Back pain: we’re treating it all wrong

Imagine a medical condition that becomes worse the more it’s treated – let’s call it Malady X. Millions are spent on expensive therapies, on surgery, injections and pills, yet Malady X continues to strike down the young and the old, and especially the poor.

In less affluent times, Malady X sufferers kept working because they had no choice. In most cases their trouble eventually went away.

But then the world became richer, people exercised less and medicine became more sophisticated. Paradoxically, this has caused Malady X – otherwise known as low back pain – to become a bigger problem.

In fact, it’s now the number-one cause of disability worldwide, with the proportion of global disability due to low back pain doubling in the past 25 years. (In Australia, it causes more disability than lung, bowel and breast cancer combined.)

Full story at Medical Xpress

How busy hands can alter our brain chemistry

“Admiring your own handiwork” is a familiar expression containing an important truth about the mind. We handed this particular story to our Tony Dokoupil: 

Are you the kind of person who actually likes washing dishes? How about folding laundry? Yardwork?

What all these have in common, of course, is they occupy our hands. And as it turns out, some researchers think that may be key to making our brains very happy.

“I made up this term called ‘behaviorceuticals,’ instead of pharmaceuticals, in the sense that when we move and when we engage in activities, we change the neurochemistry of our brain in ways that a drug can change the neurochemistry of our brain,” said Kelly Lambert, a neuroscientist at the University of Richmond.

Full story at CBS News

Mediterranean diet is linked to higher muscle mass, bone density after menopause

The heart-healthy Mediterranean diet also appears to be good for an older woman’s bones and muscles, a new study of postmenopausal women in Brazil finds. The study results will be presented Monday at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meeting in Chicago, Ill.

The researchers reported finding higher bone mass and muscle mass in postmenopausal women who adhered to a Mediterranean diet than in those who did not. This way of eating involves a high intake of fruits and vegetables, grains, potatoes, olive oil and seeds; moderately high fish intake; low saturated fat, dairy and red meat consumption; and regular but moderate drinking of red wine. The Mediterranean diet has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and certain other chronic diseases.

Few studies, however, are available about the Mediterranean diet and its effects on body composition after menopause, said the study’s lead investigator, Thais Rasia Silva, Ph.D., a postdoctoral student at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. This information is important, she said, because menopause, with its decline in estrogen, speeds a woman’s loss of bone mass, increasing her risk of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis and broken bones. In addition, menopause and aging reduce muscle mass. Silva said declines in skeletal muscle mass and strength in older people are major contributors to increased illness, reduced quality of life and higher death rates.

Full story at Science Daily

How to treat muscle knots

Muscle knots are small, bump-like areas of muscle that can be painful to the touch. The medical term for muscle knots is myofascial trigger points. These knots occur when muscle fibers or the bands of tissue called fascia underneath them tense and tighten.

Doctors classify trigger points as either active or latent. With active trigger points, a person does not have to touch the trigger point itself for it to be painful. Latent trigger points are only painful if someone presses them.

Myofascial trigger points can cause pain and affect range of motion, so the individual should always aim to treat them early. Learn more about treatment and prevention in this article.

Full story at Medical News Today

Middle back pain: Causes and relief

Middle back pain refers to pain or discomfort in the thoracic spine — the region of the back between the rib cage and the base of the neck.

In this region, there are 12 spinal disks, several vertebrae, and many muscles and ligaments. Any of these structures can become irritated or damaged, leading to middle back pain.

Read on to learn more about the causes of middle back pain and discover techniques to find relief.

Full story at Medical News Today

Pedometer health boost lasts four years

Wearing a pedometer to count your daily steps can keep you healthier and more active for as long as four years after using it, a new study shows.

Researchers followed more than 1,000 people aged between 45 and 75 who wore pedometers and had health advice over two 12-week walking schemes.

The people who used the pedometers were still more active three to four years later than they were before they started the trial.

It’s the first clear evidence that using a pedometer has lasting health benefits for up to 45 months later, says Professor Christina Victor at Brunel University London.

Full story at Medical Xpress

Lifting therapy caps proves a load off Medicare patients’ shoulders

Beers, a retired railroad engineer who lives outside Sacramento, Calif., has a form of Parkinson’s disease. The treatments slow its destructive progress and “he will need it for the rest of his life,” Morse said.

But under a recent change in federal law, people who qualify for Medicare’s therapy services will no longer lose them because they used too much.

“It is a great idea,” said Beers. “It will help me get back to walking.”

Full story at News Medical

Prosthetic limbs represented like hands in brain

The human brain can take advantage of brain resources originally devoted to the hand to represent a prosthetic limb, a new UCL-led study concludes.

Among people with only one hand, the brain area that enables us to recognise hands can also recognise a prosthetic hand, particularly among those who use a prosthesis regularly, according to the new Brain paper.

The study provides the first account of how artificial limbs are represented in the brains of amputees.

“While the use of a prosthesis can be very beneficial to people with one hand, most people with one hand prefer not to use one regularly, so understanding how they can be more user-friendly could be very valuable,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Tamar Makin (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience).

Full story at Medical Xpress

Scientists use nanotechnology to detect molecular biomarker for osteoarthritis

For the first time, scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have been able to measure a specific molecule indicative of osteoarthritis and a number of other inflammatory diseases using a newly developed technology.

 This preclinical study used a solid-state nanopore sensor as a tool for the analysis of hyaluronic acid (HA).

HA is a naturally occurring molecule that is involved in tissue hydration, inflammation and joint lubrication in the body. The abundance and size distribution of HA in biological fluids is recognized as an indicator of inflammation, leading to osteoarthritis and other chronic inflammatory diseases. It can also serve as an indicator of how far the disease has progressed.

“Our results established a new, quantitative method for the assessment of a significant molecular biomarker that bridges a gap in the conventional technology,” said lead author Adam R. Hall, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist.

Full story at Medical Xpress

JAMA Study: Opioids No Better Than Nonopioids in Improving Pain-Related Function, Intensity for Chronic Back Pain, Hip/Knee OA

APTA’s #ChoosePT opioid awareness campaign makes the case that opioids simply “mask” pain—but a new study in JAMA has concluded that the drugs probably don’t even do that much, at least not any more effectively than nonopioid medications. The research, which focused on individuals with chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis (OA) pain, led authors to an unequivocal conclusion: there’s no support for opioid therapy for moderate-to-severe cases of those types of pain.

The published findings are based on a study of 240 randomized patients in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system who reported chronic back pain or knee or hip OA pain, defined as daily moderate-to-severe pain for 6 months or more with no relief provided by analgesic use. Participants were divided into 2 groups: 1 that received an opioid regimen, and a second group that received nonopioid drugs.

To more closely resemble real-world treatment, researchers used a “treat-to-target” approach that stepped up the drugs as needed for participants to reach identified goals. The opioid regimen began with immediate-release morphine, hydrocodone/acetaminophen, and oxycodone, but the regimen could advance to sustained-action morphine and oxycodone, and on to transdermal fentanyl. The nonopioid approach began with acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), but it could move on to topical analgesics and finally to drugs requiring prior authorization (such as pregabalin and duloxetine), including tramadol. All participants also were permitted to pursue nondrug treatment during the study, but researchers did not evaluate data related to those treatments.

Full story at APTA