June 1999 To Your Health
Can Chronic Low Back Trouble Affect Your Mind?
If you keep ignoring that low back pain, you’re might be damaging more than just your body. A recent study in the journal Spine examined the association between cognitive impairment (e.g., slow reaction times and reduced short-term memory affecting certain motor tasks) and chronic low back trouble.
Patients’ low back problems were assessed and analyzed at the beginning of rehabilitation and six months later. Measurement of cognitive impairment was accomplished by having all subjects use a desktop computer’s mouse and special foot pedals to react to arrow symbols flashed on the screen in random order and at random intervals.
The study concluded that
“chronic low back trouble (i.e., pain, psychological distress, and general disability) hampers the functioning of short-term memory, which results in decreased speed of information processing among patients with chronic low back trouble.”
Just another reason to go to the expert on managing and treating low back pain — your local chiropractor.
Luoto S, Taimela S, Hurri H, Alaranta H. Mechanisms explaining the association between low back trouble and deficits in information processing: a controlled study with follow-up. Spine, Feb. 1, 1999; vol. 24, no. 3, pp255-61.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Ultrasound instead of Surgery?
Until recently, most people thought that surgery was the only option for dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome (pain and inflammation in the forearm, wrist and/or hand). But a new study in the British Medical Journal reveals a potential noninvasive alternative — ultrasound.
Forty-five patients with carpal tunnel problems in both arms received 20 treatments each over a 6-week period. On each occasion, one wrist was treated with ultrasound and the other with a fake or “sham” ultrasound treatment that appeared to be real.
The findings of the study preliminarily confirmed that ultrasound treatment could provide short-term effectiveness and even achieve satisfying medium-term effects for patients with mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome.
This is all good news for those people who are experiencing the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome, especially those who may be afraid to seek care because they don’t want surgery. Ask your chiropractor for more information on conservative, nonsurgical options for your pain.
Ebenbichler GR, Resch KL, Nicokakis P, et al. Ultrasound treatment for treating carpal tunnel syndrome: randomised “sham” controlled trial. British Medical Journal, Mar 7, 1998;316(7133), pp.731-35.
Writing about Stress Might Benefit Asthma and Arthritis Patients
Many people believe that art — writing, painting, sculpting, drawing, etc. — serves as a release from the stress and tensions of everyday life. And as we all know, stress can contribute to all manner of physical problems.
A recent study investigated whether writing about stressful experiences can help asthma and arthritis sufferers. Volunteer subjects were divided into two groups: an experimental group assigned to write about the most stressful event in their lives; and a control group asked to write about emotionally neutral topics. Participants wrote continuously for 20 minutes on 3 consecutive days.
Of those who engaged in the expressive writing about their most stressful experiences, asthma patients showed improved lung function and the controls showed no change. Rheumatoid arthritis patients also reported improvements in overall disease activity that control patients did not show.
According to the investigators, “this is the first study to demonstrate that writing about stressful life experiences improves physician ratings of disease severity in chronically ill patients.”
Based on these results, one wonders if perhaps there may be benefit not only to writing about stress, but in sharing traumatic or stressful experiences with your doctor, especially as they relate to an injury.
Smyth JM, Stone AA, Hurewitz A, Kaell A. Effects of writing about stressful experiences on symptom reduction in patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis. Journal of the American Medical Association, Apr. 14, 1999; vol. 281, no. 14, pp1304-9.
An Egg a Day Is Okay?
The public and health care professions have been frustrated by the mixed messages about eggs: positive reports on the nutritional value of egg consumption, alternating with warnings that eating eggs can be unhealthy.
The controversy may be ending, at least if you accept the position taken in this research paper, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study subjects (37,851 men, age 40-75, and 80,082 women, age 34-59), who were free of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high cholesterol or cancer at the outset, returned diet questionnaires that included information on egg consumption.
The men were followed-up over 8 years and the women over 14 years, with no evidence shown of any significant association between egg consumption and coronary heart disease or stroke in either men or women. The dozen researchers involved in this study concluded that healthy men and women could safely consume up to 1 egg per day without substantially increasing their overall risk.
