Nearly 60-80% of the general adult population suffers from low back pain. Yes, that many of us. Annual medical costs associated with this type of injury is reported to be nearly $26 billion in the United States. 85% of male gymnasts have low back pain, as well as 80% of weightlifters, 69% of wrestlers, 58% of soccer players, 50% of tennis players, and 30% of golfers. When the joints are operating properly, when muscles are abnormally activated, and when there is malalignment with movement patterns, optimal muscle performance in the back is compromised.
Low back pain takes place when our spine is not in a neutral position. The low back might round or arch or one might lean forward causing this discomfort. This asymmetry can lead to pressure on certain disks from poor posture and the body communicates with its inflammatory pain response. Sciatica is very common, which occurs when the ruptured disc is placing pressure on the sciatic nerve that runs down the buttocks and then down the leg. Symptoms can range from a dull ache to a stabbing or shooting feeling. If this pain persists for more than 3 months, low back pain is considered chronic.
Movement that involves lifting, pulling, or twisting of the spine can contribute to low back pain. Continued carrying of a purse, bag, or briefcase can cause the low back to assist the upper body to hold the item. Many of us overstuff our bags. Less trips from the car to the house, mean loading up our arms to carry more. Being inactive then suddenly becoming active can make one vulnerable to this pain. Some people are inactive during the week then decide to play golf, surf, or play on their softball team on the weekends. This asks the back to twist and turn with little preparation. When you slouch, your back is supporting your upper body weight. Sitting is a main culprit for low back pain. A good tip for better posture in the seated position is to place the feet on a low stool. The discs in our back do wear and tear from injuries and aging. Being overweight is also added weight for the back.
Back pain can get better with a heating pad or nice warm bath. Bed rest is not recommended because this lack of movement only leads to further inflexibility and reduced muscle tone. Good posture is essential and that starts with strengthening you core, which are the abdominal muscles that actually do wrap all the way around the back area. Planking is a great exercise for this. When sitting, stabilizing the core is important which you can imagine pulling up a zipper on a jacket like pulling up the disks in your back to sit up tall. With the increased amount of sitting people are doing now, using a standing desk or exercise ball or a chair can be simple way to help with slouching. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach which creates a natural arch in the back in this position that can cause you to wake up in discomfort. Keep an eye out for any shoes that cause pain either day of or day after being worn. Sudden twists and turns should be noted as well.
Body mechanics and movement patterns can be fixed. Use your legs not their back for lifting heavy objects, stays at a healthy weight, and makes sure you are conscious of your posture when sitting and standing. Let’s lower that painful 80% of suffering and take care of the bodies we are fortunate to be given.
Ever feel like you can tell the weather forecast based on how your joints feel?? Remember when quirky Aunt Sally used to say, “My knees are hurting, must be a storm coming”?? In our adult lives, we now might relate to her wives’ tale. There may actually be truth to her statement. When barometric pressure changes in our body, weather forecasting becomes our new super power. Feeling increased pain before the weather changes is actually quite common in people with arthritis and chronic pain. Knees, ankles, elbows, and wrists are the popular trouble zones. When mother nature cries, so too can our joints.
There are a couple theories that might explain this. Barometric pressure (air pressure) seems to be the common denominator. This is the weight of the atmosphere around us. Think of what happens to the body when you go up on an airplane. You feel different sensations due to the change of air pressure. Our joints are like a balloon. High pressure makes the joint push against the body and the tissues aren’t able to expand. When this pressure drops, which is what happens before rain, hail, or snow, there is less air and pressure on the body. This causes the tissues to start to expand. We feel this pressure sensation as the tissues put pressure on the joints. The cold weather causes our muscles, ligaments, and tendons to stiffen up. Synovium is the lining of our joints which have nerves at their ends. The nerves become especially sensitive post-surgery, if you have arthritis or fibromyalgia, or if you have had an injury. Think back to the plane. Just like in the airplane, where the pressure in cabin is less, this can result in swollen feet.
Another theory is that the change in humidity and temperature might affect the pressure in our brain. From this, our pain receptors are affected and not doing their blocking job. This aligns with the theory that people with migraines experience weather related headaches.
This does not mean that people with this pressure meter of pain can be alleviated by living in an ideal climate. Even the most minute changes can affect someone. Your body adapts wherever it goes. Warmth can help joint pain, so when it is cold dressing in layers and using a heating pad can be helpful. Loosen up those joints through exercise, because the combination of stiff and cold joints, only worsens the problem. The winter month is not a time to stay cooped up. Those joints need blood flow to ward off pain.
