. The patient was referred by her primary care provider for evaluation and management without the use of cervical manipulation.
Working for Someone Else: Know the Rules of the Game
Many of us decide to become acupuncturists because we are healers at heart and want to focus on treating patients, not because we want to own and operate a business. So we work for someone else, which can have great advantages, especially as a new graduate.
Chiropractic Management of Patellofemoral Arthralgia
Patient reports with pain in the front part of her right knee, especially during and after her weekly Zumba class. She states there has been no injury of which she is aware. No outward sign of injury is observed.
The international standardization conference was held this year in Shanghai, China (June) - this was the ninth plenary session. Meetings for technical committees, or working groups also took place at the conference.
Depression & The Secondary Vessels
As an acupuncturist I see many people suffering from depression. I often think depression is the major imbalance of our culture. I have a patient I've been working with for several years. Her major challenge is chronic stubborn depression.
Food for Thought: An Examination of Diet & Digestion
Even an acute poison can become an excellent drug if it is properly administered. On the other hand even a drug, if not properly administered, becomes an acute poison. — Charaka Samhita
The Benefits of Going Paperless
The benefits of going paperless in your practice are profound. If you haven't done it yet, here's why you should.
Neck Pain: Activation Exercises
In observing patients and studying rehab, I have learned that tight muscles are weak muscles and that stretching is sometimes less effective than muscular activation. There is a delicate balance between joints that move too little and joints that are hypermobile.
A Historic First for Chiropractic Assistants
The New Jersey State Board of Chiropractic Examiners will begin issuing licenses as early as Nov. 1, 2018 to chiropractic assistants who have undergone a 500-hour training course and passed a competency exam.
Possession: Blocks to Healing
Before we can approach treatment of a patient's primary elemental imbalance (AKA "Causative Factor" or "CF"), a number of specific energetic blocks must be considered and, if present, removed in order for treatment to be effective. I cannot emphasize this enough.
More Access to Chiropractic Instead of Opioids: H.R. 5722
With the opioid epidemic both an ongoing public health crisis and a hot topic extending well beyond the health care industry, Congress continues stepping up to the plate.
Your First Impression Always Deserves a Second Chance
Doctor, have you ever had a patient you just couldn't "warm up to"? You know, the kind of patient who "irks" you, who has a hidden agenda to get something you haven't anticipated, perhaps causing you to want to hide in a closet when they come in for treatment.
Lead Patients to the Fountain (and Foundation) of Youth
We're all seeking the fountain of youth and marketers are capitalizing on it. (Global demand for anti-aging products, treatments and services was valued at 140.3 billion in 2015, according to Zion Market Research.)
Travel-to-Treat Coverage Finally Becoming a Reality?
Long-awaited legislation poised to hit the president's desk extends liability insurance coverage from one state to another for DCs and other state-licensed health care professionals who care for athletes / athletic teams that cross state lines.
Bringing Acupuncture to Ohio
The jolt of seeing a woman conscious and talking during surgery left a lasting impression in 1971 when acupuncture was on the national news.
That's a Wrap: Compression Bands for Contemporary DCs
Over the past decade, compression bands have been increasingly utilized in trainer and manual therapy offices. I was first introduced to the compression band by Kelley Starrett, author of Becoming a Supple Leopard, and have since been using it as a teaching tool.
It's Time to Reward Yourself
An interesting study recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) confirms what we all learned when we were children – and serves as food for thought as to how you can improve your practice and your personal life.
Time-Saving Tips for Your Practice & Life
Of all the finite resources we possess, perhaps the most valuable one is time. There never seems to be enough time to accomplish everything that must be done, and all too often we sacrifice things in our personal life to meet the demands of our practice.
May, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 05
The True Grit of Muscle Spasm
By Erik Dalton, PhD
Much has been written about loss of flexibility and range of motion due to fascial contractures, trigger points, spasmodic muscles and the like, with less emphasis on the neurology that may be initiating these soft tissue changes.Here are some thoughts on how injuries to joint capsules and spinal ligaments can reflexively spasm neighboring tissues leading to decompensation, altered movement patterns and pain-spasm-pain cycles.
When the brain senses bony instability or ligamentous damage in-and-around the spine, information is collected so split decisions can be made to determine the extent of threat to the individual and what actions (if any) need to be taken. Layering the area with protective myospasm is one such decision. It's the brain's reflexogenic attempt to prevent further insult to the injured tissues. By 'splinting' the area with spasm, the hypercontracted (shortened) muscles, ligaments and fascia effectively reduce painful joint movements. Splinting is a common form of protective guarding clinicians address day-in and day-out... but how does it develop and how should we treat it?
Recently, a chiropractic buddy referred a client named Hank who came in carrying a diagnosis of chronic muscle spasm. During Hank's history-taking, he related a story of a bending/twisting incident that occurred while lifting his toddler out of the back seat of the car. Apparently, this asymmetric spinal loading maneuver resulted in 'stabbing' back pain which almost brought him to his knees. After a few treatments, the chiropractor decided Hank's back was too locked up and needed some deep tissue and stretching work. His treatment plan was to have me 'dig out' the spasm and then he would mobilize the fixated spinal joints.
