Journal Club January 2016: Cellular Supplementation Technologies for Painful Spine Disorders

Article title: Cellular Supplementation Technologies for Painful Spine Disorders

Author: Michael J. DePalma, MD, Justin J. Gasper, DO

Journal: PM&R 7 (2015) S19-S25


Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is one of the most common complaints for which people seek medical attention. Although it is often not easy to diagnose the etiology of the back pain, doing so can have immense benefits in terms of targeted therapy. Some of the more common places of origin for CLBP include the intervertebral disk, facet joints, and sacroiliac joints. Unfortunately, none of the current therapies have proven to be very effective, but cellular supplementation techniques have shown promise.

In regards to the pathophysiology of disk degeneration, some of the treatment goals include either (1) increasing the amount of extracellular matrix available to promote disk regeneration via dehydration or (2) inhibit cytokines that degrade proteoglycans to try to reverse the degenerative process. However, intradiskal treatments will need to address not just the degenerative changes, but the non-healing annular fissure as well. The treatment that is most supported by current data involves cellular supplementation.

Cellular supplementation to treat diskogenic LBP involves the introduction of cells that can potentially regenerate disk tissue. One of the possible sources includes autologous human disk cells, but obtaining pure cells free of other cells provides its own set of challenges. As a result, there must be a clonal expansion of these cells once they are obtained and purified, which is both expensive and not yet FDA-approved for clinical use. The use of allogeneic stem cells is another intriguing possibility that may be more cost-effective and increase cell survival rates even more than using autologous disk cells, according to an FDA-regulated phase 2, randomized, controlled study. Other sources of cellular supplementation include juvenile and adult chondrocytes, but not enough research has been done yet to determine their efficacy.

Painful facet and SI joints are another common cause of CLBP. In osteoarthritis, disk degeneration leads to loss of disk height, which increases the compressive load and causes the synovial membrane, joint capsule, and cartilage to transmit pain via nociceptive type C fibers. A classic feature of OA involves an imbalance between matrix degradation and synthesis, leading to increased catabolism of hyaluronic acid and a decrease in the lubricating properties of the joint space.

Treatment for painful facet and SI joints is far more limited compared to diskogenic LBP due to the relative dearth of research available. A promising treatment involves intra-articular injections of exogenous hyaluronic acid, but more research needs to be done.

Discussion Points:

  1. What are the most common causes of chronic low back pain? Which causes are more prevalent in the elderly population (age > 65)?
  2. What therapeutic objectives should techniques for diskogenic low back pain aim to achieve?
  3. Describe some of the current limitations regarding cellular supplementation techniques.
  4. Regarding future research, what are some osteopathic techniques for the treatment of low back pain that should be explored further?
  5. Besides chronic low back pain, in what other conditions might you see cellular supplementation techniques eventually becoming successful mainstays of therapy?

LEARN MORE by downloading the article and discussion below:

Article - Link to Full Article

Discussion - AOCPMR Journal Article Summary - January 2016

Journal Club December 2015: The relationship between glenohumeral joint total rotational range of motion and the functional movement screen shoulder mobility test

Article title: The relationship between glenohumeral joint total rotational range of motion and the functional movement screen shoulder mobility test

Author: Sprague, Mokha, Gatens, Rodriguez

Journal: The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 2014


Competitive overhead athletes, such as those participating in baseball, swimming, softball, volleyball, and tennis just to name a few, tend to have upper extremity injuries due to their musculoskeletal development when training for their sport. Specifically, differences in the dominant versus non-dominant rotation of the glenohumeral (GH) joint have been associated with injuries in past studies.

This article discusses tools to assess the GH joint rotation, specifically the relationship between the 1) Functional Movement Screen (FMS) shoulder mobility test versus 2) the passive GH joint total rotational range of motion (TRROM). The article provides pictures of the two screening tests (Figures 1 and 2).  Pages 3 and 4 of Cook, et al is a supplemental attachment that provides greater detail about the shoulder mobility test, which is one of seven moves of the FMS developed by Gray Cook, PT, OCS. The TRROM is the total arc of external rotation plus internal rotation and is measured by a bubble goniometer.

The authors hypothesize that there is no relationship with the findings between these two tests when assessing the mobility of the GH joint in subjects.

