Acupuncture, Exercise May Ease Pain for Breast Cancer Patients

Posted November 14, 2014

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Breast cancer patients who experience pain and swelling related to their treatment may find relief in acupuncture and exercise, new research suggests.

In one study, acupuncture helped reduce joint pain by up to 40 percent, said study author Dr. Jun Mao, director of the integrative oncology program at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.

And it didn’t matter if people thought it would work or not, he found.

While other studies have found acupuncture is effective for a variety of symptoms, including joint pain, fatigue and sleeping difficulties, Mao wanted to see the role a person’s expectations of the treatment would have.

He studied 41 breast cancer survivors, assigning them to a sham acupuncture group or an electroacupuncture group, and compared them to a “control group” that got neither treatment. Electroacupuncture uses a small electrical current passed between two pairs of acupuncture needles to stimulate certain points on the body. The women did not know whether they were getting the real treatment or the sham one.

The women had stiffness or joint pain, which are common side effects when taking aromatase inhibitors, a hormonal therapy used to help treat breast cancer.

“What we found is in the real acupuncture, the response was not dependent on whether the patient believed acupuncture to work or not,” Mao said.

“However, in the sham group, the response seemed to be driven by the higher expectation of acupuncture to work.”

Those in the real acupuncture group had a consistent level of pain reduction, Mao said. In the sham group, if there was a low expectation, no change in pain was reported. “For those [in the sham group] with extremely high expectations, their effect was as strong as 80 percent,” he said.

Pain relief from real acupuncture is often dismissed as a “placebo effect,” Mao explained. “Our results demonstrate the opposite,” he said. In real acupuncture, expectation plays no role in pain reduction. “The real acupuncture group, regardless of expectation, everyone had about a 40 percent reduction in pain,” he said. A decline of 30 percent or higher is viewed as meaningful, he added.

What this means, Mao said, is that “real acupuncture will work for anyone, whether you believe it or not.”

The study is published in the November issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs.

In the same journal, University of Pennsylvania researchers looked at how a community-based exercise program could help women affected by lymphedema (a swelling of the limbs), muscle problems and decreased body image that can occur after breast cancer.

In a previous study, the researchers had found the program worked in a research setting. But, they wanted to test it in a community setting. The program is administered by physical therapists and included a group-based exercise class and a program for patients to continue at home or at the gym.

In all, 67 breast cancer patients completed measurements of the effects after a year. These participants had improvements in symptoms, body image and muscular strength. The results in the community setting were similar to those that were found in the research setting.

However, the researchers did note issues that were encountered in getting the program operational, including payments, the need for advocates and how to get patients referred so it would be covered by insurance.

The acupuncture study is a solid piece of research, said Leslie Bernstein, director of cancer etiology at the City of Hope Cancer Center, in Duarte, Calif.

However, she said, it’s important to point out that acupuncture won’t work for everyone. “But, on average, it will work,” she said, based on the study results.

The exercise study showed the challenges that come with taking a program that’s been tested and found effective in research settings and putting it into practice, Bernstein added. “It highlighted the issues that one would meet in what works as an intervention, and taking that into the community.”

Among the common issues, she said, are finding someone to administer such programs, paying for them and getting insurance coverage and approvals.

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Enzymes: The Best Supplements You Probably Aren’t Taking

By Michael T. Murray, ND

While not yet part of most people's daily regimen, enzymes are among the most useful nutritional supplements available. Enzymes are molecules that speed up chemical reactions — they either help build new molecules or break down molecules into smaller components. In terms of a health bonus, this translates into an effective digestive boost — proteolytic enzymes (proteases) help you break down the proteins in food more quickly.

It's fairly standard practice to use these enzymes to help improve digestion and relieve bothersome abdominal bloating and excessive flatulence. However, more recent clinical research suggests a broader range of potential benefits. These enzymes seem to be quite useful for the following conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis C
  • Herpes zoster (shingles)
  • Inflammation, sports injuries, and trauma
  • Food allergies
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders

Choosing the Best Enzyme Supplement

To get the most out of proteolytic enzymes, you need to determine both quality and dosage. Of course, it's important to know what you are looking for. Most of the proteolytic enzymes have well-established guidelines developed by the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) or the Food Chemical Codex (FCC). A mixture of proteolytic enzymes will produce better results than any single enzyme.

Pleasingly Safe

Proteolytic enzymes have an excellent safety profile. Even in people with presumably normal pancreatic function, pancreatic enzymes produced no untoward side effects, nor did they reduce the capacity for subjects to produce their own pancreatic enzymes in a 1998 study published in the journal International Journal of Pancreatology.

However, allergic reactions may occur (as with most therapeutic agents). Pancreatic enzymes should not be used by anyone allergic to pork; bromelain should not be used in anyone allergic to pineapple; and papain should not be used in anyone sensitive to papaya. Also, as the effects of proteolytic enzymes during pregnancy and lactation have not been sufficiently evaluated, they should not be used during these times unless directed to do so by a physician.

This article is reprinted with permission from Dr. Michael Murray’s Natural Living News. For more articles like this one, visit

Dr. Michael T. Murray is one of the world’s leading authorities on natural medicine and the author of more than 30 bestselling books, including The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. He is a graduate and former faculty member, and serves on the Board of Regents, of Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington.

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Expert Offers Safe Splinter Removal Tips

Posted August 11, 2014

SATURDAY, Aug. 9, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The carefree barefoot days of summer can increase your risk of getting a splinter — pieces of wood or other foreign bodies that are partially or fully stuck in the skin.

Most splinters are easily taken care of at home. But, some deep splinters may need medical attention.

Dr. Sampson Davis, an emergency room physician at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in New Jersey, provided the following tips on how to safely remove a splinter:

  • Pull the end of the splinter that is sticking out of the skin with a pair of tweezers. Be sure to pull the splinter out in the same direction that it entered the skin.
  • If the entire splinter is under the skin, sterilize a small needle and the skin with alcohol. Use the needle to dislodge the splinter. Once it is partially out, use a pair of tweezers to remove it.
  • Once the splinter is out, wash the affected area with soap and water.
  • After cleaning the skin, apply antibacterial ointment and cover the wound with a bandage.

Some splinters may not be easily or safely removed at home, Davis noted in a hospital news release. Seek medical attention if the splinter seems very deep or if it is lodged under a fingernail. If a child with a splinter is unable to sit still long enough to allow it to be removed, it’s a good idea get help from a medical professional.

Splinters may contain germs, including bacteria. As a result, anyone who gets a splinter may develop an infection. Davis pointed out that signs of infection include:

  • Discharge (pus)
  • Pain
  • Redness or red streaking
  • Swelling

In rare cases, very large, deep splinters may affect nerves, tendons or even the blood vessels. In these cases, people may have issues with sensation or movement.

