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Can a massage help chronic pain?

Chronic Pain Relief through MassageLet’s first look at the word chronic. It is an adjective that means, essentially, ‘happens a lot for a long time.’ Funny enough, you never hear of chronic wealth, chronic love or chronic luck. Nope. It’s chronic pain and chronic illness that pervade. And that little language idiosyncrasy is no accident. While few of us will ever experience long-lasting wealth, almost half of us will experience chronic pain at some point in our lives.

So what do we do about it?

Some people turn to pills. But using painkillers with frequency is a slippery slope. Not only are they habit forming, but overtime they lose their effectiveness and patients are driven to use more and more. Some people turn to surgery. Particularly with all-too-common back pain, surgery should be an absolute last resort. Surgery is costly, risky and the chances of success are far from perfect.

Instead, consider massage therapy. Here are three ways that massage can help chronic pain.

1. Massage reduces muscle tension.

What if you could never relax? Well, that’s what happens to your muscles when you’re in chronic pain; the muscles are in a constant state of tension. These muscles then press on nerves, which causes that pesky pain. Massage can help that. Through various techniques of needing and stretching, the muscles can finally relax.

2. Massage improves circulation.

Not only do tense muscles press on your nerves, the tension prevents blood from properly circulating throughout your body. This is another sources of chronic pain. Poor circulation means your body can’t expel all the toxic waste within, and that leaves you feeling tired and sore.

3. Massage improves movement.

Chronic pain is difficult to deal with in and of itself. But there are other ramifications. Often that pain makes it difficult to freely move, and even life’s simplest daily activities are a trial. And exercise, a hugely important part of a healthy lifestyle, is almost impossible with chronic pain. Again, massage therapy can help. Massage can pinpoint specific problem areas and soften and lengthen connective tissue, helping to improve range of motion and get you up and going again.

Unlike prescription painkillers and surgical procedures, massage therapy is affordable and enjoyable. And who knows? Regular massage may also launch a renewed vigor in life. You may be motivated to improve other health habits like diet and exercise. Massage may just be the stepping stone you need towards a life of wellness.

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Why am I getting so many Muscle Cramps?

95% of us will get a muscle cramp at some point in our lives, but that doesn’t make them any less painful. So, the question remains: “why am I getting so many muscle cramps?” Here are a few possibilities.

Because you aren’t drinking enough water.

Avoid Cramps with waterA lack of electrolytes and salts in your body can be the source of your muscle spasms. Dehydration is often the reason for this deficiency. For a number of reasons you should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. If you exercise regularly, (which, again, you should for a number of reasons) drink even more water. It’s a great habit to have H20 with you wherever you go. And that doesn’t always mean bottled water. Go green, and get a sleek beverage vessel like this one from Nalgene.

Because it’s all in your head.

Avoid CrampsNo, we’re not accusing you of hypochondria, but your brain can be the problem. Certain neurological disorders can affect the nervous system and cause muscle spasms. Also, the aftermath of tragic happenings like a stroke can disrupt brain communication, causing your muscles to involuntarily contract.

Because you’re old.

It’s a harsh reality, but as we age our muscles atrophy. That’s just a fact. Once you hit your mid-40s, your muscles simply cannot perform as they once could. You lose quickness and strength and are much more susceptible to muscle cramps. The best thing to do is exercise regularly and, despite limitations, keep your body in as good of shape as possible.

Because you’re out of shape.

If you don’t get enough exercise, when you do have to exert yourself, your muscles are more likely to fatigue. This can alter spinal neural reflex activity which can, in turn, cause muscle spasms. Beyond a good workout, stretching regularly lengthens muscle fibers allowing those muscles to contract and expand more vigorously, helping to prevent spasms.

Because there is something REALLY wrong.

If you have regular muscle cramps, you should definitely check with a doctor. In the worst of scenarios, muscle cramps may be a symptom of much more severe conditions including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), thyroid disease, and cirrhosis of the liver.

As with a lot of physical ailments, when it comes to persistent muscle cramps, simply getting fit and eating well can make a world of difference.

