Someone’s Stirring the Pot of Medical Research…And Look What They’re Finding!

Medical research and the clinical studies that form the basis of what we believe is “valid medicine” is being scrutinized.  Many of these studies are flawed in some way.  But, most of the public hears the good news first, never to hear the bad news later.  Heralded as the next greatest cure to high cholesterol, only later to be withdrawn for ineffectiveness in another study done years later.  But, the money’s already been made and the checks have already been cashed, and the cost gets passed to the consumer.  False medical claims can hurt patients’ health and finances.  Billions of dollars ride on these research studies.  Poor clinical trials can bankrupt businesses.  There’s a lot at stake.  Understand what is happening in these clinical trials.  Trust the clinical trials that have produced results over the long term.  Rely on those with results that are reproducible and have been randomized and controlled.

Enjoy the article linked below!

http://www.newsweek.com/2011/01/23/why-almost-everything-you-hear-about-medicine-is-wrong.html

NFL Players Using Chinese Herbs for Performance Enhancement

The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft.

Image via Wikipedia

NFL players are looking for an edge in performance.  Always. It’s in their blood.  Well, it’s at least in their paychecks. They get paid to play, and play well.  Some of them will go to extremes to get an edge on the competition.  Apparently, some professional athletes have searched far, wide and dug deep into the ancient texts of ancient Chinese medicine for this next performance enhancement drug (PED).  OK, maybe the athletes had been given some slight push, or very gentle nudging in this direction from their doctors and trainers in the usage of deer antler for performance enhancement.  Deer what? Deer god, please give me the strength to tackle well and keep up with the next guy.  One scoop of deer antler powder with water and down the hatch!

There are a few players in the National Football League (NFL) now using crushed velvet deer antler to boost their on-field skills and performance.  That’s great!  Or is it? It seems as though these clever footballers or someone close to them has figured out that a certain type of natural product can give them more strength in the weight room, boost their speed on the field, and enhance their recovery time. Plus, it’s not on the NFL’s list of banned substances. What??  Of course, the NFL’s crackdown on banned substances have mainly focused on lab derived drugs for enhancement. Rightfully so, but this one is naturally occurring and has been used for thousands of years in Asia.  It’s just never been popular in America. Until now.

Deer antler is not on the NFL’s banned substance list.  I’m sure of it.  But, what the NFL didn’t know, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has known for thousands of years.  Deer antler, or Lu Rong in TCM, is a highly studied herb for male performance enhancement. Velvet deer antler has been understood by TCM practitioners to enhance male sexual function as well as provide other benefits that go along with the male sex hormone testosterone. Lu Rong can come from a few different species of deer and the velvet deer is one of them.  In this case, the NFL players are using velvet deer antler crushed and shipped from New Zealand.  But, with the internet you should be able to order deer antler from anywhere and still reap the rewards.

Is deer antler bad?  Well, it could be if taken in large doses.  I’m not sure that there are any studies done on overdosing on deer antler, but I could be wrong. There is plenty of IGF-1 found in velvet deer antler.  Enough to flag the NFL drug testers’ desire to ban Lu Rong for the players.  But, it’s naturally occurring, so that’s ok, right?  Well, we will let the NFL sort through their own fine print to loosely clarify this point.

To make this story even more sad, I believe that once the NFL bans the naturally occurring deer antler for their players, Lu Rong will continue to be abused enough by other athletes, the general public, and “get-rich-quick herbal companies” to stimulate that knee-jerk reaction of the American government to enforce a countrywide ban for this new thing they can’t control. By the way, I’m sure the football players are taking more than the “recommended dose” suggested by their supplier. I’m also sure that someone will eventually take a lethal dose of Lu Rong and this will be the red flag in curtailing its use in America.  (Look at what happened to ephedra, aka Ma Huang in Traditional Chinese Medicine.) The herb will then be banned and even those of us (herbalists, acupuncturists, TCM practitioners) who can use it for beneficial medical purposes, will have to wait until the ban gets lifted.

But soon enough, someone will flip to another page in the ancient TCM books and find another naturally occurring enhancement herb.  The cycle will undoubtedly repeat itself.

http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/slant/201101/latest-ped-gives-sports-deer-headlights-look

How to Ice an Injury Properly

So, you’ve injured yourself. I mean, you didn’t break any bones and it’s most likely a strain, sprain, or pull.  Doctor tells you to follow the RICE method and if there’s still a lot of swelling and pain after a week to come back for x-ray. Or the doctor sends you to physical therapy (PT) and they tell you to use the RICE method. Or you play doctor yourself and figure that RICE is the way to go.  You know RICE, rest injury, ice injury, compress the area if possible, and keep the injured area elevated above the heart. Piece of cake, right? Well, not really.