People with a splinter treated in the emergency room will likely be given antibiotics if it’s infected, Davis said. Anyone treated for a splinter who is not protected against tetanus will be vaccinated for tetanus.

People with diabetes, cancer, kidney disease or another chronic medical condition may also be given antibiotics to prevent infection. Anyone with diabetes that gets a splinter in the foot may also need to be evaluated by a podiatrist. Diabetes increases the risk for poor circulation and nerve damage. As a result, a splinter in the foot could result in severe complications.

– Mary Elizabeth Dallas

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Exposure to Common Antibacterials May Affect Growth of Fetus: Study

Posted August 11, 2014

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Aug. 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Many pregnant women and their unborn children are being exposed to antibacterial compounds that may be linked to developmental and reproductive issues, a new small study suggests.

The antibacterial triclosan appeared in the urine of every woman tested in the study, and triclocarban, another antibacterial chemical, appeared in more than 85 percent of the urine samples, the researchers report.

Potentially worse, triclosan also showed up in more than half the samples of umbilical cord blood taken from the mothers, indicating that the chemical is reaching some fetuses.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the safety of triclosan following animal studies that showed the chemical can affect the way hormones function.

Such interference — known as endocrine disruption — can potentially affect the development of an unborn fetus, said study co-author Laura Geer, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at SUNY Downstate School of Public Health.

“These compounds have endocrine-disrupting potential, and the fetus is particularly vulnerable during its development to hormonal changes,” Geer said.

Triclosan and triclocarban are used in more than 2,000 everyday consumer products, including toothpastes, soaps, detergents, carpets, paints, school supplies and toys, the researchers noted.

Prominent manufacturers such as Avon, Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson have announced that they are phasing out triclosan from their products. Minnesota has become the first state to pass a ban on the antimicrobial’s use in certain products, which will take effect in January 2017.

In this study, researchers took urine and cord blood samples from 184 pregnant women in Brooklyn, N.Y.

They found levels of triclosan and triclocarban in nearly all the women tested.

Researchers also found another antibacterial agent, butyl paraben, in a majority of urine and cord blood samples.

The results revealed a link between butyl paraben, which is commonly used in cosmetics, and shorter lengths of newborns, Geer said. If the finding is confirmed in larger studies, it could mean that widespread exposure to these compounds might cause a subtle, but large-scale, shift in birth sizes.

The findings were presented Sunday at the American Chemical Society annual meeting in San Francisco. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

An industry group, the Personal Care Council, did not respond to a request for comment.

All three antibacterial agents are of dubious benefit and could be easily eliminated from products, said Andrea Gore, a spokeswoman for The Endocrine Society and a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas at Austin.

“The efficacy of these products as being helpful to human health has not been proven, but companies are adding them to products anyway,” Gore said. “There’s no downside to removing chemicals that have no proven benefit.”

The potential impact of these chemicals on unborn children is particularly troubling, Gore said.

“During early development, very small amounts of hormone have very big effects on developmental processes,” she said. “We know that development is such a vulnerable period for exposure to natural hormones. We know that hormones in the fetus and in the infant are really important for neurobiological development.”

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Fish Oils and Teenage Brain

The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish and fish oil supplements are critical to brain development and function throughout our lifetime. New research has found that EPA and DHA are especially important to the teenage brain. During adolescence especially the areas of the brain associated with learning and memory undergo active turnover requiring adequate DHA and EPA.

Background Data

The importance of omega-3 fatty acids to brain function relates to their role in the phospholipid composition of nerve cell membranes. Studies have shown that EPA and DHA influence:

  • The fluidity of brain cell membranes.
  • Neurotransmitter synthesis.
  • Neurotranmitter binding.
  • Signal transmission.
  • The activity of key enzymes that break down neurotransmitters like serotonin, epinephrine, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Clinical studies with supplemental EPA and DHA from fish oils in patients with a variety of psychological conditions including attention deficit disorder (ADD) and depression validate the importance of supplementation to boost EPA and DHA levels.

New Data

Instead of focusing on whole unprocessed foods, most teenagers are consummate junk-food junkies filling up on fast foods, chips, soft drinks, pizza, popcorn, candy bars, and other processed foods. This dietary pattern is associated with impaired brain metabolism and function

Two recent studies from Europe show that key goals for teenagers for brain health is to reduce the intake of saturated fats and junk food while boosting omega-3 intake. These studies indicate that eating the wrong type of fats in adolescence appears to have long-lasting effects on learning and memory during adulthood.

In research presented at The Endocrine Society's 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco recently, researchers at San Pablo University in Spain found that when adolescent mice were fed a normal-calorie but high saturated fat diet they displayed significantly impaired memory and learning. In contrast, feeding adult mice the same diet did not impair performance on memory tasks.

When the researchers examined the adolescent mice brains, they found long-lasting brain changes in the brain regions related to memory (the hippocampus) caused by changes in the structure of their brain cells in this area. The researchers also found, in the brain, a partial loss of leptin, a hormone released by fat tissue that helps support cognitive function.

The reason for the difference in effect between the young and old mice relates to the greater brain cell turnover during adolescence.

In the second study, a research team from the University of Liverpool reviewed 185 studies and found that fish oil consumption could minimize the negative effects junk food has on the brain. Prior research has indicated that fatty junk food-packed diets could disrupt a process called neurogenesis, the generation of new nerve cells, but diets rich in omega-3s could prevent these negative effects by stimulating the area of the brain that controls feeding, learning and memory.

These studies provide additional support on the importance of fish oil supplementation for teens. The recommended daily intake is 1,000 mg EPA and DHA per day for general health and 3,000 mg EPA plus DHA when therapeutic effects are desired.

Dr. Michael T. Murray is one of the world's leading authorities on natural medicine and the author of more than 30 bestselling books, including The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. He is a graduate and former faculty member, and serves on the Board of Regents, of Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington.

© 2014

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‘Little League Shoulder’ on the Rise

Posted July 19, 2014

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) — With summer in full swing so too are youthful arms, with kids happily throwing pitches as hard and as fast as they can on baseball diamonds all across America.

But experts warn that some children who engage in repetitive overhead ball-throwing — especially pitching — can end up paying a price, as insufficient strength paired with poor form turns into the condition commonly known as “Little League shoulder.”

The condition causes an unwelcome combination of shoulder pain, swelling and impaired mobility. It also appears to be on the rise.

“It’s certainly being seen with more frequency,” said study author Dr. Benton Heyworth, an instructor of orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, and a practitioner in the division of sports medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital. “And that’s likely due to trends in youth sports in general.