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“Killer” Consumer Products

Do you ever find yourself ‘dying’ for a little retail therapy? Whether it be the latest trendy item or mundane household necessities, there’s real danger to be found in your personal possessions. Here are four ‘killer’ products that wreaked havoc on the lives of consumers.

DRAWSTRING HOODIES

Drawstring Hoodie Death‘Hoodies’ are a favorite comfy clothing go-to for kids and adults alike. Often emblazoned with a favorite sports team’s logo or college mascot, hoodies are a perfect accompaniment to a cool spring morning or chilly fall afternoon. But for small children, the drawstrings often found in the hoods of these sweatshirts (and similarly designed jackets) can be deadly. The Consumer Product Safety Commision (CPSC) knows of 22 drawstring-related strangulation deaths between 1985 and 1999. Towards the end of that deadly decade and a half, in 1996, the CPSC first issued drawstring guidelines to clothing manufacturers. In 2006, the commission took it a step further, announcing that all children’s outerwear with hood or neck drawstrings would be classified as defective. And finally, in 2008, with the passing of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, hoodie drawstrings were outlawed.

SUFFOCATING CRIBS

Killer CribFor parents on-the-go, keeping your infant safe, content and contained is certainly a challenge. Over the past few decades, companies like Simplicity and Playskool have introduced collapsible, portable playpens (and cribs) to accommodate such situations. In the worst cases, these devices have proved horrific. At least 19 children have died as a result of collapsing portable cribs. Simplicity has had an embarrassing run of recalls in the past few years. After an 8-month-old in Houston suffocated and died in a Simplicity portable crib, more than 400,000 drop-side cribs were recalled on July 2, 2009. In September 2008, there was another recall of 600,000 cribs. And in 2007, after two children suffocated and died, a million older-model cribs were recalled.

ENERGY DRINKS

Energy Drink DeathsEnergy drinks abound in every gas station, mini mart and grocery store. Red Bull, Rockstar, Monster and a dozen other knock off brands rake in billions and billions of dollars each year. But are they safe? Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began probing into that very question. The impetus of the FDA investigation was a wrongful death suit filed against Monster after a 14-year-old girl died of a cardiac arrhythmia caused by caffeine toxicity. She’d downed two 24-ounce Monster energy drinks that very day. It is only fair to note that even though the FDA is looking into the allegations, there is no proof that the energy drinks are directly responsible for any deaths or injuries.

PLASTIC MILK

Plastic Milk Deaths6 infant deaths. 54,000 infant hospitalizations. 300,000 victims. Those are the damning numbers behind the recall of 700 tons of baby formula by China’s largest milk powder provider, Sanlu. Manufacturers, two of whom were put to death for their role in the scandal, added melamine, a chemical used in plastic production, in order to cheaply and falsely boost protein levels in the powdered dairy products. The problem it seems was worldwide and species-wide. In 2007, the U.S. FDA recalled 60 million cans of pet food after 14 cats and dogs died from melamine ingestion.

Thankfully, the U.S. has groups like the CPSC and the FDA to help protect us. But still, it can’t hurt to stay informed so you can protect yourself and your loved ones from tragedy.

Sources:

http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1908719_1908717_1974910,00.html

http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/10/23/energy-drinks-killing-people/

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/07/12/macy-s-to-pay-750k-fine-for-peddling-deadly-hoodies

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Guide to Over-The-Counter Pain Killers

Over-the-counter drug guideThe aches and pains of life are inevitable. That being said, every ‘ouch’ doesn’t warrant a trip to the doctor. So, how do you decipher between all the over-the-counter painkillers on the market? Here’s the facts on three of the most popular drugs.

ASPIRIN

History: Over 2500 years ago, ancients found that eating willow tree bark helped alleviate pain. In the 19th century, chemists discovered that salicin was the chemical behind the pain relief. That discovery led to the lab-created (and easier to digest) acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin.

How It Works: Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that suppresses the production of hormone-like molecules called prostaglandins that play an important role in inflammation.

Common Brands: Bayer, Bufferin

Benefits: Aspirin can help treat pain, fever, arthritis, and inflammation. Some people take a daily dose to reduce the risk of heart attack.

