What is the Best Treatment For Low Back Pain?

Exercise and Back Pain MinnetonkaA recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the best treatment for low back pain was exercise. It would be great if the answer was that simple, just to exercise and everything will be better. However we all know life is not that easy, if it was no one would be going to the doctor and no one would have ongoing problems with pain.

Anyone who has had low back pain that did not go away quickly has struggled with finding the answer of what is wrong and what should be done about it. Every patient that comes and sees a specialist for back pain is asking the same questions. Most have tried to exercise, but for many it just doesn’t work. The main reason is because pain extremely complex, and when it does not go away easily, there are usually complex interactions occurring between multiple structures perpetuating pain signals. Studies that show simple solutions to back pain often concern only a small segment of those people who have problems. These are people with muscle strains and no other structural, psychological or nervous system changes affecting the lumbar region.

Best Bet For Back Pain

Simple problems like muscle strains, no matter where they are in the body, tend to heal. The best solution is often exercise to promote structural repair and to strengthen the muscle so that it is not re-injured. Sometimes one can do this on their own and at other times working with a trainer or other healthcare professional is necessary. The key here is that the damage is not permanent and can be reversed with the proper care.

Those who have complex pain often need a more comprehensive treatment plan. The first step is finding a good expert who can determine what is causing problems and devise an overall management strategy. Complex problems often have components that are not reversible, such as general age-related joint or disc degeneration. The goal then becomes how does one manage the symptoms and keep them from interfering with other functions. It often takes multiple different things from drugs, injections, exercise and possibly surgery to control the problem. Essential to treatment in most cases is of some type of exercise. Movement keeps the body healthy and often improves healing of most structures in the body including the back. Exercise is definitely one of the most important elements toward healing a sore back, but doing the right type and intensity along with other interventions from medical providers is often necessary. If a sore back does not get better with simple exercise, seek out expert medical advice.

How To Properly Dispose of Pain Pills and Opioids

Pain Pill Disposal MinnesotaOpioid abuse has become a huge problem in the United States. After many minor procedures and trauma people are prescribed pain medication. Oftentimes people have leftover pills that end up sitting around the home. This is one source of pills that may be misused or abused by others, or the patient themselves and can lead to addiction. No one usually wants to waste their medicine, but with the abuse potential and danger of these opioids, disposal then becomes an issue.

Leftover pain medications that are opioids need to be handled properly. When storing them at home, due to the street value and abusive potential, they should be kept hidden and locked away securely. One does not want these medications to ever be lost or stolen. Furthermore, easy access may allow another household member or friend the ability to take the opioids and use or abuse them. Your safety and others is dependent on keeping all your medications secure and used only according to the directions of the prescriber.

Proper Disposal

Disposal of medications has become a major problem. Most drugs, no matter the category, are considered hazardous substances. Drugs can be toxic to other people, animals and the environment. Studies of wastewater have often showed traces of a wide variety of substances from birth control hormones, to antidepressants and narcotics. The most common recommendation for drug disposal has been to flush them down the toilet. Unfortunately this has led to the spread of many compounds into the water system and the environment. A better solution for personal disposal is to crush and mix the pills with dirt or cat litter making the drug unusable and disposing with the trash.

Currently, the best option for disposal is burning the medication in a commercial incinerator. This actually destroys and fairly safely vaporizes most medications. Minnesota does have a program coordinated by local law enforcement offices to take unused prescription medications, and these are sent for hazardous waste incineration. Unfortunately this is not the most convenient system for a lot of people. Physician offices usually do not have the ability to do this but often they can add prescription medications to other drugs and materials that are sent out as hazardous waste on a very limited basis. Pharmacies and drugstores do not generally have the ability to accept returned medications.

Hopefully in the near future, Minnesota will develop a system to encourage medication return to pharmacies for disposal in a secure and proper way. A wide spread system of pharmacy return and transfer for incineration would be ideal. For this to occur, Minnesota would need to change its law and assist with the coordination of collection and proper disposal. This would be a major step forward in reducing medication available for abuse and it would lessen the toxic effects on the environment.

