resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
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.
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.
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.
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.
News in Brief
F4CP MEmbership Milestone Reached; ICA Challenging New California Vaccine Law; TCC Names New President; New Provost at UWS.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
March, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 03
Evaluating Neurological Symptoms
By Whitney Lowe, LMT
In massage therapy, the tendency is to focus on the role of muscles in pain or injury, sometimes to the exclusion of other soft tissues. Nerves are one of these often forgotten tissues, yet they play a critical role in many pain complaints. Neglecting these tissues can lead to inadequate treatment and the development of chronic pain conditions.
With all the work we perform on soft tissues throughout the body, the absence of knowledge of nerve-tissue disorders is serious. Massage can be an exceptional treatment approach for numerous nerve pathologies because soft-tissue therapy can successfully address nerve compression and tension disorders. Effective treatment of these disorders must begin with accurate evaluation of the client's primary problem. When performed effectively, simple manual examination is one of the most effective tools for evaluating nerve system function.
One might be inclined to think evaluation of nerve-tissue disorders should be left to primary care professionals who have access to MRI, EMG and nerve-conduction testing. However, while high-tech diagnostic studies are effective in certain circumstances, they are not always accurate. For example, median nerve compression does not always show up in nerve-conduction tests for carpal tunnel syndrome.1,2 While no single testing method is always correct, manual neurological examination has a high degree of reliability and should always be a part of a comprehensive evaluation.3,4
Structure, Function and Pathology
The motor versus sensory fiber make-up of peripheral nerves is an important characteristic to note when evaluating neurological symptoms. Most major nerve pathologies affect the peripheral nerves. Peripheral nerves have a dorsal root that carries sensory information and a ventral root that carries motor signals (See Figure 1). The nerve roots blend together shortly after leaving the spinal cord, converging to create the major trunks of the peripheral nerves. These nerves then course through the upper and lower extremities as well as other regions of the body. Most peripheral nerves carry both motor and sensory fibers, but a few carry one or the other almost exclusively.
Compression pathologies are the most common type of nerve injury. Compression can occur anywhere along the length of the nerve from the nerve root all the way to the distal end of the nerve. Pressure on a nerve root is called a radiculopathy. Examples include herniated intervertebral discs, spinal tumors, bone spurs and spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the intervertebral foramen where the nerve root exits the spine (See Figure 2).
When pressure is applied to a nerve further along its length in the upper or lower extremity, it is called a peripheral neuropathy. Common examples of peripheral neuropathies include carpal tunnel, thoracic outlet and piriformis syndromes. In a peripheral neuropathy, the nerve can be compressed by muscle, fibrous bands, bone, tendon, local inflammation or other factors. Treatment focuses on reducing compression on the affected nerve, so the practitioner must distinguish where that adverse compression is occurring.
Evaluating for the location and type of nerve pathology is necessary for selecting the most appropriate treatment strategies. Evaluation seeks detailed information on the client's symptoms. Acquire as much detailed information from the client as possible through the history and physical evaluation.
Most of the large peripheral nerves carry both motor and sensory fibers, which have different symptom patterns. Consequently, when there is damage to the nerve, there may be motor and sensory symptoms. However, some nerves carry a much larger percentage of either motor or sensory fibers. In these cases, it is more common to see one type of symptom pattern than another.
For example, if the piriformis muscle is entrapping the posterior femoral cutaneous nerve in the gluteal region (See Figure 3), symptoms are most likely to be pain or paresthesia in the posterior thigh because this nerve is predominantly a sensory nerve innervating the posterior thigh. If the piriformis is compressing the superior gluteal nerve, the most common symptom is weakness in the hip abductor muscles because the superior gluteal nerve is mostly a motor nerve supplying the hip abductor muscles.
The most common sensory symptoms from nerve compression are pain, paresthesia (pins and needles), numbness, burning or electrical-type sensations. Sensory symptoms from nerve compression usually are felt distal to the site of compression. There are exceptions to this guideline, but it generally holds true.
The symptom pattern for compression on a nerve root usually is different from compression on a peripheral nerve. This distinction has important ramifications for treatment. When pressure is applied to a nerve root, the symptoms might be felt anywhere within a specific dermatome. A dermatome is an area of skin supplied by a single nerve root. Figure 4 shows the C8 dermatome, which is the area of skin supplied by fibers that originate from the C8 nerve root (between the C7 and T1 vertebrae). Dermatome maps such as the one in Figure 4 are common in anatomy books. However, these are not absolute, nor is every person exactly the same. There can be slight variations in the dermatome due to anatomical anomalies. In some cases, nerve-root compression symptoms are only felt in a portion of the dermatome, which makes it challenging to pinpoint the problem.