Problems: The inflammatory prostaglandins that aspirin suppresses also help protect the stomach lining. Because of the drugs affect on the stomach and blood, people with certain conditions should avoid taking it. Also, in feverish children, aspirin has been linked to Reye’s disease–a potentially fatal brain and liver disease. So, children under 19 should avoid aspirin unless specifically prescribed by a doctor.

IBUPROFEN

History: Ibuprofen was originally developed as an arthritis treatment. It was discovered as a form of propionic acid in 1961 by chemists at the Boots Company in the United Kingdom, now known as Boots UK Limited–a continued leader in pharmaceutical development.

How It Works: Like aspirin, ibuprofen is a NSAID that suppresses prostaglandin production.

Common Brands: Advil, Motrin

Benefits: Again, like aspirin, ibuprofen is great for general pain, fever, arthritis and inflammation. It does, however, get better results in lower doses than aspirin. And it has never been linked to Reye’s disease, so it is safe for children.

Problems: Though it’s gentler than aspirin, ibuprofen should still be avoided by people with ulcers, bleeding problems or kidney issues.

ACETAMINOPHEN

History: First made from the coal tar also found in cigarettes, the FDA patent for acetaminophen went through in 1951. At the time, aspirin was the OTC market king, but there was demand for a product safe enough for children. The ubiquitous Tylenol brand launched in 1955 and marketed itself as just that.

How It Works: Acetaminophen works in the same way that the above NSAIDs do where it concerns fever and pain relief. However, because the drug works more effectively in the central nervous system than in peripheral tissue, it does not have the same anti-inflammatory properties.

Common Brands: Tylenol

Benefits: Classic ads for acetaminophen from decades bygone simply state: “Fever Reducer. Pain Reliever.” That covers a lot. But, acetaminophen is also not a NSAID, easing trauma to people with stomach problems. The drug is also safer for children.

Problems: Since the drug is metabolized in the liver, it can have traumatic effects if taken with a lot of alcohol.

Next time you reach for the medicine cabinet make sure you’re picking the most effective pills to help you tackle your day pain-free.

Disclaimer: This guide was not written by a medical professional. Check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter pain treatments.

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5 Ways to Relieve Muscle Spasms

Muscle SpasmsHave you ever been for a run, or even drifting off to sleep when it happens? The muscles of your calf, foot or back suddenly become hard, tight, and extremely painful. It’s a muscle spasm–an involuntary contraction of the affected muscle…and absolutely no fun. Try these 5 tips for treating (and preventing) muscle spasms.

1. Diet

Spasms are often caused by a mineral imbalance, in particular a lack of potassium, calcium and magnesium. Take your vitamins. Eat lots of fruit and veggies. Even simply eating a banana (a great source of potassium) is actually a pretty effective treatment for some muscle spasms. Other good sources of potassium are: white beans, spinach, dried apricots and squash. For calcium, try: cheese, sesame seeds, tofu and almonds. Magnesium rich foods include: bran, cocoa powder, molasses and soy beans.

2. Compresses

Compresses can help to relieve muscle spasms of longer duration, especially back spasms. A cold compress will help with pain and reduce inflammation caused by the tensing muscle. Warm compresses can increase circulation and loosen the muscle up, potentially allowing it to relax. Don’t overdo it: leaving cold or hot compresses on for more than 20 minutes can hurt!

3. Wet Heat

Steam rooms and hot tubs are great means of relaxation, but there also a great way to relieve muscle spasms. Many gyms and health clubs offer these services, and some even have free trial opportunities with which you can use their facilities for one-time economical relief from your pain.

4. Massage and Stretching

If you’re lucky, that muscle spasm might actually be a cramp. You can quickly relieve cramps through gentle massaging and stretching. Don’t force the muscle into a stretch. Do use long, flowing massage strokes with your fingers around the cramped muscle. Once the muscle is loosened up, gently pull it into a stretch. You can also try this technique as a preventive measure for spasms.

5. Muscle Relaxants

In extreme cases, your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants for muscle spasms. Muscle relaxants are not really a class of drugs, but more of a loosely-defined group of drugs that have an overall sedative effect on the body. The drugs act centrally (in the brain) rather than locally (directly on the muscles) and are more of a total body relaxant.

