Acupuncture as a healing practice originated in China over two thousand years ago. Its growing popularity here in the US and other Western countries has much to do with the increasing number of studies that have shown its efficacy. In 1997 the NIH (National Institutes of Health) released a summary of disorders which are effectively treated by acupuncture, and a broad range of pain disorders are at the top of that list.
So how does acupuncture work? Acupuncture has been shown to have a great effect on the nervous system, which not only sends signals along the nerve pathways, but also emits biochemicals that influence other cells in the body. In the case of injuries, there are two main reasons why acupuncture is so effective in speeding up the healing process. Firstly, acupuncture has been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins, the "feel good" chemicals in our body, which help block pain signals to our brain. Another important factor involves stimulation of the adrenals, which release cortisol in the body to reduce inflammation.
From the Eastern perspective, the language of Traditional Chinese Medicine was born out of an observation of nature and the idea that the inner workings of the human body were governed by these same laws of nature. Metaphors of running water, rivers, and streams are used to describe the flow of energy or "qi" within the body. Acute injuries, for example, are often described as a stagnation of qi and blood, much like a dam blocking the flow of a river. Essentially, pain and reduced range of motion occur when an accumulation of fluids and qi are blocking healthy pathways. The goal in treatment is to restore balance and allow for proper movement at the site of injury. From this perspective, acupuncture not only helps to restore normal function, but it can also help to maintain healthy function in order to prevent chronic injuries that develop over time.
Today, an integrative model of medicine is becoming more common and there are growing options to take a more customized approach to healthcare. With the treatment of injuries, acupuncture can be used to stimulate the body's own healing mechanisms to speed up the healing process. This could potentially avoid or reduce the longterm use of some pharmaceuticals, which may have damaging side effects. For those cases where surgery is needed, acupuncture can not only help to prepare the body beforehand, but can also speed up the recovery process afterwards. If you are interested in learning more about acupuncture, we offer free consultations to see if this type of treatment is a good option for you.
By Elizabeth Kominami, L.Ac., MSTOM

My foot has fallen and it can't get up!
Foot drop is one of the most common neurological problems. It can happen from damage to the peroneal nerve near the knee as the result of a knee injury or, commonly, a knee surgery gone wrong. Often, a severe nerve injury can't be fixed, and the injury recipient will have to use a foot drop brace to assist with walking.
Foot drop can also arise from a central nervous system problem such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, or other neurological diseases. Here, both weakness and spasticity can play a role in the problem.
When working with foot drop, I usually try to determine whether the foot drop is caused by weakness of the tibialis anterior muscle, damage to the peroneal (or sciatic) nerve, damage to the spinal cord, or damage to the brain. It's also important to assess whether the foot drop is accompanied by spasticity in the antagonist muscles. An overly tight soleus muscle or gastrocnemius muscle can prevent the tibialis anterior from firing properly, might cause co-contraction of both the calf muscles and the muscles at the front of the shin, or it could limit the movements of the ankle joint.
If someone presents with spastic foot drop, in which the foot drop is accompanied by tightness that inhibits movement, I find it works best to minimize strengthening the calf muscles. The muscles at the front of the leg are much smaller and have to fight against the tightness of the opposite side. In those cases, I usually take a break from calf strengthening entirely.
But (and here's where it gets tricky), it's important to note that any time a muscle has spasticity, it is also a weak muscle. Spasticity is basically a failure of the communication pathway from the spinal cord to the brain (or vice versa), in which the stretch reflex isn't mediated by the brain. The muscle keeps contracting in a misguided effort to try to protect the joint. Until you can break that cycle of miscommunication, the spasticity will not go away. Once the spasticity pattern is broken, usually through a combination of medication, stretching, and often PT, the weakened muscles can be strengthened.
Why are the feet so prone to problems in neurological diseases? Simply, the feet are the furthest away from the brain. Nerves have to travel from your feet all the way to your brain and back again in order to work correctly. I always give my neurological clients plenty of homework exercises to do with their feet.
Here's a favorite exercise for strengthening the tibialis anterior muscle, which is often weak with foot drop:
Place a Theraband over-the-top of your foot near the toes and step on it with your opposite foot using the Theraband as a resistance, Lift your toes off the floor while keeping your heel grounded. Repeat 10 or more times, and work on holding each lift for up to five seconds.
A stretch that works great for very tight calf muscles comes from one of my favorite bloggers Katy Bowman. Place a half foam roller or rolled up towel on the floor, and step on it with the ball of your foot with your heel down on the floor. Step the opposite leg forward, but keep the weight in the back foot. This will be one of the most intense and effective calf stretches you will ever do.
For more foot exercises, read Mariska's full article at »
By Featured Writer: Mariska Breland,
Pilates Method Alliance, Certified Pilates Teacher

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Cindy Furey - Teaches at St. Augustine and San Diego State University

Crystal Hazelton - Blogs on pelvic floor with post-partum issues

Mandy Johnston - Teaches core activation at Mesa College PTA program. - Presents using Pilates for rehab at San Diego District Chapter Meeting for the APTA

Elizabeth Leeds - Teaches pregnancy/post-partum topics at the YMCA

Maureen Mason-Cover - Clinical trial on Diastasis Recti intervention

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