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If the he thought of making your bed in the great outdoors makes you apprehensive, you’re not alone. Most of us have gotten accustomed to sleeping in a quiet room with lots of pillows and a cushy mattress to help soothe us to sleep. However, you too can enjoy camping out under the stars on a balmy summer’s night by following some of these helpful tips.
Set up your tent on a flat surface. Having your belongings slide into one corner or experiencing all the blood rushing to your head as you sleep because you are on a tilted surface does not make for a restful night’s sleep. Also ensure that the area over which you set up your tent is free of bumpy objects such as rocks and tree roots that will make you wake up feeling sore and bruised.
Use an inflatable sleeping pad (if you are hiking) or an inflatable air mattress (for those who do not have to trek it along for miles) under your sleeping bag to provide extra padding. And if you use an air mattress, don’t forget to bring along the pump or your lungs will likely give out before you have filled it to anything like a useable state.
Check the weather forecast to see what level of insulation you will need for your sleeping bag. Being either too hot or too cold is not conducive to sleep. And remember that even in locations where it is warm during the day, the temperature can often drop significantly overnight. You can purchase a sleeping bag liner that will add an additional 25 degrees of warmth without being bulky. And if it’s too hot, you can always sleep on top of your sleeping bag.
Though some people find the sound of crickets is an aid in lulling them to sleep, for some (particularly city dwellers) it’s worse than traffic noise on a busy Manhattan street. For those who are light sleepers, consider bringing along some earplugs. Or if you are someone who needs white noise and you are not near the ocean or the crickets in your area have gone on strike, there are a number of smartphone apps that can provide sounds such as that of ocean waves or rain falling on the roof.
Be sure your sleepwear is dry. If your clothing is damp or wet, change into dry ones and put on a fresh pair of socks to make you feel extra comfortable. And make sure you do not overdress, as you can become overheated and sweaty, which can lead to getting a chill. A light pair of long underwear is your best bet, and if you are a bit too cool, throw your jacket or a light blanket over your sleeping bag for extra warmth.
A little light exercise before bed can also help you get a good night’s sleep. Nothing too vigorous to get you sweating, just a few sit-ups or some yoga is good for getting the circulation going and tiring you just enough to settle you down to sleep. So take these tips and enjoy your night under the star-filled sky!
Having a good fit between yourself and your bicycle is important for ensuring comfort and stability when you ride, whether it’s just cycling to the market to pick up some milk or cycling to the next state. An improperly fitted bike can lead to blisters, saddle sores, back pain, knee pain and numbness in the hands and feet. A proper setup makes your pedaling more efficient, improving performance and reducing fatigue.
The first step in setting up your bike is to adjust the seat to the proper height. If the seat is too high it can cause pain in the back of the knee and your hips will move from side to side as you pedal, causing discomfort. While in your biking clothes, check to see that your leg is fully extended as you pedal backwards with your heels on the pedals, without having to “reach” for the pedals. Then, if you move the balls of your feet onto the pedals, into the position they would be while cycling, your leg should be just slightly bent at the knee when the pedal is at its lowest. If the seat is too low, it can cause pain in the front of the knee and in the quadriceps muscles of your thighs.
Next, adjust the angle of your seat by starting with it parallel to the ground. If you find it is putting pressure on your pelvis, angle it down slightly. If you feel as though you are being pitched forward, angle it up a bit, as this position will put excess strain on your hands and arms. The angle should be no more than 3 degrees out of parallel, however.
To get the ideal forward and aft seat position, place your forearm and extended hand parallel to the ground and in front of the seat, with your elbow just touching the front of the seat. Move the seat forward or back until your middle finger is just touching the middle of the handlebars.
Pain in your shoulder, back, neck or hands may indicate that your handlebars are not properly adjusted. You should be able to reach all positions of the handlebars comfortably without having to strain to reach them, and without having to lock your elbows. Riding with your elbows slightly bent will act as a sort of shock absorber so your hands and shoulders will not have to absorb all the bumps in the road. Your weight should be evenly distributed between the seat and the handlebars, so if your arms fatigue easily, raise the handlebars up slightly. If your bum is sore, lower the handlebars so your arms take more of the weight.