The symptom pattern for compression on a peripheral nerve occurs in regions that overlap the dermatome. Each peripheral nerve supplies sensory innervation to a particular area of skin in the extremity; this is called that nerve's cutaneous innervation. For example, the cutaneous innervation of the ulnar nerve is limited to the ulnar side of the hand as shown in Figure 5. Recognition of nerve symptom patterns requires knowledge of each peripheral nerve's cutaneous innervation or each nerve root's dermatome. Clearly there is overlap between the cutaneous innervation of the ulnar nerve in our example and the C8 dermatome. Such overlap makes clinical analysis more challenging. So, how do you figure out where the symptoms are originating?
The best way to determine the site of compression is through accurate assessment. In general though, if symptoms exist throughout a complete dermatome, then you likely have a nerve root issue (radiculopathy). Choosing tests that further evaluate that nerve root would be the next step. If the symptoms are confined to one nerve's cutaneous innervation, then a peripheral neuropathy is likely. However, because nerve-root compression symptoms can occur in only a portion of the dermatome, further testing would be warranted to rule out nerve-root involvement.
For instance, if a client presented symptoms along the medial side of the arm and forearm extending into the hand, involving the C8 dermatome, it would indicate a C8 nerve-root pathology. If the symptoms were felt only on the ulnar side of the hand, the problem would likely be due to pressure somewhere along the ulnar nerve distal to the nerve root. But, due to dermatome and cutaneous innervation overlap, further testing would be warranted. In addition, further testing would be needed to determine the location of that compression along the path of the ulnar nerve. Treatment could then be directed to the most appropriate location.
When evaluating neurological symptoms, do not assume there is always a mechanical compression or tension problem. Numerous systemic disorders such as multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis or diabetes can also produce peripheral neurological symptoms, as could myofascial trigger points from distant muscles. These other pathologies should always be considered as a possibility, and referral is suggested.
Nerve pathologies affect motor function when motor-nerve fibers are involved. The most common symptom from motor-nerve compression is weakness or atrophy in the muscle(s) supplied by the affected nerve. Numerous anatomical references show where motor branches depart from major nerve trunks to supply innervation to muscles. As with sensory symptoms, the affected muscles are distal to the site of compression. Consequently, the more distal the compression site, the fewer muscles will be affected. Figure 6 shows a schematic for compression at two different locations along a nerve and how it affects the muscles innervated by that nerve.
Muscle weakness and atrophy are the most apparent symptoms from motor-nerve compression. However, in some cases pathologies develop from altered biomechanical patterns resulting from muscle weakness induced by nerve injury. Most of our movements involve complex coordination patterns of multiple muscles to accomplish a task. Weakness or atrophy from nerve compression in one of these muscles can cause resultant problems that might not seem related.
Here's an example of motor weakness contributing to a different pathology. The long thoracic nerve innervates the serratus anterior muscle, which is crucial for moving the scapula properly during shoulder abduction. Tightness in the scalene muscles can compress the long thoracic nerve and cause weakness in the serratus anterior muscle. Carrying a backpack, book bag or other heavy item with a shoulder strap could also compress this nerve. When the serratus anterior is weak, the coordination of movement between the scapula and humerus in abduction no longer functions properly and can lead to shoulder impingement syndrome. You might not think of nerve compression as a primary cause in this condition, but muscle weakness from nerve compression is at the root of the problem.
More massage therapists today are working in clinical environments and with clients who have a wide variety of pain and injury conditions. It is crucial that practitioners understand how the symptoms of nerve conditions might present. In some cases, the client should be sent to another health professional for further evaluation, especially when the problem is out of the practitioner's scope of practice or experience level. In other situations, massage can be an extremely important part of the treatment process because few other approaches treat the soft tissues with the degree of specificity of massage therapy. In future columns we'll explore treatment strategies that can be used to address various nerve pathologies.
Any practitioner who wants to address the full gamut of soft-tissue disorders is strongly advised to learn more about function and pathology in the nervous system. Understanding nerve structure and function will aid in treating these conditions. Applying quality clinical reasoning and evaluation skills is part of this process and can greatly improve the outcomes for clients.
Click here for more information about Whitney Lowe, LMT.
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