Observations during gait revealed a lack of smooth cross-patterned movement between Hank's torso and hips and very little "lift" in his antigravity spring systems1. In fact, he wobbled from side-to-side much like John Wayne's Rooster Cogburn character in "True Grit"2 (Fig 1). The chronic low back pain had disrupted Hank's hip abduction firing order pattern forcing him to recruit the ipsilateral QL (instead of gluteus medius) to hip-hike and lift the swing leg. It was obvious that Hank's lumbar spine had been locked with spasm for some time but elbowing the spasm didn't seem to be the answer.
History and Motion-Testing
Hank's back pain history and motion testing results suggested an unstable spine that had not been allowed proper healing time due to overstretching and chiropractic adjustments. The heat emanating from Hank's back indicated an active inflammatory process at work...probably due to articular cartilage derangement and/or spinal ligament damage. When pain and inflammation bombard the central nervous system, joint reflexes are stimulated that can disrupt normal low back myo-mechanics. To test, I asked him to slowly forward bend as I palpated for low back asymmetry. This maneuver intensified Hank's dull, aching pain on the right side at about L4-5. As he reached his end range of trunk flexion, I applied a little overpressure which caused the right L4 transverse process to posteriorly rotated against my palpating thumb suggesting the L4 facets on the right were unable to disengage from L5 (Fig 2). To verify, I had him stand straight and try to right sidebend his torso. Normally, I'd expect the L4 transverse process to left rotate against my thumb during this maneuver, but the joint mechanoreceptors refused to take the joint beyond its painful restrictive barrier by inhibiting the left spinal side-benders...particularly QL (Fig 3). While motion-testing the joints, I noticed lack of tone in Hank's multifidus muscle on the right.
Typically, when palpating deep lamina groove muscles (rotatores, multifidi, intertransversarii, etc.), I expect to feel 'knotty' fibrosis on the side of dysfunction. These are usually the first muscles recruited as the brain's neuromatrix scans and 'maps' the dysfunctional area. If it senses exceptional weakness, it'll stiffen these short-lever muscles to protect an unstable spine (Fig 4). The burning question is this: Does joint blockage or ligamentous damage always result in deep intrinsic muscle hypertonia (fibrosis) or, as in Hank's case, can the tissue sometimes become hypotonic or inhibited? Contrary to what I was taught in Philip Greenman's osteopathic model3, secondary muscle changes in the deep groove muscles from joint blockage do not always result in hypertonicity or spasm. In fact, Dr. Stuart McGill found that when a lumbar facet joint became displaced during a lifting incident, the multifidus on the side of the fixated facets began to atrophy within 24 hours.4 (Fig 5).
Calling in the Subs
When the brain senses weakness or injury in osteoligamentous tissues, it calls for help from middle layer (core) stabilizers such as the QL, psoas, transverse abdominis, etc. Regrettably, this middle layer postural support system is best designed for lumbopelvic bracing to allow global (extrinsic) muscles and fascia to carry out normal movements of daily living...not for facet joint stabilization. Therefore, when the middle layer is recruited to "sub" for fixated facets or damaged spinal ligaments, firing order patterns are skewed, motor recruitment is garbled, and coordinated movement suffers. Bottom line: Prolonged joint damage can set the stage for aberrant posturo-movement patterns which, in time, causes the brain, through the process of sensitization, to re-map and re-learn the dysfunctional movement as normal (neuroplasticity).
Due to our population's general lack of proper core support and our inability (through lack of good functional movement training) to adequately activate the middle layers, many, like Hank, find it hard to "hold on" until ligaments heal, fixated facets are released and myo-mechanics are corrected. Sadly, when the oxygen-burning middle layer muscles run out of gas, the load falls back to the damaged joint capsules, spinal ligaments and articular facets which further intensify the pain-spasm-pain cycle.
Regardless of the reason for loss of joint play, when vertebrae are not free to move, muscles assigned the job of moving them (prime movers) cannot carry out their duties and are substituted by synergistic stabilizers, i.e., the brain sends in the subs when a key player is injured. The final stage of dysfunction occurs when the middle and deep spinal layers both collapse causing the load to shift to global (outer layer) dynamic muscles such as the erectors, obliques and lats. These fast-twitch muscles burn glucose and are designed to provide bursts of energy. Spasm develops when they're forced to act both as movers and stabilizers. As they tire and tighten, the lubricating fluid between fascial bags begins to dehydrate and the facial envelops adhere to neighboring structures often resulting in a big 'wad' of hypertrophied erector spinae tissue that therapists beat on session-after-session.
Once ligaments and joint capsules have healed, manual therapists can help maintain flexibility by elongating cross-linked collagen fibers in the joint capsules and balancing the middle and outer musculo-fascial tissue layers. Myoskeletal articular stretching techniques designed to minimize the accumulation of nociceptive tissue irritants at the injured site help normalize afferent messages to the brain; thus reducing protective muscle guarding around the dysfunctional joint. Once pain-free movement is established, functional movement training effectively restores motor control patterns and allows the brain to reestablish optimal posturo-movement patterns.
Click here for previous articles by Erik Dalton, PhD.
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