Just a little extra time spent in setting up your bike properly will reward you with many hours of enjoyable, comfortable cycling.
It’s difficult to enjoy your golf game when the pain in your elbow is a constant companion. Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) not only affects golfers, it can be a problem for anyone who uses their forearms for jobs or sports involving repetitive activity, such as hammering, gardening, shoveling, bowling and swimming. Overuse can strain the tendons that connect the inner elbow to the forearm, leading to pain, weakness and inflammation (tendonitis). Golfer’s elbow is different from tennis elbow, a condition in which the tendons on the outside of the elbow become inflamed.
Physical therapists who treat golfers agree that one of the most common causes of golfer’s elbow (at least for golfers) is what’s called the “chicken wing” swing. This is when the golfer draws his or her arms in toward the body just as the club hits the ball. This pulling in of the arms against the centrifugal force being exerted by the club puts strain on the muscles and tendons of the forearm. This can be caused by being improperly aligned with the ball, or can also be due to a limited range of motion in the shoulder joint.
Another problem with a golfer’s swing that can lead to golfer’s elbow is if the arm hyperextends during follow-through (usually by striking down on the ball rather than swinging up and through), which can cause the tendons to stretch beyond their capacity, creating small tears in the flexor tendons inside the elbow.
There are a number of treatment options available for golfer’s elbow, most of which are simple and non-invasive. First, rest the elbow as much as possible. Though this may require you to put your golf game aside for a few weeks, it will be worth it, as continuing to put wear and tear on damaged tendons will only exacerbate the situation and cause a buildup of scar tissue in the tendon, which will weaken it and make it less flexible.
You can apply an ice pack wrapped in a damp towel for 10 or 15 minutes every couple of hours to help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Keeping the arm compressed with an elastic bandage and elevated when possible will also help with this.
The best way to prevent golfer’s elbow is to stretch and strengthen the forearms regularly, particularly before a game. Circling your wrists and bending your hands in towards your elbow and out again will help gently stretch the muscles and tendons. Chiropractic care can also be useful both for treatment and prevention. Your chiropractor can recommend specific exercises to stretch and strengthen the elbow and can use chiropractic manipulation to increase range of motion in the shoulder and at the wrist and elbow that may be contributing to the condition.
In rare cases, if these other therapies have not relieved the problem after six months of treatment, surgery may be necessary to remove part of damaged tendon, but most cases are successfully healed in a few weeks with proper care.
Since the late 19th century, chiropractors have been performing manipulations on American military personnel in order to help keep them in fighting form. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush authorized the Department of Defense to commission chiropractors and in 1999 the Chiropractic Health Care Demonstration Program found that chiropractic care would offer significant benefits to the military. Specifically, the results showed that:
Although the nature and quality of chiropractic care has evolved and improved considerably since the days in which it was first used in the military, as yet, there are still no commissioned chiropractors in the US Military, despite the above-mentioned governmental authorizations.
Musculoskeletal problems are the most common type of medical issues showing up at VA hospitals, and it’s not surprising. Military gear is heavy, sometimes weighing up to 60 pounds, 8 to 12 pounds of which is weighing down on your neck in the form of a helmet. And that is before you figure in the weight of a rucksack filled with ammunition, batteries and weapons that must all be carried by the soldier on a daily basis.
Retired Brigadier General Rebecca Halstead, now a spokesperson for the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, has first-hand experience of the benefits of chiropractic care for those in the military. After being diagnosed in 2004 with fibromyalgia (a chronic disease that makes muscles and joints feel stiff and painful, causes fatigue and other symptoms), she was prescribed 17 different medications to treat her pain and sleeplessness over a five-year period, none of which were effective. On the advice of her father, she visited a chiropractor, which as she said “gave me my quality of life back.” She is now free from medication and continues to receive regular chiropractic care.
