From the monthly archives: "May 2010"

Low back pain can have many sources–organic disease, herniated disks, and over-worked muscles can all cause pain in the lower back.  One factor that many people are unaware of are short, tight muscles.  The hamstrings are one such muscle group that can cause low back pain.

The hamstrings attach to the bottom portion of the pelvis, the ischial tubes, or “sit bones” as they are called in yoga.  When the hamstrings get tight, they pull downward on the sit bones, which in turn causes the pelvis to rotate backward.  As a righting compensation, the lumbar spine (low back arch) will decrease its natural arch and flex somewhat forward causing a straightening of the lumbar curve.  This straightening increases the compressive forces of the intervertebral disks, causing stress, pain and risk for disk herniation.

One simple answer is to stretch your hamstrings–but NOT like your PE teacher taught you in the sixth grade.  Reaching down to touch your toes merely increases the pressure on the lumbar spine–this can cause a herniated disk in susceptible people.  If you’ve ever heard somebody say that they’ve “thrown out” his or her back by bending over to pick something up, tight hamstrings was very likely a part of the equation.

This does not have to be you.  The solution is stretching your hamstrings regularly.  When it comes to stretching the hamstrings, there is a right way and a wrong way.  Watch the video above to learn the proper way to stretch your hamstrings.  If you are suffering from low back pain and need a chiropractor in Los Angeles, West Hollywood or Beverly Hills, please visit my sports chiropractic office to get low back pain relief.

Step right up folks, and get a glimpse of the incredible smokin’ boy. Come one, come all—see this hearty little Indonesian smokestack puff away as his parents watch. Better yet, mom and dad supply the goods.  The two-year-old toker has a 40 cigarette-a-day habit. You heard right, two packs per day for this tabbacky smokin’ toddler.  His parents say he’s addicted—take away his smokes and he goes into fits, slams his head on the floor and gets sick.  Cute little bugger. Your heart will warm over when you see the little rolly polly attempt to blow a smoke ring. You’ve got to see it to believe it, folks! Come on up and buy yer tickets here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you: The Incredible Smoking Boy!

Actor Gary Coleman of Different Strokes fame died this morning as a result of injuries suffered from a head trauma.  According to TMZ, Coleman suffered from an intracranial hemorrhage sustained in a fall in Utah on Thursday at around noon.  Paramedics transported Coleman from his home to the hospital where he was put on life support.  Apparently his wife Shannon made the decision to pull the plug.  He was 42. 

Coleman led a tumultuous life, having financial troubles, legal problems, and run-ins with fans and the media.  Coleman suffered from a congenital kidney disease, which stunted his growth at an early age.  He continued to have health problems into his adult life, suffering from a seizure on the set of The Insider earlier this year, his second one in 2010.

There will be a press conference at 3pm today from the hospital to discuss more details of the death.

What’choo talkin’ ’bout Willis: RIP Arnold.

An over-the-counter weight-loss drug has been implicated in causing rare cases of liver disease, U.S. health officials said on Wednesday.  The drug, orlistat—available by prescription as Xenical, and over-the-counter (OTC) as Alli—has been reported in 13 cases of severe liver damage.  With some 40 million people worldwide taking the drug, a few experts think it’s not much to worry about.  But I do—I’ve been warning about Alli for well over two years, and now this.

Investigators are currently uncertain if orlistat is actually causing the liver disease or if there is just an association; some think there might have been a contamination, while others blame the problem on the “slower metabolism” of some its takers.  Heavens.

The FDA started a review of orlistat for possible incidents of liver damage in August 2009. That announcement followed reports of 32 cases of serious liver injury, including six cases of liver failure between 1999 and October 2008. Two of those cases occurred in the United States.

Most of those patients complained of  jaundice, weakness and abdominal pain—all signs of hepatic (liver) damage.  27 of the 32 cases were bad enough to require hospitalization.  The cases reported yesterday, were all rated 4 or 5 in the Drug Induced Liver Injury Network scoring system.  Said an FDA official, “Basically, a ‘5’ means resulting in death or liver transplantation, and a ‘4’ means it was severe and required hospitalization.”

