Research Summaries #3

The following are the next set of research summaries. You have probably have already heard of the research study which links calcium intake and the reduction of PMS symptoms. Next week I'll answer the following questions-- Which calcium is best? Are there any other nutritional factors to consider? How do I know if I'm absorbing the calcium I'm taking? Is it necessary for me to take 1200 mg daily?

Neck Pain as Common as Back Pain?

Low-back pain affects more than 150 million Americans each year -- that's 56% of the population! (See "Three good reasons to see a chiropractor" in the October issue of To Your Health.) And until researchers prove otherwise, it's probably safe to assume that this estimate applies to the rest of the world. Doctors of chiropractic know just how to handle back pain, and fortunately, they're also great at diagnosing and treating many other disabling conditions, including neck pain.

Neck pain may be as frequent as low-back pain, at least according to a recent study that posed two questions to 1,131 Canadians: "In your lifetime, have you ever experienced neck pain?" and "Do you have neck pain at the present time?" Two-thirds of the patients reported experiencing neck pain in their lifetime and 22.2% complained of neck pain at the time of the study.

Whether you live in the United States or Canada, Belgium or Brazil -- back and neck pain can strike anyone at anytime. Wherever you are, ask yourself these same two questions about neck pain. If you answer "yes" to one or both, here's a third question for you: When you suffer from neck pain, where should you go? Oh, and here's the answer: your doctor of chiropractic!

Cote P, Cassidy JD, Carroll L. The Saskatchewan Health and Back Pain Survey: the prevalence of neck pain and related disability in Saskatchewan adults.

Spine, August 1, 1998: volume 23, number 15, pp1689-1698

Calcium Supplements May Reduce PMS Symptoms

Approximately one in three women of childbearing age suffer monthly from a wide range of physical and emotional premenstrual symptoms, yet health care professionals have only an incomplete understanding of what causes the condition and how to treat it.

A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology examined the effect of calcium on 466 women with moderate to severe PMS symptoms. Patients receiving 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily for three complete menstrual cycles reported a reduction in all four of the major PMS symptom categories (negative emotional changes, water retention, food cravings and pain) and in 15 of 17 individual symptoms (anger, irritability, cramping/bloating, headaches, low-back pain, fatigue, etc.).

Anti-inflammatory drugs, birth control pills and antidepressants may reduce symptoms, but can also be accompanied by unpleasant side effects. Women desiring safe, effective relief from premenstrual distress should ask their doctor about the value of regular exercise, adequate sleep and a calcium-rich diet.

Thys-Jacobs S, Starkey P, Bernstein D, et al. Calcium carbonate and the premenstrual syndrome: effects on premenstrual and menstrual symptoms.

American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, August 1998: volume 179, number 2, pp444-52

Vertigo, Heal Thyself!

Well, not exactly. Before you get confused, here's a little background information: Homeopathy is a natural system of medicine promoting the use of small doses of natural substances (i.e., herbs, roots, etc.) to stimulate the body to heal itself; vertigo is the sensation that you or the room is moving or spinning (not the same as dizziness).

Now here's what's new: A recent study involving 119 vertigo patients compared a homeopathic remedy with traditional medical treatment ("betahistine") and found that both were equally effective in reducing vertigo symptoms. Patients received the homeopathic remedy or betahistine three times a day for 42 consecutive days. Both patient groups reported significant improvement in intensity, frequency and duration of their vertigo attacks.

Persistent vertigo can interfere with driving and can be a source of irritation at work and home. Not to mention that it increases your risk of falling down and suffering cuts, bruises or broken bones. If vertigo's got you feeling a bit off-balance, your doctor of chiropractic can evaluate your condition and suggest the most appropriate course of treatment.

Weiser M, Strosser W, Klein P. Homeopathic vs. conventional treatment of vertigo: a randomized, double-blind controlled clinical study.

Archives of Otolaryngology--Head & Neck Surgery, 1998: volume 124, pp879-85

Boost Your Immune System with the Power of Herbs

To the native American Indians, ginseng and echinacea were considered sacred herbs capable of warding off disease. Hundreds of years later, these plant roots continue to be regarded as a source of healing power.

A recent study evaluated the ability of echinacea and ginseng to improve immune function in 60 patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Blood samples were taken from three patient groups (20 patients with CFS, 20 with AIDS, and 20 healthy volunteers) given concentrations of echinacea and ginseng, and the results compared.

Results showed that both herbal extracts increased the immune response in all three patient groups, whether taken alone or in combination. These findings provide further evidence of the ability of echinacea and ginseng to help the body defend against infection and disease.

See DM, Broumand N, Sahl L et al. In vitro effects of echinacea and ginseng on natural killer and antibody-dependent cell cytotoxicity in healthy subjects and chronic fatigue syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome patients.

Immunopharmacology, 1997: volume 35, pp229-35

Walking OK during Early Stages of Labor?

Pregnancy truly represents a time of change in a woman's life: the birth of a unique bond between mother and child that will last for a lifetime -- and the onset of a series of uncomfortable physical and emotional developments that, fortunately, usually only last for nine months or so.

The beginning of labor is a particularly stressful time for many women (and men!), as contractions start and the baby positions itself to exit the womb. Many women find that walking during labor helps reduce their anxiety and discomfort, yet little research has investigated the potential benefit or harm. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, more than 1,000 pregnant women were assigned to one of two groups: a "usual-care" group confined to labor beds (sitting or lying down

Walking had no significant effect on labor or delivery. Average birth weight and infant condition/health were similar in the walking vs. the nonwalking group, and the majority of women who chose to walk said they would do so again. No one ever said childbirth was easy, but health care professionals, family and friends can help ensure that it's the most rewarding experience of your life.

