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Can You Really “Bank” Sleep?

Can You Really “Bank” Sleep?

striped-cat-sleeping-on-chair

Banking sleep to save energy for later? To most people, this idea probably sounds too good to be true. At the very least, it probably seems to defy common sense and or runs counter to the way we think our bodies work. However, it actually turns out that banking sleep is possible—within limits.

A great deal of research has been conducted on this subject.  In one particular study, American scientists invited a number of volunteers to adjust their sleep patterns so that researchers could observe the effects. For a week, half of the volunteers were permitted to sleep more than usual, and the remaining volunteers were made to sleep according to their usual pattern.

“After this week of either extended or habitual sleep per night, all the volunteers came to the lab and they were given three hours of sleep, per night, for a week,” says Tracy Rupp of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. The volunteers were then assigned tasks of varying difficulty, and those who had banked their sleep were more unaffected throughout the sleep restriction.

Rupp elaborates: “They showed less performance deterioration with regards to reaction time and alertness than the group that had been given the habitual prior sleep.”

The study also revealed that a week after the experiment, the banked sleepers were recuperating faster from deficiency of sleep than the others were. Rupp again: “What we’re basically saying is if you fill up your reserves and pay back your sleep debt ahead of time, you’re better equipped to deal with the sleep loss challenge.”

While these results may sound great, there are limits to what banking sleep can do for you. “It’s a strategy that’s only partially successful,” explains Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., in the November 2013 issue of Psychology Today. “New research indicates that although some of the negative effects of a week of insufficient sleep can be remedied with extra sleep on the weekend, others cannot. Researchers at Penn State University College of Medicine studied the effects of weekend recovery sleep after a week of mild sleep deprivation. They found that make-up sleep on the weekends erased only some of the deficits associated with not sleeping enough the previous week.”

Banking sleep isn’t limited to sleeping longer nights. Naps can be extremely effective as well—within limits, of course. According to Science Focus, “A 1991 study at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio found that after an ordinary night’s sleep, subjects could take an extra nap in the afternoon and then work through the night with greater alertness that a control group who didn’t nap. The study also found that performance is proportional to the length of the nap—but the effect doesn’t last.

After a second consecutive night without sleep, all of the subjects performed equally badly, regardless of how much sleep they had initially. It may be that all of us are normally slightly sleep-deprived and one really good night’s sleep will bring us back up to 100%, but that the ‘tank’ isn’t big enough to buffer us against more than one all-nighter.”

The practical uses of banking sleep go beyond needing to pull an all-nighter before finals or a big presentation at work. Dr. Winter, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, puts it thusly: “If you knew you were going to give birth on a particular day, for example, you could sleep for 10 hours a day for multiple days before the event, and be fine.”

Lastly, it is important to consider the host of negative effects of sleep deprivation. Memory loss, obesity, and even early death comprise some of these consequences. The moral of the story here is that banking sleep in advance may actually be a reasonable short-term strategy for coping with an isolated event (like giving birth). However, the best long-term strategy for staying healthy and performing well is to get a good night’s sleep as consistently as possible.

 

Endurance Sports Provide a Boost to the Body’s Nervous System

Endurance Sports Provide a Boost to the Body’s Nervous System

woman-running-in-cold-arid-land

It’s well known that training in certain sports can improve a person’s endurance. If you’re a runner, for example, you know that as you continue to run every day or according to whatever training schedule you follow, you gradually develop the ability to run further, faster, and for longer periods of time. But did you know modern science doesn’t have a complete understanding of why or how this actually happens? Experts still have a lot of unanswered questions about the exact mechanisms at work when an endurance sport triggers these kinds of performance improvements.

When it comes to muscle strength, there’s certainly an element of adaptation at work—it’s clear that the phrase “use it and strengthen it” is every bit as true as “use it or lose it”. But muscle strength isn’t the whole story. Many long-distance runners would probably tell you that their coordination and ability to deal with rough surfaces and obstacles also seem to increase with practice. To them, it seems as if their muscle-brain communication has improved along with their muscle strength.

