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Is your head twisted? Cranial Nerves: A missing link for head, face and body pain

Cranial Nerves

Hello from down a rabbit hole!  I have now officially taken ten post-graduate courses in a manual therapy approach to assessing and treating the body called osteopathy.  Specifically, I have focussed on two techniques called visceral and neuromeningeal manipulation (NM).  Visceral manipulation (VM) refers to the use of my hands to treat fascial restrictions around organs that may be causing physical restrictions to blood flow, movement, alignment and posture, while Neuromeningeal manipulation is the act of treating the nerves, membranes and brain itself by means of light touch.

I recently just completed a course called NM4 where I learned all about the role of the cranial nerves and how to affect them with my hands to help my clients.  Your cranial nerves extend out of the base of your brain and branch to provide the electrical wiring to your face, eyes, head and organs.  They are kind of important to your daily life, but largely fly under the radar until they get annoyed for one reason or another.  They can be responsible for headaches, eye pain, ringing in the ears and even referred sensitization and irritation into the body due to their connection to numerous organs through the vagus nerve.

As a person who has woken up with a headache every day for two years since my eye injury, I found this class fascinating.  My empathy for people with head and face pain is substantial so I tried to learn as much as I could from this class to help my clients and hopefully myself.

There are twelve cranial nerves:

I- Olfactory-smell

II- Optic-vision

III- Oculomotor- eye movement

IV- Trochlear- eye movement

V- Trigeminal- movement & sensation to your face, tongue, nose, ear

VI- Abducent- eye movement

VII- Facial- facial expressions & taste

VIII- Vestibulocochlear- sound & balance

IX- Glossopharyngeal- swallowing, speech, taste

X- Vagus- control heart, lungs & digestion

XI- Accessory- neck muscles

XII- Hypoglossal- tongue muscles

Don’t bother trying to remember them all, but just consider that every movement, sensation and process that happens in your body is somehow connected to your brain and nervous system.  Read More

Posted in Blog, Necks, Pain No Comments ↓

What is IMS Acupuncture? Intramuscular Stimulation vs. Traditional Acupuncture

IMS stands for intramuscular stimulation and is an anatomy specific form of acupuncture performed by specially trained physiotherapists and some doctors.  It has its roots in traditional Chinese acupuncture, but is fundamentally different in many ways.  IMS uses Western medicine’s understanding of the neurophysiology of pain and Dr Chan Gunn’s assessment techniques of identifying underlying nerve irritations to treat chronic pain issues.  The technique does use acupuncture needles, but not in the way someone practicing traditional acupuncture would.  Traditional acupuncture focuses on pre-mapped out points in the body that relate to different organs and meridians of energy running through the body.  Fine acupuncture needles are then inserted into a number of these points and the person rests with them in for 10-20 minutes.  It can be very useful for the right condition, but it is not as specific or as purposeful as IMS.

To understand why IMS is performed the way it is you should have a basic understanding of how your body experiences pain.  If you haven’t already, please read the article titled Why Things Hurt: Explain Pain.

When a physiotherapist performs IMS he will first assess your basic posture and movement patterns to look for some common signs of underlying nerve irritation.  The most common one is to palpate for tender bands or knots in particular muscle groups.  He will look for restriction of movement in major joints such as your hips and shoulders and note the appearance of the skin and muscle tissue on either side of your spine.  When there is an underlying nerve irritation in an area, the skin can start to look like the rind of an orange peel, feel thickened and respond differently to light touch.  A person may develop goose bumps easily and/or have areas of coolness or hair loss.  The therapist will take all these things into account when determining where to treat you. Read More

Posted in Blog, Elbow, Healthcare, Low Backs, Necks, Pain, Shoulders Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
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Everything your mother taught you about posture is WRONG

Big Myth:

  • Chest up, shoulders back and down is the best posture

Most people think of posture as simply the need to keep your chest up and your shoulders back and down.  Sounds like a simple feat right?!  Then why will most people admit that they think they have bad posture?  The answer to that is because good posture is not a simple thing, it is actually a learned, coordinated skill that encompasses the whole body.  We are what we repeatedly do and our posture is a reflection of our childhood, our sports, our jobs, our emotions and our attitudes.

There is a continuum of flexibility and mobility among the population.  Some people are naturally very loose jointed and hypermobile while others are compressed and stiff as a board.  Where you end up on the spectrum seems to be partly genetic and partly personality.  The people that fall in the middle or the average/normal people tend to have the least pain and injury problems.  The further a person strays in either direction from the average the more and more posture, movement and pain problems they tend to develop.  There is not one perfect posture for everybody, but there is a norm that we should all be trying to achieve no matter which side of normal we are on.

Compressed/Hypomobile——————Average———————-Hypermobile
“Stiff as a board”                                            “Normal”                             “Loosey-goosey”

Our bodies are brilliantly built to deal with gravity as a constant downward force, unfortunately most people don’t know how to use their bodies properly or efficiently and end up with muscle imbalances, pain and dysfunction.  Posture should be looked at as a life skill not a genetic trait we can blame on our parents.  A very basic understanding of anatomy and biomechanics can save people a lot of grief throughout life. Read More

Posted in Blog, Knees, Low Backs, Mid Backs, Necks, Pain, Posture, Shoulders Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
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Why Things Hurt: Explain Pain

This article has an accompanying video titled Why Things Hurt and a follow up article about the use of IMS dry needling

Reference: Dr Chan Gunn,  istop.org

If you experience an acute accident or injury, like spraining your ankle, it is easy to understand why your ankle may hurt.  You likely tore some of the ligaments and or muscles around the joint and experienced subsequent swelling, bruising and inflammation.  Over a four to six week period your body typically fills in the torn tissue with scar tissue and then slowly remodels it back to its original state.  Sometimes though the pain persists beyond six weeks even though all the swelling and bruising have long disappeared.  Other times pain appears for no apparent reason in the complete absence of an injury and you can’t understand why or what you did wrong.

Nerves are the electrical wiring of your body.  They supply the energy for all your muscles and organs to do their jobs.  Your brain and spinal cord are like the electrical fuse box of your body and your spine and skull are their protective coverings.  Peripheral nerves extend out from your spine at every level on both the left and right sides.  The nerves that extend from your neck are responsible for most of the muscles in your shoulders, arms and hands, while the nerves that come from your low back enervate all of the muscles in your hips, legs and feet.  The nerves in the middle are responsible for your trunk and a lot of your organs.

Muscles are comprised of a whole bunch of stringy tissue that can stretch and contract.  The muscle should have a certain amount of resting tone in it, i.e. at rest it is slightly contracted, not flaccid or extremely tense; this is dictated by the input of the nerve.  Read More

Posted in Ankles, Blog, Elbow, Feet, Knees, Low Backs, Mid Backs, Necks, New Moms, Pain, Shoulders Tagged with: , , , , , ,
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