Everyone’s heard about the RICE method. It’s one of the most common treatments for a soft-tissue injury.  It seems, too, that everyone has their own type of RICE method as well.  One area where I personally have never found consistency on, was the ice part of RICE.  No matter who I ask, I hear 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, all the way up to 40 minutes of icing the area of trauma.  Why the variation in how long to apply ice?

So, let’s just focus on icing an injury.  Let’s pretend that you’ve got a sprained ankle.  A moderate grade 2 injury.  You’ve started the Rest stage by waiting a whopping 8 hours before you try to engage your ankle.  Now you want to ice it.  Here’s a procedure to follow when icing:

1.  Get a large bowl of water.  Fill it 2/3 with ice. Fill the rest of the bowl with water.  Wait 3-5 minutes to let the water cool down to almost freezing.

2.  Take a couple of ice cubes and wrap it in a washcloth.  Dip the washcloth into the cold water.

3.  Apply the wet washcloth with ice to the injured area.

4.  10 minutes of application on the injured part of the ankle.

5.  20 minutes off.  (Here, you can work on range of motion with the injured ankle, or you can elevate the ankle and rest it.)

6.  You can repeat step 4 and 5, if you’d like.  No more than 4 cycles of this at one session.

 

Here’s some research to back up what I’ve said above about icing an injury:

This research study reinforces the above said techniques for icing an injury – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11510876

This research study says that there is benefit to cryotherapy to sports injury – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8896090

This is a research study on cryotherapy treatment of soft tissue injury using rats as the test subject – http://www.jssm.org/vol5/n2/7/v5n2-7pdf.pdf

As always, seek out professional help when necessary!

Spring is Coming, Allergies are Coming, Relief is Coming!

Springtime is a great time to see the plants budding, flowers opening, life returning to mother earth after the dormant season.  Along with springtime beauty, some may experience the springtime beast, allergies.  Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, can be brutal this time of year.  Stuffy nose, headaches, nasal drip, itching, sneezing, coughing, etc. can go on for weeks.

There are tons of over the counter medications as well as prescription medications that can help reduce your allergy symptoms.  The medications do so by reducing the body’s histamine response to allergens, hence antihistamines.  Others help reduce the swelling in the nasal passages by shrinking blood vessels in the area and reducing blood flow.  These are called decongestants.  Then there are the steroids, or corticosteroids, which counteract the immune system function to reduce symptoms.  These chemically-laden products should not be used as a first choice, but as a last resort.  Some of these nasal medications contribute to loss of smell, or anosmia.  Long term chemical use also weakens the immune system and damages the liver function, which can eventually worsen the body’s ability to cope and respond.

The simplified mechanism behind allergic rhinitis is this:  Allergens are particles floating around in the air.  The allergens are breathed into the nose, some of which are physically stopped by the mucus and hair that keep debris out.  The allergens that pass further into the nasal cavity will come in contact with the nasal tissue.  Here, the body doesn’t recognize the allergen as beneficial, and mounts a histamine response.  The histamine response increases blood flow and fluid locally and swells tissue.  With enough pollen, chemicals, and irritants in the nose, the histamine response multiplies and you get the horribly stuffy nose with the nasal drip.

Before grabbing the medications, first try using a nasal rinse.  Nasal rinsing, or nasal irrigation, is an ancient Indian practice called Jala Neti.  A baking soda, salt and water solution mixed approximately in a ratio of 1tsp, 1tsp, and 1 cup of water is washed through the nostrils grabbing the foreign particles and flushing them out. The more particles you flush out, the less severe your allergic response is. Makes sense, right?  The nasal rinse technique may sound odd, but just think about what happens to your nose when you take a dip in the ocean.  Salt water breaks up mucus in the nose, it runs out and clears up your nostrils.  It is the same idea.

There are a few methods to rinsing, with some using a squirt bottle and other using a neti pot. (I suggest using a pre-made salt packet. The proportion is correct and the pH is balanced.  Besides, you don’t have to do any measuring.)

For those that suffer heavily from allergies, rinse 2-3 times daily during the pollen season.  You can also use it when bacterial infection, such as a cold, is coming on.  Rinsing will help keep bacteria from lodging in the sinuses by creating a harsh environment for it.  Using a sinus rinse is not harmful and is safe for continued use.  Though, if you continue to have severe allergy symptoms even after using the nasal rinse, see a doctor.

