A CLASSIFICATION-BASED COGNITIVE FUNCTIONAL APPROACH FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF BACK PAIN

Denne beskriver et ganske så komplett opplegg for behandling og undervisning av klienter med nesten alle typer muskel og leddplager.

http://www.pain-ed.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/OSullivanIFOMPT-Oct2012.pdf

Pathoanatomical factors: F.eks. funn på røntgen og MRI, som spiller liten rolle i kroniske muskel og leddplager.

Physical factors: muskelspenning og bevegelsesmønster endres ved smertetilstander. F.eks. kjermuskulatur spenner seg mer i bevegelser hos smertepasienter.

Lifestyle factors: interessant at mat og kosthold er det eneste av livsstilsfaktorer som ikke nevnes på denne listen. Ellers er trening, stress, søvn, røyk, overvekt, m.m. med.

Cognitive and psychosocial factors: angst, depresjon, frykt, katastrofering, og særlig ideen om at (f.eks.) ryggen må beskyttes pga smertene.

Social factors: trivsel i jobb, familie, forhold, og livssituasjon.

Neurophysiological factors: endringer i hjernen, som f.eks. mindre går materie, økt hjerneaktivitet i hvile, endres kroppsbilde, mindre nedregulering av smerte.

Individual factors: mål med behandling, forventninger, grunnleggende helsekunnskap, m.m.

Genetic factors: Visse gener gir økt disponering for smertetilstander.

Jeg likte spesielt dette sitatet:

Manual therapy is only used as a window of opportunity to change behaviors where movement impairments are present.

Motor Imagery in People With a History of Back Pain, Current Back Pain, Both, or Neither

Nevner at for mennesker med ryggsmerte er hjernens opplevelse av kroppen og dens bevegelser dårligere. Hjernens kart over kroppen blir utydelig. Dette kartet er noe av det første vi vil gjenopprette. Det er en viktig del av behandling, og en av de viktigste årsakene til at vi anbefaler daglige øvelser, som f.eks. Foundation trening.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24535054

Introduction:

There is mounting evidence that cortical maps are disrupted in chronic limb pain and that these disruptions may contribute to the problem and be a viable target for treatment. Little is known as to whether this is also the case for the most common and costly chronic pain—back pain.

Objectives:

To investigate the effects of back pain characteristics on the performance of left/right trunk judgment tasks, a method of testing the integrity of cortical maps.

Methods:

A total of 1008 volunteers completed an online left/right trunk judgment task in which they judged whether a model was rotated or laterally flexed to the left or right in a series of images.

Results:

Participants who had back pain at the time of testing were less accurate than pain-free controls (P=0.027), as were participants who were pain free but had a history of back pain (P<0.01). However, these results were driven by an interaction such that those with current back pain and a history of back pain were less accurate (mean [95% CI]=76% [74%-78%]) than all other groups (>84% [83%-85%]).

Discussion:

Trunk motor imagery performance is reduced in people with a history of back pain when they are in a current episode. This is consistent with disruption of cortical proprioceptive representation of the trunk in this group. On the basis of this result, we propose a conceptual model speculating a role of this measure in understanding the development of chronic back pain, a model that can be tested in future studies.

Pain-related fear, lumbar flexion, and dynamic EMG among persons with chronic musculoskeletal low back pain.

Denne studien nevner at frykt for bevegelse gjør at ryggradens muskler ikke greier å slappe av ordentlig når ryggen ikke er i bevegelse. Bildet neders viser hvordan ryggradens muskler slapper av når du står og når du henger fremover (full static flxion), og spenner seg kun når du beveger ryggraden.

Frykten for hva som skjer med opprettholder muskelspenninger og hemmer restitusjon etter f.eks. en kink eller skade. Derfor er det så viktig at terapeuter ikke skaper frykt for ryggradens bevegelser i sine klienter.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14770044

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between pain-related fear, lumbar flexion, and dynamic EMG activity among persons with chronic musculoskeletal low back pain. It was hypothesized that pain-related fear would be significantly related to decreased lumbar flexion and specific patterns of EMG activity during flexion and extension.

STUDY DESIGN:

Data was obtained from subjects who, on a single day, completed self-report measures of pain and pain-related fear, and were interviewed to determine demographic and pain information. Subjects then underwent a dynamic EMG evaluation for which they were asked to stand, then bend forward as far as possible, stay fully flexed, and return to standing. Lumbar EMG and angle of flexion were recorded during this time. A flexion-relaxation ratio (FRR) was computed by comparing maximal EMG while flexing to the average EMG in full flexion.

SUBJECTS:

Seventy-six persons with chronic musculoskeletal low back pain.

