Between 430 and 530 people throughout Australasia are diagnosed with a spinal cord injury every year. But could a recent study provide hope for those with thoracic spinal cord injuries?
A new study indicated that half of those with thoracic spinal cord injuries may still have some connectivity. This is a revolutionary discovery given that it was previously thought a complete spinal cord injury spelt the end of any sensory nerve connections.
The blind study was carried out by Neuroscience Research Australia, HammondCare, and The University of Sydney, with a breakthrough published in January this year. It was found that half of the 23 patients with thoracic spinal cord injuries had surviving sensory nerve connections.
During the study, each of the 23 patients, and 21 subjects with no spinal injuries were placed into a highly advanced MRI machine to register the brain’s response. Scientists touched each person’s toes then analysed the data received by the MRI machine. The results were astounding, with over half of those with spinal injuries registering the touch, even if their bodies didn’t.
As a result, scientists were able to prove that in some cases, even if a patient has a complete thoracic spine injury, some sensory pathways can be preserved and the message is getting through to the brain loud and clear.
This new research, which is part of a long-standing relationship between researchers, opens up a whole new world of possibilities for those with seemingly permanent disabilities. While it’s too early to tell what can happen with science in the future, it does mean that new avenues for research and treatment can be opened. The ultimate goal, of course, is to restore some function, sensation, and movement to those suffering from spinal cord injuries.
One such treatment avenue that scientists may yet delve into after identifying those with sensory nerve connections is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS works by using a changing magnetic field to cause an electric current to flow through the brain. A magnetic field coil is placed near the head of the patient which connects to a stimulator that delivers the current to the coil.
Typically, this treatment method is used to evaluate damage by measuring connections between the skeletal muscle and the central nervous system for those suffering from conditions such as a stroke, motor neuron disease, movement disorders and multiple sclerosis. It has also been used to treat neuropathic pain.
While it may be beneficial for these conditions, TMS treatment does have adverse side effects, including hearing loss, fainting, seizures and cognitive changes. Further research into TMS and other possible treatment methods is necessary to see if it may benefit those with spinal cord injuries in light of this new, breaking study.
While the study does prove that sensory nerve connections are present in those previously thought to have no sensation at all, there is still a long way to go until anything can be done with this information. Time will only tell what this revolutionary break-through spells for those with spinal cord injuries.
Spice up your meals this winter.
Most people think of a headache and see it as a sore head and nothing more. While it can feel like the pain originates in your head, it might actually stem from somewhere else.
Headache pain is “extremely common” according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). In fact, as many as one in every 20 people are affected on an almost daily basis with repeated head pain. One particular type of headache which can create an astonishing amount of throbbing discomfort is the cervicogenic headache. A cervicogenic headache is a type of secondary headache, which means it is caused by another illness or physical issue. For a cervicogenic headache, the actual cause is a disorder of the cervical spine and its component bone, disc and/or soft tissue elements, put simply, the neck area.
A headache associated with neck pain is not necessarily of the cervicogenic variety. Many headache disorders including migraine and tension-type headaches can have associated neck pain/tension. So if you have a headache, you may not know it's cervicogenic, but there are symptoms that can help identify if there is an underlying cause.
One of the most common symptoms is a reduced range of motion in the neck and the headache seems to worsen with specific neck movements, or when pressure is applied to certain areas on the neck. Often the headache will be on one side only and pain may radiate from the back of the neck/ head up to the front of the head or behind the eye. Cervicogenic headaches can also cause migraine-like symptoms including blurry vision, an upset stomach, as well as noise and light sensitivity.
Different conditions, all which stem from a problem in the neck area, can trigger a cervicogenic headache e.g. a prolapsed disc in the neck, whiplash, or even degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis. Injury or trauma from playing sport or even from a fall can also trigger these headaches. They can occur due to poor posture with a cervical protraction whilst standing or sitting: pushing your chin forward, which moves your head out in front of your body, as can falling asleep in an awkward position, especially when sitting up in bed or in a chair.
An assessment of evidence for the treatment of cervicogenic headaches, published in well-renowned medical journal, The Lancet Neurology, found that patients who suffered from a cervicogenic headache frequently did not respond to medication, suggesting a drug-free treatment plan can be a more suitable course of action. Treatment, however, for a cervicogenic headache needs to target the source of the pain (in the neck), therefore the best way to do that will vary, depending on the patient and the underlying cause.
Treatment aims to not only relieve your immediate symptoms, but also to reduce the frequency and intensity of the headaches. If you think your headaches may be caused by an associated neck issue, speak with your chiropractor. A diagnosis of cervicogenic headache may lead to being rid of that pain in the neck, for good!
Trying to hide vegetables from a picky eater?
As soon as you learn to walk, you put on a pair of shoes and never look back. Is it time to stand on your own two feet?
Humans are not born to wear shoes, but they are a form of protection as you go about your daily business. They protect your feet from bacteria, infections, harmful surfaces and materials like glass, and uncomfortable temperatures.