For more information on nasal rinsing kits, visit:

http://www.neilmed.com

http://www.alkololcompany.com

http://www.sinucleanse.com

http://www.himalayaninstitute.org

This should really be the first line of defense against seasonal allergies and hay fever.  It’s safe and natural.  It’s ridiculously inexpensive if you make your own solution, but still inexpensive if you purchase it from you local drugstore.

My personal favorite is the NeilMed SinusRinse.  I like the ability to slightly force the solution into my nose by squeezing the bottle.  I usually use it in the shower to minimize the cleanup.  Since I use it regularly, I’ve also learned a technique to swish around the solution in my nose by breathing in with the solution.  Of course, with time and practice, you will learn how best to benefit from it!

Acupuncture Shown to Stimulate Brain Activity – May Treat Depression Drug-Free

Below is a link to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald Newspaper about acupuncture and it’s effects on the brain.  For those that suffer from depression, acupuncture can affect the “mood regulation” part of the cerebrum.

http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/acupuncture-shown-to-stimulate-the-brain-20100914-15aou.html

Of course, TCM practitioners have known this for years.  Just because someone is now able to measure it, doesn’t mean that it has just been discovered.  If you are suffering from depression, please see your primary care physician.  As an FYI, acupuncturists are considered primary care physicians in the state of California.  August Point Wellness usually recommends getting a second opinion, even a third opinion, when seeking medical care.

Also, if you would like to have your insurance policy cover acupuncture treatments for depression, please contact your insurance company and let them know.  The more frequently they hear this, the more apt they will be to changing their policy.

A Personal Story – Wrist Pain to No Pain, a 5 Year Journey

This is a story of my own wrists and the pain that I had been suffering for the past 5 years. I began my life’s journey of learning and understanding natural medicine about 8 year ago.  I enrolled in a massage therapy program at a local college to begin to understand the wonders of the human body.  About a year or so after I completed the program, I began working part-time as a licensed massage therapist.  I enjoyed every minute of serving people and watching them heal and remove years and years of pain from their body.  But, during my first year of massage practice, I began to develop wrist pain.  This was a huge concern and had the potential of taking me away from doing something that I loved.

As an initial investigation into the wrist pain, I looked at all of the things that I was using my hands for.  I was a heavy duty martial arts practitioner, hitting the heavy bag 3-4 times a week.  I was doing weightlifting, stretching, and yoga exercises in the gym 2-3 times a week.  I was turning a wrench and lifting heavy parts on an old 4×4 truck of mine.  I was also mountain biking on the weekends whenever I could get out and ride.

All of this was causing me to use my wrists and hands on a daily basis, some of which would have me at full range of motion (ROM) with pressure applied for minutes at a time.  The pain would come and go from time to time, but became a constant ache and pain.  In the span of a few months, I was unable to rest my palms on the floor and assume a push-up position at all without significant pain. Therefore, I had to scale back on many of my favorite activities to allow the problem to work itself out.

At first, the pain was significant on the right hand and very mild on the left hand.  It sounded logical because I do many activities with my right hand.  Made sense.  But, the fact that the pain was bilateral got me thinking that there was a systemic problem.  I thought that I was getting some form of arthritis.  Before the age of 30?  Crazy to think, but I was recounting to myself the frequency with which I’ve used my hands for so many things.  Made sense.  I thought that I might have a case or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) due to the bilateral nature of the issue.  But, RA usually affects more small joints and is progressive…and I wasn’t that old! Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) also crossed my mind, but I didn’t have the tingling and numbness in the first 3 fingers usually associated with CTS.

Fast forward a few years and I had modified almost everything that I did with my hands.  I knew exactly how to position my hands for the least amount of pain and what my “new” range of motion would be before pain was aggravated.  I would never use an open palm to support any weight whatsoever.  Push-ups were done closed fisted.  Yoga postures were done without an open palm.  No more than 3-4 massage clients a day and definitely no more than 8-10 in a week.  I got massage on my forearm flexors and extensors regularly and used acupuncture and stretching to keep the wrists limber.  But, even with all of the management of my wrist and the care I took to try and heal them, nothing really reduced the pain.

Then last year, I decided to get some x-rays on my wrist joints to see what would come up.  Desperate, I was looking for some answers.  Of course, something was found.  I had the beginning of degenerative joint disease (DJD) on my right hand.  The doctor pointed out that there was some DJD that could be giving me wrist pain.  But, there was no answer for why my left wrist was in pain.  So, I resolved myself to just treating my wrists and hands with care and just trying to reduce the wear-and-tear on the joints.