Fortunately, weather related pain is temporary. It comes and goes. We aren’t mother nature, so the weather is not in our control. How we manage our pain is in our control. Taking an Epson salt bath can help or wearing compression socks are two easy options. Dressing in layers and keeping warm can also help and using a heating pad or electric blanket can assist with this. Most people find joint pain relief in warmer climates, so we want to replicate that warmth to the joints. Sitting in a sauna or hot tub can also be a good way to help relieve joint pain if in a cold environment. The key is not to allow your body to be shocked with temperature or pressure changes, which means packing or being prepared. Set yourself up for a better flight or better experience, and the quality of your adventure will be much improved.
We all know the hazards of smoking. The person actually smoking is at risk for many health problems. Secondhand smoke can lead to emphysema and lung cancer. But have you heard of 3rd hand smoke (THS)?? This is the less visible type which consists of all the particles and chemicals that land on basically every surface in the smoking area. It can be on the person’s clothes, in their hair, on the floor, and on the furniture.
There are 11 types of chemicals that when left on surfaces, are considered carcinogens. They’re all bad because these are cancer causing. “Off-gasing” is the terms for when the chemicals have landed on the surface but then release back into the air as gas. It seems toxins are released everywhere from cigarettes. These toxins can then interact with other chemicals in the environment. Toxins then are either inhaled, ingested (they land on food), or absorbed through the skin. Overtime, the toxins continue to accumulate and become more and more harmful. Let’s say a person smokes in their car, obviously these chemicals just keep piling up.
Children are the biggest victims of THS. Children sit and play on the floor. They put their fingers in their mouths and touch surfaces.
It is important to be adamant about not smoking in your home or vehicle to avoid THS. Studies have shown in a house left unoccupied for 2 months, these chemicals were still present. Acidic cleaners, especially vinegar, can help with some of the cleaning.
So what is the best solution to avoid third hand smoke?? Well, quitting smoking. Nicotine is highly addictive, and studies have shown it is nearly as addictive as heroin.
Smokers enjoy the “kick” from inhaling nicotine. The head change from nicotine entering the bloodstream, releases adrenaline and creates a euphoric feeling with dopamine.
Smoking doesn’t just affect the smoker. The cigarette residue remains on clothing, drapes, furniture, just to name a few surfaces. Opening the windows or turning on a fan don’t eliminate the problem. You don’t want to serve a nice dinner on a thirdhand smoke residue kitchen table. The best solution is to maintain a smoke free lifestyle. Even stepping outside to smoke is not the right answer. It is polite to share, but not when it comes to smoking and its plethora of harmful side effects.
Most people at some point of their life have been prescribed antibiotics by their doctor. This medicine helps fight against bacterial infections. They function to either kill or keep bacteria from reproducing. For best results, one should continue the use of antibiotics until the cycle is complete, even if they are feeling better. This medication will not help and should not be used to treat the flu, common cold, sore throat, or for a cough because these are not bacterial infections. The actual word “antibiotic” means “against life”. It is a drug that kills germs. This medication was discovered in the 1920s and prior to that time, people actually died from illnesses like strep throat. By the 1940s, antibiotics became more widely available and used, making surgeries safer and helping people live longer. Now, antibiotics are used to treat skin infections, dental infections, ear and sinus infections, strep throat, bladder and kidney infections, and whooping cough.
Our bodies are full of bacteria, both good and bad. Therefore, sometimes the use of antibiotics can cause digestive problems. The gut contains both the good and bad bacteria and taking antibiotics can cause nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. This could mean that you are allergic to a particular antibiotic. It is also important to note that antibiotics can disrupt the efficiency of those who take birth control. Another downfall of this medication is that they are often readily over-prescribed and overused. Bacteria can adapt and resist this medication over time. It is always important to not skip doses, only take them when your doctor has prescribed them, take them for the full number of days prescribed, and don’t save them for later or lend them to someone else.
There are 7 main types of antibiotics. These include penicillin’s, cephalosporins, macrolides, fluoroquinolones, sulfonamides, tetracyclines, and aminoglycosides. Most of the time they have a trade name and brand name. A doctor will determine which to prescribe based on cost, dosing schedule, side effects, type of infection, and might even perform laboratory tests to decide which is best. Upon picking up the prescription it is important to read the directions and correctly store the medication.
Although antibiotics can do wonders, they are readily overused. The rate of prescribing can be somewhat disturbing. For example, the highest rate of prescriptions is 1.237 per person in West Virginia. In doing so, bacteria are learning how to ward of antibiotics. The CDC has now tracked nearly 20 strains of bacteria that have become resistant. Sometimes we have to let our own body fight the good fight and when symptoms become unmanageable, then the use of antibiotics can step in. The body is resilient and does not need to rely on extra help all the time. We have to pick and choose our battles.