RESULTS:

Zero-order correlations indicated that pain-related fear was significantly related to reduced lumber flexion (r = -0.55), maximum EMG during flexion (r = -0.38) and extension (r = -0.51), and the FRR (r = -0.40). When controlling for pain and demographic factors, pain-related fear continued to be related to reduced lumbar flexion. Using a path-analytic model to examine whether angle of flexion mediated the relationship between fear and EMG activity, the models examining maximal EMG during flexion and extension supported the notion that pain-related fear influences these measures indirectly through its association with decreased range of motion. Conversely, pain-related fear was independently related to higher average EMG in full flexion, while angle of flexion was not significantly related. Pain-related fear was directly related to a smaller FRR, as well as indirectly through angle of flexion.

CONCLUSIONS:

Pain-related fear is significantly associated with reduced lumbar flexion, greater EMG in full flexion, and a smaller FRR. The relationship between pain-related fear and EMG during flexion and extension appears to be mediated by reduced lumbar flexion. These results suggest that pain-related fear is directly associated with musculoskeletal abnormalities observed among persons with chronic low back pain, as well as indirectly through limited lumbar flexion. These musculoskeletal abnormalities as well as limited movement may be involved in the development and maintenance of chronic low back pain. In addition, changes in musculoskeletal functioning and flexion associated with pain-related fear may warrant greater attention as part of treatment.

journal.pone.0039207.g002

Vibration Therapy in Management of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

Svært interessant studie på hvordan vibrasjon (percussor) hjelper mot smerte og stølhet. Den snakker mest om whole-body-vibration, som f.eks. på en Vibroplate. Men de fleste fysiologiske effektene gjelder også for lokal vibrasjon som gis av en Percussor. 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25121012

Hele studien her: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4127040/

Abstract

Both athletic and nonathletic population when subjected to any unaccustomed or unfamiliar exercise will experience pain 24-72 hours postexercise. This exercise especially eccentric in nature caused primarily by muscle damage is known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This damage is characterized by muscular pain, decreased muscle force production, reduce range of motion and discomfort experienced. DOMS is due to microscopic muscle fiber tears. The presence of DOMS increases risk of injury. A reduced range of motion may lead to the incapability to efficiently absorb the shock that affect physical activity. Alterations to mechanical motion may increase strain placed on soft tissue structures. Reduced force output may signal compensatory recruitment of muscles, thus leading to unaccustomed stress on musculature. Differences in strength ratios may also cause excessive strain on unaccustomed musculature. A range of interventions aimed at decreasing symptoms of DOMS have been proposed. Although voluminous research has been done in this regard, there is little consensus among the practitioners regarding the most effective way of treating DOMS. Mechanical oscillatory motion provided by vibration therapy. Vibration could represent an effective exercise intervention for enhancing neuromuscular performance in athletes. Vibration has shown effectiveness in flexibility and explosive power. Vibration can apply either local area or whole body vibration. Vibration therapy improves muscular strength, power development, kinesthetic awareness, decreased muscle sore, increased range of motion, and increased blood flow under the skin. VT was effective for reduction of DOMS and regaining full ROM. Application of whole body vibration therapy in postexercise demonstrates less pressure pain threshold, muscle soreness along with less reduction maximal isometric and isokinetic voluntary strength and lower creatine kinase levels in the blood.

 

Cutaneous Receptors Responses: The sensation of pressure and touch is masked during vibration [20], and also postvibration [21]. Some cutaneous mechanoreceptor afferents get aroused for many minutes postvibration [21] and this may be the physiological reason for the tingling sensation often experienced postvibration. On the basis of gate control hypothesis [22] we can infer that vibration strongly impacts affrents discharge from fast adapting mechanoreceptors and muscle spindles and hence become an effective pain reliever.

Pain Perception Responses: Vibration can be used as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) [23] to reduce the perception of pain [7]. Passive vibration has reduced pain in 70% of patients with acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain [24] and passive 80 Hz vibration has been shown to reduce pain caused by muscle pressure [25]. More recent evidence suggests that pain perception in DOMS depends partly on fast myelinated afferent fibres, which are distinct from those that convey most other types of pain [26].

Lundeberg et al., concluded that vibration relieved pain by activating the large diameter fibres while suppressing the transmission activity in small diameter fibres [24,28].

Vibration therapy leads to increase of skin temperature and blood flow [30].

 

Diagnosis and management of adhesive capsulitis

Nevner det meste av medisinske behandlingsmetoder for frozen shoulder. Men kun medisiner eller kirurgi nevnes. Bedring fra 92% til 165% fremad elevasjon stående, og fra 12% til 52% utrotasjon av armen ryggliggende er resultatene av kirurgi. Dette har jeg også fått til ved hjelp av dry needling og behandlingene på Verkstedet.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2682415/

Adhesive capsulitis is diagnosed by numerous physical characteristics including a thickening of the synovial capsule, adhesions within the subacromial or subdeltoid bursa, adhesions to the biceps tendon, and/or obliteration of the axillary fold secondary to adhesions [19].