According to a study conducted at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, not only may the runners’ perception be correct, but researchers may also have found one of the mechanisms that cause the improvements the runners are noticing. Their research suggests that endurance sports not only change the condition and fitness of your muscles, they also improve the neuronal connections to individual muscle fibers, based on a type of muscle-induced feedback, all accomplished through increased levels of a blood protein called PGC1α.

PGC1α seems to play a major role in muscle adaptation because it regulates the genes that cause muscle cells to change to keep up with the greater demands being placed on them. When your muscles are inactive (or diseased), they contain a low concentration of PGC1α. When the muscles are more challenged, however – for example when running for long distances – PGC1α levels increase. Professor Christoph Handschin and his colleagues in Basel have been able to show that this increase in PGC1α not only increases muscle size and strength, it also improves upstream synaptic nerve connections to and from the muscles.

The presence of more PGC1α improves the health of the synapses that link the muscles to the brain, allowing the muscles to change and develop new activation patterns, based on changing requirements placed upon them by the exercise. In effect, the more you train, the more PGC1α is in your muscles, and the more quickly they are able to “learn” how to become stronger and more adaptable to challenges.

However, the most surprising part of this study, published in the journal Nature Communication may be that Professor Handschin and his colleagues were able to induce this same improvement in synaptic communication by introducing higher concentrations of PGC1α into the muscles artificially. As the researchers increased PGC1α levels, the muscles became stronger and the neuronal connections became stronger, just as if the subjects had been performing endurance training.

These findings are seen as possibly having therapeutic applications in the treatment of diseases such as muscle wasting and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). As Handschin explains, “In patients, whose muscles due to their illness are too weak to move on their own, an increase in PGC1α levels could strengthen muscles and nerves until the patients can move enough to finally do some physical therapy and to further improve their mobility.” Then after some improvement to their muscles as the result of pharmacological treatment, the patients could continue to improve their muscle strength through practicing endurance sports.

But for healthy people, there’s a much simpler message—certain types of sports normally associated with endurance-building also build muscle coordination and adaptability.  Not only is this type of exercise good for cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health, it also seems to pay big “fitness dividends” for your body’s nervous system.

 

Top 5 Workouts for Increasing Range of Motion in Your Back

Top 5 Workouts for Increasing Range of Motion in Your Back

man-jumping-on-balcony

Back pain can have a truly negative effect on your professional life as well as your lifestyle. It can be difficult to get out of bed and make the morning commute.  Then—depending on what you do for a living—pain and limited mobility can take a huge toll on your productivity while you’re at work. And when you return home, you may also find that you’re not able to do the active things you enjoy with your family and friends.  It’s no wonder that chronic back pain can lead to depression.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from back pain, the good news is that there are things that can be done about it. First of all, it’s essential that you get proper medical attention so that your condition can be diagnosed and an appropriate treatment plan can be put in place. Dr. Oblander and other chiropractic physicians are experts at diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal problems as well as problems with the nervous system. Depending on your specific situation, he or she may recommend a variety of in-office treatment options to help relieve pain and restore function.  Your doctor may also prescribe a series of at-home exercises or stretches designed to increase the range of motion in your back.

Range of motion is the movement of a joint from full flexion (flexed) to full extension. Certain back problems, ranging from spinal misalignment and muscle imbalances to sprains, strains and pinched nerves (just to name a few), can significantly limit how much you can move. Here are workouts that can help improve your back’s mobility. Remember—use these only after consulting with your chiropractor!

