28th August 2017

8 non-invasive pain relief techniques that really work

Sometimes pain has a purpose it can alert us that we’ve sprained an ankle, for example. But for many people, pain can linger for weeks or even months, causing needless suffering and interfering with quality of life.If your pain has overstayed its welcome, you should know that you have more treatment options today than ever before. Here, we’ve listed eight techniques to control and reduce your pain that don’t require an invasive procedure  or even taking a pill.

1. Cold and heat. These two tried-and-true methods are still the cornerstone of relieving pain for certain kinds of injuries. If a homemade hot or cold pack doesn’t do the trick, try asking a physical therapist or chiropractor for their versions of these treatments, which can penetrate deeper into the muscle and tissue.

2. Exercise. Physical activity plays a crucial role in interrupting the “vicious cycle” of pain and reduced mobility found in some chronic conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. Try gentle aerobic activities such as walking, swimming, or cycling.

3. Physical therapy and occupational therapy. These two specialties can be among your staunchest allies in the fight against pain. Physical therapists guide you through a series of exercises designed to preserve or improve your strength and mobility. Occupational therapists help you learn to perform a range of daily activities in a way that doesn’t aggravate your pain.

4. Mind-body techniques. These techniques, which include meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises (among many others), help you restore a sense of control over your body and turn down the “fight or flight” response, which can worsen chronic muscle tension and pain.

5. Yoga and tai chi. These two exercise practices incorporate breath control, meditation, and gentle movements to stretch and strengthen muscles. Many studies have shown that they can help people manage pain caused by a host of conditions, from headaches to arthritis to lingering injuries.

6. Biofeedback. This technique involves learning relaxation and breathing exercises with the help of a biofeedback machine, which turns data on physiological functions (such as heart rate and blood pressure) into visual cues such as a graph, a blinking light, or even an animation. Watching and modifying the visualizations gives you a degree of control over your body’s response to pain.

7. Music therapy. Studies have shown that music can help relieve pain during and after surgery and childbirth. Classical music has proven to work especially well, but there’s no harm in trying your favourite genre or listening to any kind of music can distract you from pain or discomfort.

8. Physical therapy / Massage. Not just an indulgence, physical therapy (eg Chiropractic) and massage can ease pain by working tension out of muscles and joints, relieving stress and anxiety, and possibly helping to distract you from pain by introducing a “competing” sensation that overrides pain signals.

Taken from Harvard Med School Health report

Why good posture matters                          14 Feb 17

“Stand up straight.” That’s timeless advice we’ve probably all heard at one time or another. It’s worth heeding. Good posture is important to balance: by standing up straight, you centre your weight over your feet. This also helps you maintain correct form while exercising, which results in fewer injuries and greater gains. And working on balance can even strengthen your abilities in tennis, golf, running, dancing, skiing — and just about any other sport or activity.

Not an athlete? It still pays to have good balance. Just walking across the floor or down the block requires good balance. So do rising from a chair, going up and down stairs, toting packages, and even turning to look behind you.

Poor posture isn’t necessarily a bad habit, either. Physical reasons for poor posture include:

  • Inflexible muscles that decrease range of motion (how far a joint can move in any direction). For example, overly tight, shortened hip muscles tug your upper body forward and disrupt your posture. Overly tight chest muscles can pull your shoulders forward.
  • Muscle strength affects balance in a number of ways. The “core muscles” of the back, side, pelvis, and buttocks form a sturdy central link between your upper and lower body. Weak core muscles encourage slumping, which tips your body forward and thus off balance. Strong lower leg muscles also help keep you steady when standing.

The good news: You can improve your posture with a few simple exercises. Balance-specific workouts address posture and balance problems with exercises that build strength where it counts and stretches that loosen tight muscles. Quick posture checks in the mirror before and during balance exercises can also help you get the most from your regular workout. And increasing your core strength and flexibility can help you improve your posture noticeably in just a few weeks.

Good posture means:

  • chin parallel to the floor
  • shoulders even (roll your shoulders up, back, and down to help achieve this)
  • neutral spine (no flexing or arching to overemphasize the curve in your lower back)
  • arms at your sides with elbows straight and even
  • abdominal muscles braced
  • hips even
  • knees even and pointing straight ahead
  • body weight distributed evenly on both feet

When sitting down, keep your chin parallel to the floor; your shoulders, hips, and knees at even heights; and your knees and feet pointing straight ahead.

Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Please check out this impassioned plea by one of Australia’s most respected Paediatric Chiros for a fair go for Chiropractic care of Children      31 May 2016

Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful                                           19/5/16

 

What harm can having too little of a vitamin do? Consider this: Over the course of two months, a 62-year-old man developed numbness and a “pins and needles” sensation in his hands, had trouble walking, experienced severe joint pain, began turning yellow, and became progressively short of breath. The cause was lack of vitamin B12 in his bloodstream, according to a case report from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital published in The New England Journal of Medicine. It could have been worse—a severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to deep depression, paranoia and delusions, memory loss, incontinence, loss of taste and smell, and more.

The human body needs vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA, and carry out other functions. The average adult should get 2.4 micrograms a day. Like most vitamins, B12 can’t be made by the body . Instead, it must be gotten from food or supplements.

And therein lies the problem: Some people don’t consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs, while others can’t absorb enough, no matter how much they take in. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively common, especially among older people. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that 3.2% of adults over age 50 have a seriously low B12 level, and up to 20% may have a borderline deficiency.

Are you at risk?

There are many causes for vitamin B12 deficiency. Surprisingly, two of them are practices often undertaken to improve health: a vegetarian diet and weight-loss surgery.

Plants don’t make vitamin B12. The only foods that deliver it are meat, eggs, poultry, dairy products, and other foods from animals. Strict vegetarians and vegans are at high risk for developing a B12 deficiency if they don’t eat grains that have been fortified with the vitamin or take a vitamin supplement. People who have stomach stapling or other form of weight-loss surgery are also more likely to be low in vitamin B12 because the operation interferes with the body’s ability to extract vitamin B12 from food.

Conditions that interfere with food absorption, such celiac or Crohn’s disease, can cause B12 trouble. So can the use of commonly prescribed heartburn drugs, which reduce acid production in the stomach (acid is needed to absorb vitamin B12). The condition is more likely to occur in older people due to the cutback in stomach acid production that often occurs with aging.

Recognizing a B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency can be slow to develop, causing symptoms to appear gradually and intensify over time. It can also come on relatively quickly. Given the array of symptoms it can cause, the condition can be overlooked or confused with something else. Symptoms may include:

  • strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
  • difficulty walking (staggering, balance problems)
  • anemia
  • a swollen, inflamed tongue
  • yellowed skin (jaundice)
  • difficulty thinking and reasoning (cognitive difficulties), or memory loss
  • paranoia or hallucinations
  • weakness
  • fatigue

While an experienced physician may be able to detect a vitamin B12 deficiency with a good interview and physical exam, a blood test is needed to confirm the condition.

Early detection and treatment is important. “If left untreated, the deficiency can cause severe neurologic problems and blood diseases,” says Dr. Bruce Bistrian, chief of clinical nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

B proactive

It’s a good idea to ask your doctor about having your B12 level checked if you:

  • are over 50 years old
  • take a proton-pump inhibitor (such as Nexium or Prevacid) or H2 blocker (such as Pepcid or Zantac)
  • take metformin (a diabetes drug)
  • are a strict vegetarian
  • have had weight-loss surgery or have a condition that interferes with the absorption of food

A serious vitamin B12 deficiency can be corrected two ways: weekly shots of vitamin B12 or daily high-dose B12 pills. A mild B12 deficiency can be corrected with a standard multivitamin.

In many people, a vitamin B12 deficiency can be prevented. If you are a strict vegetarian or vegan, it’s important to eat breads, cereals, or other grains that have been fortified with vitamin B12, or take a daily supplement. A standard multivitamin delivers 6 micrograms, more than enough to cover the average body’s daily need.

Article Taken from Harvard Medical School “healthbeat”

Blog from Dr Tanya                                                                                                        4/5/16