Adhesive capsulitis has an incidence of 3–5% in the general population and up to 20% in those with diabetes. This disorder is one of the most common musculoskeletal problems seen in orthopedics [1115]. Although some have described adhesive capsulitis as a self-limiting disorder that resolves in 1–3 years [131620], other studies report ranges of between 20 and 50% of patients with adhesive caspulitis which suffer long-term ROM deficits that may last up to 10 years [2125].

Adhesive capsulitis is commonly associated with other systemic and nonsystemic conditions. By far the most common is the co-morbid condition of diabetes mellitus, with an incidence of 10–36% [142728].

Other co-morbid conditions include hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, hypoadrenalism, Parkinson’s disease, cardiac disease, pulmonary disease, stroke, and even surgical procedures that do not affect the shoulder such as cardiac surgery, cardiac catheterization, neurosurgery, and radical neck dissection [2939].

Adhesive capsulitis is classified into two categories: (1) primary, which is insidious and idiopathic, or (2) secondary, which is generally due to trauma or subsequent immobilization [41]. Those with primary adhesive capsulitis generally have a very gradual onset and progression of symptoms, with no known precipitating event that can be identified [42].

Adhesive capsulitis presentation is generally broken into three distinct stages [43]. The first stage that is described is called the freezing or painful stage. Patients may not present during this stage because they think that eventually the pain will resolve if self-treated.

This phase typically lasts between 3 and 9 months and is characterized by an acute synovitis of the glenohumeral joint [44].

Most patients will progress to the second stage, the frozen or transitional stage. During this stage shoulder pain does not necessarily worsen. Because of pain at end ROM, use of the arm may be limited causing muscular disuse. The frozen stage lasts anywhere 4 to 12 months [44].

The third stage begins when ROM begins to improve. This 3rd stage is termed the thawing stage. This stage lasts anywhere from 12 to 42 months and is defined by a gradual return of shoulder mobility.

Pain associated with adhesive capsulitis can cause a limitation or selective immobilization of the painful shoulder. Prolonged immobilization of a joint has been shown to cause several detrimental pathophysiologic findings including: decreased collagen length, fibrofatty infiltration into the capsular recess, ligament atrophy resulting in decreased stress absorption, collagen band bridging across recesses, random collagen production, and altered sarcomere number in muscle tissue [45].

Testing for impingement may be positive with a Hawkin’s or Neer sign; however, the pain is likely from the intrinsic process of impingement or capsular stretch rather than from adhesive capsulitis.

The diagnosis of adhesive capsulitis is often one of exclusion. Early in the disease process adhesive capsulitis may clinically appear similar to other shoulder conditions such as major trauma, rotator cuff tear, rotator cuff contusion, labral tear, bone contusion, subacromial bursitis, cervical or peripheral neuropathy. Additionally, a history of a previous surgical procedure can lead to shoulder stiffness. If a history of these other pathologies are negative and if radiographs do not demonstrate osteoarthritis, then the diagnosis can be given.

Non-operative treatment

Anti-inflammatories

Treatment of adhesive capsulitis often involves the use of anti-inflammatories, or corticosteroids. NSAIDs may be used during any phase as an attempt to relieve symptoms. There are no well done studies to indicate that NSAIDs change the natural history of adhesive capsulitis.

Intra-articular corticosteroid injections

Although high-quality randomized studies of corticosteroid injection for treatment of adhesive capsulitis have not been done, there is some evidence to indicate there is a short-term benefit with their use.

Surgical treatment

The treatment of adhesive capsulitis should lead to the operating room only after a concerted effort at conservative management has failed.

Manipulation under anesthesia

Manipulation under anesthesia as a means of treatment has been advocated. This method allows return of ROM in the operating room. Immediate postoperative physical therapy can be initiated with this form of treatment [49]. Manipulation under anesthesia has the disadvantage in that tissues that are stretched while the patient is under anesthesia may cause pain when awake. This can potentially slow recovery. When surgical release is added to this procedure it induces further surgical trauma to the shoulder and may slow rehabilitation.

Arthroscopic release and repair

Arthroscopy is an excellent additional tool for addressing the shoulder with adhesive capsulitis, and has become well accepted in treating this process. The essential lesion is the tightened coracohumeral ligament and rotator interval with the contracted capsule including the axillary pouch. These structures can be treated by release with arthroscopic instruments.

