December 1998 To Your Health News
Antibiotics Helping Doctors More than Patients?
This might be the first time you’ve heard the news, but most doctors have known for several years that antibiotics only fight bacterial infections. If you’ve got a sore throat, cold symptoms, or a respiratory infection caused by a virus, antibiotics won’t help you get better.
But don’t rely on doctors to volunteer this information. A study published in the British Medical Journal surveyed 21 doctors and their sore-throat patients and found that:
1) Doctors knew that evidence showed antibiotics don’t help sore throats. 2) They often prescribed antibiotics anyway to promote a “positive relationship” with their patients. 3) Many patients expected to receive antibiotics, but admitted that assurance and accurate information were just as important.
A sore throat can make your life miserable, but antibiotics may not be the answer. The next time your doctor starts to write that prescription for an antibiotic, make sure you ask at least three questions: Do I really need this? How will it help my specific problem? Are there any side effects? If you aren’t satisfied with the explanation you receive, ask more questions.
Butler CC, Rollnick S, Pill R, et al. Understanding the culture of prescribing: qualitative study of general practitioners’ and patients’ perceptions of antibiotic for sore throats. British Medical Journal, September 5, 1998:volume 317, pp637-47.
Time to Let the Ice out of the Bag
After twisting your knee playing soccer, you limp home and head straight for the freezer. Five ice cubes and a Ziploc bag later, you’re safe on the couch with your trusty ice bag, soothing the muscles of the affected leg. Applying ice to the injured area is a great idea, but just holding it there might not be the most effective option, according to a study in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy.
Subjects were treated for fifteen minutes with ice massage (a cold compress or ice pack massaged gently into the skin) or an ice bag held on the injured area. Maximum temperature reduction was reached after only 17.9 minutes of ice massage vs. 28.2 minutes when using the ice bag. The authors suggest that both techniques are effective in reducing muscular temperature, but that “when rapid cooling is needed… ice massage appears to provide a faster intramuscular cooling rate than an ice bag.”
Keep these results in mind next time you limp home with a swollen knee, ankle, elbow or wrist — especially if you’ve suffered what could be a major strain or injury.
Zemke JE, Andersen JC, Guion WK, et al. Intramuscular temperature responses in the human leg to two forms of cryotherapy: ice massage and ice bag. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, April 1998:volume 27, number 4, pp301-307.
Rehab that Knee Injury without Surgery
Athletes involved in competitive sports know all about the anterior cruciate ligament — it’s the most commonly injured ligament in the knee. An ACL strain or tear can put even the well-conditioned athlete on the sidelines indefinitely, but getting back into the game might not always require surgery.
In a study published in Sports Exercise and Injury, 103 patients diagnosed with an ACL tear participated in a rehabilitation program to strengthen the leg muscles surrounding the knee (quadriceps and hamstrings). After three to eight months of rehabilitation, only nine patients required surgery. The remaining 94 reported satisfactory improvement in knee function, and almost all were able to resume partial or full participation in sports.
Patients in the study group were also treated with ice, ultrasound, and a number of other techniques commonly used by chiropractors.
Baltaci G, Ergun N, Bayrakci V. Non-operative treatment of anterior cruciate ligament injuries. Sports Exercise and Injury, November 1997:volume 3, number 4, pp160-63.
Protect Your Children From Injury
Automobile manufacturers, product designers and politicians have taken great strides in the past ten years to reduce the potential for injury. Innovative car seat restraints, seatbelts, and legislation requiring mandatory restraint use have addressed the problem, but apparently there’s more work to be done.
Case in point: a recent study that examined data from nearly 3,000 fatal car crashes involving children. Results showed that only 56% of children aged 0-10 were secured in car seats or wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash. Even more startling, only 65% of infants (two years old or younger) had been restrained in any fashion.
Factors contributing to low restraint use included driving older or larger vehicles, driving in rural areas or late at night, and carrying a large number of passengers. Whatever “good” reason you have for not buckling your child, it’s not good enough. If the results of this study don’t convince you, take one look into your child’s smiling face. Doing whatever we can to protect our children from harm is our responsibility as parents.
Agran PF, Anderson CL, Winn DG. Factors associated with restraint use of children in fatal crashes. Pediatrics (electronic version–www.pediatrics.org), September 1998:volume 102, number 3, ppe39.
Three Ways to Lower Your Stroke Risk?
That’s the question, and a study published by the American Heart Association may provide the answer: potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber.
A study involving 43,738 middle-aged and elderly men examined the potential for these three nutrients to reduce the risk of stroke. Food questionnaires were completed every two years for eight years to determine dietary patterns, and cases of stroke during that time period were documented. Results indicated that men who took in high daily levels of potassium, magnesium and fiber suffered substantially fewer strokes compared with men with low daily levels.
Where can you find these valuable nutrients? Look no further than your local market. Bananas, grapefruit, raisins and green leafy vegetables contain high levels of potassium and magnesium; beans, bran, and many fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber. Ask your chiropractor for a list of foods high in potassium, magnesium, fiber and other vitamins and minerals essential to good health.
Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Hernan MA, et al. Intake of Potassium, magnesium, calcium and fiber and risk of stroke among U.S. men. Circulation, 1998:volume 98, pp1198-1204.
Childhood Development: A Possible Link to Alzheimer’s
Confusion, disorientation, language problems, and impaired judgement — a temporary problem when the cause is alcohol, but much more permanent and debilitating when Alzheimer’s disease is the culprit.
A recent study in the journal Pediatrics evaluated the potential relationship between childhood development (represented by adult height) and the onset/progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers screened more than 3,500 elderly men (71-93 years of age) for signs of Alzheimer’s disease or other brain-related impairments and looked for a possible connection with height measurements taken 25 years earlier.
The percentage of men with poor cognitive performance declined steadily with increasing height, from 25% in men shorter than 61 inches (5’1″) to only 9% in men taller than 69 inches (5’9″). Almost five percent of the shorter men suffered from Alzheimer’s disease compared with three percent of taller men. Height is one of several variables believed to indicate healthy childhood growth and development.
Abbott RD, White LR, Ross GW, et al. Height as a marker of childhood development and late-life cognitive function: the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study. Pediatrics, September 1998:volume 102, number 3, pp602-609.
How Effective Are Workplace Lifting Belts?
Grocery stockers, shipping receivers and lumber yard workers are familiar with lifting belts — they probably wear one every day. Lifting belts are designed to prevent back injuries associated with heavy lifting or continuous bending, but are they as effective as they’re cracked up to be?
Attempting to answer that question, researchers monitored 13 subjects who performed several lifting tasks: once while wearing a lifting belt and once without the belt. Results showed that although the belt effectively limited low-back movement while lifting, hip motion increased and knee motion remained constant.
The research authors suggest lifting belts may decrease the risk of low-back injury by restricting movement of the torso (basically from the neck to the waist), but could also increase the risk of other injuries because added pressure is placed on the hip and other joints. Do you think you should be wearing a lifting belt? Ask your chiropractor about workplace lifting injuries and what you can do to prevent them.
Sparto PJ, Parnianpour M, Reinsel TE, et al. The effect of lifting belt use on multijoint motion and load bearing during repetitive and asymmetric lifting. Journal of Spinal Disorders, 1998:volume 11, pp57-64.
Keep Exercising during Pregnancy?
Nine months can seem like an eternity for an expectant mother, but it’s well worth the wait, especially when you consider some of the alternatives. Premature babies can spend weeks in the intensive care unit as their underdeveloped bodies struggle to function.
A study in the American Journal of Public Health examined the relationship of exercise to premature birth by surveying 557 pregnant women. Exercise information (intensity, type, duration) was gathered by telephone at week 13 and by mailed questionnaires at weeks 28 and 36. Low to moderate exercise did not contribute to premature birth (as some health care professionals have feared), and in fact, vigorous exercise seemed to contribute to normal, on-time delivery.
It is important to note that women who exercised heavily were accustomed to that level of physical exertion. Always talk to your doctor before making any substantial changes in diet, exercise or lifestyle, especially while you’re pregnant.
Hatch M, Levin B, Shu XO, et al. Maternal leisure-time exercise and timely delivery. American Journal of Public Health, October 1998:volume 88, number 10, pp1528-1533.
A Chiropractic Solution for Treating Headaches
Many doctors, lawyers and insurance agents claim that chiropractors can only treat people suffering from low-back pain. To these skeptics, we present the results of a recent study that appeared in the journal Headache.
Researchers first categorized patients according to frequency of headache symptoms: episodic (occasional headaches), chronic (persistent headaches over time) or not at all (no headaches), measured tenderness in the muscles of the head and face. What did they find? The more muscular tenderness, the more frequent and debilitating the headache symptoms.
An estimated 68% of men and 88% of women suffer episodes of tension headache. Aspirin and other painkillers provide temporary relief at best and can cause dangerous side effects, especially when taken for long periods of time.
Jensen R, Bendtsen L, Olesen J. Muscular factors are of importance in tension-type headache. Headache, 1998:volume 38, pp10-17.
The Value of Pushups for the Shoulders
How do you improve your upper body without spending time and money at a crowded health club? The simple pushup might be a good place to start, and might help you more than you think. Research suggests that pushups help strengthen the shoulders and can be an effective element of rehabilitation programs following injury.
Consider a recent study in which 16 subjects performed a series of specific, progressive pushups: five repetitions in the standard position, five with the feet elevated, and five with the hands placed on a mini-trampoline (with the feet still elevated). All three pushup conditions increased the stability of the shoulder muscles, particularly pushups performed with the feet elevated.
Ask your doctor of chiropractic about the potential value of pushups and other simple exercises you can perform in the comfort of your own home. Whether your goal is to tone your body, avoid injury, or just get “back to your old self” after a chest or shoulder injury, pushups may be a great place to start.
Lear LJ, Gross MT. An electromyographical analysis of the scapular stabilizing synergists during a push-up progression. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, September 1998:volume 28, number 3, pp146-57.