The shoulder mobility test and the TRROM were measured during pre-participation examination in 114 NCAA Division II male and female athletes (male = 57, female = 57). The sports represented were baseball and swimming for male subjects and swimming, softball, volleyball, and tennis for female subjects.  For measurement consistency, each participant was asked to not complete physical activity before examination, in which both the shoulder mobility test or the TRROM were performed during one visit in a random order.

An athletic trainer certified in FMS testing completed all of the FMS shoulder mobility tests.  The subject is asked to reach one arm overhead and down their thoracic region and the other behind and up their back as shown in figure 1. A distance between hands less than measured hand length is a score of 3; a distance between one hand length and 1.5 hand lengths is a score of 2; a distance greater than 1.5 hand lengths is a score of 1. A score of zero is given if pain is felt during the test. Scores that are unequal between right and left represent asymmetry in the FMS. Subjects were either “symmetrical” or “asymmetrical” for FMS.

The TRROM was measured by two of the same authors of the study for all subjects shown in figure 2. Internal and external rotation was performed by examiner one (PS) in all subjects. Examiner one had 21 years of experience in orthopedic physical therapy practice. All goniometer measurements were performed by examiner two (RR), with five years of experience as a certified athletic trainer for collegiate and professional athletes. A side-to-side difference of greater than 10 percent was used to define asymmetry for TRROM.

Table 2 shows the results of symmetry vs. asymmetry in the FMS shoulder mobility test and symmetry vs. asymmetry of the TTROM. 40/114 (35.1%) athletes had asymmetries in total GH rotation. 45/114  (39.5%) athletes had asymmetries in the shoulder mobility test. Out of those 45 subjects with asymmetry in the shoulder mobility test, only 17 of them have GH joint rotation differences of greater than 10 degrees.  A Pearson Chi-square analysis (P<.05) was used to compare the presence or absence of asymmetries in FMS shoulder mobility test and TRROM in each subject tested. According to statistical analyses, the authors’ initial hypothesis was correct: athletes with asymmetrical GH joint rotation were not any more likely to have asymmetries in the shoulder mobility test.

10 degrees was chosen to be the threshold of asymmetry due to three reasons: 1) previous results in the literature defining normal asymmetry amounts 2) the amounts of rotation associated with bony morphological changes in overhead athletes and 3) standard goniometry measurement error and the use of a bubble goniometer specifically.  In fact, a TRROM deficit of greater than 5 degrees in overhead athletes has a clinical term: pathologic glenohumeral internal rotation deficit, or p-GIRD. The authors chose 10 degrees or greater to determine TRROM asymmetry to allow for measurement error.

There are several limitations to this study. First, the study did not address small yet clinically significant degree differences or large degree differences that define negatively excessive mobility. Specifically, p-GIRD is a small degree difference that is not detectable using the FMS shoulder mobility test.  Regarding excessive mobility, TRROM greater than 176 degrees have been reported to have an increased incidence of injuries. This study only defines injury with differences between function of non-dominant and dominant GH joints. Second, the study does not address the fact that poor performance on the FMS shoulder mobility test might suggest other underlying problems other than the GH joint. For example, thoracic extension mobility limitation or tissue extensibility dysfunction of the scapula can be some confounding causes of poor performance on the FMS shoulder mobility test.

In conclusion, due to the lack of association between the FMS shoulder mobility test and the TRROM, the FMS shoulder mobility test should not be used alone for injury prevention in overhead athletes. Both screening tools are encouraged to be used.


Discussion Points:

  1. Describe how to perform the FMS shoulder mobility test.
  2. Describe how to measure the passive TRROM of the GH joint.
  3. What are the limitations of the study?
  4. In your opinion, how, if anything, should overhead athletes be screened to prevent upper extremity injuries?

LEARN MORE by downloading the article and discussion below:

Article - Link to Full Article

Discussion - AOCPMR Journal Club - Sports Med Dec 2015

Supplemental - Cook2014IJSPT       Cook2014IJSPT.2


Journal Club August 2015: Falls in the Elderly Population

Article title: Falls in older people: epidemiology, risk factors and strategies for prevention

Author: Laurence Z. Rubenstein

Journal: Age and Ageing, 2006

Discussion:  Falls are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the elderly. Nearly 40% of older adults fall

at least once a year and 10-20% of these falls result in injury. Half of those hospitalized for a fall injury

died within one year. Falls are the cause of 45.4% of unintentional injury deaths in the elderly (CDC,

2009). However, studies have shown that most falls are associated with identifiable risk factors, many of

which are preventable. It is imperative that physicians can identify these risk factors and take appropriate

measures to reduce the risk of falls. Furthermore, effective methods to prevent falls have been developed

and should be utilized in the clinic setting.