“In the case of baseball, that means more year-round pitching without the appropriate period of rest between, and more pitching at higher velocities. Which means that although ‘USA Baseball’ and ‘Little League Baseball’ outline clear pitch-count limits, what we’re seeing are very straightforward overuse injuries that come from kids simply pitching too much,” Heyworth added.

Doctors are also seeing shoulder injuries in catchers and position players in baseball, as well as in girls and tennis players, too, Heyworth said. He and his colleagues presented their findings recently at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s annual meeting in Seattle.

To gain more insight into Little League shoulder, the investigators analyzed the experience of 95 patients with the condition aged 8 to 17 (the average age was 13).

All were treated at a single pediatric care facility between 1999 and 2013, and nearly all (97 percent) were baseball players. Of those, 86 percent were pitchers, 8 percent were catchers, and 7 percent played other positions.

Three percent of the group were tennis players. Just two out of the 95 were female, according to the study.

In addition to the main issue of shoulder pain, 13 percent of the patients also complained of elbow pain, while 10 percent said they suffered from shoulder weakness and/or fatigue. Nearly as many (8 percent) said they experienced mechanical difficulties with shoulder movement.

About one-third of the players were found to have developed reduced range-of-motion. And those who had range-of-motion issues faced a three times greater risk that their Little League shoulder would end up recurring within six to 12 months following their return to sports, the findings showed.

Shoulder rest was the key treatment in 98 percent of cases. On average, it took players more than four months to return to play and more than 2.5 months to experience symptom relief, although more than 7 percent had the shoulder problem recur during the following eight months, the researchers said.

Physical therapy was also part of the treatment package for 79 percent of patients, overall, and for all of those with range-of-motion problems. One-quarter of the patients were also told to change positions once they got back on the field, the study authors noted.

“The hallmark of treatment is rest,” Heyworth reiterated. “And we recommend a period of training — and maybe even physical therapy — even after rest before return to play, particularly because the 7 percent recurrence rate may be an underestimate because a lot of these kids underreport pain,” he explained.

“But the larger view is that youth sports injuries continue to become more prevalent,” Heyworth added. “And the best way to treat them is actually to prevent them, because this is a very preventable condition. Certainly when it comes to pitching, there needs to be adequate periods of rest, and adherence to well-established pitch-count limits.”

However, Dr. Lewis Maharam, a sports medicine specialist in private practice in New York City, and past president of the New York chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine, disputes that pitch counts are a problem.

“There are certainly always kids that are being over-pushed,” he acknowledged. “There’s always the risk of stage parents that want their kids to be top of the line and encourage them to go outside the guidelines. But I firmly believe that Little League protocol takes care that players don’t blow out their arms from overuse,” said Maharam. “They have had pitching limits in place for at least 30 years.”

Maharam advised that “parents should make sure that their coach and team officials are following the Little League protocol. And if they want their kids to be the best they can be, they should find a physical therapist and athletic trainer that has expertise in strength and flexibility training, so their kids are prepared for the sport.”

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Don’t Blame Bad Weather for Your Aching Back

Posted July 11, 2014

THURSDAY, July 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The notion that lower back pain flares up during certain kinds of weather may be all in your head, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Australia tracked nearly 1,000 people who were seen for acute low back pain at primary care clinics in Sydney. The investigators looked at weather conditions when the patients’ back pain started, as well as one week and one month before it began.

Reporting July 10 in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, they found no connection between back pain and temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction or precipitation. Higher wind speeds and gusts seemed to slightly increase the risk of low back pain, but this was not to any “clinically significant” degree.

“Many patients believe that weather impacts their pain symptoms. However, there are few robust studies investigating weather and pain, specifically research that does not rely on patient recall of the weather,” lead researcher Dr. Daniel Steffens, of the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney, said in a journal news release.

“Our findings refute previously held beliefs that certain common weather conditions increase risk of lower back pain,” Steffens said.

Prior studies have suggested that cold or humid weather, and changes in the weather, are linked with worsening symptoms in people with chronic pain conditions. However, based on the new findings, Steffens believes that similar studies might be needed to examine the role — if any — of weather for conditions such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

According to the researchers, nearly everyone suffers low back pain at some point in their lives. And, they noted, the World Health Organization estimates that up to one-third of the world’s population is plagued by an aching back at any one time.

Robert Preidt

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Could Dark Chocolate Help Ease Poor Leg Circulation?

Posted July 4, 2014

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The antioxidants contained in dark chocolate might help people suffering from reduced blood flow to their legs, researchers from Italy report.

In a small study, people with artery problems in their legs walked a little longer and farther right after eating a bar of dark chocolate, the researchers said.

Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols. The researchers believe polyphenols improve blood flow to the legs by affecting biochemicals that prompt arteries to widen.

“Our body secretes chemicals that naturally dilate blood vessels in response to certain stimuli, improving the blood flow to certain areas,” said Dr. Richard Chazal, vice president of the American College of Cardiology. “Some of the chemicals inside dark chocolate could affect the way these enzymes are metabolized in the body,” suggested Chazal, who was not involved with the study.

The pilot study involved 20 people aged 60 to 78 who suffered from peripheral artery disease, a narrowing of the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the legs, stomach, arms and head. Reduced blood flow can cause pain, cramping or fatigue in the legs or hips while walking.

The patients walked on a treadmill in the morning and again two hours after eating 40 grams of dark or milk chocolate — the size of an average American chocolate bar — on separate days. The dark chocolate in the study had a cocoa content of more than 85 percent, making it rich in polyphenols. The milk chocolate, with a cocoa content below 30 percent, had far fewer polyphenols, the study authors noted.

After eating dark chocolate, patients walked an average 11 percent farther and 15 percent longer than they did earlier in the day. That’s about 39 feet farther and about 17 seconds longer, according to the study, published July 2 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Milk chocolate did not improve time or distance, according to study co-author Dr. Lorenzo Loffredo, assistant professor at the Sapienza University of Rome, and colleagues.

The researchers found that levels of nitric oxide, a gas linked to improved blood flow, were higher after eating dark chocolate. They suggested that the higher nitric oxide levels may be responsible for widening peripheral arteries and improving the patients’ ability to walk.

Both the results and the theory are “intriguing,” said Dr. Mark Creager, director of the Vascular Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“The results are certainly interesting but modest, in terms of the walking distance improved,” said Creager, who also serves as a spokesman for the American Heart Association. “With information such as this, one would anticipate these investigators will conduct a much larger trial with long-term treatment to confirm their observations.”

Creager and Chazal noted that chocolate is also high in fat and sugar, and eating too much can contribute to health problems such as obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.

“People need to be very aware of the fact that there are many substances in chocolate bars that could have an adverse effect on health,” Creager said. “I would not recommend that people eat chocolate bars to improve their walking distance.”

Chazal agreed, saying the study’s true value lies in identifying the way that polyphenols might affect blood flow to the legs.