Though chiropractic is technically available to military personnel, actual access to that care is often difficult. First of all, Tricare, which covers all medical care for the military, requires that treatment only be received at a designated military treatment facility after a referral from the service member’s primary care physician; Tricare will not cover any chiropractic care outside these facilities. Chiropractic care is available at only 40 of the approximately 160 VA treatment facilities throughout the US. And despite having a contracted or hired chiropractor at 60 military bases around the country, only 54 percent of eligible service members have access to chiropractic care, according to a 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office. The waiting list to see one at a VA hospital can range anywhere from 90 to 120 days.
The way to solve this problem, according to Halstead, is to have Congress approve all chiropractic coverage with Tricare. She says, “If we can get Tricare to cover it, then tomorrow the benefit would be there for all of our soldiers, no matter how many treatment facilities it would be in. Because if it’s not in the treatment facility, then I’ve got enough chiropractors in the local community that I can go get the help. I personally think that’s the fastest way to bring visibility to how wonderful this service is, because then more soldiers would be going to chiropractors. More soldiers, then, would not be on sick call. More soldiers would be doing their mission every day.”
As we get older, age-related spinal degeneration becomes more common, which is one of the reasons why cervical stenosis most often appears in people over the age of 50. Cervical stenosis is a chronic condition in which the spinal canal in the region of the neck becomes increasingly narrower, causing the nerves that run through the spinal cord to become compressed, leading to cervical myelopathy, which involves a range of symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the arms, and sometimes in the legs as well.
Normal everyday wear and tear on the spine begins to make its effects more known the older we get. The vertebral disks that cushion the spine begin to lose fluid and become less flexible. Small tears can occur in the discs, causing them to bulge into the area of the spinal canal. In addition, the bones of the vertebra itself may begin to break down, and in response to this the body tries to build bone on the site of the damage, creating bone spurs (osteophytes) that may also impinge on the area of the spinal canal.
Another condition that can arise as we age is the calcification of our ligaments. This causes them to harden and thicken, and if it involves the ligaments in the spine, this can also create pressure on the nerves that run through the spinal canal. Other possible causes are spondylolisthesis (where one vertebra slips out over the one below it), arthritis (both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can be risk factors for cervical stenosis), tumors, trauma due to displacement of the discs and bone fragments from fractures that fall into the area of the spinal canal. Cervical stenosis that shows up in young people is generally due to a genetic defect that causes the development of a narrow spinal canal.
Mild cases of cervical stenosis often cause little or no pain and can be treated with non-invasive methods such as chiropractic care, physical therapy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Your chiropractor can recommend exercises and stretches that will help to decompress the spinal canal and can use spinal manipulation to help realign misaligned vertebrae or apply traction to increase the space between the vertebral discs. In severe cases your chiropractor can refer you to a qualified neurosurgeon.
Corticosteroid injections are sometimes used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain, but these should not be used for a prolonged period of time, and its success is limited. If surgery is required, the surgeon will aim to create more space in the spinal canal so as to take the pressure off the nerves. This most usually involves a laminectomy, where a portion of the spine (the lamina) is removed to create more space for the nerves.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) affects about one in a thousand people (mostly women) each year, and is caused by the median nerve being compressed as it runs through the carpal tunnel, a ligament that is located in the wrist. The tendons that control finger movement all run through the carpal tunnel, so when they become inflamed and swollen the amount of space is reduced, putting increased pressure on the median nerve.
In many cases, the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is not clear. There are some theories as to why women tend to suffer from CTS more than men. One is that they have smaller wrist bones, and thus a smaller space through which the tendons can pass. Another is that, as it is more common during pregnancy and around menopause, hormonal shifts may be a causative factor.
Some people may have a genetic predisposition for CTS. Approximately one out of four people has a close family member who has also has the disorder. Trauma or an injury to the wrist may trigger CTS, such as a sprained or broken wrist. The vibration of power tools or heavy machinery, for instance a rotary sander, can sometimes trigger CTS.