However, experts say that walking barefoot can restore your natural gait, and work certain muscle groups to strengthen your body. It can offer better foot mechanics and positioning as you walk, and stronger legs to support your lower back. If your feet work better, then your core, knees, and hips can as well. You may also notice improvements in your balance.
Shoes that don’t fit properly can cause bunions, blisters and deformities, so you could say goodbye to those too. As you can see, there is plenty to love about bare feet, but that doesn’t mean you should suddenly stop wearing shoes.
You need to start slow to strengthen your feet over time. Begin with short sessions, letting your ankles and feet adjust to using different muscle groups. Participate in barefoot activities such as yoga, and go barefoot around the house. Balance exercises should also form part of your “going bare” plan.
When you decide to leave the house with no shoes, be wary of all hazards. Start on safe surfaces such as sand or grass, and ease up if you feel any pain or discomfort. If you are prone to infections or wounds, then choosing light, minimalist footwear may be a better option for you.
There are many benefits of walking without shoes, but you must take all safety precautions. Consult your chiropractor for advice, or if you plan on completing any vigorous exercises without footwear.
Work-related arm, neck, and shoulder problems cost the workforce billions of dollars every year. Could your computer mouse be to blame?
If you work in a mouse-heavy industry, such as graphic design or architecture, then it’s not uncommon to experience fatigue and pain. Weeks of mouse use without support can lead to repetitive strain injury and irritation – particularly around your shoulder region. Such pain is often a sign of a condition called ‘’mouse shoulder’’.
Mouse shoulder is caused by the repetitive, slight movements of your hands and fingers as you use your computer mouse. These small muscles become fatigued, causing larger muscles groups to compensate, resulting in more widespread discomfort. Before you know it, you’re in that much pain that you struggle with everyday tasks.
If you notice any tension or aches after frequent computer use, there are several things you can do. See your chiropractor for treatment, and invest time in setting up an ergonomic workstation.
Pay attention to your mouse, monitor, seating, and comfort. Your elbows should be relaxed at your sides, your screen and mouse centred in front of you, and your chair adjusted with armrests to support your forearms.
You may even find it useful to invest in support pads for your wrists, an ergonomic mouse that fits your hand size, and a special keyboard that promotes natural movement. Taking 15-second breaks every hour to give your arms and hands a break, is also crucial.
If you see your chiropractor for assistance, they may recommend a manual or instrument-assisted treatment method to alleviate mouse shoulder and associated pain. Every treatment plan is unique to you and the symptoms you present with. If you have any questions, or need help with your discomfort, consult your chiropractor.
Running on a treadmill to the point of exhaustion is not everyone’s idea of a good time. But could there be a more natural way of achieving your health and fitness goals?
Your daily tasks, the things you do every day, can be a source of fitness. Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, stated that high-intensity incidental physical activity (HIIPA), could be pivotal in helping overweight or unfit people improve their health. The best part is you do nothing out of the ordinary.
You can mow your lawns, play with the kids, do some gardening, or wash your car, and you’re contributing to your health and wellbeing. You don’t need to make extra time, buy equipment, or have a particular set of skills.
According to the World Health Organisation, an average person needs 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week. Anything you do to get your heart rate up, increase your body temperature, or work out your muscles, contributes to that time. At least two sessions of strength training per week are also a recommendation.
Incidental fitness works hand in hand with functional fitness, which is structured exercise that helps you carry out your daily tasks. For example, let’s say you do a lot of heavy lifting; strengthening the group of muscles involved can make this easier, and help reduce the risk of injury.
Around 60 percent of Australian women are overweight or unfit, with many saying they struggle to find time for structured exercise. Most people find it easier to be active in lots of little ways through their day. According to research, three to five brief HIIPA sessions daily, totalling onlyfive to 10 minutes, can benefit health andfitness levels.
In essence, to benefit from incidental physical activity, you add intensity to everything you do. Put a little more gusto into hanging out your washing, and run at a faster pace when you’re chasing the kids. Park further away from the office, walk fast, take the stairs, and do a little dance while you’re washing the dishes.
Remember to think of movement as an opportunity, not a nuisance, and pick up the pace next time you hit the supermarket.
Every time your parents told you to eat your broccoli, they were neglecting its much- underrated cousin, cauliflower.
Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can include in your diet, but cauliflower, another cruciferous family member, is equal to its greener counterpart as a nutrition powerhouse.
Adding one cup of cooked cauliflower to your dinner plate can offer up to 77 percent of your daily intake of Vitamin C, 19 percent of your daily Vitamin K, and eight percent of your daily Manganese amount. It’s also only 25 calories, making it a nutrient-rich vegetable that doesn’t add a lot to your daily total.