Fast forward to just a few months ago. I was perusing a trigger point manual and found an interesting piece of information that I know I had overlooked before. There’s a muscle underneath the scapula called the subscapularis. It’s a fantastic muscle that hides underneath the scapula and works with 3 other muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor) to make up the rotator cuff muscles. A tight supraspinatus can refer pain to the rear shoulder area and to the wrists. A balanced rotator cuff has all 4 muscles with fairly equal musculature to keep the shoulder joint stable and the upper arm in the shoulder socket, so to speak.

Well, I had multiple ortho-neuro tests on my rotator cuff muscles done and there was a fair amount of strength in each.  Nothing seemed to be too out of balance.  Being a massage therapist that I am, I palpated each of the muscles for tenderness.  When I touched the subscapularis, I almost went through the roof.  It was extremely tender.  So, I got to massaging it once a day and stretching it out 3 times a day.  The right subscapularis was much more tender than the left one, but both needed heavy work.

After a week of consistent massage and working to release the subscapularis, the pain in my wrists began to diminish.  Today, I can actually do a push-up with my wrists flat on the ground without pain in my left wrist and with very minimal pain in my right.  I’ve gotten my hands back.  I couldn’t believe the transformation.  I no longer feel like my wrists are going to give out.  I continue to work on strengthening the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor muscles of the rotator cuff and stretching my subscapularis.

So, I guess there are a few things I’ve learned about my situation as well as some other situations that warrants some comments.

1.  If you have pain that begins in the back of the wrists that feels like carpal tunnel but isn’t, check the subscapularis muscle for tightness.  This muscle usually overpowers the other 3 in the rotator cuff and can refer pain to the back of the shoulder and to the back of the wrist.

2.  If you have frozen shoulder (aka adhesive capsulitis) and/or one shoulder is higher than another visually, there could be a subscapularis problem.  Don’t forget about it.  Just because it’s not a superficial muscle, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need work.  A tight subscapularis does not need strengthening before you release the trigger points.  Strengthen the other 3 rotator cuff muscles and work out the trigger points of the subscapularis first.

3.  Find a good stretch for the subscapularis muscle.  I like the broomstick stretch, personally.  Also, look for rotator cuff exercises that work on the lateral rotation of the arm.  On most people, lateral rotational strength is much weaker than medial rotational strength of the upper arm.

4.  Just because you are active, does not mean that you can’t have this problem.  It has more to do with imbalance of muscle structure rather than strength of musculature.  I’ve seen subscapularis problems in 60 year olds and also in 30 year olds (myself included!).

5. Many activities will strengthen the subscapularis while neglecting the rest of the musculature supporting the shoulder girdle.  Make sure that you make up for weakness in other muscles, by focused weight training.

6.  I’m sure this subscapularis scenario gets misdiagnosed often.  I can see it getting diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, pinched nerve, etc.  This is why I’m posting this.  I don’t want to see more people get put on medications, or have surgery done, or just suffer for something that can be fixed with a bit of massage and exercise.

Product Recall of Triad Group Alcohol-Based Prep Pads, Swabs, and Swabsticks

Triad Group, a manufacturer of over-the-counter products has initiated a voluntary product recall involving ALL LOTS of ALCOHOL PREP PADS, ALCOHOL SWABS, and ALCOHOL SWABSTICKS manufactured by Triad Group but which are private labeled for many accounts to the consumer level. This recall involves those products marked as STERILE as well as non-sterile products. This recall has been initiated due to concerns from a customer about potential contamination of the products with an objectionable organism, namely Bacillus cereus. We are, out of an abundance of caution, recalling these lots to ensure that we are not the source of these contamination issues.

Use of contaminated Alcohol Prep Pads, Alcohol Swabs or Alcohol Swabsticks could lead to life-threatening infections, especially in at risk populations, including immune suppressed and surgical patients. To date we have received one report of a non-life-threatening skin infection.

Alcohol Prep Pads, Alcohol Swabs and Alcohol Swabsticks are used to disinfect prior to an injection. They were distributed nationwide to retail pharmacies and are packaged in individual packets and sold in retail pharmacies in a box of 100 packets. The affected Alcohol Prep Pads, Alcohol Swabs and Alcohol Swabsticks can be identified by either “Triad Group,” listed as the manufacturer, or the products are manufactured for a third party and use the names listed below in their packaging:

Cardinal Health
PSS Select
VersaPro
Boca/ Ultilet
Moore Medical
Walgreens
CVS
Conzellin

Please visit http://www.fda.gov/ MedWatch/report.htm for more information on product returns and refunds.

