Saturday, November 21, 2009

National epidemic far worse than H1N1

An epidemic far worse than seasonal flu and H1N1 flu combined has swept the United States. To make matters worse, this epidemic is ignored and even supported by large corporations, the media and the government. This epidemic is that of prescription drugs. In fact, prescription drugs now cause more deaths each year in the US than street drug overdoses according to Leonard Paulozzi of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Consider that as of November 17, 2009, worldwide mortality from Swine Flu is 8,118. Deaths in the US from Swine Flu as of that date are 1,918. The CDC reports that over 26,000 Americans die each year from drug overdoses. Deaths in the US due to drug overdoses are more than 13 times more frequent than death from Swine Flu.

This comparison leads immediately to two observations. Firstly, there is no war on prescription drugs. In fact, prescription drug advertising in all forms of media including television continues to increase. Secondly, according to all recent studies, flu vaccines and medications are of no benefit in either reducing the severity of flu symptoms or shortening the time a patient needs to recover from the flu. Further, the use of medications such as Tamiflu may be harmful to some patients according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. The medications can be directly harmful to patients and their use may increase viral mutations to strains that resist any attempt to moderate symptoms.

Influenza has caused morbidity and mortality throughout human history. Some epidemics and pandemics have caused more harm than others. It is human nature to seek ways to ameliorate suffering whenever it appears and this is admirable. We should continue to investigate was in which pain and suffering might be reduced but we have not yet reached the point where this can be safely or effectively accomplished.

Most drug deaths result from addiction to medications used to reduce pain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction to pharmaceutical drugs is the fastest growing segment of this problem. Death from prescription drugs more than tripled between 1999 and 2006. This is truly an unrecognized epidemic that warrants far more attention than the current panic about the flu.

Alternative methods of pain relief will be discussed in future articles.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

How To Avoid Pain

Avoidable pain is frequently associated with injury to muscles, tendons, ligaments, bursae, discs and joints. While it is unlikely to live completely free of these common aches and pains, it is possible to minimize their severity, frequency and duration. There are 4 general rules to accomplish this goal.

1. Maintai
n the biomechanics of your body. This requires a periodic visit to your chiropractor even when you are feeling well. The chiropractor will help restore proper biomechanical alignment to your spine and extremities before any problem becomes clinical.

2. Exercise regularly. Do not over-exercise, however. The goal in exercise is to increase your heart rate but not to get out of breath. For some, this may be as little a
s stretching to maintain range of motion. All joints need motion to assist in repair and maintenance. In fact, studies show that if a good joint is immobilized, it will degenerate. Joint motion brings in nutrients the body needs for maintenance and removes waste product generated by normal activity.

3. Find ways to keep stress levels low. Rest following exercise. Learn relaxation techniques. Take up meditation. Explore Tai Chi. Find activities that promote a calm state-of-mind.

4. Pay attention to nutrition. The body will only maintain and rebuild most effectively based on the nutrients it has available. Foods today don’t contain the same levels of nutrients as in the past. The soil in which foods grow is depleted of some important nutrients. High quality nutritionals from specialized sources (not the supermarket or phar
macy) are critical.

The solution is simple and needs only a little planning. Avoid junk foods and fast foods. Use high quality foods that can be found in natural and organic stores like Whole Foods Markets. Obtain high quality supplements from health food stores or your health care professional, not supermarkets and drug stores. Get some exercise. Find ways to relax. See your chiropractor when needed but no less than once a month. This lifestyle will help keep you pain-free for many years.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Universal Health Care

The United States is the only industrialized country that does not have universal health care. There are an estimated 47 million U.S. citizens without health insurance. This places unimaginable stresses on the emergency departments of most hospitals because that is where people go when they have no other options. Overburdened emergency departments treat a very high percentage of indigent patients because it is against the law to withhold treatment to someone who needs it. This is only one of the factors that drive up health care costs in this country.

Expensive Health System
Current estimates put U.S. health care spending at more than 15% of GDP. This is a greater portion than any other United Nations member except for the Marshall Islands. Yet the U.S. lags far behind much of the rest of the world in both access to health care and quality of health care. Those Americans who do have access are receiving care that currently ranks only 37th in the world. Despite spending far more money than necessary to cover a limited number of citizens, Americans have a lower average life expectancy than those in other industrialized nations with universal health care, such as Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Sweden. Infant mortality rates also remain higher in the U.S., despite declines in recent decades, and are higher than that of the European Union.