Everyone knows that colourful vegetables tend to offer the most health benefits, but people are starting to understand that cauliflower is an exception to that rule. It might not be the prettiest vegetable, but it is rich in vitamins, folate, fibre, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. What’s more, you can also buy it in orange, purple, and green – with orange cauliflower offering 25 times as much vitamin A as white cauliflower. It’s clear to see why it ranks within the 25 most nutrient-rich vegetables in existence.
Cauliflower has numerous health benefits. Its vitamins and minerals can fight free radicals to reduce the risk of cancer and
heart disease, while the fibre content is beneficial for digestive health. Studies, such as a review in the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, show an association between a high consumption of cruciferous vegetables and a reduced risk of cancer.
If you need another reason to consume more cauliflower, it has great versatility. You can eat it raw, sautéed, boiled, roasted, or even in pizza dough or as a sauce base. Include it as part of your five cup minimum weekly recommendation for cruciferous vegetables, and get creative with how you serve it.
Although cauliflower is generally safe to eat, increased consumption may cause bloating and wind. If you are on blood- thinning medication, keep your vitamin K intake consistent every week.
Keep an eye out for an exciting Cauliflower recipe next week!
What began as a set of exercises for injured dancers and athletes has turned into a beneficial form of exercise for almost everyone. Could it suit you?
Physical trainer Joseph Pilates introduced Pilates into the United States in the 1920s. The purpose of this form of exercise was to help injured dancers and athletes return to their sport safely. However, the benefits and sheer variety of exercises available has made it popular with the general public too.
Pilates consists of hundreds of yoga, ballet, and calisthenic-inspired exercises that stretch and lengthen your major muscle groups in a balanced way. With regular sessions, you may see improvement in your muscular and postural strength, balance, flexibility, stress management, spine stabilisation, concentration, body awareness, and more.
Pilates is suitable for almost anyone – those who are new to it, anyone wanting to add to existing fitness routines, or those who need a safe method of rehabilitation. You can also perform the exercises with or without exercise equipment, depending on the class and instructor. Mat-based
Pilates uses your body weight and gravity for resistance, while equipment-based classes involve muscle resistance items such as dumbbells.
In Pilates, you are not worked to the point of exhaustion, sweating or straining, just intense concentration. The focus is on slow, precise, and rhythmical sets of movements, alongside breathing and abdominal control. If an exercise doesn’t work for you, or isn’t benefitting you, the instructor can re-evaluate it to find out what’s more appropriate. The individual attention of Pilates can make it a desirable exercise option for many – from athletes through to those with limited mobility.
If you believe you could benefit from improved strength, stability, balance, and feelings of wellness, then it could be time to find out what Pilates classes are near you. Most classes are held in Pilates studios, gyms and community centres, and are
usually no longer than an hour and a half. Many can offer tailored exercises to suit your limitations and preferences.
Always attend classes with a qualified instructor and ensure you have medical clearance from your doctor. Seek medical advice if you are pregnant, have had surgery, are over 40, have pre-existing conditions or disorders, are overweight, or have not exercised in a while.
Once you start Pilates classes, it’s important not to expect too much right away. Attend two or three times every week, and you may notice improvements after 10 to 20 sessions.
Australasia is home to several well-developed resorts and ample ski and snowboard opportunities, making it an ideal part of the world to live in, if you’re partial to winter sports. These many beautiful slopes are ready, but is your body?
Whether you’re an avid back-country, cross- country, hobby, or competitive skier or snowboarder, you will know just how much of a toll these exhilarating sports can take on your body. Based on Victorian Ski Patrol reports alone, injury rates sit at between 1.5 to 3.9 injuries per 1,000 visitors.
These statistics don’t take into account muscular and lower back pain that some people may experience after a weekend, or week, on the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding, while fun for the whole family, can leave your body feeling a little worse for wear come the end of the winter sports season.
Muscular pain, including in your lower back and abdomen, can occur when your body’s core muscles are working overtime to maintain your correct form – essentially, trying to keep you upright and off the snow. Doing this for extended periods in itself can cause muscular pain, but may then be made worse by heavy equipment such as boots, cumbersome jackets, and of course, the board or skis themselves.
If you fall while skiing or boarding, you may also run the risk of stressing, twisting, or jarring your spine, including the soft tissue that supports it. However, even the bumpy terrain may have the same effect, as could correcting your stance at short notice, to stop yourself from falling. In essence, skiing and snowboarding can put immense pressure on your spine – whether you’re upright or lying on the snow, post-fall.
The risk of injury and ongoing pain can put many people off hitting the slopes, but there are things you can be doing to prepare your body before the season begins. Start by exercising regularly for at least six weeks before you begin the season. Doing so is likely to put you in better physical condition.
You can also work your way up from beginner slopes through to the more challenging slopes, as a way to warm your body up to more physical challenges, as well as only attempting slopes you and your body can handle.
If you do experience back pain or muscular aches during or after a winter sports session, consider icing the tender areas, relaxing in a spa and consulting your chiropractor.