Those who have jobs involving repetitive movements of the arm are more likely to contract carpal tunnel syndrome, such as workers on an assembly line, carpenters, violinists, etc. Interestingly, though long-term computer use was previously thought to contribute to CTS, there is now conflicting information about the relationship between keyboarding and CTS. Some studies, such as one from 2007 published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, have found that those who use a keyboard intensively at work actually have a significantly lower risk of developing CTS.
Some leisure activities can contribute to the risk of CTS as well, including knitting, golfing and anything else that requires you to grip items in your hands for long periods of time.
Among the most commonly recommended treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome are using a wrist splint, resting the wrist, taking pain relievers and physical therapy. If begun within three months of the first signs of CTS, a wrist splint can be a very effective treatment. This can be worn either all day or only overnight, and takes the pressure off your wrist, allowing it to rest and giving your tendons a chance to recover. Chiropractors and physical therapists can physically manipulate the wrist to relieve pain and teach you specific rehab exercises to do at home to help strengthen the wrist and hand.
You may read about surgical options for treating carpal tunnel syndrome, but these should be considered or as a last resort after non-invasive therapies have failed. Treatment of CTS has been evolving rapidly across the last few years so it is important to visit a provider that keeps current on CTS treatment research and treats carpal tunnel patients on a regular basis.
Commonly confused with sciatica, piriformis syndrome causes similar pain in the lower back and buttocks that often extends down the back of the leg and into the foot. It is caused when the piriformis muscle irritates the sciatic nerve. The piriformis muscle extends from the sacrum to the outer hip bone, and is located deep in the buttock, below the gluteus maximus muscle. When the muscle becomes shortened or tightened, or if it spasms, it can become inflamed, putting pressure on the sciatic nerve that runs beneath it. In some cases (up to 10% of people) the sciatic nerve runs right through the piriformis muscle, making it particularly vulnerable to muscle spasms. The inflammation may also cause scar tissue and adhesions to form, which can trap and irritate the sciatic nerve.
The most common risk factors that may lead to the development of piriformis syndrome are activities that involve excessive weight bearing, running and changing direction. Many athletes suffer from this condition, particularly runners and weight lifters. Externally rotating the hip for extended periods of time can also lead to piriformis syndrome, something that is common among ballet dancers. If you tend to walk with your feet turned outward, this can indicate a possible source of the problem. Misalignment of the bones of the pelvis may also be involved.
Both too much exercise and too little may contribute to piriformis syndrome. Athletes should avoid the following: training on hard concrete surfaces, increasing their workout too quickly in either duration or intensity, training on ground that is not even, and exercising in shoes that are worn or do not fit properly. Those who are sedentary should avoid beginning too strenuous an exercise routine at first, and should gradually building up endurance. Everyone should avoid sitting for long lengths of time to avoid triggering piriformis syndrome (and to keep healthy overall).
The most common treatment for piriformis syndrome is exercise that involves stretching the piriformis and hamstring muscles:
Piriformis stretch – Lie on your back with legs flat on the floor and bring your right knee up toward your chest. Grip the knee with your left hand, then gently pull the knee toward your left shoulder and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
Hamstring stretch – Again, lie on your back with both legs flat on the floor. Using a belt looped around the arch of your foot, and keeping the leg straight, raise the leg off the floor until it is perpendicular to the floor and at a slight angle toward your body, while helping by pulling on the belt. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
Other treatments include pain management using anti-inflammatory drugs, alternating ice and heat, physical therapy and electrotherapy. Only in rare cases is surgery suggested, and its results are often mixed. One of the least invasive and most effective professional treatments for piriformis syndrome is chiropractic care.
A chiropractor can use pelvic and spinal adjustments to address the misalignments that may be causing the piriformis muscle to spasm, allowing it to relax and release the trapped sciatic nerve. Your chiropractor can also recommend additional exercises and stretches to help keep you pain-free in a way that does not require drugs or invasive procedures.