Polyphenols also can be found in foods with less added sugar and saturated fats, such as cloves, dried peppermint, celery seed, capers and hazelnuts.

“All of us can get very excited about studies like this, but we have to be very cautious in interpreting it in terms of treatment,” Chazal said. “At this point in time, I wouldn’t consider dark chocolate to be something people should be taking large amounts of as a therapeutic agent. It’s possible that moderate amounts might be helpful, but we need confirmation.”

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Children’s Eye Injuries: Tips for Prevention

During this time of year, many kids are gearing up to go back to school and return to sports and other activities. Every year thousands of children sustain eye damage from accidents at home, at play, or in the car. Sports deserve particular attention because eye injuries occur fairly often in children and young adult athletes.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers the following tips for preventing eye injuries:

  • Children should wear sports eye protectors made with polycarbonate lenses for baseball, football, racquet sports, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, and paintball.
  • Keep all chemicals and sprays out of reach of small children.
  • Parents and caregivers need to practice safe use of common items that can cause serious eye injury, such as paper clips, pencils, scissors, bungee cords, wire coat hangers, and rubber bands.
  • Teach your children to be eye smart by safeguarding your own sight with protective eyewear during potentially dangerous yard work and household projects.
  • Avoid projectile toys such as darts, bows and arrows, and missile-firing toys and look for toys marked with “ATSM,” which means the product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
  • Use safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. Pad or cushion sharp corners. Put locks on all cabinets and drawers that kids can reach.
  • On the road, make sure kids are properly secured in baby carriers and child safety seats and that the seat and shoulder belts fit well. Store loose items in the trunk or secured on the floor, as any loose object can become a dangerous projectile in a crash.

Even if an eye injury seems minor, a doctor, preferably an ophthalmologist, should examine the eye as soon as possible since a serious injury isn’t always immediately obvious. Delaying medical attention could make the damage worse or even result in vision loss.

© 2014 Living Naturally

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Ahhh: Soothing Aloe Vera

Even if you’re a stickler about sunblock and stay in the shade away from the sun’s harmful UV rays, it’s hard to escape the summer without at least one sunburn. If your nose is pink or the skin on your shoulders feels hot and tender after a day of summer fun, reach for tried-and-true aloe vera, long known for its soothing effect on the skin.

Aloe is known as the ultimate skin healer, moisturizer, and softener. Applied topically, aloe heals burns and stimulates cell regeneration. It helps relieve discomfort and speed healing. In fact, some hospitals even use aloe vera for burn victims.

Fresh aloe is best — break off a leaf and apply the juice to the sunburned area. If you don’t have an aloe plant handy, look for a pure aloe vera product that doesn’t contain mineral oil, coloring, or alcohol. Store it in the fridge for an extra cooling effect on the skin.

Aloe should not be used on severe burns. See a doctor if your sunburn causes severe swelling, pain, or blisters or is accompanied by chills, fever, and nausea. But most sunburns are first-degree burns or less severe, and can benefit from a thin layer of aloe.

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Dance Those Cares Away!

Posted June 30, 2014

FRIDAY, June 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Dancing can reduce seniors’ knee and hip pain and also improve their walking, a new, small study finds.

The research involved 34 seniors, average age 80, who all had pain or stiffness in their knees or hips as a result mainly of arthritis. The participants — mostly women — were assigned to a group that danced for 45 minutes up to two times a week for 12 weeks or to a control group that did not dance.

By the end of the 12 weeks, those who danced had less pain in their knees and hips and were able to walk faster, said Jean Krampe, an assistant professor of nursing at Saint Louis University and lead author of the study.

The use of pain medicines fell by 39 percent among seniors in the dance group but rose 21 percent among those who did not dance, she noted.

The findings about walking speed are important, she added, because seniors who walk too slowly are more likely to fall, be hospitalized or require care from others.

“Doctors and nurses recognize gait speed as the sixth vital sign that can help us predict adverse outcomes for older adults,” Krampe said in a university news release.

“Walking just a little more rapidly can make enough of a difference for a person to get across the street more quickly or get to the bathroom faster, which keeps them functional and independent. In our study, those who danced didn’t walk dramatically faster, but they had a meaningful change in their walking speed,” she added.

The study was published recently in the journal Geriatric Nursing.

“Dance-based therapy for older adults needs to be gentle, slow and include options so it can be performed standing or sitting, because their fatigue or pain level can change day to day,” Krampe explained.

Robert Preidt

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Health Tip: Have Shin Splints?

Posted June 16, 2014

(HealthDay News) — Shin splints refers to a number of causes of pain in the large bone in the lower front of the leg, called the tibia.

The University of Illinois McKinley Health Center mentions these possible causes of shin splints:

  • Having an anatomical abnormality, such as unusual position of the knees or flat arches.
  • Having weak or inflexible muscles.
  • Having low bone density, or a hormonal imbalance.
  • Exercising on a hard surface, such as concrete.
  • Wearing shoes that are old, worn or of poor quality.
  • Training too aggressively.

— Diana Kohnle

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


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Can 6,000 Steps a Day Keep Knee Arthritis at Bay?

Posted June 13, 2014

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 12, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Walking the equivalent of an hour a day may help improve knee arthritis and prevent disability, new research suggests.

Because of knee arthritis, many older adults find walking, climbing stairs or even getting up from a chair difficult. But these study findings equate walking more with better everyday functioning.

“People with or at risk for knee arthritis should be walking around 6,000 steps per day, and the more walking one does the less risk of developing functioning difficulties,” said the study’s lead author, Daniel White, a research assistant professor in the department of physical therapy and athletic training at Boston University.

Every step taken throughout the day counts toward the total, he said. The key is to wear a pedometer and take up to 6,000 steps daily, he said. “People usually average 100 steps per minute while they walk, so (6,000 steps) is roughly walking an hour a day,” White said. “It doesn’t seem to make a difference where the steps come from.”

For someone with knee arthritis who is just starting to exercise, White recommended setting 3,000 steps as a first goal.

Nearly 27 million Americans aged 25 and older have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear form of arthritis, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The resulting joint pain and stiffness limits movement for 80 percent of arthritis patients, according to background information with the report.

The study of nearly 1,800 adults found that 6,000 steps was the threshold that predicted who would go on to develop disabilities or not. “If you wear a pedometer and get up to 6,000 steps, you’re in good shape,” White said.

Other guidelines recommend walking considerably more than this for good health, but White said he was looking for the fewest steps that would help these patients remain mobile.

The study, published June 12 in Arthritis Care & Research, tracked the number of steps taken over a week by adults who were at risk for knee arthritis or already had it. All used pedometers and were part of a large osteoarthritis study.

