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Month: August 2014

Can Laser Therapy Help My Allergies?

In 1967, a Hungarian scientist using lasers to treat skin cancer in mice noticed that the hair on those mice (which had been shaved as part of the experiment) grew back faster than normal. This observation triggered research into the effects and possible health benefits of applying low levels of laser light to the human body at specific frequencies.

???????????????????????????????????????????????Although it is unclear to scientists exactly how laser treatment works on the body, they have seen effects at the cellular level, including a reduction in the chemicals related to the body’s inflammatory response (such as prostaglandins) and an increase in cellular energy (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate or ATP), which can lead to an upsurge in cell proliferation. These observations have led to low-level laser therapy (LLLT) being used in the treatment of pain and wound healing, and there is some degree of evidence to support this particular application.

While conventional medicine largely acknowledges the potential benefit of LLLT for the treatment of pain and tissue damage, more recent claims that laser therapy can be used to treat allergies have been met with a high degree of criticism. What’s the theory behind using lasers to treat allergies, and is there any evidence that lasers may be effective in this area?

The theory behind laser treatment of allergies is that each allergen (a substance that can trigger an allergic reaction, such as pollen) works at a specific harmonic frequency that can be imitated electronically, causing the body to believe that it is in contact with the real allergen. If a patient is allergic to a particular allergen, then this will cause the immune system to produce a small allergic reaction. When the allergic reaction is triggered, lasers are used to stimulate specific points on the body, in much the same way as acupuncture, in order to strengthen the body and dampen the immune response to a manageable level.

Scientists, including many prominent specialists in the treatment of allergies, say that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support this process and worry that claims are misleading. The California legislature has expressed concern that patients with life-threatening food allergies could be hurt or killed if they believe they have been cured by medically unproven laser treatments. In response, the California state Board of Chiropractic Examiners prohibits licensed chiropractors from using lasers for allergy treatments. However, some allergy clinics specializing in laser therapy report a 70% success rate, and there is a growing amount of anecdotal evidence from satisfied customers. Medical researchers, however, put this down to the power of the placebo effect.

In response to a proposed bill banning the treatment of allergies by chiropractors that was dropped by the California legislature, the California Chiropractic Association (CCA) stated that it didn’t object to a restriction on the use of laser therapy in this area. However, it should also be noted that chiropractors successfully treat allergies using a variety of other techniques, including changes in diet and lifestyle, both of which have proven to be effective.

Other states have yet to take the same legal road as California, so laser therapy for allergies may still be available in some parts of the country. Although there remains no scientific basis for the treatment, advocates point out that it does have a history of success in treating allergies, and this, together with the fact that it is a non-invasive therapy with no known side-effects, may mean that it will remain a potential option for allergy sufferers for some time to come.

What Does it Mean to Be “Double Jointed” and is it Dangerous?

If you have ever seen a contortionist in a circus or know someone who can bend their thumb back far enough to touch their wrist, you have seen an example of someone who is double-jointed. However, the term “double-jointed” is actually something of a misnomer, since the super-flexible person you saw most likely has the exact same number of joints as those of us who are less stretchy. The medical term for this condition is hypermobility, and approximately four to seven percent of the general population has at least one joint that is considered hypermobile.

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Hypermobility describes a situation in which the joints and their supporting tendons and ligaments are far more flexible than usual. This can be due to a number of different causes. Flexibility normally varies depending on age and activity. For example, a 20-year-old is usually more flexible than someone who is 75 years of age. Our connective tissue changes over the years, becoming more inflexible due to the chemical changes and tiny tears it incurs over the course of life. Also, those who use their bodies for performance, such as athletes and dancers, tend to be more flexible than the general population.

Hypermobility tends to run in families, suggesting that it may be at least partially genetic. The shape of your bone ends determines to some extent how far your joints can bend. Those with shallow sockets can bend joints farther. Lack of muscle tone also allows joints to bend more. Pregnant women commonly are more flexible due to the hormone relaxin that the body produces to make the pelvis more flexible in preparation for childbirth. Although these are relatively harmless causes, hypermobility can also be an indication of more serious underlying diseases. Marfan’s syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome are associated with hypermobility. Hypermobility can also contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.

Marfan’s syndrome is a genetic condition involving the development of abnormal connective tissue, such as in the tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, cartilage and bones. Leaky heart valves, poor eyesight (due to weakness in the ligaments supporting the lens) and ruptured blood vessels are common problems associated with this disease. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is also a genetic disease with symptoms similar to Marfan’s. Easy bruising, scoliosis and slack skin are other symptoms common to this disease.