Knee ligament injuries are unfortunately all too common in athletes, who put a tremendous amount of strain on them and they are easily subject to injury from typical athletic movements. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) connects the femur to the tibia at the front of the knee, and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) connects the same bones, but at the back of the knee. These are the ligaments that enable your leg to bend back and straighten at the knee. The two other knee ligaments are the medial collateral ligament (MCL), which connects the femur to the tibia on the inside of the leg, and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), which connects the femur to the fibula on the outside of the leg.
ACL injuries are most often caused by turning the body suddenly while the feet remain planted. Basketball and football players are especially prone to this type of injury, where the sudden twisting motion causes an overstretching or tearing of the ACL. A popping sound can often be heard when the ACL tears.
A strong impact to the front of the knee or a hyperextension is the most common cause for injury to the PCL, the largest and strongest of the four ligaments supporting the knee. The impact of a car’s dashboard hitting the knee during an accident can often cause this type of injury.
The MCL and PCL are responsible for stabilizing the knee in side-to-side movements, which normally involve a small range of motion, as the knee is designed primarily to move forward and back. Blows to the side of the knee or falls during sports such as skiing (where 60% of all knee injuries are injuries to the MCL), in which the leg is forced to overextend sideways at the knee are what generally cause sprains to the MCL and PCL ligaments.
Most mild to moderate knee ligament injuries will eventually heal by themselves. If the MCL or LCL is completely torn, surgery to reattach the torn ligament will be necessary. However, this happens the ACL or PCL, reattachment is not possible, and the only option is total reconstruction of the ligament from another ligament taken from elsewhere in the body. For the mild to moderate injuries there are a number of things you can do to help speed the healing process:
• Rest the injury as much as possible to avoid doing further damage. If you must walk, use crutches to keep weight off the affected leg.
• Apply ice to the injury for 20 minutes every three to four hours up to the first three days after injury or until most of the pain and swelling have disappeared.
• Use an elastic bandage to compress the knee area in order to help keep swelling to a minimum.
• Consider taking an anti-inflammatory NSAID (such as ibuprofen) to manage pain and reduce inflammation.
• Keep the injury elevated. This also helps keep the amount of swelling down, speeding the healing process.
Nothing says “summer” like a barbecue, but the traditional barbecues we remember from our childhood in which dad singed his eyebrows when the flames leapt three feet into the air are not exactly best for our health. Grilling meat or fish over high heat produces carcinogens known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which have been linked to increased risk of various cancers. In addition, many typical foods for grilling can be high in fat and calories, while being poor in nutrients. Following are some tips on how you can enjoy healthy grilling all summer long.
Clean the grill – You don’t want to incorporate rancid grease and the charred buildup from previous barbecues into your meat before you’ve even begun cooking it. Use a sturdy wire scrub brush and warm soapy water to scrape any charred residue from the grill’s surface, both before and after you grill. This will also greatly improve the flavor of your food!
Use a low flame and cook briefly – When direct flames touch the meat it can add to the HCAs produced. To reduce these, keep the gas flame low or if using charcoal wait until the coals have been reduced to glowing embers. The heat will still be sufficient, but will not be as likely to char the meat. Try not to overcook your food, as overdone meat has more HCAs. Discard any charred parts.
Flip burgers often – To reduce your chance of contracting E. coli from ground beef, flip your burgers every 30 seconds or so. The USDA advises that you cook burgers to an internal temperature of at least 160°F to kill any possible bacteria. However, if you are someone who thinks that a burger cooked further than anything but medium-rare is a travesty, buy a cut of beef and grind it yourself just before grilling, or if it is commercially prepared, be sure to flip them often. A study found that when two burgers were cooked to the same temperature, the one flipped more often had a fifth of the E. coli.