Why Doesn’t My Acupuncturist Take Insurance?

So, you’re pretty excited that your insurance plan covers acupuncture. You’ve never had it, but you’ve heard great things about all of the disorders that acupuncture can treat. Besides, it’s natural medicine and hopefully acupuncture will help you reduce the amount of medications you are currently taking. You decide that this New Year, you want to give it a shot. So, you get online and look for some acupuncturists in your area. You find 5 of them within a 10 mile radius. After calling each and every one of them, you find out that none of them accept your insurance. In fact, none of the acupuncturists accept any insurance.  How can this be?

Well, let’s go through some of the reasons why your acupuncturist may not accept insurance.

1.  Insurance billing is tedious.

Your acupuncturist may be a sole proprietor. They are wearing many hats, trying to be an acupuncturist, accountant, inventory manager, advertising & marketing person, etc. Learning to bill insurance requires time, money, and patience. Insurance companies do not make it easy for doctors to get reimbursed through insurance. In fact, there are vocational schools that offer a 3-12 month certification programs just for medical insurance billing.

Also, insurance companies will not reimburse the acupuncturist/doctor/etc. if there is an error in the form submitted to them.  The incorrect form is noted by the insurance company and set aside.  Nothing happens until the doctor calls to ask why he/she has not been reimbursed. The acupuncturist must stay on top of all of the forms submitted to make sure he/she gets properly paid from the insurance company. Of course, on the flip side, if insurance billing is done correctly, the time spent here may be minimized. Overall, adding insurance to an acupuncture practice requires another set of obstacles and concerns that your acupuncturist may not want to take on.

2.  Insurance companies don’t reimburse very well.

Insurance companies want to pay out as little as possible. They are a for-profit company and they want to keep their margins up. They will pay what they consider to be “normal and customary”. Many times, what the insurance company thinks is normal and customary is less than what the acupuncturist must charge to keep their doors open for business.

Consider that across all medical fields insurance is reducing the reimbursement. Doctors are getting paid less for their patient care. Combine minimal reimbursement with the requirement of additional clinical charting and billing paperwork and you have a situation that many acupuncturists would rather avoid than embrace.

3.  Insurance companies limit coverage for the health problems they believe acupuncture can treat.

Health insurance companies control and limit access to your options for health care. They restrict your ability to make health care decisions on your own. They will only pay for what they believe is “medicine”. Your insurance company may be opening its benefits to include acupuncture because they want a piece of the $34 billion out-of-pocket money that Americans are  putting towards alternative healthcare. But, most insurance companies will not cover your acupuncture visit unless it falls into one of these categories:  chronic back pain, migraines, morning sickness from pregnancy, postoperative nausea from chemotherapy or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain.  (Please check with your insurance company’s acupuncture policy for further information.)

Some acupuncturists do not like the fact that insurance companies state that acupuncture treatments for conditions outside of their coverage is considered “experimental”. Many licensed acupuncturists (LAc’s) believe that insurance companies should not be the ones controlling health care options for the consumer. By the acupuncturist accepting health insurance, they believe that they are supporting the insurance companies along with the inept health care system and only adding fuel to the already out-of-control fire.

Of course, the health insurance issue is a complex one. Health insurance companies have taken control of how health is seen and treated in America. Prices are exorbitant because of a profit-at-all-costs mentality.  Now, the ballooning American health care system is viewed as grossly incompetent. Since money is the motivating factor for things to really change in this industry, it is up to the consumer to spend their money wisely. Consumers must put their money towards the things they want. By seeking out acupuncture for more of your conditions, consumers are voting for acupuncture to play a larger part in American health care.

Many acupuncturists believe that acupuncture can treat a wide variety of disorders and should not be limited.  You, the consumer, have already gotten acupuncture into the insurance companies’ collective mind.  The progress towards acceptance has begun to show on insurance policies.

Another thing that you, the consumer, can do is to ask your insurance company why some of your acupuncture treatments are not covered by them.  And keep asking.  If you want to see more acupuncturists accepting insurance, you must speak with your voice as well as with your dollars. When the insurance companies see where your money is going and hear what you want your insurance policy to cover, they will expand their coverage for more acupuncture-treatable conditions on their policies.  They will make it easier for acupuncturists to become an in-network provider and seamlessly support you, the customer.  You will start to have more health care options, more acupuncturists will begin to accept insurance, and you will feel better about the money you spend on your health care policy.