I touched on this OTC weight-loss drug in my podcast on lifestyle drugs (Episode 3) in August 2007.  I said even then that the side effects looked harrowing, as the drug’s label warned against wearing white pants while on the medication, since Alli could cause an uncontrollable case of the runs.  Nice.

I asked the question then, “Would people really rather poop their pants than change their diets and go to the freakin’ gym?”  Dang!  And here we are two years later with “some people metabolizing orlistat differently” such that they are at risk for severe liver damage.  Again I ask, would you rather take that risk, regardless of how small, for something you can do on your own?  That is amazing to me.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I do not subscribe to the I-just-can’t-lose-weight-no-matter-what-I-try theory.  Bull pits!  That is a physiological impossibility, easily provable…yet not necessary, because, ultimately, it’s just an excuse.  I find it much more useful to either make the commitment, and then do the work, or just accept one’s obesity—LOVE IT!  Why choose severe liver damage over anything else?  Yes, you are going to die…so am I…so are the doctors who are telling you to take the diarrhea drug for weight-loss…we all are.  What makes you think one way is better than another?  At least you get to go out doing what you love—eating.  Beats dying with poop all over your white pants.

And to think, some experts are shrugging this off by saying it’s only 13 in 40 million.  What a freakin’ world we live in.

Upper back pain is becoming more and more common as computers play a bigger part in our daily lives.  I recently showed you how chiropractic adjustments can help relieve upper back pain.  Another useful approach to use in combination with chiropractic care is physiotherapy, including electric muscle stimulation, heat and deep tissue massage.

Sports chiropractors will use various modalities to help reduce muscle spasm and soreness of the upper and mid-back.  Electric muscle stimulation, or e-stim as it is sometimes called, helps reduce spasm by puttin the muscles in a brief and alternating contracted state.  This contraction/relaxation cycle is actually necessary to break the neurological disruption that is preventing the muscles from relaxing on their own.  Some medical doctors attempt to do this with muscle relaxant drugs (albeit through a different mechanism), but electric muscle stimulation is a physical modality to address a physical problem.  Watch the video above to see e-stim in action.

Heat helps by bringing blood to the area, which also allows muscles to relax.  Once the e-stim and heat therapy is complete, a session of myofascial therapy, or deep-tissue massage does wonders at breaking up knots, trigger points, sore areas, and any adhesions in the muscle tissue.  Then, the pièce de résistance, of course, is the chiropractic adjustment, which opens the stuck joint and brings normal movement back to the spine.

Watch the video to get a taste of what you can expect in a sports chiropractic office where you might be getting treated for upper and mid-back pain.  If you find yourself in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills or West Hollywood, please come visit my chiropractic office to get relief for your upper back pain woes.

Hey! Listen up!  .  Wha…huh?  You heard me, earplugs—taking erectile dysfunction drugs can deafen you.  Oh…

According to a recent study out of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, there may be an association between the onset of hearing problems and the use of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE-5i), which includes Viagra, and Cialis.  This has been known since 2007 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued labeling adjustments for these medications to more prominently display warnings about hearing loss risks.  This followed reports of sudden hearing loss that year among users of these drugs.  The current study simply confirms the connection.

The finding stems from an analysis of survey data concerning more than 11,500 men over the age of 40 that had been collected by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality between 2003 and 2006.
They found that men who said they used PDE-5i drugs had twice the risk for developing hearing loss as those who did not.

Although more studies need to be conducted, scientists believe that it has to do with the original use for the drugs, which was as a medication for pulmonary hypertension.

“PDE-5i medications work in erectile dysfunction patients by their ability to increase blood flow to certain tissues in the body,” said one researcher. “It has been hypothesized that they may have a similar effect on similar tissues in the ear, where an increase of blood flow could potentially cause damage leading to hearing loss.”