The Importance of An Anti-Inflammatory Diet, Part 2

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Minnesota DoctorEarlier this week, we posted a blog titled “The Importance of An Anti-Inflammatory Diet, Part 1.” In the post, we discuss five tips for keeping chronic pain at bay through a healthy diet. Here’s Part 2, which includes five more tips.

Tip 6: Try adding onions to more dishes – Onions are packed with beneficial antioxidants. These may help reduce inflammation, lower bad cholesterol and reduce heart risks. Use more onions in your food preparation from sauces to salads and on things like sandwiches.

Tip 7: Watch out for some plants that may have the reverse effect of increasing inflammation – The most notable would be potatoes and corn since they are high in starches. Others are more controversial in effects, but are most likely beneficial. These include tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. All the latter are found significantly in the Mediterranean diet and are likely to have benefits from a number of compounds they contain that are antioxidants.

Tip 8: Fiber is your friend – Fiber lowers C-reactive protein levels and is a marker of inflammation that can be detected in the bloodstream. Fiber also fills up a person, and makes one feel full during a meal. This also helps in the overall digestive process and improves gastric motility, decreasing constipation. Fresh vegetables, some fruit, and unprocessed grains are good sources. Eat popcorn without extra salt and butter for snacks as an additional bonus.

Tip 9: Avoid processed foods, like white bread or rice, chips, cookies, and many prepackaged foods – These often are high in sugar, preservatives and salt and all are linked to being unhealthy. Many of these things tend to promote inflammation. Salt also promotes unnecessary fluid retention and high blood pressure and is found in large amounts in processed food.

Tip 10: Do everything with a degree of moderation – When you eat a meal, use a smaller plate, this will encourage one to eat less. There is no need to stuff oneself and constantly be eating. The brain needs time to receive the signals that you are full, so eat less and slow down. Eat more fresh food and prepare it yourself. Adding in a small amount of wine is a good treat and many wines contain resveratrol, another anti-inflammatory compound. Coffee has also been shown to be healthy with a number of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, so you can still enjoy your morning.

Changing your diet, eating less, eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, cooking your own food and improving your lifestyle can improve pain levels. Unfortunately, it does take a fair amount of dedication to change. However, if you keep doing things the same way all the time, the same results are going to occur. Consider the benefits of change to decrease pain and inflammation. For many chronic pain conditions there is no magical solution and changing your lifestyle is necessary to obtain the desired results.

The Importance of An Anti-Inflammatory Diet, Part 1

The diet we eat appears to have more and more significant influence on how healthy we are overall. Diet crazes come and go, but more research is showing that the food we eat does affect many aspects of our life. The main problem is that it is easier to eat whatever foods are available than to choose things that are healthy and helpful to us.

Furthermore the food we eat is processed differently at least initially in each and every person depending on our own genetics and the bacteria that happens to be in our gastrointestinal tract. Lastly, if we are overweight, the fat in our body may be contributing to inflammation. Losing excessive fat, exercising and eating healthy foods are all part of controlling inflammation in our bodies, and that too can contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Researchers have identified certain foods and diet characteristics that seem to help control inflammation. Below are some suggestions with regards to a diet to control inflammation.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

1. Start eating fish regularly – At least two meals a week should contain fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are the ones that are good for you by reducing C-reactive protein and interlukin-6, two proteins that enhance inflammation in the body. Eating a portion of fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, or other cold water fish is ideal.

2. Eat more fruit and vegetables because they are packed with antioxidants – These are compounds that support your immune system and help protect it from dangerous compounds in the environment. They also may help prevent inflammation by protecting compounds in the body from breaking down and needing to be removed and destroyed. The best sources are fresh fruit and vegetables, and when cooking vegetables, just lightly steam or cook them, keeping them crisp. The daily amount should be at 2-3 cups of each a day, that would likely equal at least 2-3 pieces of fresh fruit plus your vegetables. This could also include your salads.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Minnesota

3. Try eating nuts and seeds more often – They are great to substitute for snacks instead of empty calories like sweets. Nuts are full of anti-inflammatory monosaturated fats and are high in protein and fiber. Nuts also tend to fill you up and decrease the desire for more calories. A quarter cup of nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds or pecans are great for snacks. Keep a jar available and take a few when hunger strikes. Stay away from coated or salted nuts.