These tips should help the occasional bouts of pain. But, if you do have frequent and painful muscle spasms, be sure to see a doctor. The spasms could be the result of something more serious.

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5 Ways to avoid Back Pain during Air Travel

Prevent back pain while flyingMaybe you travel for work. Maybe you travel for play. Either way, cramming onto a plane with hundreds of strangers can be stressful…and painful, particularly if you’re prone to back pain. These five tips will help you avoid that pain during air travel.

1. Heat it and cool it.

Every fifteen minutes, alternate between heat therapy and ice treatment. The heat will stretch the tissues around your spine and keep the brain from sending so many pesky pain signals. The cold, on the other hand, will help swelling and numb your back. Obviously, a plane ain’t no doctor’s office. Here’s the fix: bring several ThermaCare heat wraps–they’re inexpensive and disposable, and bring a Ziploc bag that you can have a flight attendant fill with ice.

2. Move.

The spine is meant to move. Every or hour or so during your flight, walk the length of the plane for a minute or two. If there’s a nook or cranny in the back, do a couple quick stretches. Avoid funny looks from the flight attendants by bringing a doctor’s note and alerting the airline crew of your back condition before you board.

3. Pop some pills.

Your doctor knows best. Ask which over-the-counter (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) or prescription (muscle relaxants or other narcotics) drugs are best for you. Security is often tight, so bring a letter from your doctor, and always keep the medicine in the original bottles.

4. Lose the baggage.

When it comes to luggage, cut proverbial corners as much as possible. First, pack light. Try this: after you’ve packed, go through your suitcase one last time and get rid of three things (or more!) that you can live without for a few days. Second, check your bags curbside, or have your travel companion (if able) handle your items. Lifting bags into the overhead bin is a tough task with a bad back.

5. Drink water.

An oft overlooked, but very basic, cause of pain is dehydration. Fluids in the body keep you cool, keep blood moving, keep the muscles limber and keep the tendons relaxed. And stick with only water. Coffee, tea, soda and alcohol counteract the hydrating effects of H20.

Vacations are fun. But far too often the travelling is not. With a little special care, you can stop the pain and enjoy your flight.

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Shopping Guide to Knee Braces

Knee Brace Guide

If you’re an athlete, or frankly, if you leave the couch at all, the knee is the most important joint on your body. It’s also one of the most frequently injured. Below, we explore the five most common types of knee braces and introduce you to three industry leaders in knee brace production. Sound like an informed pro when you get to the doc.

5 TYPES OF KNEE BRACES
1. Prophylactic Braces

Best for: Preventing sports injuries, protecting the MCL, reducing knee stiffness, and supporting the ACL, PCL, and LCL.
These braces are mainly worn as a preventative measure during high-risk sporting activities such as football, basketball and hockey. Specifically, prophylactic braces are intended to help prevent injury to the MCL. Athletes that have already suffered and recovered from an MCL injury can continue to wear a prophylactic knee brace to avoid re-injury. Their sleeves reduce the rotating ability of the knee and support cruciate ligaments during rotational stresses.

Prophylactic braces are constructed of bars, hinges, and adhesive straps and often made of neoprene.

2. Functional Braces

Best for: Sports injuries, rehabilitation, after surgery, and following ACL surgery.

Functional braces used to be the BMOC (big man on campus), serving as the primary advanced form of knee brace for most. Since that heyday, sports scientists have developed more advanced braces. But functional braces are still widely prescribed. Used after a knee injury (typically not an injury that requires going under the knife), the brace provides support while the knee is healing.

The type of functional brace you need is determined by the type of injury. There are acronym specific braces to treat MCL, ACL, PCL, LCL, and even combination injuries. Your knee doctor can help you out with this one. Inexpensive, elastic braces are the most common.

3. Rehabilitative Braces

Best for: Post-surgery, rehabilitation, restricted movement

Big and fairly bulky, these braces serve a specific purpose: post-surgery. Typically the brace is prescribed for two to eight weeks with crutches. Advanced technology in materials and technique have spurred much progress over the past few decades; these braces are much more rehabilitative than a splint or cast. They allow space for swelling, the ability to remove the brace to examine the knee, and the ability to move in a controlled range of motion.