  • Aquatic exercise. Perfect as a low-impact exercise that’s gentle on your joints and muscles, swimming and other water exercises are a great way to ease your back into working out. It is especially beneficial when the water is warm—say, between 83 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have access to a heated pool, check out the gyms in your town. Many of the big-name gyms feature not only heated swimming pools, but also hot tubs and steam rooms, which can help relax your joints and muscles, giving them a much-needed break.
  • As simple as it sounds, walking is a great way to get simple, accessible exercise. It also strengthens your heart, lungs and overall endurance. Make sure you wear appropriate footwear and take it easy—there’s no need to start out walking miles a day unless you’re up to it. Again, ask your chiropractor for his or her advice.
  • Strength and resistance training. According to Harvard Medical School, not only is resistance training good for increasing range of motion, but it also strengthens your heart, lungs, and overall endurance.
  • Tai chi. An ancient form of Chinese exercise, tai chi is practiced through a series of slow moving poses that can be very effective at extending your range of motion. In addition to increasing flexibility, it is also purported to strengthen muscles, and develop balance and coordination.
  • Like tai chi, yoga is another very old form of exercise. Developed in India over a great many years, yoga eases stiffness in muscles and encourages greater range of motion. Just be careful not to overdo it—it could be detrimental to your condition.

If you need help with addressing your back pain, be sure to give our office a call at 406-652-3553 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Oblander!

 

Fear or Phobia: What’s the Difference?

Fear or Phobia: What’s the Difference?

frightened-woman

It’s normal to have fears. Fear is a useful emotion that keeps us from doing things that may be harmful or dangerous. Our species continues to exist today because our earlier ancestors had a healthy fear of certain types of predators, environments and situations. In the modern world, many of those primal fears have become much less relevant. Nevertheless, quite a few of us still have a lingering apprehension of spiders, snakes, darkness, heights or other things that we perceive to be dangerous. For most people, this instinctive fear is just quirky or uncomfortable—something we can usually avoid or overcome without too much effort. But what if this apprehension becomes all-encompassing and interferes with daily life? When this happens, you may be dealing with a phobia.

Psychologists define a fear as being “an emotional response to a real or perceived threat,” whereas, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, a phobia is “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.” Note the words extreme and irrational. A phobia keeps you from living your life as you normally would if the feared situation were not present. For example, you may become nervous or agitated in small or confined spaces and generally avoid taking the elevator. But if that fear is severe enough that it keeps you from taking your dream job because you’d need to use an elevator every day to get to your office, then you likely have a phobia (“claustrophobia”).

Symptoms of a phobia can be both mental and physical. In some cases, just thinking about the thing you fear can bring on the fight-or-flight response. Phobia symptoms often include general anxiety, trembling and feelings of nausea. Your heart may begin pounding and you may start sweating, feeling lightheaded, and breathing so quickly that you begin to hyperventilate. You may also feel an intense need to escape, feel like you are going to die, or fear losing control. Even though you may understand that your phobia is irrational, you still have no ability to stop it.

Not all phobias interfere with the everyday lives of people who have them. A phobia of snakes (called “ophidiophobia”), for example, probably won’t matter much to a city dweller unless he or she visits the reptile house at the zoo. However, a phobia of crowds (“enochlophobia,” “demophobia” or “ochlophobia”) could be a big problem on city streets or in the subway.  Other phobias can have a significant impact on anyone who has them. For about 3% of the population, their fear of doctors (“iatrophobia”) is so great that they avoid any form of healthcare whatsoever, including preventive care. Obviously, this can put their health and even their lives at risk.

If a phobia is affecting your day-to-day activities, then it may be time to seek professional help. Therapy for phobias has been shown to be remarkably effective, and you may also be able to use some self-help strategies on your own to combat the problem.

One of the best ways to begin conquering a phobia is to expose yourself to the thing you fear in a gradual, controlled manner. For example, if you have a phobia of spiders (“arachnophobia”), first look at a few pictures of spiders. Then watch a short video featuring spiders. When you are comfortable with that, perhaps visit a zoo and look at them through the glass. Relaxation techniques such as slow, deep breathing and meditation can help when you are confronting your fears. The more frequently you are exposed to the thing you fear without actually being harmed, the more quickly your phobia is likely to disappear. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to become a fan of spiders, but at least you will have conquered the irrational part of your fear that gets in the way of you living your life.