Operative treatment of adhesive capsulitis has been shown to decrease the duration of the disease and to return ROM with good success. Total recovery of pain-free ROM averages 2.8 months (1–6), and time for formal physical therapy averages 2.3 months (2–20) weeks. Forward elevation improved from the average of 92–165° and external rotation with the elbow at the side improved from 12 to 56° in a series of 68 shoulders treated with arthroscopic capsular release [61].

Patient education

Because adhesive capsulitis is so painful and has a very slow progression of resolution, patient education is critical for success. Patients should be educated in the chronicity of this condition. If they know and understand ahead of time that it can be several years before symptoms are completely resolved, apprehension and a feeling of urgency for functional return may be decreased.

Trigger point dry needling as an adjunct treatment for a patient with adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder.

Nevner at dry needling gir en raskere smertereduksjon og bevegelsesøkning ved frozen shoulder. 10 behandlinger ble gjort i dette tilfelle.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24261931

 

BACKGROUND:

Prognosis for adhesive capsulitis has been described as self-limiting and can persist for 1 to 3 years. Conservative treatment that includes physical therapy is commonly advised.

CASE DESCRIPTION:

The patient was a 54-year-old woman with primary symptoms of shoulder pain and loss of motion consistent with adhesive capsulitis. Manual physical therapy intervention initially consisted of joint mobilizations of the shoulder region and thrust manipulation of the cervicothoracic region. Although manual techniques seemed to result in some early functional improvement, continued progression was limited by pain. Subsequent examination identified trigger points in the upper trapezius, levator scapula, deltoid, and infraspinatus muscles, which were treated with dry needling to decrease pain and allow for higher grades of manual intervention.

OUTCOMES:

The patient was treated for a total of 13 visits over a 6-week period. After trigger point dry needling was introduced on the third visit, improvements in pain-free shoulder range of motion and functional outcome measures, assessed with the Shoulder Pain and Disability Index and the shortened form of the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand questionnaire, exceeded the minimal clinically important difference after 2 treatment sessions. At discharge, the patient had achieved significant improvements inshoulder range of motion in all planes, and outcome measures were significantly improved.

DISCUSSION:

This case report describes the clinical reasoning behind the use of trigger point dry needlingin the treatment of a patient with adhesive capsulitis. The rapid improvement seen in this patient following the initiation of dry needling to the upper trapezius, levator scapula, deltoid, and infraspinatus muscles suggests that surrounding muscles may be a significant source of pain in this condition.

Structure and Biomechanics of Peripheral Nerves: Nerve Responses to Physical Stresses and Implications for Physical Therapist Practice

Nevner det aller meste om perifere nerver og hvordan de får plager av «normale» sitasjoner, som f.eks. musearm.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16386065

http://ptjournal.apta.org/content/86/1/92.long

Abstract

The structural organization of peripheral nerves enables them to function while tolerating and adapting to stresses placed upon them by postures and movements of the trunk, head, and limbs. They are exposed to combinations of tensile, shear, and compressive stresses that result in nerve excursion, strain, and transverse contraction. The purpose of this appraisal is to review the structural and biomechanical modifications seen in peripheral nerves exposed to various levels of physical stress. We have followed the primary tenet of the Physical Stress Theory presented by Mueller and Maluf (2002), specifically, that the level of physical stress placed upon biological tissue determines the adaptive response of the tissue. A thorough understanding of the biomechanical properties of normal and injured nerves and the stresses placed upon them in daily activities will help guide physical therapists in making diagnoses and decisions regarding interventions.

Figure 1.

Structural components of peripheral nerves. In the endoneurial compartment (En), a single Schwann cell envelops several unmyelinated axons, and another Schwann cell provides multiple wrappings of plasma membrane forming the myelin sheath of a myelinated axon. The portion of a myelinated axon myelinated by a single Schwann cell is called the internode, and internodes are separated by nodes of Ranvier. Schwann cells associated with both unmyelinated and myelinated axons are covered with a continuous basal lamina (BL). Capillaries (Cap) are present within the endoneurial compartment, and collagen fibers (Col) run primarily longitudinally between the axons. The axons, Schwann cells, collagen, and endoneurial fluid are bundled into a fascicle by the perineurium (Pe). The perineurium consists of several layers of flattened perineurial cells connected by tight junctions and covered internally and externally by a basal lamina. The layers of perineurial cells are separated by collagen fibers (Col) oriented obliquely. Several fascicles are bundled together by the epineurium (Ep) to form a nerve. The epineurium consists primarily of fibroblasts, collagen fibers (Col), and elastic fibers. The epineurium between fascicles is termed the interfascicular epineurium, and that encompassing all of the fascicles is termed the epifascicular epineurium. Arterioles (A) and veins are oriented primarily longitudinally within the epineurium.