Two years later the researchers assessed any arthritis-related functional limitations. They found that for every 1,000 steps taken, functional limitations were reduced 16 percent to 18 percent.

Walking not only builds muscle strength and flexibility, it also helps reduce arthritic pain, White and other experts say.

“This study just adds to the vast amount of research and common sense that tells us we need to get off our fannies and out the door,” said Samantha Heller, an exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Walking “is free and you already know how to do it,” she added. “With a good pair of athletic shoes and appropriate attire, you can walk just about any time of year.”

Heller said she has patients who say they can’t walk because their knees, hips or other joints hurt. “What I explain to them is the less one moves, the weaker the muscles get, and the less stable the joints are, increasing inflammation and pain,” she said.

“Sitting around also increases the risk of weight gain, which can adversely affect joints,” Heller added.

Pedometers and cellphone apps that measure steps are widely available today, White and Heller noted.

“Pick up a pedometer or get an app to help you see just how many steps you take each day,” Heller suggested.

Dr. Natalie Azar, a clinical assistant professor in the departments of medicine and rheumatology at NYU Langone Medical Center, suggested that the new study findings might help encourage people to become more active.

“Overall, this is excellent data on the benefits of moderate exercise and active living on quality of life for people with or at risk for arthritis,” Azar said. “It’s another piece of literature I will use to convince my patients to move.”

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Yoga, Meditation May Help Dementia Patients and Caregivers Alike

Posted June 9, 2014

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 5, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Life with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias can be difficult for the affected individual and his or her caregiver.

But a small British study suggests that a “holistic” program involving yoga, meditation and other interventions can ease the burden for both.

“This is an activity that caregivers and patients can do together,” said study lead author Yvonne J-Lyn Khoo, a researcher with the Health and Social Care Institute at Teesside University in Middlesbrough, U.K. “Because everyone is doing the program together, caregivers have peace of mind to at least allow themselves to ‘let go’ and do some exercise.”

One expert in the United States said programs like this are sorely needed.

“Caregivers for people with dementia are under so much stress,” said Catherine Roe, an assistant professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “They often neglect themselves and have no time do things like exercise or mediate. So this is one way that might be possible,” she said.

The study, which received assistance from the U.K. Alzheimer’s Society, was published recently in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.

The program, called “Happy Antics,” involved eight patients with dementia, five of their caregivers, and two research volunteers. Participants ranged between 52 and 86 years of age when the study launched in 2013, and over the course of six weeks 70 percent of the group completed all six 45-minute sessions.

Sessions included some combination of group discussion, stretching, bending, breathing exercises, tai chi, yoga, meditation, qigong and dance. Movement was accompanied by music and was described as “nonstrenuous,” and usually occurred while seated, Khoo explained.

“The general impression is that people with dementia don’t exercise, won’t exercise or can’t exercise,” Khoo said. “But our findings show that it may not necessarily be that way.”

In fact, in post-program interviews, all of the patients and caregivers said “Happy Antics” helped them be more social, and they looked forward to each session. One patient with dementia said, “I feel better after it,” while another patient stated, “Good company, nice people. Feeling part of a team.”

Caregivers felt rewarded, too. The exercises “help me to relax, just [have] a feeling of well-being afterwards,” one caregiver said. Another said, “Everyone is enjoying themselves, which is what we come for.”

“Caregivers themselves also feel supported throughout the sessions,” Khoo said. “On the other hand, the presence of the caregiver is reassuring to the patient, and this feeling of security and familiarity supports the exercise environment.”

Three people involved in the program also cited pain relief as an added benefit, while three others said they felt empowered by the experience.

Will “Happy Antics” continue? Janet Baker, activities coordinator for the Dalton Court Care Home in Cockermouth, U.K., said a trial session held after the study was finished was “well received.”

“The majority of the residents in the lounge participated in one form or another,” Baker said. “Some were very active throughout while others sat and watched, taking it all in, tapping a foot on the floor, patting a hand on their leg, or following each movement closely with their eyes. The physical movements, which were at varying speeds, were easy to follow with the choice of music, which added to the fun. Some residents couldn’t manage all the actions, as they were laughing so much as they sang along to the familiar tune.”

For her part, Roe said “Happy Antics” should be commended for its inclusion of caregivers with patients, and as a proof of concept.

Khoo’s team “have shown that holistic classes like this are possible,” Roe said. “The next step would be to test this in a larger group, and actually measure whether, and how much, this program actually improves quality of life for both people with dementia and their caregivers.”

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Health Tip: Is a Stomachache Serious?

Posted June 6, 2014

(HealthDay News) — When your child complains of a stomachache, it’s usually nothing to worry about. But sometimes stomach pain can signal a more serious problem.

The University of Michigan Health System explains these warning signs that a child’s stomachache requires a doctor’s attention:

  • If the child is growing more slowly than typical, or is losing weight.
  • If the child has excessive vomiting or chronic, severe diarrhea.
  • If the child is losing blood from the gastrointestinal tract, or has a fever that can’t be explained.
  • If the child has persistent right-side abdominal pain.
  • If the child has a family history of inflammatory bowel disease.

— Diana Kohnle

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Health Tip: Preventing Heel Pain

Posted June 4, 2014

(HealthDay News) — Heel pain can stem from a number of causes, from injury or deformity to a number of health conditions.

The American Podiatric Medical Association says you can help prevent heel pain by:

  • Making sure that shoes fit well and provide good sturdy support.
  • Wearing appropriate footwear for all activities.
  • Getting rid of shoes that are worn on the soles or heels.
  • Warming up and stretching before and after running or working out. Also, pacing yourself while exercising.
  • Losing any extra weight.
  • Eating a nutritious diet.
  • Getting plenty of rest.

— Diana Kohnle

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5 or More Bad Sunburns While Young Tied to Higher Melanoma Risk

Posted May 31, 2014

FRIDAY, May 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) — White women who get five or more blistering sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 have an 80 percent increased risk for melanoma — the most deadly form of skin cancer, new study findings indicate.

Researchers also found these women have a 68 percent greater risk for two other forms of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

“Our results suggest that sun exposures in both early life and adulthood were predictive of non-melanoma skin cancers, whereas melanoma risk was predominantly associated with sun exposure in early life,” according to Dr. Abrar Qureshi, professor and chair of the department of dermatology at Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.

“Parents may need to be advised to pay more attention to protection from early-life sun exposure for their kids in order to reduce the likelihood of developing melanoma as they grow up. Older individuals should also be cautious with their sun exposure, because cumulative sun exposure increases skin cancer risk as well,” Qureshi said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.

In conducting the study, published May 29 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the researchers followed nearly 109,000 white female nurses for about 20 years. When the study began, the women were aged 25 to 42. They were asked about their medical history. The researchers also assessed their risk factors for skin cancer, such as the number of moles they had, if they had a family history of the disease and the number of blistering sunburns they had in their late teens.