Pre-treat your meat – To allow you to cook your meat for a shorter time while still retaining flavor and tenderness, consider marinating it first. A marinade will tenderize the meat, and by using some flavorful spices in the marinade or in a dry rub, you can add a host of antioxidants to your meal that will reduce the production of HCAs. Researchers from Kansas State University found that marinating meat reduced carcinogens by 57 to 88 percent. Red wine, ginger, turmeric, rosemary and garlic are among the cancer-fighting ingredients you can include in a marinade. And by combining two parts onion, two parts garlic and one part lemon juice in your marinade, you can reduce HCAs by 70%, as some researchers in Germany have found.
Choose healthier meat – Grass-fed organic meat is a far healthier choice. In comparison with conventionally raised meat, organic grass-fed beef and chicken, for example, is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in omega-3 and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which has been shown to reduce cholesterol and abdominal fat. It is also free from hormones and antibiotics.
Go veggie – Though meat is decidedly tasty, grilled vegetables are delicious too, and vegetarian versions of burgers and hot dogs have come a long way from their early roots, when they had the flavor of pressed wood. There are now a host of excellent veggie “meats” available. And there is nothing quite like grilled red peppers, tomato, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini and onions. A good way to grill veggies is to cut them up into small chunks and put them on skewers. You’ll get a healthy serving of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in each bite. And topping your burger with some slices of avocado will not only be tasty, its mono and polyunsaturated fats have been shown to reduce cholesterol and can be a good substitute for mayonnaise.
If you have struggled to lose weight, despite trying any number of popular diets, you may be approaching the matter in the wrong way. Dieting rarely results in long-term weight loss, particularly if it requires any significant reduction in calorie intake. The problem with a low-calorie diet is twofold: first, it causes your metabolism to go into conservation mode, slowing down in an attempt to save as many calories as possible against coming starvation; second, without sufficient calories, your body loses muscle, which is the body tissue that burns the most calories, even when at rest. The more muscle you lose, the slower your body burns calories.
Although aerobic exercise is always a healthy practice to incorporate into your daily routine, aerobic exercise alone will not produce the weight loss you are looking for. It can certainly burn calories, but like dieting, after a certain amount of aerobic activity your body will begin to conserve calories, and when you stop exercising the calorie burning stops as well, and your metabolism goes right back to where it was before you began.
Lifting weights, however, can increase muscle mass (and thus metabolism), resulting in long-term weight loss. As we age, the body normally begins to lose lean muscle and bone mass. By incorporating strength training into your workouts, you can keep this from happening. Weight lifting not only builds lean muscle, it also helps to maintain healthy bone density.
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is responsible for 50%-80% of your body’s daily expenditure of energy, and the more muscle you have, the greater your BMR. A study conducted by Boston University found that the type of muscle created during weight training stimulates the burning of fat in other tissues, such as the liver. The results of another study, performed by Tufts University, showed that subjects who performed strength training for 12 weeks gained three pounds of muscle, lost four pounds of fat, had a seven percent increase in their resting metabolism and showed a 15 percent increase in the level of their daily energy requirement.
Another study conducted by Fitness Management Magazine evaluated the effect of strength training on the body composition of 72 overweight male and female volunteers. The study subjects were put into one of two groups: 30 minutes of aerobic exercise only or 15 minutes of aerobic exercise combined with 15 minutes of weight training. The results were significant. The aerobic-only group lost an average of 3.5 pounds, a half-pound of which was loss of muscle. However, the combined aerobic and strength training group lost an average of 8 pounds, having lost 10 pounds of fat, while gaining two pounds of healthy lean muscle mass.
Simply put, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. For optimal results, aim to lift weights three times a week for 45-50 minutes each session. However, if you are pressed for time, even two sessions per week of 15-20 minutes can bring about positive changes.
It may not seem you are losing much weight when you first begin your strength training program, as your body will first gain more lean muscle mass in relation to the fat you are losing, so the results will not necessarily be reflected in the numbers on your scale. Not to worry, you are gaining healthy muscle, soon to be followed by a greater loss of fat!