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Health-E-News. September 2010
empowering you to optimal health

Preventing Back Pain

When it comes to your lower back and injury risk, there are two critical times when you need to be especially careful. One is first thing in the morning. Your back is actually swollen at that time. You are substantially taller, and the discs have extra fluid in them. A careless forward bend or twist first thing in the morning can do substantial damage to your discs or other back structures. It doesn't seem fair that such a simple thing, bending and twisting, something you have done thousands of times before, can suddenly cause big problems.

The other critical time is after you have been sitting. Long car drives or airplane trips are especially challenging. In this case, the culprit is something called "creep." This means that your ligaments and tendons lengthen into the position that you have been in. Think of sitting as a bent-forward position, as your legs are forward. The ligaments and tendons do not provide protection properly when they have been lengthened by creep. When you first get up from sitting, you are at risk. The longer you have been sitting, the higher the risk. If you sit more upright, with good lumbar support, you will have somewhat less risk.

Common Events That Can Cause Back Pain

  • Scenario #1: You didn't sleep well last night, perhaps from sleeping in an unfamiliar bed after travel, after sitting too long. You get up, feel stiff, but ignore it. You sit down in a soft chair to enjoy your morning hot drink. You get up and get a sudden sharp stab in the back.
  • Scenario #2: You get up from sleeping, and sit at your laptop, and get entranced by a video or article. You end up sitting far longer than you planned. You get up, and can't completely straighten up.
  • Scenario #3: You get up from sleeping, drink your morning coffee, which wakes up your gut, and you go to bathroom to empty your bowel. You are a bit constipated, and have to strain. When you get up from the toilet, your back spasms.
    Overnight sleeping, even a good sleep on your favorite bed, leaves your back somewhat swollen. Swollen may be an exaggeration, but the reality is that there is extra fluid in all of your joints.

Two Ways to Minimize Injury/Pain Risk

  1. Don't bend over immediately after sitting. Sitting, even in good posture, puts you at risk. The longer you sit and the worse the seat, the more at risk you are. Airlines are very risky; it's hard to get up and move around because of the tight quarters, and the minute the plane stops, you bend over and get stuff from under the seat, or reach up, and twist and lift to get your bag from the overhead compartment. After a long sit, give yourself at least a few seconds of backward bending and/or moving around to reset your spine. Then you can carefully, using your hips rather than your back, bend over to pick up something.
  2. When you sit, don't slump. Slumping reinforces the risks, makes it more likely for something bad to happen to your discs or joints or muscles. So, sit up straight, and keep your back in neutral. Neutral means that you keep a bit of a lordosis in your lower back, keep the lumbar spine from slumping forward, stay more upright. This simple action can make a huge difference. Like any habit, this will require you to "Just Do It" for a few weeks.


TV Linked to Depression

There are drawback to our increasing dependence on the boob tube, some of which have been documented via research. Studies show that the more television children watch, the more likely they are to become overweight and to have problems with attention span. And according to a recent study involving adolescents, excessive television viewing can do something else: increase the risk of suffering depression, an all-too-common condition with potentially serious consequences.

According to the study, adolescents who reported "more television use had significantly greater odds of developing depression for each additional hour of daily television use. In addition, those reporting more total media exposure had significantly greater odds of developing depression for each additional hour of daily use."

Interestingly enough, the researchers did not find the same relationship to depression for adolescents who were exposed to videocassettes, computer games, or radio. For parents, that's an important distinction, because it means that reducing your children's overall exposure to these items apparently won't cut it; if they're spending excessive time watching TV, reducing that time is what needs to happens to reduce your children's risk of suffering depression.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children be exposed to no more than one to two hours of "total media time" per day. Isn't that a good idea for everyone, regardless of age?


Your Body Is Sending a Message

These days, people are constantly "connected" to their hand-held devices, whether it is their cellular phones, portable video games like Nintendo DS, e-readers such as Amazon Kindle, or they are just using apps on an iPhone. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that young people 8-18 years old spend in excess of seven-and-a-half hours a day using some form of mobile media. As a result, this younger demographic will surely be developing a condition known as forward head posture (FHP).

The picture above shows how the weight of your head effectively changes as your head moves forward. This adds more stress to your spine, wearing your joints out faster, resulting in painful arthritis.

As technology advances in the market of hand-held mobile devices, it's important to understand that where the head goes, the body will follow. If you have forward head posture, then you will have rolled shoulders. With rolled shoulders, a concave chest can follow, and often a pelvic tuck, all of which can contribute to progressive pain and dysfunction over time.

Because the demographic of people ages 13-27 is one of the largest groups of texters, we can expect to see a large increase of medical and chiropractic conditions within the next decade. The amount of time spent in a forward head tilt while texting or gaming, surfing or browsing the Web has increased as hand-held mobile devices such as cell phones, video games, and MP3 players have become smaller, mobile and essentially a direct extension of the person.

Look around you and you will see people with FHP using hand-held mobile device at tables in restaurants, at red lights in their cars, walking through the mall, in line at the grocery store, and even sitting in doctors' reception areas. We are a society that is "connected," now more than ever before, and we are suffering the health consequences.

Of course, forward head posture is not a new condition. Chiropractors have been treating and educating patients on the dangers of FHP for years, and the health conditions that FHP or anterior head carriage contribute to are well-researched and documented.

With all this said, it's important to understand the negative effects of a repetitive stress syndrome and appreciate how many hours you are using your hand-held mobile devices and how many hours your children are using these devices. Talk to us about forward head posture, the dangers of text messaging and other behaviors that put your body in stressful positions, and how you can avoid the pain before it starts.



Scoliosis Affects Health-Related Quality of Life

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) may impact physical and mental health, according to an article published in the journal Spine.

As part of the study, 34,944 twins completed a questionnaire including the Short Form-12 (SF-12) health assessment. All subjects were born between 1931 and 1982. The researchers identified 220 subjects with AIS. Of these, the SF-12 could be calculated in 187 twins.

The authors write: "We found the perceived both mental and physical health status from SF-12 to be moderately but significantly worse than in controls. Approximately 75% of the twins with AIS reported to have the same or a better health than their twin- and age-matched peers."

Spine – July 15, 2010;35:1571-74.


'Western' Diet Tied With ADHD

A 'Western' diet dramatically ups the risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a just-published study of 1,800 adolescents.

According to the researchers, a 'Western' diet includes takeaway foods, confectionary, processed, fried and refined foods. These diets tend to be higher in total fat, saturated fat, refined sugar and sodium. On the other hand, a 'healthy' diet is high in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fish. It tends to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids, folate and fiber.

"We found a diet high in the Western pattern of foods was associated with more than double the risk of having an ADHD diagnosis compared with a diet low in the Western pattern, after adjusting for numerous other social and family influences," says study leader Dr Wendy Oddy.

"When we looked at specific foods, having an ADHD diagnosis was associated with a diet high in takeaway foods, processed meats, red meat, high fat dairy products and confectionary," Dr Oddy adds.

"We suggest that a Western dietary pattern may indicate the adolescent has a less optimal fatty acid profile, whereas a diet higher in omega-3 fatty acids is thought to hold benefits for mental health and optimal brain function."

Journal of Attention Disorders – July 29;Epub.




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