Dealing With Back Pain

Help Your Back in Bed

You spend about a third of your life sleeping. One of the best ways to protect your back is with a mattress and sleep positions that support it.

Make bedtime a haven for your back by:

• Getting the right mattress. No matter how comfortable a squishy-soft feather bed may seem at first, a firmer mattress is usually the best for your back. The types of beds where partners can choose a different level of support can be good, because differences in body structure and size can make what’s comfortable for one person different from another.
• Keep your bed in shape. If you’re waking up stiff and sore, check your mattress. How long has it been since you replaced it? “It’s the same as with running shoes: you put a lot of pressure on the mattress and deforming the foam over time. Twice a year, flip the mattress over and check for divots, dents, wear and tear and breakage. If there are spots where the mattress isn’t springing back the way it used to, it’s time to spring for a new one. Consumer Reports recommends that you consider changing your mattress if yours is at more than 5 to 7 years old.
• Sleep smart. The worst sleep position for your back? On your stomach. “It puts your neck in a more extended, rotated position — because you can’t sleep face down — and that puts the most strain on your joints.
Instead, sleep either on your side or your back, using pillows for support. If you prefer your side, the best aid is a body pillow that can support your weight between your knees and help align your arms. Back sleepers should put a pillow between their knees.
• Rising and shining. Do you jump (or roll grumpily) out of bed when the alarm clock rings? Don’t. Instead, take a minute to stretch fully and let your body wake up before getting a move on.

Back Pain in the Car

Do you spend more than an hour a day in your car? You’re not alone — 85% of Americans commute by car, reporting an average of 50 minutes a day behind the wheel. Bad positioning in your vehicle can quickly add up to back pain. Here’s how to make your commute less taxing on your back.

• Get the right vehicle. If you’re debating between a wagon and a minivan, or a sports car and a sedan, the bigger vehicle is usually the better choice — for your back, not necessarily the environment. The more vertically you can sit, allowing you to keep your knees level with or below your hips, the better for your back.
• Set your seat properly. Don’t push it so far back that you have to lean and hunch forward to reach the steering wheel.
• Play with pillows. Some people rush right out and buy support pillows for use in their car, only to find it useless for their specific needs. Get a few towel rolls and small throw pillows from home and try them out.
• Take breaks. If you have a long trip ahead of you, stop about every hour to stand, stretch, and redistribute your weight.

Protect Your Back at Work

Many of us are desk jockeys. We sit through most of our day, often in the same position, hour after hour, talking on the phone and staring at computer screens. Is it any wonder we’re stiff?

• Position your computer properly. You should be seated at eye level to your screen, so that you don’t have to look too far down or too far up to do your work.
• Sit smart. You don’t necessarily need the perfect, custom ergonomic chair. Get a chair that provides support for your middle and lower back. If your knees are at 90 degrees and your spine is at a neutral posture, that’s the right position for you.
• Use a footrest. If the balls of your feet are supported on something, it makes it easier to rest on the ‘sit bones’ deep in your glutes, which helps unload your spine.
• Take a break. Set a timer on your computer and, every 45-50 minutes, get up for a few minutes to stretch and walk around. When you sit back down, make sure you’re getting into a supported position with a neutral spine — neither slumped forward nor pushed back.

R.M. Hochella
Modern Health Perspectives

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Cold Caps – New Cancer Treatment Prevents Hair Loss

What is Cold Cap Therapy?

Cold cap therapy, or modern day scalp cooling, involves the use of a special cap or set of caps, cooled to very cold temperatures, and worn for a period of hours before, during and after each chemotherapy treatment. The cold temperature constricts the blood vessels leading to the hair follicles, reducing the amount of chemo drugs that reach the follicles during the period that the caps are worn, thus preserving the patient’s hair. (Of note the drugs stay in the patient’s system far longer, but reach the hair follicles when they are at somewhat diluted strength.) This process has been in use in Europe for over 20 years. Several thousand individual patients in the United States have learned of and successfully used cold cap therapy in the last few years.
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The Caps
A set of individual cold caps can be used at any location with the dry ice method. Patients acquire and freeze a number of caps, which are changed at specified intervals to maintain the proper level of cold. Some supportive chemo centers have biomedical freezers (see next section) so that dry ice is not needed. Please note that patients should always consult their physicians when considering cold cap therapy and should request success data for their drug regimen as part of their inquiries with the cap suppliers.