Over the course of the study, the investigators collected more recent information from the women on their skin cancer risk. Specifically, they were asked for updates on their family history as well as their use of tanning beds, alcohol and cigarettes.

The study participants lived in 14 different states. The researchers took this into account and calculated each woman’s total ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, depending on how long they lived in any given place. The women were placed into three categories based on this UV exposure: low, medium and high.

Roughly one-quarter of the women experienced painful blistering sunburns at a young age and one-quarter admitted to using tanning beds. The researchers also found that about 10 percent of the women had more than five blistering sunburns when they were between the ages of 15 and 20.

Nearly 7,000 were diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma affected 880 of the women and about 780 were diagnosed with melanoma. Of the women who developed melanoma, 445 had invasive cancer, the investigators found.

The study authors pointed out that the women who had the greatest exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays when they were adults did not have an increased risk for melanoma. These women, however, had a roughly 2.3-fold greater risk for basal cell carcinoma and a 2.5-fold increased risk for squamous cell carcinoma.

“Pattern of sun exposure was not uniformly associated with the risk for all the three main skin cancers we see in the United States, suggesting that there are some differences in the [development] of these skin cancers,” noted Qureshi.

“An individual’s risk of developing skin cancer depends on both host and environmental risk factors. Persons with high host-risk traits, such as red hair color, higher number of moles and high sunburn susceptibility, should pay more attention to avoid excessive sun exposure, especially early in life.”

– Mary Elizabeth Dallas

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Daily Aspirin Regimen Not Safe for Everyone, FDA Warns

Posted May 8, 2014

TUESDAY, May 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Taking an aspirin a day can help prevent heart attack and stroke in people who have suffered such health crises in the past, but not in people who have never had heart problems, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Since the 1990s, clinical data have shown that in people who have experienced a heart attack, stroke or who have a disease of the blood vessels in the heart, a daily low dose of aspirin can help prevent a reoccurrence,” Dr. Robert Temple, deputy director for clinical science at the FDA, said in an agency news release.

A low-dose tablet contains 80 milligrams (mg) of aspirin, compared with 325 mg in a regular strength tablet.

However, an analysis of data from major studies does not support the use of aspirin as a preventive medicine in people who have not had a heart attack, stroke or heart problems. In these people, aspirin provides no benefits and puts them at risk for side effects such as dangerous bleeding in the brain or stomach, the FDA said.

Also, there’s no evidence that taking aspirin every day is safe and effective for people who have not had heart problems or a stroke but have a family history of heart attack or stroke, or have evidence of arterial disease, Temple said.

He noted that a number of large studies are being conducted to assess the use of aspirin in preventing heart attack and stroke in people with no previous history of heart problems, and that the FDA is monitoring those clinical trials.

Anyone thinking about taking low-dose aspirin needs to discuss the risks and benefits with their doctor, Temple emphasized. It’s also important to have your doctor determine the dose and frequency that’s appropriate for you.

If your doctor does recommend daily aspirin to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, closely examine drug labels. Some drugs combine aspirin with other pain relievers or ingredients and should not be used for long-term aspirin therapy, the FDA said in the news release.

– Robert Preidt

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Gastro Woes More Common in Kids with Autism

Posted April 29, 2014

By Brenda Goodman

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) — What many parents of children with autism have long suspected — that autism and gastrointestinal complaints often go together — is now supported by a new study.

The study, a review of medical research, found that children with autism are more than four times as likely as their typically developing peers to have digestive difficulties such as abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation.

The study authors stress that doesn’t mean the gastrointestinal troubles are the cause of autism, as one widely discredited theory has suggested, or that something about the biology of autism causes stomach complaints.

No cause-and-effect relationship has been established.

But the researchers say the link between the two problems is strong enough that it deserves more investigation.

“We really searched high and low for good studies, and we only found 15 studies on this over 32 years,” said study author William Sharp, a behavioral pediatric psychologist at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta.

“This is something that is a prominent concern for kids with autism, and that we should refocus our scientific endeavors to get an evidence-based approach for assessment and treatment of these kids,” said Sharp, who specializes in feeding problems in children with autism.

For the review, published online April 28 and in the May print issue of Pediatrics, Sharp and his colleagues combed the medical literature looking for studies of digestive problems in autism. Then they narrowed their search to studies that included a comparison (“control”) group. These control groups were usually typically developing peers or siblings of children with autism.

Out of a pool of 961 possible studies, only 15 included a control group. But even those studies had some problems, Sharp conceded. They used different definitions for frequent complaints such as diarrhea and constipation. Many relied on reports from parents to document a problem while others only counted stomach issues if they were noted in a child’s medical chart.

After smoothing out those differences as well as they could, researchers found high rates of gastric problems in children with autism. Diarrhea and constipation were the most frequently reported problems. Kids with autism were almost four times as likely to have diarrhea or constipation compared to typically developing children, the investigators found. And they were more than twice as likely to experience abdominal pain.

Doctors don’t yet know why kids with autism are more prone to digestive problems, but they believe a lot of it may be behavioral.

Some studies have suggested that as babies, children with autism don’t breast-feed well. Breast milk helps to develop and protect an infant’s intestinal tract. That may be something children with autism miss out on. They can also be picky eaters.

“If a parent says their child has occasional constipation, is that enough to say a kid has a GI issue, if they’re very selective and only eat white rice?” asked Cynthia Johnson. She is the director of the autism center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. She was not involved in the research.

Until more is known, Johnson said, parents should bring digestive issues to a doctor’s attention.

“They need to know to raise their concerns with their pediatrician to make sure their child doesn’t need to be seen by a gastroenterologist,” she said. “But if it seems diet-related, they probably need to talk to a dietitian for a recommendation.”

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Saturday is National Drug Take-Back Day

Posted April 26, 2014

FRIDAY, April 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) — If you have expired, unused or unwanted drugs in your medicine cabinet, you can safely dispose of them on National Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday.

The free and anonymous service is offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at collection sites across the nation. To find a site near you, go to the National Take-Back Initiative website and type in your ZIP code.

One major goal of the program is to reduce prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths. In 2010, more than 22,000 people in the United States died of prescription drug overdoses.

Family and friends are the source for access to over half of all abused prescription drugs, and in many of those cases users simply take the drugs from other people’s medicine cabinets, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration noted in a news release.

In 2010, nearly three-quarters of prescription drug overdoses involved powerful prescription painkillers called narcotics, or opioids (such as oxycodone), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2011, there were more than 420,000 emergency department visits related to the misuse and abuse of prescription narcotics in the United States, a number that nearly doubled over five years, the news release noted. In 2012, more than 12 million Americans abused prescription narcotics by taking them without a doctor’s orders or for reasons other than their original purpose.