4. Beans are often known as the “magical” fruit – They have some unwelcomed properties for some people, producing gas since they may be hard for some to fully digest, but beans have several anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. They are also a low cost source of protein, packed with minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc and are high in fiber. Cooked beans can serve as a substitute for meat in sauces, and can be used as a main protein source if properly balanced in a diet. Many vegetarians use beans as their main source of dietary protein and extensive recipes are available in how to incorporate them into meals.

5. Use olive oil as one of your main monounsaturated sources of heart healthy fats – This compound is rich in antioxidants and oleocanthal, a compound that can lower inflammation and pain. The Mediterranean region uses olive oil in most of its cooking, and many use it for salad dressing. It is fine for coating hot pans, but do not try to fry foods with this oil.

On Thursday, we’ll share part 2 which includes five more tips on how an anti-inflammatory diet can help prevent chronic pain.

5 Ways to Eat Better in the New Year

Eat Healthy MinneapolisIt is a New Year and a lot of people have made resolutions to eat better and lose weight. There are countless diets one could follow and everywhere you turn someone has a suggestion on what to do to become healthier. In reality, as science becomes more involved in understanding obesity and weight, the more complex the whole subject becomes. People originally thought taking in fewer calories than you burned was all you needed for weight loss, but unfortunately it is now much more complex. However there are some simple rules that may improve your diet and health.

Diet Rules To Remember

1. Eat more plants – As your mother said, eat your vegetables, especially fresh vegetables. Add in more whole grains, fresh fruit, and beans. Maintain a variety of these items in your daily intake. All these plants have essential nutrients and many contain compounds that bolster the immune system, improve digestion, fill you due to fiber and contain healthier varieties of carbohydrates that foster less weight gain. From the wide variety of plants and vegetables available, there should be a number of things that are tasty to eat.

2. Don’t eat more calories than you need – If you fill full at a meal, stop eating, even if your plate is not empty. Wait a little time after you eat before deciding on a dessert, since it takes time for the signals from your stomach to get to the brain and to tell it you did eat enough. Along the same line, slow down your eating, this will also give the brain time to determine it has had enough nutrients. Drinking more fluids also gives the stomach a feeling of fullness and may decrease the need for more food. Lastly, track your weight on a weekly basis (daily monitoring is deceptive and can vary) and if it is trending up, decrease the food intake. Tracking your exercise also may be helpful, a fitness tracker will give you a baseline level, if you are not moving you will not burn the calories you take in.

3. Eat less junk – This is food that is full of empty calories with no nutritional value. Start easy by eliminating candy, cookies, and things like energy drinks, or sugary donuts, pastries or desserts. These foods all are high in calories and carbohydrates. Yes they give you a quick dose of energy, but they are all easily converted to fat in the body. An occasional reward is ok, but small amount is more beneficial. The one exception may be to have a small piece of dark chocolate, this actually does have health benefits.

4. Eat a variety of foods you enjoy – Look at your current diet and determine what foods are healthy, and what you enjoy. Increase the amount of food that is healthy such as fish, chicken, turkey, and lean meats as well as vegetables, fruits and grains. Lower the amount of refined carbohydrates like white rice and pastas. Control the total portion size you eat, but you do not have to rid yourself of anything bad. The most important thing is increase healthy food you like,

5. Learn to cook yourself – Prepared meals and restaurant food is often not the healthiest. Most commercially made meals have high sodium amounts, refined carbohydrates, high calories from fats, and are not particularly good besides the taste. Restaurant meals and fast food is often high in fat, carbohydrates, and calories with few nutrients for the portion size. Cooking at home teaches one to use fresh ingredients, and it is much easier to institute healthier choices. Choosing fruits and vegetables, small portions of whole grain carbohydrates, and leaner cuts of meat or fish becomes much easier. Taste of the food may also improve, and cooking can be extremely relaxing and a time to interact with others.

In the New Year take a step forward toward a healthier lifestyle. Make some changes in your life and enjoy the changes you see in yourself. If you keep everything the same, your life will be the same. If you make some changes toward a healthier lifestyle, eating better, and exercising, the results over time should be evident.