    This review article by Laurence Rubenstein, MD, MPH is a quality summary of the epidemiology

and risk factors associated with falls in the elderly. Data from many major studies related to falls in the

elderly have been compiled, condensed, and contextualized in a clear summary of the most important risk

factors, clinical findings, and preventions. Dr. Rubenstein has identified those risk factors that are

modifiable and outlined the most efficacious means to prevent falls in the elderly. Furthermore, as a

clinician, Dr. Rubenstein has included recommendations on the clinical evaluation of patients who have

suffered a fall, adding to the value of this paper for medical students and residents.

Among the top causes of falls in those >65 years old are accidents, gait/balance disorders,

dizziness, confusion, and visual disorders. Some of these major causes are obvious and are clearly the

inevitable course of aging, however, many causes of falls are secondary to other things such as

medications, autonomic dysfunction, or even just the fear of falling. This study highlights the variety and

complexity of factors that contribute to falls in the elderly and emphasizes both the importance of a

complete medical evaluation in patients who have suffered a fall and the value of preventative measures.

Preventive measures - including environmental modification, exercise, and balance conditioning - have all

proven very effective in reducing falls.

    First it is essential to recognize the significant morbidity/mortality caused by falls in the elderly.

Having an understanding of the severity of this problem underlines the importance of taking measures to

prevent falls in patients over 65 years old.


LEARN MORE by downloading the article and discussion below:

Article - Link to Full Article

Discussion - Age and Aging Journal Club Aug 2015






Journal Club April 2015: Learning Brainstem Anatomy: A Mnemonic Device

Article title: Learning Brainstem Anatomy: A Mnemonic Device

Author: James T. McDeavitt, MD, Kara C. King, PhD, Kathleen R. McDeavitt, BA

Journal/Source: Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2014. Volume 6, pages 963-966


This article was a brief report in which a 3-part mnemonic device was presented. The mnemonics were created to help memorize the specific locations of the brainstem cranial nerve nuclei and long tracts. Utilizing the mnemonics in combination with a physical exam can be useful to localize brainstem pathology.

The first mnemonic presented is called the “Rule of 5.” Every cranial nerve nuclei that contains the Roman numeral V is located in the pons. Thus, cranial nerve III is cephalad in the midbrain, and nerves IX through XII are caudad in the medulla. Cranial nerve IV is an exception in two ways. First, cranial nerve IV’s nuclei is technically located between the midbrain and pons. Second, cranial nerve IV’s tracts crosses to the contralateral side. When it comes to innervating the head and face, the rest of the cranial nerves predominantly provide ipsilateral innervation.

The second mnemonic presented is called the “Rule of 12.” Any cranial nerve nuclei that is a factor of 12 is located medially. The rest are located laterally. The third and final mnemonic is called the “Rule of M/S.” The three tracts that run medially all begin with the letter “M”: 1) Motor Tract (corticospinal) 2) Medial Lemniscus 3)Medial Longitudinal Fasciculus. The three tracts that run laterally (to the side) all begin with the letter “S”: 1) Spinothalamic Tract 2) Sympathetic Tract 3) Spinocerebellar Tract.

Finally, the article goes on to describe the tracts. Those tracts which are assessed in a basic neurologic exam tend to cross to the contralateral side, whereas those tracts which are assessed in a more detailed neurologic exam tend to act ipsilaterally. Therefore, motor function (motor tract/corticospinal tract), pain sensation (spinothalamic tract), and vibratory/position sense (medial lemniscus) all act cross to act contralaterally on the head and neck. On the other hand, sympathetic function (sympathetic tract), ataxia (spinocerebellar tract), bilateral gaze coordination (medial long mostly runs ipsilateral.

LEARN MORE by downloading the discussion questions below:

Discussion QuestionsAOCPMR-Journal-Club-April-2015-BrainstemMnemonic