Bloom SL, McIntire DD, Kelly MA et al. Lack of effect of walking on labor and delivery.

The New England Journal of Medicine, July 9, 1998: volume 339, number 2, pp76-9

Breast Milk: It Does a Baby Good!

Everyone's talking about breast milk these days, and we're no exception. In the July issue of To Your Health we reported on a study documenting the immunological benefits of breast milk for full-term infants (see "Breast milk protects against viral infection"). In this issue, we present the findings of a similar study from the online version of Pediatrics.

Infants born prematurely are often at higher risk of infection than full-term babies. In this study, 212 pre-term infants were evaluated for type of feeding (breast milk vs. formula) and the presence of infection. Results showed that overall rates of infection were once again significantly lower in infants fed breast-milk compared with infants fed formula milk.

As parents, it's our responsibility to know what can keep our children healthy and happy, and what can do potential damage to them. Talk to your chiropractor about the benefits of breast milk and about all your health-related concerns.

Hylander MA, Strobino DM, Dhanireddy R. Human milk feedings and infection among very low birth weight infants.

Pediatrics (online version --, September 1998: volume 102, number 3, ppe38

The ABCs of Back Pain

If you're one of those people who thinks you can live with back pain, think again. A recent study in the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation provides evidence that many back-pain sufferers develop poor posture and motions to compensate for their pain, which only leads to more pain and progressive dysfunction.

Thirty-two patients (16 with a history of back injury and 16 without) examined the potential influence of the injury on their ability to perform a simple posture task (standing with the upper body bent forward at a 45 degree angle). Results showed that the healthy group could replicate the target position much better than the group with a history of back pain, suggesting the "ABCs" of back pain:

A Back injuries can affect movement, balance and the ability to accurately perceive body position.

B These changes in body mechanics can increase the risk of further injury (i.e., when engaging in activities requiring balance and accurate sense of body position, such as lifting heavy objects).

C This cycle of pain and disability can be counteracted with professional help from an expert in treating/relieving back pain -- your doctor of chiropractic.

Field E, Abdel-Moty E, Loudon J. The effect of back injury and load on ability to replicate a novel posture.

Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, 1997: volume 8, pp199-207

Magnesium Helps Prevent Bone Breakdown

Thin, brittle bones can break or fracture with very little warning -- even minor slips and falls can lead to painful, disabling injury. Calcium and fluoride are known for their ability to promote strong bones, but what about Magnesium?

A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism may provide an answer. Twelve men received magnesium (Mg) supplements daily for 30 days and were compared with a second group of 12 men that received no more magnesium than their normal diet provided (daily intake within recommended allowances). Blood analyses showed that the men taking Mg supplements had lower levels of the chemicals known to contribute to bone breakdown than men who took no supplements.

Whole-grain foods, nuts, dry beans and peas, dark green vegetables and soy products are good sources of magnesium. In addition to influence on bone loss, research suggests that magnesium can reduce cold symptoms and the frequency/duration of migraine attacks. Ask your doctor of chiropractic about the many benefits of magnesium, and look for more information in future issues of To Your Health.

Dimai HP, Porta S, Wirnsberger G, et al. Daily oral magnesium supplementation suppresses one turnover in young adult males.

Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 1998: volume 83, pp2742-48

Two Words for Arthritis Sufferers: Aerobic Dance

"For you and I are past our dancing days," Mercutio tells cousin Romeo in Act I of Shakespeare's timeless masterpiece. Certainly not the case if taken literally (both were young men), and not necessarily a wise choice, either. Consider the results of a study in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Ten patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) participated in a low-intensity (no jumps or sudden movements) aerobic dance program twice per week for eight weeks -- 10 minutes at 50% of maximum heart rate in the beginning, progressing to 25 minutes at 60-70% of maximum heart rate from the sixth week on. Although the group reported no significant gains in aerobic power, nearly half showed 10-20% improvement in their cardiovascular fitness. Many patients also reported significant improveme

Aerobic dance classes are filled with men and women looking to lose weight, stay in shape, improve performance, or just have fun. As this study suggests, relieving the pain and disability of arthritis could be another good reason. If you or a loved one suffers from arthritis, ask your chiropractor about the potential risks and benefits of low-impact aerobic dance exercise.

Noreau L, Moffet H, Drolet M, et al. Dance-based exercise program in rheumatoid arthritis. Feasibility in individuals with American College of Rheumatology functional class III disease.

American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 1997: volume 76, pp109-113

Don't Give Vitamin C the Cold Shoulder!

We've all heard about the benefits of vitamin C -- especially its potential use in preventing the common cold. Getting enough vitamin C shouldn't be a problem in developed countries with year-round access to fresh fruit and vegetables, which makes the results of a recent study all the more perplexing.

Researchers collected blood samples from 492 generally healthy, middle-class patients visiting a health care facility for routine health, gynecological and pregnancy exams. After evaluating vitamin C levels daily for 10 consecutive days, the researchers determined that 6.3% of the patients had vitamin C deficiency (less than half of the minimum recommended daily allowance, or RDA) and a whopping 30.4% had vitamin C depletion (barely the minimum RDA).

These rates are startling considering that a single piece of fruit (i.e., an orange) often provides a full day's supply of vitamin C. Could it be you're giving vitamin C the cold shoulder? Make sure you stock your refrigerator with plenty of fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C and other valuable nutrients. After all, a happy vitamin C helps make you and your loved ones happy -- and healthy.

Johnston CS, Thompson LL. Vitamin C status in an outpatient population.

Journal of the American College of Nutrition, August 1998;17(4), pp366-70.

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