Well, for now I guess it’s a choice men have got to make.  Something tells me I know which one will be most popular.  Huh?…

It’s Lima time no more.  Former Major League Baseball pitcher, Jose Lima was found dead at 6am this morning, an apparent victim of a cardiac arrest; he was 37.

The man famous for his on-field antics was found collapsed at his home by Pasadena paramedics at 6am Sunday morning.  His family says that he exhibited no signs of ill health, and he was out with them Saturday night and dancing later that evening.

Lima played thirteen years in the Major Leagues, pitching for Detroit, Houston, Kansas City and the New York Mets.  He pitched for Los Angeles in 2004 (his only season with the team), winning thirteen games and giving the Dodgers their first playoff victory since 1988.  Although often despised by opponents, teammates learned to love the high-energy hi-jinx of Lima, as they realized that was truly who he was.

“He was a showman, a hot dog. But he’d win games; and I think a lot of times, it wasn’t his ability but his ability to will himself to do it,” Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said. “In talking himself into it, I think he sort of intimidated some of the opposition too.”

Lima last season in the Majors was with New York in 2006.  He did a stint with some minor league teams, including Long Beach in 2009, with the hopes of being picked up by a big league club.  His agent Dan Evans told the Los Angeles Times, that despite being a tough transition for most players, Lima actually embraced it.

He is survived by his five children and a brother, Joel, a Dodgers minor league player, the Dodgers said. He was divorced. 

Well, you know what I think when young people drop dead of cardiac failure…cocaine.  There I said it.  I hope I’m wrong, but in the absence of some unknown heart dysrhythmia, drugs are probably to blame.  As an athlete, it’s unlikely that he had coronary disease.  With five children, a divorce, and end to his baseball career…well, it’s the most likely candidate in my estimation.  Call me crazy.

Anyway, an autopsy will be performed shortly, and the cause of death should be uncovered then.  Either way, we’ll miss Jose Lima–players like him make the game fun to watch.  RIP Lima Time.

Doing yoga helps cancer patients overcome sleep problems.  So says a recent study to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to be held in Chicago this June.  According to the study, yoga also improved quality of life, reduced fatigue and reduced the need for sleep medications in cancer survivors.  Now how ’bout that?

The study looked at 410 patients who had finished treatment two to 24 months before and who had reported greater-than-average sleep disruptions (80% of cancer patients have trouble sleeping while undergoing treatment, and about two-thirds say the problems persist after treatment ends). Almost all of the participants were women, and three-quarters had had breast cancer, although the cancer had not spread. None had done any yoga in the past three months.  Participants were randomized to either receive regular follow-up care for cancer survivors or to receive regular care plus two 75-minute sessions of yoga per week for four weeks.

Emphasis was on doing postures (asanas) breathing from the diaphragm rather than the chest (pranayama) and on mindfulness, visualization and guided meditation.
Here are the results:

  • 22% of yoga participants reported improvement in sleep quality, while only 12% of controls reported the same
  • 31% of yoga participants who had started out with clinically impaired sleep quality recovered vs. only 16% of controls
  • 42% in yoga group had reduced fatigue, compared to only 12% in the control group
  • 20% of yoga participants had reduced daytime sleepiness, while only 5% of controls had the same 
  • 6% on average in yoga group reported their quality of life improved, while none in the control group did
  • While the yoga group was able to get by with less sleep medication, people in the control group actually used more.

Pretty amazing, but not surprising.  I know firsthand the multitude of health benefits of practicing yoga, as I have been involved in my own practice for 10 years.  What is remarkable is the degree and rapidity with which cancer survivors respond to yoga practice.

The combined focus on physical activity, mental focus and breathing is a recipe to benefit all people.  Yoga has been around for thousands of years precisely because it has taught people a way of enhancing their life forces.  If yoga has the ability to transform the lives of cancer survivors, then it certainly has the ability to do the same for you and me.  I’m doing yoga daily; I encourage you to do the same.  Yoga will transform you.