 

Most Effective “Low Impact” Cardio Exercises

Most Effective “Low Impact” Cardio Exercises

Why “low impact” cardio exercises? Imagine reaching your “golden years” with a buff beach body only to be told that you can’t jog or run anymore because your knee cartilage has been worn thin or you have damaged vertebrae. The last thing you want to do is ruin your body while trying to stay in shape. Here we present some good low impact cardio exercises that can help you maintain a healthy cardiovascular system without causing damage to your musculoskeletal system.

Walking—This simple exercise places far less stress on the knees than jogging, running or pounding the stairs. If this sounds too boring, try changing your route. Explore different streets or roads. Also, you might take this to the next level and include hiking on trails or through the woods. Be sure to follow experts’ recommendations about hiking dos and don’ts. Add extra energy to your routine by swinging or rotating your arms to the sides. Involving your upper body as you walk can get your heart beating more vigorously.

Speed Walking—It’s impossible to do speed walking without involving the upper body. This is low-impact movement on rocket thrusters. The most efficient position is to keep your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and be sure they remain close to your body. Be sure to stick to flat, smooth surfaces to reduce the chances of injury.

Cycling—For even less impact, take your bicycle out for a spin. If your bicycle is properly adjusted to your size, there should be no strain on your knees. You can cover far more territory, do more sightseeing and get lots of cardiovascular benefit.

Stairs—Walking up stairs is a powerful way to work your body. Don’t become impatient, though. You don’t want the walking to become jogging. That would turn your low impact routine into high impact. Make certain you softly plant each foot in turn on the next step and use the strength in your legs to push you upward.

Swimming—If you’re just starting an exercise program or returning after years of relative inactivity, swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise option. Taking to the pool can build up vast reservoirs of cardiovascular health because swimming can work the entire body, depending on the strokes you use.

Dancing—Take a dance class. Whether you’re into ballroom, tap, ballet or modern dance, you can get a low impact workout while having fun with others.

If you already suffer from thin cartilage, don’t let that stop you from exercising. One study did MRIs on 50–80 year olds, all healthy men. The results showed that more exercise led to thicker knee cartilage. The consensus was that exercise helped to repair cartilage deficiencies. Everything else being equal, the body is amazing in its ability to repair itself. And these low impact exercises can work wonders for your long-term cardiovascular health.

Remember that one of the best things you can do for your health is to also get adjusted regularly!

 

Want Stronger Bones? Weight Training Can Help!

Want Stronger Bones? Weight Training Can Help!

health club: guy in a gym doing weight lifting

As we age, we normally lose a certain amount of bone density. This is a particular problem for postmenopausal women due to the loss of estrogen, which protects against bone loss. Although men are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis (because their bones are generally larger and more dense), they can also be subject to bone loss if they do not get a sufficient amount of exercise. So what can be done to avoid it? Along with a healthy diet, studies have shown that weight-bearing exercise can help to maintain bone density as we age.

Professor of exercise science at California Lutheran University, Dr. Steven Hawkins, says “Exercise stimulates bone formation, because bone put under moderate stress responds by building density, and, depending on your age and workout regimen, it can either increase or maintain bone-mass density.”

Weight training (also referred to as strength training) increases bone mass, particularly that of the spine. A study performed by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, showed that postmenopausal women who do not participate in strength training lose bone mass. However, those women who participated in a year-long strength training program increased their spinal bone mass by nine percent.

Strength training does not mean you have to go to the gym every day and train to Olympian standards. It only requires regularly performing a variety of simple, weight-bearing exercises. Much as a muscle becomes larger and stronger the more you use it, bones become stronger and denser the more stress that is placed upon them.

Gary Null, in his book Power Aging notes “Weight lifting, including curls and bench presses, is a beneficial activity.” And for those who’d rather not spend any time around a gym, “Dancing, stair-climbing and brisk walking are all weight-bearing exercises, which promote (good) mechanical stress in the skeletal system, contributing to the placement of calcium in bones.” But what about aerobic exercises? While they are very good for your cardiovascular system, Aerobic exercises such as biking, rowing and swimming do not strengthen the bones” as they do not place enough stress on the skeletal system to stimulate bone growth.