Rehabilitative braces typically consist of foam liners that surround the calf, thigh, and knee, along with full-length rigid bars on both sides with hinges at the knee that are adjustable. A total of six to eight straps hold the brace in place. Rehabilitative braces are usually off-the-shelf and adjustable in size.

4. Unloader Braces

Best for: Knee osteoarthritis, pre-surgery, rheumatoid arthritis, stability

Unloader braces are typically prescribed to people who have medial (inner part of the knee) compartment knee osteoarthritis. By placing pressure on the thigh bone, these knee braces unload stress from the affected joint and forces the knee to bend away from the painful area.

The braces are custom-designed and made of molded plastic, steel, and foam to limit movement from side to side. They can also be helpful for those waiting to have knee replacement surgery.

5. Knee Sleeves

Best for: Knee pain, stability, reduced knee strain.

Although technically not a knee brace, it’s included here because it is the most common type of knee support. Often worn by the casual athlete or exerciser (including tennis or racquetball players, joggers and walkers), the sleeves provide compression around the knee joint and some mild knee stability.

Knee sleeves are typically made of material such as neoprene, drytex, or Polartec and are the least expensive type of knee support.

3 KNEE BRACE INDUSTRY LEADERS

The breadth and depth of knee brace availability is endless. Start with these three industry leaders. Ask for them by name from your healthcare professional.

1. DonJoy

The perceived industry leader, DonJoy pioneered the concept of functional knee bracing over 30 years ago.

2. Breg

Founded in 1989, Breg offers cold therapy, knee, shoulder, spine, elbow/wrist, foot/ankle bracing and orthopedic practice solutions.

3. McDavid

McDavid has been at the sharp end of sports medicine advancements, technology and thinking for over three decades.

We wish you a speedy recovery to all that ails you!

Source: http://www.theknee.com/knee-brace/knee-braces-support/
Source: http://www.medgear.org/entry/types-knee-braces/

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11 Exercises for The Pain in Your Back, Neck and Shoulder

According to a 2012 Gallup poll, almost half (47%) of American adults suffer some kind of chronic pain. We hurt! If you’re in pain, do something about it. Try these simple, in-home exercises for your bad back, aching neck, or sore shoulder. It might just help.

BACK

The simplest way to help out your back is to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles. When these muscles are toned, they act as a natural corset for your spine, providing support and improving posture. These four exercises will help strengthen your core.

1. Wall Slides

Stand with your back against a wall and feet shoulder-width apart. Slide down into a crouch with knees bent. Count to five and slide back up the wall. Repeat 5 times. You’ll feel this one in your legs a bit too.

2. Face-Down Leg Raises

Lie on your stomach. Point your toes out and away to tighten the muscles in one leg; raise it from the floor. Hold your leg up for a count of 10 and return it to the floor. Switch limbs and repeat for 5 sets on each leg.

3. Face-Up Leg Raises

Now flip over and do the same thing! Simple as that.

4. Back Leg Swings

Stand behind a chair with your hands on the back of the chair. Lift one leg back and up while keeping the knee straight. Return slowly. Repeat five times with each leg.

NECK

A sore neck often is a weak neck. Try these four resistance exercises to strengthen the muscles that keep your head on your shoulders.

1. Forward Press

Press your palms against your forehead and push your head back while resisting motion with your neck. Hold this position for 5 seconds and release. Repeat 3 times.

2. Side Press

Place your hand against the side of your head. Try to bring to your ear to your shoulder, again resisting the motion with your neck. Switch sides. Hold each position for 5 seconds and release. Repeat 3 times.

3. Back Press

Cup both hands against the back of your head, fingers interlocking. Attempt to push your head back, resisting the motion. (You should be seeing the resistance pattern by now.) Hold this position for 5 seconds and release. You guessed it…repeat 3 times.

4. Rotation Press

Finally, put your right hand against the right temple. Attempt to turn your chin to your right shoulder (like you’re looking from side to side) resisting the motion. Hold for 5 seconds. Switch sides. 3 times. Each side.