Shoulder pain can be debilitating.  When it hits, you need relief…fast.  Since a number of things can cause shoulder pain, like shoulder impingement, rotator cuff syndrome, and frozen shoulder, it’s wise to get yourself checked out, preferably by a sports chiropractor.  But until you can get into a chiropractic office, the best thing you can do to relieve your shoulder pain is to ice it.

Icing a sore shoulder can be done at home with a pre-made ice pack, which I carry in my Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood chiropractic office, or you can make one at home.  Watch the video above to learn exactly how to ice your sore, painful shoulder before you get in to see your sports chiropractor.

Well, parents–Mozart won’t make your kids smarter–sorry. I know, I know what you’ve heard: classical music improves brainpower. Well, it’s wrong. So says a recent Austrian study that looked over 3,000 subjects.

According to psychologists at the University of Vienna, who looked at over 40 studies and unpublished research, there is no evidence that listening to Mozart will do anything for anyone’s cognitive powers.

Researchers report that they could find no psychological or cognitive benefit to listening to Mozart music, despite a famous 1993 study claiming it does. The study, published in Nature, showed a link between listening to Mozart and improved spatial task performance (judging distances, depth, direction, motion and mental rotation).

Following the ’93 study, parents, day-care centers and schools rushed to purchase Mozart and music by other composers to start exposing children to classical music. But these recent findings show that this notion is a myth.

Aw well, it was worth a try folks. But, you know, think about it–were Europeans in general, and Austrians more specifically, spatially advanced relative to people from other cultures? Wouldn’t the myth of classical music enhanced brain power suggest just that? Uh…DUH!

No doubt music is nourishment for the soul. And it might even have cognitive and psychological benefits, but how one type of music is more beneficial than another is just silliness to me. Music, like all art, is subjective. The vast variation of the world’s music, throughout all of history, should attest to that. Musical tastes differ among people and cultures; yet we are all moved by music, and that has to have some effect.

Music probably has more of an effect on spirit and soul than on brain development, but good luck in proving that one. By my estimate, music inspires all of us in one form or another. I personally don’t need it to improve my children’s spatial cognition. If it inspires their hearts, then that’s good enough for me.

It’s the 50th Anniversary of the birth control pill. Happy Anniversary!!! Oral contraceptives survived puritanical objections in the 1960s to become women’s first choice in protection. Yay! Woohoo! Yipee!

But wait–it’s not all cake and champagne for the Pill. Recent reports say that the Pill may lower sex drive in women who use it. Doh!

That’s right, a recent study out of Germany showed a relationship between oral contraceptives and loss of libido. The study, published in the May 4th issue the Journal of Sexual Medicine, looked at more than 1,000 female medical students in Germany found that women who used hormonal methods of birth control–mostly oral contraceptives–had lower levels of sexual desire and arousal than women who used non-hormonal methods like condoms or no contraception at all.

Coming from a questionnaire assessing sexual function, the study does not show a causal relationship between using the Pill and lowered sex drive, it merely shows an association. Further studies will be needed to determine if the hormonal changes caused by the Pill actually lead to decreased female sexual desire.

During a woman’s menstrual cycle, hormones fluctuate, causing sexual drive to ebb and flow along with them. At ovulation, sexual desire is at its highest. The Pill blocks ovulation with a surge of hormones, fooling the body into thinking it’s pregnant–no need to ovulate if fertilization has already occurred.

Researchers believe that free circulating testosterone is responsible for sex drive in women. Although still uncertain of the connection, testosterone has been shown to relieve a form of female sexual dysfunction called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). The Pill, think researchers, affects the circulation of free testosterone in the blood, leading to loss of libido.

Several criticisms of the study point out its limitations. First, study participants were asked only whether they were in a stable relationship, not how long they had been in a relationship. One critic points out that it is well known that sexual frequency and desire tend to plummet over time. Kim Wallen, an Emory University professor of psychology and neuroendocrinology, says:

“We know that long-term relationships increase the risk of female sexual dysfunction–a condition easily treated with a new partner, which is many times more effective than any drug or hormone.”