You only need about 15-30 minutes of weight training two or three times a week to help maintain your bone density. You can use weight machines at the gym, or consider attaching some light weights to your arms and legs as you do a regular workout to increase the stress on your skeletal system. Even gardening can be a good way to help preserve bone mass, as it involves such bone-strengthening activities as pulling weeds, pushing a lawnmower or wheelbarrow, turning over soil, etc. Even something as simple as carrying groceries to and from the car can help.

So consider adding a little weight training to your daily routine so you can maintain your bone health and (with a bit of luck) remain fracture-free far into your later years.

If you need more ideas on how to improve your bone health, be sure to schedule an appointment with Dr. Oblander by calling our office at 406-652-3553!

 

How to Make New Habits “Stick”

How to Make New Habits “Stick”

Forming new habits can be just as difficult as breaking old ones. But when you stop to think about it for a moment, it is clear that all of our habits, both positive and negative, had a beginning—a time BEFORE the behavior became a clear, recognizable pattern. In other words, there was a time when your current habits weren’t yet habits at all!

So how do new habits actually form? And is there a way for us to develop POSITIVE new habits in a focused, deliberate way? We call this “making new habits ‘stick’”.

Like anything we learn, our first attempts at any new skill are usually halting and inconsistent. But slowly it becomes second nature until we can’t remember a time when we found the behavior unusual, uncomfortable or challenging. Once we’ve learned how to do something and turned that something into a recurring pattern of behavior, it’s “like riding a bicycle,” as the saying goes…

New York Times investigative reporter Charles Duhigg became something of an expert on the science of habit formation and change. He read hundreds of studies and interviewed the scientists who conducted them to discover the mechanisms behind habit formation, and wrote a book on the subject, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.”

Duhigg has described a self-reinforcing process he calls the “Habit Loop”. Based on his interpretation of neurological studies, Duhigg believes that every habit has three components: “a cuea trigger for a particular behavior; a routine, which is the behavior itself; and a reward, which is how your brain decides whether to remember a habit for the future.” For example, let’s say you want to stop being admonished by your dentist for not flossing regularly. First you put the dental floss right next to the toothpaste, so you can’t miss it (the cue). Then every time you go to brush your teeth (the routine) you floss because it’s right there in front of you. Finally, when you go to the dentist, he or she praises you for flossing regularly (the reward).

Establishing a new habit takes most people about 30 days, although it can frequently take twice that. You can improve your chances of success if you’re able to do a little advance planning. For instance, imagine you want to develop a habit of going to the gym every day. First, start small. For the first month, plan on going to the gym three days a week for 30 minutes each. Plan your workouts for days and times that are least likely to have things such as work or childcare interfere with your gym schedule. It can also help to enlist a buddy who has similar goals to join you so you can reinforce each other’s commitment. Then figure out a reward to give yourself for each completed workout, such as going out for a drink afterward with your workout buddy or enjoying a little Ben and Jerry’s, guilt-free. You can also give yourself some long-term rewards to envision, such as looking good in a bikini on the Caribbean beach you plan to visit next summer. If you can stick with it regularly for a month, there’s a good chance it will become part of your weekly ritual and you will soon crave your workouts. You can then gradually build up to more days. In three months, you may find that if you have to skip a workout you actually MISS it! Something’s just not right…

Duhigg says “If you can identify the right cue and reward—and if you can create a sense of craving—you can establish almost any habit.”

Most Common Auto Injuries Explained

Most Common Auto Injuries Explained

Perhaps the most frequent injury involving automobiles comes from closing the door. Nearly 150,000 times a year, someone is injured in this fashion, and that’s with the car parked or stationary. This includes doors closing on fingers. Another 10,000 are injured by using a jack and 74,000 have been injured by a car or car part falling on them.