Rhythmic footsteps…       A silent mind…
After four days of hiking in the wilderness I noticed I had not experienced one recognisable thought for hours. Yes, hours!
The usually incessant stream of words chattering away in the background of my mind had stopped.  Silence… This was new.
With lives filled to overflowing, many of us are so wound up that we never (or rarely ever) get to experience the silence that waits behind a constant internal dialogue of thought.  A wound up mind easily becomes a stressed out one.  Our physiology follows producing a state of chronic stress.  We become stuck in our “fight or flight” response, our bodies and minds awash with adrenalin and then cortisol as the stress response becomes ingrained.   And that’s something we don’t want!  Short term stress is useful to protect us from danger or rally us to action.  But stress that is chronically maintained is a whole different state that ultimately depletes us and sets us up for poor physical and mental health outcomes.
Discussion about stress, its effects and management, abounds in health care circles and the media.  Sometimes the many technical details and suggested management strategies only serve to add yet another layer of preoccupation to our already swirling mass of thoughts.
So; back to hiking, and that silent mind…
What struck me about experiencing such absence of thought was the sense of calm and peace I felt.  It was such a stark and glaring contrast to my usual daily experience.   It was like the quiet moment when we realise the power has been cut and the background whirr of our electrically driven lives goes silent.  We can stop “doing” and just “be”.
At the core of this “stress issue” is our own sense of control over what we do in our lives.  We are constantly bombarded with information, media advertising and communications from a multitude of sources.  We live and work under artificial light in temperature controlled environments with recirculated air, feeding ourselves with ever increasing amounts of processed artificial foods for convenience and to save time.  While I’m not suggesting we all go hiking in the wilderness for days at a time (as lovely as that can be!), there are some elements of that experience that can be brought into the “every day” creating space for more quiet and calm. Our bodies and minds are wired to respond to nature, its quiet gentle sounds, fresh air and natural light. We thrive on fresh unprocessed food and clean water.
We can take control and make some choices about how we live. There are always aspects of life that are non- negotiable but there are also times where we can do things differently.  We can choose to turn off our phones, I-pads, lap tops and televisions.  We can say no to that extra request to go out/help out etc. if we need to slow down.  We can seek out moments in nature, even if it’s just sitting under a tree or on some grass for a few moments, perhaps beside a window with an outlook.  Bring plants inside to refresh the air and give life to our homes and offices.  Make an effort to include more fresh food in our diets.  And perhaps most basic of all, take a moment to just breathe.
Any of these choices are a step in a calming direction. One small choice at a time can add up to a difference to the level of stress we experience.
We can make changes to how we live.
The world won’t end. But, we may just find a small moment of silence.


Some great Tips for mindfulness and relaxation from my old school friend David Beard                                                                                                                          24/3/16

http://eepurl.com/bUEDoX

Blog from Dr Tanya                                                                                                  9/3/16

 

Holidays are good for your health!

 

In our modern fast paced world, life can feel like a never ending “to do” list full of constant pressure. The 24/7 accessibility of communication technologies seems to only add stress to our lives rather than fulfilling the promise of more free time.  It is very easy to find ourselves in a state of perpetual business that is difficult to step away from.  Relaxation and recreation time is increasingly sacrificed and the work/life balance so many people seek appears to be more illusion than reality.

We have flexible work hours and the ability to work from home. We have mobile phones and conference calls, virtual team meetings and remote access to office systems from our home computers. We can even log in and work while we travel to the office or other locations. A generation ago our working lives were more clearly defined.  Travel to and from work provided a buffer between our working and personal lives.  Working hours were less flexible, managers and colleagues rarely called after the working day was over.  We had a clearer definition between work and leisure time that allowed us the ability rest and relax in a way that seems indulgent, even luxurious from our modern perspective.

Too much stress can have a negative impact on our health.  What many of us fail to realise is how serious that impact can be.  Holidays are a wonderful antidote and it happens that scientific research unequivocally backs this up.  In a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 2000, 12,000 men were followed for nine years.  Those men who failed to take annual holidays had a 21% higher risk of death from all causes and a 32% higher risk of a fatal heart attack!1  Data from the famous Framingham Heart Study, was analysed by John Hopkins researchers and results published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Patients in the study were evaluated over a period of 20 years.  It was found that women who took holidays once every six years or less often were nearly eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than women who vacationed twice per year.2  These statistics speak loud and clear.  By working too much we deplete ourselves and risk serious long term consequences.

Australian workers are increasingly taking fewer holidays.  According to Sydney academic, Rodney Tiffen, Australians have the longest working year of any Western nation for which data is available.3 With an average work load of 1855 hours per year, Australians work longer hours than Americans, the Japanese and all Europeans.  Annual leave accrual by full-time Australian employees has risen by 11% between 2006 and 2008.4 Reasons for these trends are varied, as are the consequences to our health. While life threatening illness is clearly a high risk result of overwork, milder health concerns are often our body’s way of warning us that more serious issues may be developing.  Backache, headache, eye strain, insomnia, fatigue, dizziness, appetite disturbances and gastrointestinal distress are all possible responses to our body’s chronic state of stress.5

With the blurring of boundaries between our working and personal lives it is all too easy to find ourselves becoming increasingly absorbed with work related tasks, neglecting our need to take time out.  Our bodies and minds need breathing space. For the sake of our health we need to find new ways to redefine the boundary between our working and personal lives.  When work increasingly encroaches on our lifestyle, choosing to take a holiday provides an opportunity where we can remove ourselves from work in all its forms and immerse ourselves in a completely different environment and experience.