Word to that, Kim Wallen. Another weakness of the study is that is was observational and not controlled. Women were not assigned methods of contraception, they had already chosen them. There could be an underlying predisposition for women with lowered sex drives to choose oral contraceptives over other methods of birth control.

Finally, some believe that characterizing lowered sex drive as a dysfunction is erroneous, as it may simply be relational. Hmmm…I’d have to agree with that one. Some people want it more than others, no doubt. But as far as correlations go, I think this is an interesting one. What they’ve got going for them on this study is it was the largest of its kind to look at this question, and it took a homogeneous group–German women of the same age, educated, and relatively healthy–and found an interesting correlation. I think the scientist may be on to something here.

Anyway, I think this whole deal has a sort of ironic twist to it, don’t you? No better way to prevent pregnancy than not doing it. I guess in that regard the Pill has hit its mark. Happy Birthday Pill.

It’s been a while since I touched on the subject, but a new survey shows that people over 45 are having less SEX, and feeling less satisfied than they were ten years ago. They also happen to be more open to sex outside of marriage…hmmmm. The survey conducted by the AARP was completed by 1,670 Americans, 45 years and older. The results were compared to the same survey given in 1999 and 2004. Ten years ago 41% of respondents said non-marital sex was wrong, while only 22% said so on the new survey. Despite this openness among the middle aged and elderly, as a whole, their sexual activity has decreased by 10% since 2004. Further, five years ago 51% of this set responded that they were satisfied with their sex lives; however, only 43% said so on the new survey. As an interesting twist, unmarried people in relationships had sex more frequently and with more satisfaction than respondents who were married. According to the AARP’s sex and relationship expert, sociologist Pepper Schwartz, “Long-term married couples may get a little less interested. Older people in non-married relations work harder at it and enjoy it more.” As far as gender differences go, no surprises here: Men think about sex and engage it more often than women, and are about twice as likely as women (21 percent versus 11 percent) to admit to sexual activity outside their primary relationship. Men are more than five times as likely as women to say they think of sex at least once a day, and nearly three times as likely to say they engage in self-stimulation at least once a week. But unfortunately, only 12 percent of the survey’s sexually active single males reported using condoms. Tsk, tsk geezers–no glove, no love applies to you, too. The clap shows no age preference. So now you know. Finally, when asked what would improve their sex lives:

  • 20% of the women and 37% of the men said better health
  • 14% of the women and 26% of the men said better personal finances.

Ah, always the struggle between cash and capability. I find these survey results very interesting, and we can speculate in every kind of direction as to what is causing the trend. For instance, Ms. Schwartz, the sociologist evaluating the survey believes that the decrease in sexual activity is due to the recent economic downturn. And judging by the small number of responses to the affirmative (mentioned above), one could make that connection. But perhaps there is more. Maybe the growth of the internet, and the availability of sexually explicit material make it easier for people (men, mostly) to have their urges and desires satisfied. Since I know from the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy) that nothing is ever really missing, then sexual energy must also be conserved. Hmmm…people over 45 aren’t having sex with each other, then where are they having sex? Further, with privacy being factored into the equation, it would make sense that men (the gender increasingly more satisfied with their sex lives, compared to women according to Dr. Stacy Tessler Lindau, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago), more than ever before, can engage in sexual activity (albeit with their computers) without the possibility of embarrassment. And according to experts, men are not the only ones consuming online porn. Women also consume pornography, although they increasingly prefer written material. Increased use of online pornography could be at least one factor accounting for this survey’s findings…including the increased liberalism toward non-marital sex. Nothing wrong with that, just a transformation of where and how people are experiencing sex, if my thoughts are correct, that is. If I am right, then we can all rest securely knowing that we are operating within universal laws of conservation. Now that’s something to be satisfied with.