But cars also move. Roughly one third of auto-related injuries occur due to an automobile striking someone, particularly pedestrians and bicyclists. Injuries can include anything from simple scrapes to multiple broken bones, dislocated vertebrae and damaged internal organs.

A Forbes magazine article noted that researchers from the US Department of Transportation “estimated an annual total of 1,747 fatalities and 841,000 injuries due to non-traffic crashes and non-crash incidents.” These included back-overs and single-car collisions not on a highway.

During a collision, passengers can be thrown about within the car, or be ejected from the vehicle (particularly if not wearing a seatbelt), causing significant injuries. One of the most serious of these is called traumatic brain injury (TBI). This is when the brain becomes bruised or otherwise injured. This can happen when the head is forced into rapid acceleration and/or deceleration from impact with other objects, such as a windshield, the body of the car or objects outside of the car. Such brain injuries can result in brain function impairment or even death.

Neck injuries include whiplash and vertebrae disk damage. These can result in a range of effects from persistent, long-term discomfort to debilitating pain and even immobility. Whiplash is perhaps the most common malady, which happens when the neck snaps quickly backward (during acceleration), then forward (during deceleration), causing hyperflexion and hyperextension of the cervical vertebrae. After an accident, the victim may be unaware of any damage, but may experience headaches or neck stiffness hours or days later.

A chiropractor can recognize this kind of damage using a variety of diagnostic tests with and can treat it with multiple adjustments, massage therapy and repetitive exercises performed by the patient at home. The chiropractor may even recommend a traction weight bag to help the neck return to its natural curve. Sometimes the damage is permanent, but treatment can reduce the discomfort and decrease in range of motion that might otherwise plague the patient.

Damage anywhere along the spine can occur during a car accident. This type of injury can range from mild to life-threatening. Dislocated vertebrae can result in excruciating pain that can lead to tight back muscles which intensify the problem. Physical therapy and chiropractic adjustments can help return the patient to health. Rehabilitative therapy can also include hot packs, massage, cold packs, traction, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and other methods.

When the spine is injured, symptoms can include difficulty breathing, tingling, numbness, paralysis, arm weakness, leg weakness, and unusual bladder or bowel control. If you are experiencing these or other unusual symptoms, seek proper care from a chiropractor or other health professional immediately.

What is a “Pinched Nerve”?

What is a “Pinched Nerve”?

‘Tearing her hair out’ Metaphor or bad hair day

A “pinched nerve” refers to a condition in which a nerve is compressed by surrounding tissue, such as ligament, cartilage, tendon or bone. The term “pinched nerve” is not a standard medical expression, but it’s an intuitive expression that almost anyone will understand.

Nerves radiate from your brain, down your spine and to all other parts of the body. Signals are sent from and to the brain along the nerves, and if a nerve is compressed (“pinched”), it will interfere with proper signal transmission. Usually, this will manifest as pain, not only at the site of compression, but sometimes radiating from that point to surrounding parts of the body. Misalignment of the spine can result in pinched nerves that can give you back pain and even a deadening ache or sensitivity along your arms (cervical radiculopathy) or legs (sciatica).

Any pain of this sort is a warning signal that there is a problem that should be treated right away. Left untreated, pinched nerves can lead to a loss of the protective barrier around the nerves which could generate fluid buildup. And this fluid would create swelling, more pressure, more pain, and possibly scarring. When nerves have been scarred, they may no longer function properly.

Pain isn’t the only indication of a pinched nerve. Sometimes a compressed nerve will generate numbness or tingling, a burning or “pins and needles” sensation, or even weakness during certain activities.