Are you one of the many Australians who haven’t had a holiday in a while? Perhaps it’s time to consider using up some of that accrued annual leave?  Maybe it’s time to stop putting off “taking time off”, reduce your long term health risks and enjoy a good dose of holiday fun!

Dr Tanya Betts

 

References;

1) Brooks B. Gump and Karen A. Matthews, “Are Vacations Good for Your Health? The 9- Year Mortality Experience after the Multiple Risk factor Intervention Trial,”           Psychosomatic Medicine 62, no. 5 (September/October 2000): 608-12.

2) Elaine D. Eaker, Joan Pinsky, and William P. Castelli, “Myocardial Infarction and Coronary        Death among Women: Psychosocial Predictors from a 20-Year follow-Up of Women       in the Framingham Study,” American Journal of Epidemiology 135, no. 8 (April 15,        1992): 854-64.

3) Rodney Tiffen and Ross Gittins, How Australia Compares: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

4) University of NSW Business School, “Leave up your Sleeve: Productive, or         Destructive,”   Business Think, July 17th 2010.

5) Lissa Rankin, M.D., Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself, Hay House      Australia Pty. Ltd. 2015.

Interesting article about obesity and emotional eating                                18/02/16

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-18/emotional-eating-fuelling-australias-obesity-epidemic/7175204

Want a stronger core? Skip the sit-ups                                                                     28/12/15

Sit-ups once ruled as the way to tighter abs and a slimmer waistline, while “planks” were merely flooring. Now planks — exercises in which you assume a position and hold it — are the gold standard for working your core, while classic sit-ups and crunches have fallen out of favor. Why the shift?
One reason is that sit-ups are hard on your back — they push your curved spine against the floor and work your hip flexors, the muscles that run from the thighs to the lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. When the hip flexors are too strong or too tight, they tug on the lower spine, which can create lower back discomfort.

Want to bring more power to athletic pursuits? Build up your balance and stability? Or simply make everyday acts like bending, turning, and reaching easier? A strong, flexible core underpins all these goals. Core muscles need to be strong, yet flexible, and core fitness should be part of every exercise program.
Second, planks recruit a better balance of muscles on the front, sides, and back of the body during exercise than do sit-ups, which target just a few muscles. (Your core goes far beyond your abdominal muscles.)
Finally, activities of daily living, as well as sports and recreational activities, call on your muscles to work together, not in isolation. Sit-ups or crunches strengthen just a few muscle groups. Through dynamic patterns of movement, a good core workout helps strengthen the entire set of core muscles you use every day.

Article Taken from Harvard Medical School “healthbeat”

Exercise is an effective stress-buster                                                                                     25/11/15

If exercise were available as a pill, experts say, everyone would be taking it. One reason is that exercise is very good at defusing stress. If you exercise — especially right when the stress response is triggered — you burn off stress hormones just as nature intended, instead of letting them pile up.

What’s more, just about any form of motion on a regular basis helps relieve pent-up tension. Rhythmic, repetitive movements, such as walking, running, swimming, bicycling, and rowing — and specific types of exercise such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong — actually elicit the relaxation response, too. Regularly engaging in these kinds of activities can help you ward off everyday stress.

To boost the stress-relief rewards, you’ll need to shift your attention to become aware of yourself — what and how you’re feeling — and your surroundings during exercise. This should leave you feeling calmer and more centered.

During physical activity, try to become aware of how your breathing complements the activity. Breathe rhythmically and coordinate your breathing with your movements, focusing your attention mindfully on the sensations in your body. When disruptive thoughts intrude, gently turn your mind away from them and focus on moving and breathing.

Keep it simple — you don’t always need to sign up for a special exercise class. A mindful walk can do wonders. As you walk, expand your awareness to the sights and smells around you. Notice the freshly mown grass, flowers, fallen leaves, sun-dappled trees, or gray clouds. How does the outside air feel against your body? How does the surface beneath your feet feel and sound? What thoughts are moving through your head?

Article Taken from Harvard Medical School “healthbeat”