Blood supply

The blood supply to nerves is provided by coiled segmental arteries that enter the epineurium periodically along the length of the nerve and form the vasa nervorum. Arteries divide into epineurial arterioles that form an anastomotic network running primarily longitudinally within the epifascicular epineurium and the interfascicular epineurium (Fig. 3). Epineurial arterioles are supplied with a perivascular plexus of serotoninergic, adrenergic, and peptidergic nerves.17,18 Perforating arterioles cross the perineurium at oblique angles and carry a short sleeve of perineurial cells into the fascicle.3,19 Perineurial arterioles have poorly developed smooth muscle and thus have limited ability to regulate intrafascicular blood flow.20 Within the endoneurium, arterioles immediately turn into large-diameter, longitudinally oriented capillaries that allow blood flow in either direction (Fig. 3).21 The endothelial cells of endoneurial capillaries are connected by tight junctions, thus forming the tight blood-nerve barrier.7 Venules return blood to the venous system. Of note, lymphatic capillaries are present only within the epineurium; there is no lymphatic drainage from the intrafascicular or endoneurial space.22

Biomechanical properties

Under normal physiological conditions imposed by posture and movement, nerves are exposed to various mechanical stresses. Stress is defined as force divided by the area over which it acts9,2325 and can be applied to a nerve as tensile, compressive, or shear stress or as a combination of stresses (Fig. 4). Tensile stress may be applied to tissues either parallel or perpendicular to the length of the nerve, causing respective longitudinal or transverse stress in the nerve. When joint motion causes elongation of the nerve bed, the nerve is inherently placed under tensile stress and accommodates the stress by both elongating and gliding.15 The deformation or change in nerve length induced by longitudinal tensile stress is called strain and is expressed typically as percent elongation.23,2628 Displacement or gliding of a nerve relative to the surrounding nerve bed is called excursion.2931 The direction of excursion may be longitudinal or transverse, or both, relative to the nerve tract31,32 and is measured in millimeters.

Figure 4.

Physical stresses placed on peripheral nerve. Tensile stress applied longitudinally to peripheral nerve creates an elongation of the nerve (an increase in strain). The transverse contraction that occurs during this elongation is greatest at the middle of the section undergoing tensile stress.

When the nerve bed is elongated, the nerve is placed under increased tensile stress. With the elongation of the nerve bed, the nerve glides toward the moving joint,1,33,34 a movement termed convergence.1 Conversely, if the nerve bed tension is relieved during joint motion, the nerve will realign along the shortened nerve bed by gliding away from the moving joint, a movement termed divergence.33 Convergence in the median nerve may be demonstrated during elbow extension (Fig. 5). The motion elongates the bed of the median nerve, causing the nerve segment in the arm to glide distally toward the elbow and the nerve segment in the forearm to glide proxi mally toward the elbow. In contrast, elbow extension relieves the tensile stresses in the ulnar nerve bed, causing the ulnar nerve to diverge away from the elbow (Fig. 5).

Figure 5.

Excursion of the median nerve (solid line) and the ulnar nerve (dotted line) during elbow extension followed by wrist extension. The concepts of nerve convergence toward and divergence away from a moving joint are illustrated in measurements of excursion taken at each site indicated. All measurements are reported in millimeters of proximal (P) or distal (D) excursion. The direction of excursion is also represented by solid arrows for median nerve excursion and open arrows for ulnar nerve excursion. (A) With elbow extension from 90° of flexion to 0° of flexion, the median nerve bed lengthens and the median nerve glides toward the elbow (converges). With the same joint motion, the ulnar nerve bed shortens and the ulnar nerve glides away from the elbow (diverges). (B) With wrist extension from 0° of extension to 60° of extension, both nerve beds lengthen; thus, both nerves converge toward the wrist. The magnitude of excursion is greatest closest to the moving joint. Data were obtained from: aDilley et al,29 bWright et al,27 and cWright et al.33 Measurements of nerve excursion at the wrist and elbow in panel A were extrapolated from studies of nerve excursion during elbow flexion from 0° to 90°.27

Nerve Stiffness

First, a recent study43 measured greater nerve compliance in nerve segments that cross joints than in segments that do not cross joints.

Second, nerve stiffness is greater in long nerve sections and in nerve sections with numerous branches.15 Severing nerve branches or vessels but leaving the nerve in situ results in increased compliance and decreased stiffness.15

Third, nerve stiffness is greater when a nerve is elongated rapidly rather than slowly. In addition, the ultimate strain at the point of failure appears to be dependent on the rate of elongation.