SHOULDER

Shoulder soreness tends to come from injury or overuse of the tendon in your rotator cuff. Throwing around the softball or swinging your tennis racquet a bit too much could be the cause, but so could simple household duties like painting or gardening. Try these four exercises to stretch and strengthen your ailing shoulder.

1. Pendulum (for range of motion and flexibility)

Stand up and lean forward, bending at the waste, until you’re as close to 90 degrees as possible. Dangle your sore arm straight down and begin to draw invisible circles on the floor with that arm. The motion should come from your shoulder, not your wrist. Start with small circles and gradually increase to big ones. Keep going for a minute, then rest for a minute. Do it five times.

2. Shoulder Shrug (for strength to prevent further injury)

Stand with both arms at your side. Keeping your hand in line with your shoulders. Now shrug your shoulders upward and backward and try to touch your ears with your shoulder. Keep your neck still, your elbows straight and do not move your arms or hands. Do 10 shrugs. Take a break. Do it again. Do it a third time. You can even try adding dumbbells for an extra challenge.

3. Across The Chest

Stand or sit–it doesn’t matter. Take your unaffected arm and grab under the elbow of the affected arm. Pull the dud arm gently across your chest until you feel that stretch in the shoulder muscles. Just until you feel it, not until it hurts. Hold it for ten seconds and then slowly relax. Do it three more times.

If you’re in pain, remember, you don’t have to take it! Start improving your quality of life today.

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5 Things you (probably) didn’t know about Acupuncture

The cultural gap between the east and the west is ever shrinking, and we can always learn from our fellow humans across the planet. In this blog series, we continue to take a closer look at a few divisions of Eastern medicine. This week…ACUPUNCTURE. Here are 5 things you (probably) didn’t know about acupuncture.

1. It’s All About the Qi

In sickness and in health, Chinese medicine values energy. In the west we have Star Wars’ “The Force”; in the east it is called Qi (pronounced: chee)–an all encompassing life-energy that is part of everything. According to Chinese medicine, Qi flows through specific pathways called meridians. A disruption in this flow–from injury, infection, trauma, diet, stress, et al–is the cause of most illness. Acupuncture aims to restore this flow of Qi, thus alleviating symptoms.

2. It’s For More Than Just Pain

Addictions. Allergies. Anxiety. Asthma. Back Pain. Behavioural problems. Chronic fatigue. Conception difficulties. Constipation. Cough. Depression. Digestive problems. Dizziness. Ear infections. Fibromyalgia. Headaches. High blood pressure. Impotence. Indigestion. Infertility. Insomnia. Menopause. Menstrual irregularities. Musculoskeletal problems. Ovarian problems. Palliative care. Post-operative recovery. Postpartum depression. Prostate. Sciatica. Seasonal attunement. Sexual dysfunction. Sinusitis. Sleep problems. Stress management. TMJ.

3. It’s Ancient…And Modern

For over 5000 years, the Chinese have been pricking people in the name of healing. But, proving the tradition is much more than mere folk science, researchers have found scientific evidence that acupuncture does indeed work. While medical advice like ‘drop the pills; hit the needles’ sounds counterintuitive, it might just be beneficial.  A new scientific breakthrough shows that acupuncture points match the branching points of nerves called C fibres. When an acupuncture needle is inserted into the skin, it disrupts the nerve circuit and numbs sensitivity to pain.

4. It Has Medical Cousins

Acupressure: An alternative for the needle-phobes among us. Acupressure makes use of the same system map of bodily points to treat symptoms but uses pointed physical pressure instead of needle insertion.

Cupping: Therapists take mini suction cups and apply them to particular spots on a patient’s back. This pulling pressure theoretically helps the blood flow and promotes healing.

Moxibustion: Often used in conjunction with acupuncture, acupressure and massage, moxibustion involves the burning of mugwort, a small spongy herb, to facilitate healing. The process can be direct, burning the herbs directly on the skin, or indirect, merely burning the herbs in the vicinity of the acu-point.

5. It’s For Animals Too

As it turns out, elephants were likely treated with acupuncture 3000 years ago in Sri Lanka, and horses were similarly treated in China around 2000-3000 B.C. There are even early acupuncture charts mapping out points on pigs and cows.