Pinched nerves can occur more often when the following risk factors are involved:

  • Overuse—Repetitive actions such as movements during work or while involved in a hobby or sport.
  • Posture—Bad posture creates more pressure on the spine and the nerves traveling through it.
  • Gender—Women’s carpal tunnels are smaller and are at greater risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis—Inflammation of any kind can compress nerves, especially at the joints.
  • Obesity—Increased body weight can increase pressure on nerves throughout the body.
  • Bone spurs—Bone thickening (from conditions such as osteoarthritis) or trauma can lead to bone spurs that stiffen the spine and narrow the space through which the nerves pass.

Mainstream medicine frequently recommends drugs, including NSAIDs, oral corticosteroids, narcotics (for emergency, short-term pain relief) and steroid injections to treat the symptoms of a pinched nerve. The Mayo Clinic suggests that patients can sometimes recover within a few days or weeks from pinched nerves with rest and additional “conservative treatments.” Other mainstream medical treatments may include physical therapy, a splint to immobilize a limb to give it a bit of rest, or surgery.

A chiropractor specializes in nerve health and non-invasive methods of reducing pain and restoring proper function, including spinal adjustments and other treatments that take the pressure off the nerves without the need for drugs or surgery. Sometimes a single adjustment can lead to immediate relief. In other cases, repeat visits may be required for full recovery. If you or someone you care about is suffering from a pinched nerve, you should know that there are alternatives to drugs and surgery and that chiropractic care has proven effective in treating the source of the problem so it is less likely to recur in the future.

If you would like to be seen by Dr. Oblander for treatment of a pinched nerve or any other ailment, please call our office at 406-652-3553 to schedule an appointment.

 

Health Update: Close-Up on Adverse Drug Reactions

Health Update: Close-Up on Adverse Drug Reactions

medical theme – doctors desk with documents and stethoscope

You can’t switch on a television these days without seeing a commercial for some new pharmaceutical that will cure whatever may ail you (or cure you from an illness you never knew you had). If you pay attention to it, you will notice that nearly half the ad time is taken up with a long list of possible side effects and adverse reactions that may accompany taking the drug. The possibilities often include everything from slight fatigue to death.

An estimated 4.5 million Americans visit their doctor or the ER each year due to adverse reactions to prescription drugs. These adverse side effects are also suffered by an additional 2 million people each year who are already in the hospital being supervised by medical professionals. The CDC estimates that 82% of Americans are taking at least one drug, and 29% are taking five or more drugs.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in charge of approving pharmaceutical drugs for sale in the US. However, their methods for approval are based on the drug companies providing their own scientific studies on the safety of the drug. The FDA does no independent testing. The FDA will usually approve a drug if its benefits are believed to outweigh its dangers. Even assuming the drug companies’ studies have been well-conducted and show that a drug is relatively safe, no drug is completely free from side effects for everyone, even those drugs that are “natural.” A person’s age, weight, gender, overall health and genetic profile have a lot to do with how an individual will respond to a drug.

The most common side effects are gastrointestinal problems, as most drugs are processed via the digestive tract. These problems include nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea. Other common side effects are drowsiness, fatigue and mild skin reactions. Although dizziness may not seem like a dangerous side effect, it can be particularly risky for seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls among seniors are the leading cause of injury-related death. A quarter of all seniors who fall and break a hip will die within six months of receiving the injury.

Death is of course the most serious side effect of all. Allergic reactions that cause anaphylaxis can be deadly. Some drugs, such as those that treat type 2 diabetes (Actos and Avandia, for example) can cause a stroke or heart attack. Antidepressants can actually increase suicidal thoughts. Some drugs can cause pain and total or partial paralysis, such as the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor. Some drugs increase your risk of cancer. Ironically, the drug Tamoxifen, prescribed to treat breast cancer, actually increases the risk of uterine cancer. Memory loss, hallucinations, loss of taste and loss of sight are other common side effects of pharmaceuticals.

Although there is no doubt that some pharmaceuticals are far more useful than they are dangerous (antibiotics, for example), if you want to avoid the harmful side-effects that many drugs may produce, try to keep as healthy as possible. Eat right, get regular exercise and visit your Billings Chiropractor Dr. Greg Oblander to keep your body in top condition.

 

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