Ask your chiropractor to outline a nutritional program appropriate to your health needs.
Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB, et al. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. Journal of the American Medical Association, Apr. 21, 1999; vol. 281, no. 15, pp1387-94.
First-Time Snowboarders: Higher Risk than First-Time Skiers
You’re on the slopes, drinking in the cool, crisp air and the breathtaking scenery, ready to dash down into the pure white snow. Problem is, you’ve never done this before.
First-time snowboarders and skiers can meet up with danger if they’re not careful — but is one group more at risk than the other? A study of more than 22,000 first-time snowboarders and skiers at two major winter resorts in the White Mountains of New Hampshire between 1994 and l996 found that:
* Injuries were sustained by 4% of the snowboarders and 4% of the skiers.
* Snowboarders had a higher percentage of upper extremity injuries (53%); skiers had more lower-extremity injuries (63%).
* Most significantly, snowboarders had a much higher incidence (42%) of emergent injuries (fractures, concussions involving loss of consciousness, dislocations, and lost teeth, which necessitated immediate medical intervention) than did skiers (16%).
By eliminating experience and equipment as variables, the researchers were able to conclude that “snowboarding has a significantly higher rate of emergent risks than skiing.” They state that this rate should diminish with the use of helmets and wrist guards.
O’Neill DF, McGlone MR. Injury risk in first-time snowboarders versus first-time skiers. American Journal of Sports Medicine, Jan.-Feb. 1999; vol. 27, no. 1, pp94-97.
Cycles of Weight Gain/Loss Increase Women’s Risk for Gallstones
Obesity and rapid weight loss in obese persons are known risk factors for gallstones. The Annals of Internal Medicine published a study that investigated whether long-term, moderate weight changes also pose a risk for development of gallstones and the need for gall bladder surgery.
Of the 47,153 study participants (all women determined to be at risk for gallstones):
* 54.9% reported weight cycling with at least 1 episode of intentional weight loss associated with weight gain;
* 20.1% were light cyclers (5-9 lbs of weight loss and gain) 18.8% were moderate cyclers (10-19 lbs. of weight loss and gain), and 16% were severe cyclers (greater than or equal to 20 lbs. of weight loss and gain);
* Women who gained without losing constituted 29.3% of the total cohort; only 4.6% of the subjects lost without regaining; and 11.1% maintained weight within 5% over the 16 years studied.
The investigators concluded:
“…weight cycling as a result of intentional attempts to lose weight is highly prevalent in women. Weight cycling of more than 10 lbs. of weight loss and regain led to a 31% to 68% increase in the risk for [gall bladder surgery]. … our findings reinforce the idea that in addition to avoidance of obesity, it is important to maintain stable weight in adulthood.”
Talk to your doctor of chiropractic about a moderate, consistent exercise and nutritional program that can help you avoid the many health problems associated with weight problems.
Syngal S, Coakley EH, Willett WC, et al. Long-term weight patterns and risk of
cholecystectomy in women. Annals of Internal Medicine, Mar. 16, 1999; vol. 130,
Having Pets Is Good for Seniors
More people have pets than ever before, and with a few notable exceptions (tarantulas come to mind!), they’re cuddly, playful friends for life.
As people get older and friends grow distant or pass away, companionship, especially in the form of a pet, can help maintain physical and physiological well-being. At least that’s the conclusion drawn by a recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
This study’s objective was “to examine whether companion animals or attachment to a companion animal was associated with changes in physical and psychological health, and whether the relationships between physical and psychological health and human social networks were modified in the presence or absence of a companion animal.”
Pet ownership was defined as owning a dog or a cat; the study found that activities of daily living (ADL) scores (the ability to perform basic tasks) of respondents without pets deteriorated more on average than that of those who had pets.
As the authors concluded, “[This study] demonstrated the benefits of pet ownership in maintaining or slightly enhancing the physical health status of older people. Pet ownership buffered the negative impact of lack of social support on psychological well-being and emerged as a factor that may help some older adults age successfully.”