When a nerve is placed under tension and maintained at that new fixed length over time, there is a reduction in the tension in the nerve or the force required to maintain the fixed length. The observed reduction in tension may be plotted in a stress-relaxation curve (Fig.8).25,44 The majority of relaxation occurs in the first 20 minutes of fixed elongation.25,44Stress relaxation in nerves that are stretched slowly is greater than in nerves that are stretched rapidly.25,37,4446 This phenomenon was observed when comparisons were made for rabbit tibial nerves stretched at different rates to lengths 6% longer than their resting lengths. Over the 60-minute relaxation time, there was a 57% reduction in stress in nerves elongated at 0.08% per second,45 but only a 34% reduction in stress in nerves elongated at 3.0% per second.44

Figure 8.

Stress-relaxation curve demonstrating viscoelastic properties of peripheral nerve. When a nerve is elongated and the new length is kept constant, there is a rapid reduction in the stress within the nerve, expressed as percent reduced relaxation. Most of the relaxation occurs in the first 20 minutes. The degree of elongation affects the amount of stress relaxation that will occur. The dotted line represents a nerve that has been elongated to 6% above its resting length. The solid line represents nerves that have been elongated to 9% and 12% above their resting lengths. Greater stress relaxation was documented in nerves that underwent less elongation.25,44 Modified from Kwan MK, Wall EJ, Massie J, Garfin SR. Strain, stress, and stretch of peripheral nerve: rabbit experiments in vitro and in vivo. Acta Orthop Scand. 1992;63:267–272, with permission of Taylor and Francis AS.

However, a nerve stretched repetitively to 8% or 10% strain exhibits a reduced slope of the stress-strain curve, indicating that that nerve undergoes less stress with successive elongations because of increased compliance and decreased stiffness.

Compression of nerve

In addition to tensile stress, nerves are exposed statically and dynamically to compressive stresses. As mentioned previously, the laws of physics dictate that the cross-sectional area of a cylindrical object is reduced as the cylinder is elongated. As a nerve is elongated under tensile force, the nerve undergoes transverse contraction, which is resisted by the fluid and nerve tissue contained within the connective tissue sheath.15,39The magnitude of the transverse contraction stress is greatest at the center of the elongating segment15 (Fig. 4). Nerves also may be compressed externally by approximation to adjacent tissues, such as muscle, tendon, or bone, or by pressure increases in the extraneural environment. Compression of a nerve segment causes displacement of its internal contents in transverse and longitudinal directions. As shown in rat nerve, extraneural compression causes an immediate displacement of endoneurial fluid to the edges of a compressive cuff over 5 to 10 minutes and a much slower displacement of axonal cytoplasm over the course of hours.48 The damage to axons and myelin is greatest at the edges of the compressed zone,48,49 where the shear forces are highest.50

At the edges of the cuff, however, myelin retraction with resultant widening of nodes and paranodal demyelination occurred. These structural alterations in myelin may be expected to result minimally in impaired impulse conduction or maximally in demyelination and a conduction block.

In response to biomechanical stresses placed on a nerve as an individual assumes a posture or movement, the nerve follows the path of least resistance.29 Combinations of tensile, shear, and compressive stresses result in combinations of nerve excursion, strain, and transverse contraction. Because the biomechanical forces on the nerve are so intricately linked, the sequencing and range of joint movement affect the magnitude and direction of excursion,27,29 the magnitude of nerve strain,27,29,35 and the degree of transverse contraction at different sites along the nerve.27

Simultaneous nerve excursion, strain, and transverse contraction may be seen in the ulnar nerve as an example of responses to physical stresses imposed during movements of the upper limb. When the upper limb is maintained in a position of 90 degrees of shoulder abduction and 90 degrees of shoulder external rotation with the wrist neutral, and when the elbow is moved from 90 degrees of flexion to full extension, the ulnar nerve bed is shortened and the tensile stress on the nerve is decreased. With this motion, there is divergence of the ulnar nerve away from the elbow (Fig. 5), decreased nerve strain, especially at the elbow (Fig. 6), and decreased compression within the cubital tunnel.27,29,33 When the wrist then is extended from neutral to full extension, the ulnar nerve bed is lengthened, resulting in convergence of the nerve toward the wrist (Fig. 5), an increase in nerve strain (Fig. 6), and transverse contraction greatest in the nerve segment across the carpal bones and at the tunnel of Guyon.27,29,33 The magnitude of nerve strain and excursion will be greatest near the wrist, and the fascicles will rearrange as the nerve assumes a flattened oval shape. Because the nerve does not lie directly on the rotational axis of joint motion, the fascicles farthest from the axis will undergo greater strain than those closer to the center of rotation51

Figure 6.