Most of the top 10 health care systems in the world are members of the European Union. Those citizens have not suffered from the woes of universal coverage as we've been warned by some commentators and politicians in the U.S. and the insurance industry in the E.U. is not suffering. Having discussed universal health care with a number of people being served by that system, I conclude that there is not now nor will there ever be a mass movement from national health to the U.S. health system. Despite the occasional foreign patient in our hospitals, the vast majority of people living under universal health care would not tolerate changing back to such an anti-democratic health system as the one in this country.

Garbage In; Garbage Out
At present, the United States is attempting to assemble a patchwork of changes designed to make no one happy but irritate as few people as possible. The end result may be slightly better than what we have now but will be far too expensive and inefficient to work. It will be garbage in and we can only expect garbage out after this endless series of compromises. The only winners will be the insurance companies. Such is the state of political polarization in the U.S. This also represents the level of political courage exhibited by our elected officials. Many of them know that the versions being considered in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are far more expensive than necessary and are unworkable. Our legislators are supposed to put the country and its citizens above all else but this is not the situation in Washington, D.C. at the present time. A significant percentage of our elected officials are no more than cowardly politicians masquerading as statesmen. While pretending to protect the citizens of the United States from the dreaded “socialism”, they are, in fact, using that term (misunderstood by most Americans) to scare citizens into supporting a system that benefits only corporations, not real people.

Screwed By Insurance
Currently, several artificial layers of bureaucrats (insurance company employees) are positioned between you and your health care professional. Those layers are there to prevent you from getting the health care you desire when it doesn’t please your insurance company. They are extremely efficient at collecting your premiums but loath to authorize the treatments you need. Further, when treatment is authorized, you are often responsible for paying co-pays, deductibles and any difference between what the doctor charges and what little the insurance company considers “usual and customary rates” (UCR). At this time, most people who think they are covered by good health insurance are actually paying the insurance company and also paying the doctors and hospitals.

There can be no doubt that the health care system in the U.S. urgently needs changed. Insurance companies are an extremely expensive and inefficient method of rationing health care for this nation. Without the profit motive, covering every citizen of the U.S. would not be much more than the current costs for protecting (poorly) only a portion of the population. There are several innovative ways to pay for this health care as exhibited by systems already in place around the world. A peculiarly American system should not be hard to configure but for the trepidation of our legislators and their reluctance to show even a little political courage. Universal health care is the most logical choice for a nation that wants excellent and cost effective health care for its citizens. What we will need are politicians with the courage to become statesmen and place the people of the United States above the profits of insurance companies. They need, also, to rise above an irrational fear of a word, "socialism", they don’t understand. Stop pretending to work on this problem while you are actually looking for ways to explain to the citizens of the United States that they don't deserve the same quality of health care enjoyed by everyone in many other countries.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Nutritional Considerations and Other Things to Remember

I must reiterate that myofascial pain syndromes are not inflammatory processes. Some comorbid conditions that frequently accompany MPS are inflammatory, but treating inflammation will not address the root of the problem. The root(s) of MPS appear to exist in the realms of the biochemical, neurologic and psychosocial. Solutions to this problem will, by the nature of the condition, need to address all those aspects to be successful. Anything less will not achieve the goal of reducing chronic pain. One man did not walk on the moon by himself. There were countless thousands of others who contributed to this success.

High quality nutrients play a critical role in your biochemistry. Some products are mass marketed with cost and convenience as a selling point. Taking a dose once a day is probably not beneficial. Your body frequently takes what it needs from the available supply when it is presented and the rest passes through. This is particularly true with most minerals and the water-soluble vitamins. So these need to be reintroduced periodically throughout the day.

The cost factor is deceptive. There are two ways to determine cost. One reduces to “cost per dose” and the other “cost per amount used”. Cost per dose can be appealing because it focuses on how cheaply you can buy what you need. But there is a problem with this. Without getting into an explanation of stereoisomerism, lets just say that a nutrient that your body uses can have a mirror image that is of no benefit to you. That chemical can also be called by the same name. It is cheaper to sell the non-beneficial one at a low cost. But you aren’t getting the benefit you are buying.

