Have you ever taken a hard fall and heard an unsettling sound? Your first stop will most likely lead you to an x-ray machine and as you feared, the results show a clear break. Happy? Probably not… but at least you know what is wrong and what you have to do to fix it. Now, let’s imagine you have a different issue, headaches, but you’ve had them for so long, you’ve just accepted the pain as your norm; despite all the diets, supplements, and exercises you’ve tried. Unanswered pains or undiagnosed issues are too often put on the back burner. The truth is headaches, hip pain, or even gastrointestinal symptoms could be caused by a slight misalignment somewhere else in the body. They’re not always hard to diagnose, but without the proper assessment, the solution can get overlooked. This is where our Physical Therapist, Anne, comes in!
Anne Ye knew she wanted to learn a manual and diagnostic technique. The courses she’s taken and approaches she’s learned range from manual techniques like Mulligans Concept and Muscle Energy Training to Function- Movement Assessment which is more hands off. Anne wanted a tie that connected her work; something that really spoke to her. It wasn’t until she met another Physical Therapist, who was using similar techniques and dialogue, who influenced her to take a big step in her career. This is where the Thoracic Ring Approach came into the picture.
Developed by Dianne Lee and Linda-Joy (LJ) Lee, this approach looks at the thorax with fresh eyes. It was common for practitioners to evaluate the spine and the ribs separately instead of as two areas that works closely together. The Thoracic Ring Approach speaks for itself here, basically stating that the spine and ribs are not isolated from each other, but rather act as a ‘ring’ that moves similar to a slinky. The thorax has consistently been examined as an inflexible part of the body, but research has proved otherwise. Showing that the rings of the thorax are dynamic and can be manipulated in both positive and negative ways. Since the thorax is really more flexible than we once believed, it’s not unusual for someone to experience misalignment. When the rings in the thorax are not lined up correctly, other parts of your body can suffer the repercussions.
In an article by Dr. Lee, Thoracic Ring Control: A Missing Link?, a section reads:
When there is loss of optimal sequencing, force modulation, and synergy between the muscles around the thoracic ring, between the ten thoracic rings, and between the rings and other regions of the body, there are many possible consequences throughout the whole body. The consequences can result in non-optimal loading of multiple different structures and regions of the body …”
Dr. Lee then lists conditions such as low back pain, shoulder impingement, injury of the Achilles, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, etc.
Whew! Confused yet? Bare with us, think of the rings of the thorax as building blocks kind of like the game “Jenga”. If you start pulling the blocks, the structure becomes misaligned and the entire formation becomes weaker. No, our bodies won’t just fall to the ground like the fate of the blocks when our rings is unstable, but it can cause chronic pain, an impact on mobility, poor patterns, habits and injury.
Anne steps in here to find the ‘primary driver’. The driver is basically the misalignment that is causing the disruption in the body. Using her eyes and her hands, Anne tries to figure out where the primary fault is. Next, she will actually feel for the problem area and with small amounts of pressure, push the rings back into place. This is a way of training the body, by repairing the ‘driver’ it tells your brain that it no longer need to ‘load’ in that way. “The brain lets go of that pattern related to that misalignment or poor loading pattern and it changes the output.” Anne explained. “Brain says ‘ok, muscle you don’t need to take that responsibility anymore; let it go’. Everything moves easier.”
This method could be tried on anyone, but most patients come in due to chronic pain. Anne’s greatest hope it to use this approach as a way to teach her patients about their own bodies and patterns. The goal is for patients to ultimately be able to make the adjustments themselves without relaying on appointment after appointment which is great news! Not only will patients save time but they will feel more self-sustaining and knowledgeable when it comes to their personal care.
To learn more about this approach, please visit Dr. Lee’s website: https://ljlee.ca/teaching-models/the-thoracic-ring-approach/
To schedule an appointment with Anne, please call our front desk at 413-549-8400