Strain of the median nerve (solid line) and the ulnar nerve (dotted line) during elbow extension followed by wrist extension. Measurements at the sites indicated are reported as percent increase (↑) or percent decrease (↓) in strain. (A) With elbow extension from 90° of flexion to 0° of flexion, median nerve strain increases because of elongation of the nerve bed. Conversely, ulnar nerve strain decreases as the ulnar nerve bed shortens. (B) With wrist extension from 0° of extension to 60° of extension, the strain at the sites measured increases in both nerves as both nerve beds elongate. The magnitude of the strain is greatest closest to the moving joint. Data were obtained from: aWright et al27and bWright et al.33 Measurements of nerve excursion at the wrist and elbow in panel A were extrapolated from studies of nerve excursion during elbow flexion from 0° to 90°.27

Continuum of physical stress states

First, levels of physical stress lower than the levels required for tissue maintenance (low stress) result in a reduced ability of the tissue to tolerate subsequent stress and are consistent with tissue plasticity and response to functional demand.

Second, levels of physical stress in the range required for tissue maintenance (normal stress) result in no tissue adaptations and are considered to maintain a state of equilibrium.

Third, physical stress levels that exceed the range required for tissue maintenance (high stress) result in an increase in the tolerance of the tissue for stress in an effort to meet the mechanical demand.

Fourth, physical stress levels that exceed the capacity of some components of the tissue (excessive stress) result in tissue injury.

Fifth, levels of physical stress that are extreme (extreme stress) result in tissue death.

Finally, it is important to note that the physical stress level is a composite value with variable components of magnitude, time, and direction or type of stress.

 In the functional zone, the physical stresses on the nerve are sufficient to maintain a state of equilibrium and normal physiological function. In the dysfunctional zone, various levels of physical stress have altered the ability of the nerve to tolerate subsequent stress.

Figure 9.

Continuum of physical stress states. The white area represents the functional zone in which the physical stresses on the nerve are sufficient to maintain a state of equilibrium and normal physiological function. The shaded areas represent dysfunctional zones resulting from various levels of physical stress placed on the nerve tissue. Under conditions of prolonged low stress, the functional zone will shrink in width and shift to the left, reducing the ability of the tissue to tolerate subsequent stresses even of previously normal levels. Under conditions of high stress, the functional zone may expand and shift to the right, improving the ability of the tissue to tolerate subsequent physical stress. If the nerve is exposed to prolonged or repeated excessive stress, the functional zone will shrink in width. Although scarring of damaged tissue may enable the nerve to tolerate subsequent physical stresses, the physiological function of the nerve will be reduced. Exposure to extreme stress will result in disruption of axon continuity or neural cell death and significantly reduced physiological function.

Immobilization Stresses

Under conditions of immobilization, such as casting, splinting, and bracing, peripheral nerves are exposed to levels of physical stress that are lower than those necessary to maintain the nerves in a state of equilibrium or in a functional zone (Fig. 9). According to the Physical Stress Theory, nerve will undergo predictable physiological and structural modifications proportional to the levels of reduced stress and the duration of immobilization.2 Immobilization induces cell biological changes in axons and axon terminals5254 and structural changes in myelin and nerve connective tissue layers that likely alter the ability of nerves to tolerate subsequent physical stress.

We hypothesize that after a period of immobilization, the width of the functional zone on the continuum of physical stress states will shrink and shift toward the left (Fig. 9).

Lengthening Stresses

Nerves are exposed to various levels of longitudinal tensile stress during limb-lengthening procedures, such as distraction osteogenesis (Ilizarov procedures), traction injuries, and stretching maneuvers. The tissue response is dependent upon the magnitude and duration of the tensile stress. The extant data indicate that lengthening of 6% to 8% for a short duration causes transient physiological changes that appear to be within the normal stress tolerance of the tissue, whereas acute strains of 11% and greater cause long-term damage and may be considered to be excessive or extreme stress states.

In cadavers, positioning in shoulder depression, 90 degrees of shoulder abduction, 90 degrees of shoulder external rotation, 70 degrees of forearm supination, 60 degrees of wrist extension, full finger extension, and full elbow extension resulted in 7.6%±8.2% (X̄±SD) strain in the median nerve measured just proximal to the wrist.28 Adults who were healthy and who were placed in this same position lacked 12±13 degrees (X̄±SD) of elbow extension because of substantial discomfort in the limb.61 The subjects reported pain of 5.1±1.9 (X̄±SD) on a 10-point visual analog scale, and 36% of the subjects reported paresthesia in the upper limb. Taken together, these findings suggest that many people are unable to tolerate levels of strain below the theoretical 11% threshold.