Check back after the new year for another edition of ‘East v. West: 5 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know…’

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5 Things you (probably) didn’t know about Yoga

East vs. West

Secrets on YogaIn this age of unprecedented globalization, the cultural gap between the east and the west is ever shrinking. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t still learn from our fellow humans across the planet. In this blog series, we’ll take a closer look at a few divisions of Eastern medicine. This week…YOGA. Here are 5 things you (probably) didn’t know about yoga.

1. It’s Ancient.

Yoga is one of the six āstika (“orthodox”) schools of Hindu philosophy that originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. Up until a hundred years ago, however, many Western scholars thought that Yoga originated much later, closer to 500 B.C., around the birth of Buddhism. But then, in the early 1920s, archeologists discovered the so-called Indus civilization—the largest civilization in early antiquity. In the ruins of the big cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, excavators found depictions engraved on soapstone seals that strongly resemble yogi-like figures.

2. It’s A Process.

When we speak of ‘yoga’ in the west, we’re really speaking about only one of the 8 steps in the classical yoga process. Outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra (widely considered the preeminent ancient yoga guide), here’s a quick guide to all 8 ‘limbs’ of yoga.

Yama – Focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life, Yamas are essentially practices that we know collectively as the Golden Rule.

Niayama – Niyama has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. Think attending church, saying grace before meals, and developing personal meditation practices.

Asana  - Asanas are the postures practiced in yoga–again, what we in the west typically think of when we think of yoga.

Pranayama – This fourth stage is all about breathing. Embrace techniques designed to gain mastery over the respiratory process, and recognize the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions.

Pratyahara – The fifth limb, pratyahara, calls us to rein in our senses by making a conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli.

Dharana – As each stage prepares us for the next, the practice of pratyahara creates the setting for dharana, or concentration. The idea is to think about one object and nothing else.

Dhyana – Meditation, the seventh stage of yoga, is an extension of dharana. However, where dharana practices one-pointed attention, dhyana quiets the mind and in that stillness produces few or no thoughts at all.

Samadhi – This eighth and final stage should be a state of ecstasy. At this stage, we come to realize a profound connection to the Divine and an interconnectedness with all living things.

3. It’s For Everyone.

Young or old. Svelte or husky. Woman or man. Experienced or newbie. Theist or atheist. It doesn’t matter what your demographics are or where your skill set lies, anyone can embrace yoga as a way to improve the health of your mind and body. Even Jane Fonda, queen of the aerobic craze of the 1980s has embraced yoga in her twilight years. Just this month she released a DVD called Prime Time AM/PM Yoga for Beginners.

4. It’s Trendy.

In the 1960s, western interest in Hindu spirituality reached a peak (remember the Beatles trip to India?), along with it came a heightened interest in yoga. A second “yoga boom” followed in the 1980s, as Dr. Dean Ornish famously connected yoga to heart health, legitimizing yoga as a purely physical system of health exercises unconnected to a religious denomination. Since 2001, the popularity of yoga in the USA has been on the constant rise. The number of people who practiced some form of yoga has quintupled in the last decade from 4 million (in 2001) to 20 million (in 2011).

5. It’s Possibilities Are Endless.

With hundreds and hundreds of poses, you can keep your yoga routine fresh, fun and challenging. Try this easy-to-use sequence builder from Yoga Journal and create a custom routine built just for you. Print it out or email it to yourself for viewing on your smartphone or tablet, and your living room will be an instant yoga studio.

Try a beginner’s class in your hometown, or search YouTube for hundreds of at home routines for every skill level. Doctors agree that a regular yoga routine is great way to improve the health of your mind and body.

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About Us

Advanced Physical Medicine is a multi-disciplinary wellness clinic that offers pain management and rehabilitation to patients in Chicagoland and beyond. When it comes to healthcare, APM utilizes a variety of different specialists including medical doctors, podiatrists, physical therapists, chiropractors and neurosurgeons to make joint decisions regarding the best treatment for you. Each treatment plan is tailored specifically according to your needs. You see, at APM, we treat you as a person, and we are always happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact us today and experience the difference with APM. We look forward to talking to you.

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