This is the eighth Take-Back Day in four years and the previous events have been highly successful, collecting more than 3 million pounds (1,733 tons) of prescription drugs, the FDA said in the news release.

The agency also noted that you should safely dispose of medicines throughout the year. The FDA’s Disposal of Unused Medicine website offers advice on how to do this.

More information Here’s where you can find the National Take-Back Day website.

Robert Preidt

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Bowel Illnesses Sometimes Coincide in Kids

Posted April 23, 2014

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Children suffering from irritable bowel syndrome are four times more likely than other kids to have a condition called celiac disease — an allergy to gluten — Italian researchers report.

More than 2 million people in the United States have celiac disease, or about one in every 133 people, according to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Irritable bowel syndrome, another condition, causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. Some symptoms may overlap with those of celiac disease.

“If you have a child with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, he or she has a four times higher risk of celiac disease as compared to the general population,” said lead researcher Dr. Ruggiero Francavilla, with the interdisciplinary department of medicine, in the pediatric section of the Giovanni XXIII Hospital at the University of Bari.

In celiac disease, the body’s immune system reacts to gluten, causing damage to the small intestine and making the body unable to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. This condition can lead to malnutrition, anemia or osteoporosis, according to the NIDDK.

Gluten is found in wheat, rye and barley and grains derived from them, such as durum, semolina and spelt.

For the new study, Francavilla and colleagues looked at 782 children with stomach problems. Of these children, 270 had irritable bowel syndrome, 201 had chronic indigestion and 311 had stomach pain. All these children were tested for celiac disease.

In all, 15 children tested positive for celiac disease — 12 with irritable bowel syndrome, two with chronic indigestion and one with stomach pain, the researchers found.

Given their findings, Francavilla thinks that only those children with irritable bowel syndrome need to be screened for celiac disease.

“Celiac screening should be addressed only in irritable bowel syndrome children rather than all the population with abdominal pain, since in those with abdominal pain not related to irritable bowel syndrome, the risk of having celiac disease is identical to the general pediatric population,” he said.

Identifying irritable bowel syndrome as a high risk for celiac disease might make screening routine for children with the condition, while not screening all children with chronic stomach pain, Francavilla said.

While the study found a link between having inflammatory bowel syndrome and a higher risk for celiac disease in children, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

The report was published online April 21 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Dr. Mitchell Cohen, co-author of an accompanying journal editorial, said, “We can help diagnose and treat children with celiac disease by screening children with irritable bowel syndrome. However, if the approach is not selective, many children will have false-positive test results that will cause more endoscopy and false worry.”

Routine screening for celiac disease of any child with chronic stomach pain is not recommended. However, selective screening of children with irritable bowel syndrome is recommended, said Cohen, vice-chair of pediatrics for clinical affairs at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Another expert takes a broader view of screening for celiac disease. Dr. William Muinos, co-director of the division of gastroenterology at Miami Children’s Hospital, said, “We always think of the possibility of celiac disease in children with chronic abdominal pain and some bowel dysfunction.”

Muinos added that it’s hard to tell the difference between irritable bowel syndrome and other causes of stomach pain. “It’s a lot of medical history, and perception of the physician.”

In his own practice, Muinos said, he screens most for celiac disease in children who have chronic pain and other symptoms, such as bowel bleeding or vomiting.

“Celiac disease can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome,” Muinos said. “Celiac disease is something you can treat once you find it,” he said.

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Yoga Big on West Coast, Chiropractors Popular in Midwest

Posted April 18, 2014

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 16, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Folks on the West Coast are faithful followers of yoga and meditation. Midwesterners turn to chiropractors or osteopathic doctors for their aches and pains. And nearly one in every five Americans uses herbal supplements like ginseng, Echinacea, ginkgo biloba and St. John’s Wort.

Those are just some of the findings of a new federal government report on complementary and alternative medicine trends in the United States.

The report, derived from national health survey data collected in 2012, shows clear regional trends in the way Americans choose to use complementary medicine, said report co-author Tainya Clarke.

“It is important to continue to monitor the use of these complementary health approaches among the U.S. population, and this is the most recent national data out there,” said Clarke, a service fellow with the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“By highlighting regional differences, we can stimulate further research and help people make informed decisions,” she said.

After looking at data on almost 35,000 people across the country, the researchers found that:

  • Yoga with deep breathing or meditation is about 40 percent more common in the Pacific and Mountain states than in the country overall.
  • Use of chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation is nearly twice as high in the “West North Central region” — from the Dakotas and Minnesota down to Kansas and Missouri — than the rest of the United States.
  • People in the Pacific, Mountain and West North Central states are more likely to use massage therapy, compared with the rest of the country.
  • In general, people living in southern and Mid-Atlantic states have less use for complementary or alternative medicine, the researchers found.

There was one notable exception, however — in all parts of the country, large numbers of people appear to be using herbal dietary supplements.

Use of such supplements ranges from a high of 28.7 percent of Mountain state residents to a low of 13.1 percent in the South Atlantic states.

Herbal supplements constitute the most popular complementary health trend in the United States, according to the report, published April 16 as a NCHS Data Brief. About 18 percent of Americans use herbal supplements, more than double that of the next most popular complementary medicines — chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation (8.5 percent) and yoga (8.4 percent).

The findings are important and will help practitioners of alternative medicine better focus their efforts, said Dr. Molly Roberts, president of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA).

“It is good to see the CDC putting its attention to where Americans are seeking care in today’s marketplace,” Roberts said. “At the AHMA, we feel that listening to our patients is the best way to help them find the healing they need. We applaud this study and are working to create greater dialogue around how we can help transform health care.”

While the new study didn’t look into why these regional differences exist, Clarke said it’s likely the result of several factors such as education, culture and the availability of complementary health services.

For example, people in the Pacific and Mountain states are more likely to use yoga and massage therapy, which both focus on wellness and disease prevention, she said.

“You have a lot of yoga in California and those regions, and you see less evidence of disease treatments like chiropractic care,” Clarke said. On the other hand, people in the Midwest who partake less in wellness practices may be more apt to get injured and need chiropractic manipulation, she added.

The dearth of complementary and alternative medicine use in the South could come down to the fact that such services aren’t offered as frequently there, Clarke added.

“You don’t find as many yoga studios in more rural areas,” she said. “You’re not going to have a lot of other people using some of these complementary health approaches.”

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Getting in Front of Back Pain

Posted April 15, 2014

SATURDAY, April 12, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Even though back pain affects nearly 10 million Americans a year, there’s a lot you can do to avoid the problem, an expert says.