Raina P, Waltner-Toews D, Bonnett B, et al. Influence of companion animals on the physical and psychological health of older people: an analysis of a one-year longitudinal study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Mar. 1999; vol. 47, no. 3, pp323-29.
Smokers Put Spouses at Risk for Stroke
Passive smoking, secondhand smoke, or exposure to environmental tobacco smoke
whatever term you use, the effects of smoking on the people around you is a
well-documented public health problem and a highly controversial social and political issue.
The chemical composition of the smoke inhaled by passive smokers is not identical to that inhaled by active smokers, but the toxic and carcinogenic effects are similar. There have been angry debates between smokers demanding their right to smoke in social and work situations and nonsmokers calling for laws protecting them from the proven ill effects of tobacco smoke produced by others.
A recent study presented in the American Journal of Public Health examined the potential association between stroke and smoking, concentrating on the situation in which passive smoking is the most difficult to control: smoking by close family relatives in the confines of shared environments.
Results showed that among 452 hospitalized cases of first-episode stroke, the risk of stroke was twice as high for subjects whose spouses smoked than for those who were the spouses of nonsmokers.
If you’re a smoker, think seriously about quitting – for your own health, and the health of your loved ones and those around you.
You RX, Thrift AG, McNeil JJ, et al. Ischemic stroke risk and passive exposure to spouses’ cigarette smoking. American Journal of Public Health, Apr. 1999; vol. 89, no. 4, pp572-75.
Time to Increase Daily Vitamin C Intake?
We’ve all heard about the benefits of vitamin C, but how much is enough? The answer might be more than you originally thought.
In April, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a paper alerting consumers to the news that the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences is revising its recommendations for vitamin C intake. The revision is required because since the current 60mg Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) was set in 1989, extensive new biomechanical, molecular, epidemiologic and clinical data have become available.
The new recommendations use a series of criteria to determine and estimated average requirement in order to establish a specific RDA for each person. If the average requirement cannot be determined, the authors suggest that the recommended amount of vitamin C should now become 200mg per day from 5 servings of fruits and vegetables (or 100mg per day of a vitamin C supplement) to prevent deficiency.
Ask your doctor of chiropractic to help you determine exactly how much vitamin C and other important nutrients you should be getting each day.
Levine M, Ramsey SC, Daruwala R, et al. Criteria and recommendations for vitamin C intake. Journal of the American Medical Association, Apr. 21, 1999;281(15), pp. 1387-94.
Keep Eating Those Whole-Grain Foods?
We’ve all seen the “nutritional pyramid” with sugars and fats at the top (“eat sparingly”) and breads and cereals at the bottom (“eat 6-11 servings per day”). But how many of us know why eating breads and cereals, particularly those made from whole grains, is so important to our overall health?
A study examining whether nutrient-rich whole grains reduce mortality risk began with the awareness that whole grains contain a wide variety of nutrients that may be beneficial to health, but are lost in refining. The researchers were concerned that refined grains contributed more than 20% of energy intake in the United States whereas whole grains contributed only 1%, despite dietary recommendations to the contrary.
The subjects (38,740 women aged 55-69) completed a baseline food frequency questionnaire including information on grain intake. Data were assessed for known or suspected risk factors for coronary heart disease and cancer. Results suggested that women with higher intakes of whole grain had healthier lifestyles and less baseline disease. The total death rate increased among groups of women with higher intakes, and the pattern repeated for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other causes combined.
The researchers contend that these findings have important public health implications, namely, that “it would be prudent for the general population to increase its whole grain intake.” This led them to this far-reaching conclusion: “Substitution of whole grain for refined grain may reduce chronic disease risk in the United States.”
Jacobs DR, Me KA, Kushi LH, Folsom AR. Is whole grain intake associated with reduced total and cause-specific death rates in older women? The Iowa women’s health study. American Journal of Public Health, Mar. 1999; vol. 89, no. 3, pp322-29.