Compression Stresses

Compression on a nerve may be the result of extraneural force or may occur as transverse contraction secondary to increased longitudinal strain (Fig. 4). Compression stress of a low magnitude and a short duration may result in reversible physiological and minor structural changes. Compressive stress of a high magnitude, however, may result in structural alterations in myelin sheaths and even disruption of axons. Low-magnitude compressive stress applied over a long period of time may cause significant structural changes in the nerve secondary to impairment of blood flow and sequelae of ischemia.

As with strain-induced injury, a threshold for compression-induced nerve injury is difficult to determine. Common functional positions may result in compression pressures that approach or exceed the 20 to 30 mm Hg demonstrated to impair nerve blood flow.75 The carpal tunnel is a site well known for compressive damage to the median nerve and thus has been well studied. Carpal tunnel pressure in subjects who were healthy was measured at 3 to 5 mm Hg with the wrist in a neutral position.7678 Simply placing the hand on a computer mouse was shown to increase the tunnel pressure from the resting 5 mm Hg to 16 to 21 mm Hg,79 and actively using the mouse to point and click increased the tunnel pressure to 28 to 33 mm Hg, a pressure high enough to reduce nerve blood flow.

In subjects with carpal tunnel syndrome, pressure in the carpal tunnel was 32 mm Hg with the wrist in a neutral position and rose to a mean of 110 mm Hg with full wrist extension in subjects with carpal tunnel syndrome.76 These tunnel pressures exceed the threshold of 20 to 30 mm Hg for vascular perfusion even at rest. Taken together, these findings suggest that even functional positions, such as the use of a computer keyboard and mouse, place the wrist in a position of increased carpal tunnel pressure, compromising nerve blood flow and placing people at risk for median nerve injury.

Direct damage to myelin and axons has been shown to occur with extraneural compression of as low as 50 mm Hg maintained for 2 minutes,48 and the percentage of damaged fibers increases with increasing force. Ten days after the application of compressive stress at 50 mm Hg, 30% of the axons in the region under the compressive cuff showed evidence of demyelination, focal myelin thickening, remyelination, and axonal degeneration or regeneration.48

The pathological consequences of prolonged compression include subperineurial edema; inflammation; deposition of fibrin; activation of endoneurial fibroblasts, mast cells, and macrophages; demyelination; axon degeneration; and fibrosis.83 Compression of a very long duration has been modeled in animals with loose ligatures,88 Silastic* tubes,89,90and pressure balloons placed within an anatomical tunnel.91 The pathological findings are thought to result from both inflammatory and cellular phenomena and include changes in the blood-nerve barrier, thickening of the perineurium and epineurium, thinning of myelin, demyelination and degeneration of axons in the fascicle periphery, and slowed nerve conduction velocity.

In the case of chronic compression, decompression is paramount. Physical therapy intervention should focus on reduction of inflammation, improvement in blood flow, and enhancement of the capacity of the nerve for strain and excursion along its full length in an effort to reduce the physical stress on the compressed region.

Repetitive Stresses

Vibration constitutes one form of repetitive stress. We know from studies of humans who use hand-held vibrating tools that vibration stresses can cause reductions in tactile sensation, as well as other sensory disturbances96 and reduced grip force.97,98Furthermore, myelin breakdown and fibrosis have been seen in the dorsal interosseous nerve at the wrist in people with vibration-induced neuropathy.99 Long-term exposure to vibration stresses has been shown to result in the grouping of muscle fiber types in muscle biopsies, indicative of denervation and reinnervation.98

Repetitive movements, such as those that occur in work-related musculoskeletal disorders, were discussed in detail recently by Barr and Barbe.102 The stresses placed upon the tissues may be variable in terms of type, magnitude, frequency, and duration, and the combination of these factors may place nerves in normal to extreme levels of physical stress. The chronic inflammation associated with repetitive movements places nerves under constantly higher hydrostatic compressive stress, which may increase further with contraction of the surrounding muscles. Chronic inflammation elicits within the nerves a remodeling response that seeks to add mechanical stability.103 The most common outcome is the deposition of collagen in the connective tissue layers, which leads to decreased compliance of the nerves to elongation. As with chronic compression, the approach for assessment and treatment of injuries attributable to repetitive movements must address the chronic inflammatory state and connective tissue changes. Of primary importance in interventions for all stress-induced injuries are the identification and characterization of physical stresses and the modification of their components, magnitude, time, and direction, as outlined in the physical stress theory.2

Summary

This assessment should guide treatment interventions to normalize the stresses on the nerves, be they rest, soft tissue or neurodynamic mobilization, stretching, modalities, exercise, or patient education. Treatment rationale should be based on an educated understanding of the biomechanical properties of normal and pathological nerves. The concept of a continuum of low-normal-high-excessive-extreme stresses may be used as a training tool for patient education, pointing out examples of daily activities that fall under the different categories.