Although hypermobility is not necessarily dangerous in itself, it can cause a number of problems. Joint pain, back pain, muscle pain, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia are all common complaints among those who are double jointed. Treatment includes the use of joint supports, strengthening exercises, anti-inflammatory pain medications and visits to a physiotherapist or chiropractor.

Due to the ease with which people with hypermobility can find their joints out of alignment, regular visits to a chiropractor for an adjustment can help reduce pain and lower the likelihood of further damage. Your chiropractor can also recommend the best exercises to use for strengthening the joint area.

Choosing the Right Lumbar Support

LumSteelcase-Leap-Chair-Lumbar-Supportbar back support products are designed to help prevent neck and back pain, which can lead to pain in other parts of the body as well. Many of these products are pillows or cushions that offer additional support when you are seated for long periods of time.

The lumbar region of the spine is usually referred to as the lower back. It is the area just above your tailbone and below the thoracic (middle back) region. The lumbar area includes your spine and all the muscles, ligaments and tendons surrounding your spine. If your ligaments are pulled or torn, you will experience a lumbar sprain or strain, which can lead to muscle spasms and significant pain in your lower back.

What can cause lumbar sprains and strains? Poor posture, poor lifting technique, obesity, and other health-related factors can contribute. In fact, sitting for long periods without lumbar support can itself aggravate lumbar pain. Finally, one of the greatest contributors to back pain is using the wrong type of chair for your body. Surfaces that are too hard or too soft do not encourage proper posture and do not provide adequate support for your back.

Usually all that is required to relieve lower back pain is sufficient rest, but most of us are unable to rest for long enough to overcome lumbar problems. So preventing these problems with a good lumbar support is essential, especially if you spend significant amounts of time sitting down.

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The first step to choosing the right lumbar support is to ensure that it fits perfectly in the chair you spend the most time in. An even better option is to choose an ergonomically designed chair that includes a built-in lumbar support, or an individual lumbar support that is specifically designed to be used with your chair. “One size fits all” lumbar support products rarely provide any benefits and should be avoided.

Make sure you test the product in the store before you buy it. If you can, sit with the lumbar support for at least 15 minutes to see if it feels good or aggravates back pain. The best lumbar supports are adjustable, so you can fit it to the chair’s height. Ergonomic chairs with lumbar supports included usually allow you to adjust the height and width of the support. Adjustable separate supports are particularly useful if you use more than one chair throughout the day.

Good health is a combination of many factors including your nutrition, preventative care, appropriate corrective care and the small choices you make every day in the course of living. If you have questions about this article, your general or spinal health, please ask. We are here to help!

Preventing Back and Neck Injuries in Young Football Players

When you’re young it’s easy to believe you’re invincible and that accidents and injuries are things that only happen to other people. However, when kids play a contact sport such as football, there’s a very real risk of injuries that can affect them for the rest of their lives.

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Of the more than one 1 million players who participated in 2011, two high school football players died as a result of football-related accidents. However, non-fatal back and neck injuries are far more common. Chiropractors suggest that many of these injuries can be avoided by educating football players about how their spine works and which positions to avoid during play, especially when tackling. Many professional teams even employ their own chiropractors to help prevent and treat injuries.

The majority of serious football injuries are caused by compression of the cervical spine (neck). When players collide during a tackle, the amount of force felt by both players is considerable. However, if a player drops his head before impact, the collision is felt much more keenly, as the flexing of the cervical spine reduces the natural properties of shock absorption in this part of the upper back. Keeping the head up can dramatically reduce the number and severity of neck injuries in young players. Avoiding direct head (helmet) contact with an opponent is also an important part of staying safe and minimizing impact on the neck and upper back.

In addition to good tackling mechanics, warming up and cooling down before and after a game is as important in football as it is in other sports. Muscles that have not been warmed up and stretched before a game are far more likely to strain or tear on exertion. Similarly, cooling down exercises prevent sharp contractions of over-exerted muscles. All good coaches will teach this to their players from a young age.

Conditioning muscles through gym workouts is an important part of most sports. However, there may be a tendency in football for trainers and players to pay special attention to areas of the body that improve performance (such as the legs and upper body) while neglecting the more vulnerable muscles of the neck region. Neck strengthening is an excellent way of reducing the chance of a serious cervical injury, as the muscles will be able to absorb more of the impact of a collision. This is even more true if the player’s head is kept up, as noted above.

Several chiropractic organizations have taken a lead in educating football teams and players at the high school level and beyond to reduce the risk of head, neck and back injuries. Some chiropractors provide free advice to teams and even produce posters and educational messages to post in locker rooms as a natural extension of their chiropractic care in the community. A good ongoing relationship between local chiropractors and high school football teams provides a firm basis for educating young athletes about the importance of spinal health, proper preparation and good playing mechanics.