Upper back pain is one of the most common maladies entering chiropractic offices today. From sitting hours in front of a computer to your favorite reading book, many of our daily postures cause sore, aching upper backs. There is a quick and long-lasting solution: Chiropractic.

Through chiropractic adjustments, muscle stimulation and release, as well as rehabilitation stretches and exercises, a sports chiropractor can help you relieve acute or chronic upper back pain effectively. In my Beverly Hills, Los Angles and West Hollywood chiropractic office, we provide safe, and comfortable chiropractic adjustments to the spine, while treating the muscles to remove pain. A little heat or ice to relax the muscles and break inflammation and your upper back pain will be a thing of the past.

Don’t suffer with that nagging upper or mid-back ache any longer. Visit a sports chiropractor for a long-term solution.

Enigma time: stomach cancer is up in young white adults, while rates in all other adults has declined. In fact, the chances of developing this cancer among 25 to 39 year old whites has climbed by almost 70% in the past 30 years. Although the risks for developing this cancer in young adults is still very low, the racial differences has scientists baffled.

According to a recent study by the National Cancer Institute, which examined new cases of cancer in the lower stomach from 1977 to 2006, the incidence for young white adults rose from .54 per 200,000 to about 1 per 200,000. At the same time, the incidence of lower stomach cancer in young black adults actually declined by about 42%. The rates for other races also declined, but numbers were not specified.

The study focused on lower stomach cancer and not upper stomach cancer, which has been linked with gastric reflux. These two cancers together are the fourth most common type of cancer worldwide. In American men, stomach cancer is among the top 10 most common cancers in blacks, Asian-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians. It’s also among the most common cancers in Asian-American women.

Lower stomach cancer is thought to result from chronic infection with the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, the same bacteria responsible for many stomach and peptic ulcers. It has also been linked with diets high in salt and salt-preserved foods (cured meats, fish, beef jerky, etc.) and low in fresh fruits and vegetables. The incidence of lower stomach cancer has historically been higher in Asia and other countries where salt-preservation of food is more common.

Stomach cancer rates have been declining around the world, however, due to improved food preservation methods and better hygiene. This makes the increase seen young white adults so much more perplexing. Experts believe that increased salt intake among all young adults has something to do with it, but further investigation is needed.

I think that proving a dietary connection will be difficult, as eating habits among varying races in the U.S. can’t be all that different to account for such a change. I’d like to propose a mental component to this increase in stomach cancer among young white adults. There is no denying that the mind influences the body, and it is a long neglected aspect of health in general. American culture is far too intertwined to account for a non-genetic behavior difference as what we are seeing here. I do believe, though, that psychological patterns can be developed among groups or cohorts. It is an area that we would be wise to investigate in health care–an unexplored frontier, if you will; one I am certain will be the next gateway to understanding.

Low back pain can be caused by a number of things, but one of the most common disorders I see in my West Hollywood sports chiropractic office happens to be a gait dysfunction. Our gait–or the way we walk–is dependent on a number of factors, one of which is the structural make-up (or breakdown) of our feet.

One such dysfunction is called overpronation, which is an excessive turning out of the feet from the heel during the gait cycle. Overpronation is usually the result of flat feet or collapsing arches. This excessive turning out causes a dysfunctional chain of events up the legs and to the low back. Some common symptoms, along with low back pain, are shin splints, sciatica, tight hips, and poor posture, among other things.

The answer to low back pain caused by overpronation is to have custom orthotics made for your feet. We cast orthotics in my West Hollywood chiropractic office, and within two weeks you’ll a comfortable and effective pair of shoe insert arch supports that are made specifically for your natural arch.

Please watch the video above to see overpronation in action, and a sample of custom-made orthotics. If you are having low back pain and you suspect that your feet may be part of the problem, please contact your local chiropractor today. If you are in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Los Angeles you can contact this chiropractor and we’ll evaluate your feet so you can kick low back pain to the curb.

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