The “cost per amount used” method recognizes a concept called “bioavailability”. This takes into consideration the amount of a nutrient that your body actually absorbs and uses. While this method may appear to be more expensive per dose, it is cheaper based on the actual benefit you derive from it. You absorb and use more of what you are paying for. (My personal opinion is that supplements you find in grocery, drug or mall-type stores do not supply the appropriate quality. For this you need to find a reliable store that specializes in products with high bioavailability. Essentially, you get what you pay for.)

Because myofascial pain syndromes and fibromyalgia are multi-faceted, it is unlikely that any single approach will achieve a complete and permanent remission of symptoms. Your physician can help with physical and nutritional aspects. Clergy in your selected path and/or a psychologist can help with mental and emotional aspects. Your friends, family and support circle are crucial in helping in most of the areas as well as social aspects of your full life. Form a team consisting of your physician, spiritual advisor, psychologist, friends and family to help restore balance to your life. Just as a painting by Michelangelo contains more than one color, so you, as a sufferer from a complex condition, cannot be painted with one large brush. Don’t ignore some parts of yourself in favor of others. All of your uncountable shades must be addressed for the treatment to be complete.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Exercising Your Mind

In my last blog post we talked about the complexity of human beings regarding how health care must be approached in order to be effective. We also talked a bit about physical exercise as a component of health maintenance. Nutritional support in pain reduction was the subject of an earlier post. Today, the topic is the mental aspects of people.

Very little has as much affect on your overall well-being as mental acuity and attitude. This is, as with your health in general, not just the absence of a diagnosable condition. It is more the presence of a number of positive characteristics. The goal is to have a balance between all as
pects of your life; work, rest, recreation, exercise, etc. This takes recognition that good mental health is a result of as many different factors as good physical health. There are quite a number of good books on the subject for both professionals and lay-people.

Staying mentally active means different things to different people. For some, watching cable news stimulates thinking. For others, it may be visiting your favorite museum. I know people who can tell you baseball statistics for a given day. Any mental activity that stimulates your interest is probably helpful in maintaining mental fitness. Several web sites that I have found interestin
g are AddictingGames and Kongregate. They offer a large number of online activities that stimulate the mind. One of particular interest is called 6 Differences. To play this game through AddictingGames, follow "A-G 6 Differences". For the same game through Kongregate, click "K-6 Differences". The object, as the name suggests, is to find 6 differences between two, seemingly identical, scenes. Some differences are easy to find and others are very difficult. Most players, though, seem to enjoy the music and this stimulating activity.

Computer games are another enjoyable way to stay alert. There are a variety of genres under the computer game umbrella such as action, ro
le-playing, battle/war and others. I personally don't feel the need to challenge my reflexes any longer so I avoid those games that involve kill or be killed scenarios. My favorite games are in the problem solving genre. One series of games that has been around for many years is Myst. There are at least five games in the series. All require puzzle solving and integrative skills that help maintain mental acuity.

Whatever you find interesting, it is to your benefit to fi
nd things to do that entertain and stimulate your mind. Myofascial Pain Syndromes and Fibromyalgia are more likely to respond to the multi-faceted treatment plan than to any “take a pill” approach. Next time we’ll briefly discuss the interrelatedness of emotional-social-spiritual aspects of healing.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The Patient as a Holistic Entity

Successful treatment of Myofascial Pain Syndromes must include all aspect of the holistic health care approach. Holistic health is an approach that recognizes that people are not vessels bringing isolated complaints to the doctor but are a complex of the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual components inextricably woven together. Any attempt at healing must take all these aspects into consideration. People are not one of these things or another; but all of these.

Nutrition, as discussed in the previous post, is part of your physical aspect. Another part of your physical life is exercise. Early in most treatment protocols, a mild level of physical activity seems helpful for most patients. Depending on your fitness level; gentle, controlled stretching might be a good place to start. If this is not a challenge, then mild aerobic activity, concentrating on the large muscle groups, is good. Keep in mind that the typical “American” aerobic activity is really anaerobic. Work into more strenuous exercise as your body tells you.