Penguin Cold Caps were first used in the US in 2005, and have been widely used over the last several years. They have their own unique design and patented gel to hold temperature as long as possible. Penguin has over 20 years of data and experience and their caps are reported to work with almost all chemo drugs. Of note, in addition to very high success rates with taxanes like TC, they report their success rate may be as high as 75-80% with patients using AC. AC is usually toughest on the hair, and this appears to be a better outcome than any other type of cap at this time, to our knowledge.

Chemo Cold Caps began in 2012 after the co-founder saved her hair using cold caps. CCC uses an Elastogel cap with an outer insulated cover and a special 4 point strap to ensure a snug fit. They provide caps, cooler, and all needed supplies for each rental. Clients report their website and customer service are excellent. CCC data indicates a very high success rate with the taxanes. Inquire regarding other drugs.

Arctic Cold Caps started in 2015, again inspired by a family member who saved her hair using cold caps. Arctic also uses an Elastogel cap, and provides caps, cooler, and all needed supplies for each client. One-on-one training is available via Skype. Newest to our list of recommended providers, Arctic has received a number of compliments from their users and the medical staff involved in their care regarding their successful outcomes and their customer service. They report excellent results with the taxanes and a number of other drugs. Please inquire for details.

Wishcaps began in 2013, after the founder assisted a close friend who saved her hair with cold caps. Wishcaps also uses Elastogel caps, and provides renters with all needed supplies including cooler, digital timer and laser thermometer. Newest to our list of recommended providers, both patients and clinic staff confirm that Wishcaps offers outstanding customer service. Phone consultations are available to all clients. Wishcaps reports excellent results with the taxanes. Inquire regarding other drugs.

A single cap system, where a machine circulates cold liquid through a special cap, is commonly used in other parts of the world. The DigniCaps® system was cleared by the FDA in December 2015. DigniCap systems are now shipping to U.S. locations.

R.M. Hochella
Modern Health Perspectives

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Facts About Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in a man’s prostate — a small walnut-shaped gland that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows slowly and initially remains confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Prostate cancer that is detected early — when it’s still confined to the prostate gland — has a better chance of successful treatment.

Symptoms

Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages.

Prostate cancer that is more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:

• Trouble urinating
• Decreased force in the stream of urine
• Blood in the semen
• Discomfort in the pelvic area
• Bone pain
• Erectile dysfunction

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.
There is debate regarding the risks and benefits of screening for prostate cancer, and medical organizations differ on their recommendations. Discuss prostate cancer screening with your doctor. Together, you can decide what’s best for you.

Causes

It’s not clear what causes prostate cancer.

Doctors know that prostate cancer begins when some cells in your prostate become abnormal. Mutations in the abnormal cells’ DNA cause the cells to grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells do. The abnormal cells continue living, when other cells would die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can grow to invade nearby tissue. Some abnormal cells can break off and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

Risk factors

Factors that can increase your risk of prostate cancer include:

• Older age. Your risk of prostate cancer increases as you age.
• Being black. Black men have a greater risk of prostate cancer than do men of other races. In black men, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced. It’s not clear why this is.
• Family history of prostate or breast cancer. If men in your family have had prostate cancer, your risk may be increased. Also, if you have a family history of genes that increase the risk of breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2) or a very strong family history of breast cancer, your risk of prostate cancer may be higher.
• Obesity. Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer may be more likely to have advanced disease that’s more difficult to treat.

Bob Hochella
Modern Health Perspectives

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