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Spring 2006

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Gentle Yoga Eases Back Pain

People can suffer from many degrees of lower back pain. It can be a temporary problem that can disappear after days or weeks, or it can be a chronic condition lasting for months or even years.

According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, there are usually three different treatments for back pain: 1. educating sufferers on back injury prevention and dealing with pain, 2. drugs, which usually include painkillers, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants and 3. exercise.

In the past, healthcare providers did not what type of exercise would improve their patients’ conditions.  A new study compared the effectiveness of yoga to traditional exercise and education only. Previously, little was known about the effect of yoga, which combines physical exercise with relaxation techniques, on lower back pain.
 
The study involved 101 patients between the ages of 20 and 64 who had visited a doctor in the past three to 15 months for chronic lower back pain. Patients who had major illnesses or conditions that explained the back pain could not participate in the study.

Researchers then randomly assigned patients to three different groups. One received 12 weekly, 75-minute yoga classes specifically for patients with low-back pain. They also received instructions to practice daily. One group received 12 weekly, 75-minute sessions of aerobic strengthening and stretching exercises, which had been developed by a physical therapist. They were also instructed to practice daily. The third group was given a copy of The Back Pain Help Book by Jim Moore and colleagues. Patients were given permission to use drugs as needed.  

Interviewers then called patients after six, 12 and 26 weeks. The interviewers used standard questions and did not know which treatments patients had received.

The interviewers reported that the yoga practitioners had better back function after 12 weeks than either the exercise or education groups. Reports of pain were similar in all groups at 12 weeks. At 26 weeks, yoga practitioners had better back function and less pain.

The study found that over a period of three to six months, yoga seems to be more effective than traditional exercise regimens or education-only tactics. 

 

Any Time Is the Right Time to Stop Smoking 

If you’ve been thinking about quitting smoking, but you think the damage has already been done, take a look at the quick and astonishing progress your body can make when you finally stop. According to the Quit Smoking page on the Discovery website:

• Twenty minutes after you quit, your blood pressure decreases, your pulse rate drops and the temperature of your hands and feet go up.

• Eight hours after you quit, oxygen levels increase to normal and carbon monoxide levels drop to normal.

• Twenty-four hours after you quit, your risk of heart attack goes down.

• After one-to-nine months, coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath decrease.

• After a few weeks, circulation and lung function improve.

• A year after you quit, your risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half.

• Five to 15 years after you stop smoking, your risk of stroke has been reduced to that of those who never smoked.

• After 10 years, your risk of ulcers lowers, your risk of lung cancer is cut in half and your risk for other cancers also decreases.

• After 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease is now similar to that of people who have never smoked. Your risk of death is now almost the same as someone who has never smoked. 

 

Look at Things In a New Way
 

When you’re feeling at loose ends, it could be a good idea to participate in some type of meditation. According to the website Learningtomeditate.com, you don’t have to think of meditation as an complicated Eastern art where an old man under a tree comes up with all the answers to the mysteries of life. It can be a lot more practical than that.

Meditation often is no more than seeking out peacefulness and calmness during the stress and struggle of everyday living. Simple practices can work well. Find a quiet place, focus on your breathing and grow quiet. Eventually you will grow calm. If you practice on a daily basis and learn how to empty your mind, you may find that you gain new insights.