Here is a valuable rule: If, in the middle of your workout, someone says “Hi, how are you?”, you should be able to respond without having to take a
series of deep breaths. If you have to “catch your breath” before responding then you have gone beyond aerobic exercise into anaerobic. This is not your goal. It is uncomfortable and non-productive. Over-exercise isn’t fun and it increases the chance that you’ll burn out and quit exercising. Exercise should be fun!

Beware! You are about to enter a muscle physiology paragraph. I will avoid the bioelectrical chemistry involved in how this happens, but it is important to recognize several facts. One major component of your overall energy
level and THE source of energy for your muscles is a component within each muscle cell called mitochondria. These are microscopic power plants that create the molecules your body uses for energy. The more aerobically fit we are, the more mitochondria are found in each cell. Picture this: A marathon runner has so many mitochondria in each muscle cell that they burn more calories and create more energy while sleeping than most of us do when we’re exercising!

Your body will create as many mitochondria as it thinks it needs. This does not happen overnight and does not happen with anaerobic exercise. Slowly increasing your aerobic fitness over a 3 to 6 month period will change your energy levels and, as a pleasant side-effect, will help you convert body fat to lean muscle mass. For more information on this subject in an easy to read book, look for “Fit or Fat” by Covert Bailey.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the human being is made up of a number of components. Treating the physical aspect alone will make you feel somewhat better but will not completely solve the problem. Mental, emotional, social and spiritual considerations have to come into play. I will continue to discuss these in the next post, “Exercising Your Mind”.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Some Things That Seem To Help

Some patients over the years have responded well to some or all of the following components. I cannot say the patients achieved complete recovery from MPS because remaining pain-free requires a lifestyle change rather than a treatment protocol. A number of patients have maintained this change and enjoy relatively “normal” lives. Others found it too difficult to make the necessary shift in realities. Everyone is different and what works for some doesn’t necessarily work for all.

The first consideration in any comprehensive approach is nutrition. A balanced diet rich in high quality foods is a necessary starting point. Avoid Fast Foods! Become a familiar face at your local farmer’s market. Try to eat whate
ver is in season in your region. But even in the best circumstances, foods grown in our nutrient depleted soils will not supply you with everything necessary to confront MPS. Supplementation with high-quality nutritionals in bio-available forms is crucial. Start with a multi-vitamin/mineral and add in further supplementation as needed.

Helpful nutrients include malic acid, magnesium, manganese and the B vitamins. Malic acid seems to help as a transport molecule to move other nutrients to where they are needed. It also helps facilitate the use of oxygen in energy production.

m, in a chelated form, helps reduce pain and feeds the energy production cycle. It also helps with absorption of other nutrients. Since magnesium can also act as a laxative (like “Milk of Magnesia”), it is important to use chelated or double bond forms rather than oxides or sulfates.

Manganese, in an amino acid chelated form, assists in transporting vital amino acids into your body for use in rebuilding injured soft tissue with less fibrosis. It also has a beneficial affect on brain function. Manganese is a component of SOD (superoxide dismutase); an important enzyme that acts as an anti-oxidant that helps prevent free radical damage to muscles. Keep in mind, though, that while it is essential for human life, too much manganese can cause toxicity with significant symptoms up to and including death.

The B Vitamins, particularly thiamin (B1) and pyridoxine (B6), are useful in neurologic balance and muscular relaxation. They are also critical factors in energy production. In the absence of B Vitamin metabolism, energy levels are depressed. This is one cause of lethargy and muscle fatigue.

I recommend using supplements that are of pharmaceutical grade. These are frequently available through your chiropractor or other non-allopathic health care provider. Avoid supermarket and drug store supplements. These tend to be inferior. Brands I have grown to trust include Metagenics, Anabolic Laboratories and Standard Process. At first glance, these supplements appear to cost more but when you factor in the amount you actually absorb and use, they are the least expensive on the market.

The treatment of Myofascial Pain Syndromes requires a holistic approach. Holism is an ancient health care tradition that was largely forgotten in the last century. It recognizes the patient as an entity comprised of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual components. Without encompassing all these, successful treatment is unlikely. In my next post I will address some of these features.