1. Yoga no help for back pain

    Don't fall for this new back pain scam

    I don't get it. The mainstream media is madly in love with yoga, and there's not much reason for it.

    It's fine as far as stretching goes, but the media fawns over it as if there's something magical about yoga and yoga alone.

    Just look at the latest headlines, which claim yoga is "as good as" physical therapy for low back pain.

    Sure, both can be helpful to folks with back pain.

    But neither are perfect, and the study shows that pretty clearly, too.

    The study didn't just compare yoga to old-fashioned PT. There was also a third group of patients who didn't get either treatment. They were given a book about how to care for back pain and some follow-up information every few weeks.

    After 12 weeks, the folks who did the yoga had an improvement in function of 3.8 points as measured by a common pain scale, which was almost identical to the 3.5-point improvement of those who had PT.

    That's better than the folks who didn't get either, but not by much: They had a 2.5-point boost in function.

    The folks who did yoga and PT were a little less likely to need painkillers early on, another plus for both. But again, the benefit was modest.

    So sure -- there are some benefits to yoga, and it's certainly not harmful like drugs or invasive like surgery.

    But yoga does lose to physical therapy in one very important way: PT is often likely to be covered by your insurance if you have an ongoing pain problem.

    Yoga is not.

    In addition, a trained physical therapist can work with you to target specific trouble spots and ensure he doesn't aggravate your injury or cause a new one.

    You won't always get that from yoga.

    There's also something else to watch out for: Yoga is part of the Hindu faith, and most of the classes involve chanting and other elements that are part of that religion. As a Christian, I wouldn't practice yoga myself in a setting with those elements.

    That said, if you want to give it a try, you might find some classes that remove the religious parts and just focus on the muscle-easing stretches.

    Just bear in mind that while yoga and PT can often be helpful, they're not always the answer to long-term chronic pain problems, such as low back pain.

    You'll get much better results from therapies such as spinal manipulation and acupuncture. These treatments may even cure some cases of low back pain (and, like PT, may be covered by insurance).

    Other folks may need a little more help. For the best results, combine these non-drug therapies with natural pain relievers such as topical MSM.

  2. Light exercise can improve stroke & heart attack recovery

    Fighting back after heart attack and stroke

    If you're recovering from a heart attack or stroke, don't take it lying down. Get up and get moving as soon as you can. It's critical for your physical recovery, of course, but it's also positively essential to your mental health -- especially if you're fighting your way back from a heart attack.

    Many heart patients face depression after an attack, and it's often so bad that doctors prescribe antidepressants such as SSRIs to fight it off.

    But those meds are a bad idea in the best of times, and after a heart attack -- when patients are already taking more pills than they can count -- those drugs can make a bad situation worse.

    Exercise, on the other hand, is a proven mood-booster that studies have shown can be as effective as SSRIs at fighting off depression. And now, a new study shows that's even true among heart attack patients.

    Researchers assigned 2,322 heart failure patients to either regular aerobic exercise or "usual care," which included advice to get exercise but no actual structured exercise program.

    You know how that works, right? Most people hear the advice but never actually engage in the exercise (this isn't just true for heart patients, by the way).

    Over the course of a year, the exercisers did consistently better on a 63-point depression test than those who didn't exercise. With an average difference of one point, it wasn't a huge improvement -- but it held throughout the study.

    In addition, many of these patients weren't all that depressed to begin with. Among those who were more seriously depressed, however, the benefit was even bigger. All told, the researchers say exercise worked about as well as antidepressant drugs -- minus the actual drugs and their side effects.

    And for the icing on the cake, those who did the exercise program were 15 percent less likely to die or return to the hospital for heart failure during the study period.

    Exercise doesn't have to be intense and you certainly don't need to work yourself to the brink of another heart attack. In this case, they used a treadmill or bike for 30 minutes three times a week.

    Other, even gentler, forms of exercise can also have a benefit. Yoga, for example, can help ease depression and boost heart health.

    And if you or someone you love is recovering from a stroke, you might want to work on your "lotus" pose, because another new study finds the gentle stretches of yoga can help restore balance.

    I don't mean the esoteric concept of balance that yoga lovers often talk about, but actual balance -- the physical coordination that many people lose after a stroke.

    In the new study, stroke survivors who tried eight weeks of yoga had better balance, were less afraid of falling, were more independent and even reported better quality of life and improved mindset over those who didn't get stretched out.

    Some of those changes might sound minor, but they led to major real-world improvements -- like stroke survivors in the yoga group who would want to walk through a store instead of ride in a scooter, or get out and visit friends instead of stay at home.

    You don't have to be a heart patient or stroke survivor to benefit from exercise. Regular movement -- even simple, gentle stretches and not necessarily yoga -- can help lower blood pressure, ease pain, boost the mood, reduce anxiety, and more.

    Exercise can even help prevent that heart attack or stroke from happening in the first place -- and that's the biggest benefit of all.

  3. Rheumatoid arthritis pain relieved with gentle movement

    A new study confirms that rheumatoid arthritis patients who practice yoga have an easier time battling the disease.
  4. Yoga can beat back pain -- and that's no stretch

    I know plenty of people who won't try yoga because, well, it's yoga -- and they think they'd feel ridiculous doing it. But if you're battling back pain, do yourself a favor: Open your mind before you open another jar of pills -- because yoga can help beat your pain, and two new studies prove it.
  5. Chondroitin offers arthritis relief

    The new study confirms that chondroitin can beat pain, ease stiffness, and even restore function to patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the hands.
  6. Simple solution for post-menopausal sleep disorders

    If you tell your doctor you're having trouble sleeping, the first thing he'll do is reach for his prescription pad -- especially if you're a woman going through menopause.
  7. Yoga can bring fibro relief

    Researchers say light stretching can do what a pharmacy full of drugs often cannot: Bring real relief to women suffering from fibromyalgia, the mystifying and often debilitating pain condition.
  8. Heart drug in death risk

    Here's an urgent warning for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who've taken the heart drug Multaq: The FDA says it may double the risk of death in some patients.
  9. Lifestyle can help duck heartbeat problems

    Not many things can put the scare into you quite like atrial fibrillation--I've heard people say it feels like the heart is trying to break right out of the chest.
  10. Obesity linked to fibromyalgia pain

    Obesity has been linked to the chronic pain condition before, and a new study finds even more evidence that extra pounds can bring extra hurt.
  11. Yoga can beat fibromyalgia

    While Big Pharma offers powerful, dangerous and largely ineffective drugs for the pain condition fibromyalgia, a new study finds the only prescription you might really need is a little yoga.
  12. Allergy researchers barking up the wrong tree

    There's some great research going on these days when it comes to allergies and asthma. Too bad it's being used for the wrong reasons.

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