It begins with healthy habits, including not smoking along with maintaining proper weight through good nutrition and exercise. Good posture, balance, strength and flexibility help increase core strength to support the back.

“All these elements can preserve a good back, keep our bones and bodies strong and help the body heal should injury occur,” Kathy Dieringer, a National Athletic Trainers’ Association board member, said in a news release from the organization.

To maintain good posture, keep your shoulders back when sitting, avoid slouching and don’t sit for more than 30 minutes without moving around.

It’s also important to support your back when sitting or sleeping. Sit with your knees slightly bent and higher than your hips. When in bed, try to maintain your lumbar curves and use pillows if necessary, Dieringer said.

Core muscles make up the “powerhouse” in the center of your body, according to the Federal Occupational Health website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Core muscles include abdominal muscles, back muscles and muscles in the pelvic region.

Dieringer advised strengthening your core using exercises such as crunches, modified crunches with weights or medicine balls, planks, bridges and back extensions. When exercising, be sure to work on both lower and upper back muscles. It’s also important to do exercises that help maintain back flexibility.

If you’re inactive, get moving. Walking is a great way to maintain good back health, according to Dieringer.

Remember to lift with your legs, bend at the knees and keep your back straight. Don’t twist when carrying objects. Turn your entire body and keep your hips and shoulders facing the same direction. If you’re doing work — such as gardening — that requires lots of bending or stooping, take frequent breaks and stretch your back when you stand up.

If you do experience back pain, stop your activity, rest and consult your doctor. Ignoring back pain can lead to complications, Dieringer warned.

“By following a healthy regimen to maintain good posture, proper back and body mechanics, your movements should be easy, pain-free and with great range of motion,” she said.

Robert Preidt

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Pain, Pain Go Away: Natural Remedies for Arthritis

Many of us experience minor aches and pains as we get older. But for the 50 million Americans who suffer from arthritis, these aches and pains can range from mild to severe, and can even be debilitating. And contrary to popular belief, arthritis isn't just a disease of old age — two-thirds of people with this condition are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children.

Different Forms of Arthritis

According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis can take many different forms, but three of the most common diseases that make up arthritis are the following:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA): The most common form of arthritis, OA is a progressive joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage. It’s associated with risk factors such as overweight/obesity, a history of joint damage, and age.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): This systemic disease is characterized by the inflammation of the membranes lining the joint. This causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and sometimes severe joint damage.
  • Juvenile arthritis (JA): This umbrella term is used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger.

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States, and according to the Arthritis Foundation, the number of people with this condition will soar in the next 20 years unless the trend is reversed. Fortunately, diet and lifestyle go a long way in preventing and reducing the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.

Natural Helpers

Exercise is one of the most valuable tools in the fight against arthritis. There’s strong evidence indicating that both endurance and resistance exercise provide considerable benefits for people with OA. Exercise is essential for managing weight, which helps to avoid joint injury and lessens the pressure on the joints. In fact, every one pound of weight loss results in a whopping four pounds of pressure taken off each knee!

One of the best approaches to any form of arthritis is to eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods are rich in dietary antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and selenium. Studies show that the risk of RA his highest among people with the lowest antioxidant levels.

Excellent sources of antioxidants include berries (all berries — blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cherries); yellow and green veggies like squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and cabbage family vegetables. Anti-inflammatory pineapple and ginger are also helpful. Studies have show that ginger helps to relieve pain, improve joint mobility, and decrease stiffness and swelling.

Juicing for Arthritis

One effective (and delicious!) way to relieve arthritis pain and inflammation is to juice fresh fruits and veggies that are packed full of nutrients that are beneficial for arthritis. Michael T. Murray, ND, recommends the following fresh juice recipes for arthritis.

Go Away Pain

1-inch slice of fresh turmeric or ginger

1 cup blueberries

1/4 pineapple with skin, sliced

4 celery ribs

Juice the turmeric, followed by the blueberries, pineapple, and celery.

Ginger Hopper

1-inch slice of ginger

1 apple, cut into wedges

3 carrots

Juice the ginger, followed by the apple and carrots.

Pineapple-Ginger Ale

1-inch slice of ginger

1/2 pineapple with skin, sliced

Juice the ginger, then the pineapple.

For more information:

The Arthritis Foundation,

The Complete Book of Juicing by Michael T. Murray, ND (Clarkson Potter, 2013),

© 2014 Living Naturally

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Super Supplements for Joint Health

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. With its gel-like nature, cartilage provides a cushion in the joints and acts as a shock absorber.

When cartilage starts to break down, the symptoms can be subtle-maybe some joint stiffness in the morning or pain that gets worse with prolonged activity. But as osteoarthritis progresses, you may experience tenderness, swelling, and pain. Without cartilage in the joint, bone rubs against bone, causing inflammation, pain, and limited joint motion.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have become the conventional treatment for osteoarthritis, but these drugs only provide short-term relief of symptoms and don’t address the underlying cause of the problem-and they may actually increase the rate of degradation of cartilage in the joints. These drugs are also associated with significant risks and side effects.

Along with regular exercise and a diet packed with antioxidant-rich fresh fruits and vegetables, your local supplement aisle has a lot to offer when it comes to relieving arthritis naturally. Here are a few of our favorite remedies.

Vitamins and More

B vitamins: The B-complex vitamins help to increase blood flow, reduce swelling, and help prevent nerve damage. The B vitamins work best when taken together, so look for a B-complex supplement.

Vitamin C: This vitamin’s anti-inflammatory effects can help to relieve osteoarthritis pain. Look for a formula that contains bioflavonoids to boost the activity of vitamin C.

Omega-3s: Essential fatty acids help increase the production and activity of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, helping to control arthritis pain and inflammation.

SAMe: This naturally occurring molecule delivers sulfur to the cartilage, helping to build strong joints. Without enough SAMe, we can’t maintain healthy cartilage. Research suggests that SAMe may relive joint pain and improve joint function as effectively as drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin.

Glucosamine and chondroitin: These two supplements are made from substances naturally found in cartilage, and they support healthy joints, ligaments, and tendons. Studies show that glucosamine sulfate, alone or in combination with chondroitin sulfate, helps relieve pain, improve joint mobility, and slow damage to the joints from osteoarthritis.

Helpful Herbs

Curcumin, found in the herb turmeric, has potent anti-inflammatory properties. It has been shown to relieve tenderness and swelling of the joints.

Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. Studies show that ginger can help reduce pain levels and improve mobility in people with osteoarthritis.

Boswellia has anti-inflammatory effects and aids in improving the blood supply to the joints. This herb can also be used topically to relieve pain.

Look for these natural arthritis relievers individually, in joint health formulas, and as part of a high-quality multivitamin/mineral supplement.

© 2014 Living Naturally

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