Oct
20
2018

Leg Paralysis Can Be Treated

Several publications show that leg paralysis can be treated. This goes against the clinical experiences throughout the world. The common school of thought was that spinal cord injuries from a severe accident would lead to permanent damage. New research has proven that this is not so.

The publication to show that leg paralysis can be treated

On Sept. 24, 2018 the New England Journal of Medicine reported about several cases where completely paralyzed people were able to walk again with the help of a walker. A surgeon implanted a spinal cord stimulation device was under the skin of the abdominal wall. From there electrodes were going under the skin into the lower lumbar spine and upper sacral area close to the spinal cord. This allowed the muscles of the lower body half to receive the same nerve impulses that the muscles above the injury received. With extensive physiotherapy treatments the body was able to relearn the muscle contractions of the legs and feet.

Relearning how to walk

The next step was to relearn the steps of walking. There was a group of 14 patients with spinal cord injuries who had implantation of a spinal cord stimulation device. They were eventually able to walk again with a walker. The walker was necessary to stabilize their gait. One male took a chance and did not use a walker. He fractured his hip after a fall. But eventually he was making a full recovery and is able to walk now with a walker.

Details of a case of full leg paralysis

Kelly Thomas was driving in a car and lost control. The car ended up at a tree, severely deformed. She was unconscious for several weeks and needed treatment in the hospital. She was 19 and paralyzed from the chest down. Kelly is 24 now and she is able to walk again with the help of a walker. A surgeon had implanted a stimulation device in her abdominal wall with electrodes going to her lower back. The stimulator is passing on the signals coming down from the healthy spine. Electrical signals from the healthy spinal cord make their way to below the severed spinal cord. This though was only the first step.

The second step, a lengthy physiotherapy program

The second step was a lengthy physiotherapy program. All of the previous memories of learning to walk as a child are no longer there in a paralyzed person. The body has to relearn muscle contractions, coordination of muscles, moving of a foot or lower leg. Then all of these sub movements have to blend together into a smooth movement associated with walking. A walker helps to stabilize the gait. This link described more details regarding Kelly’s recovery and how hard she had to work on the physiotherapy part to finally achieve her walking. Leg paralysis can be treated.

Other studies showing people rising from wheelchairs

Here are two other studies that show how other people were able to rise from their wheelchairs.

2015 study

A 2015 study explains how the researchers were able to make one patient walk again. They used a recording of the brain currents (EEG) and pass that information on to below the spinal cord injury. This involved a lengthy learning procedure followed by many physiotherapy treatments. In the beginning it was important to have the patient suspended from the ceiling to prevent falls. Subsequently the patient could walk unsuspended.

2016 study

In a 2016 study eight patients were treated with the system described in the previous paper. Brain-machine interfaces recorded and transmitted the electrical brain activity to below the spinal cord injury. An intense 12-month physiotherapy program enabled the patient to regain her capability to walk. Only 50% of the participants were able to complete walking. There were some drawbacks of this procedure. Thoughts were interfering with brain wave recording. Also, a lack of focusing on the walking process could make it impossible for the person to walk.

Discussion re. leg paralysis can be treated

Walking again after a spinal paralysis is the dream of 1.275 million people with paralysis in the US.  Since these recent scientific findings one can truly say “leg paralysis can be treated”. There are about 8000 that would like to participate in a program, which Kelly Thomas has successfully completed. Her procedure seems to be the scientifically more robust program, although it is invasive considering that a surgeon has to implant the spinal cord stimulation device. The implanted device funnels the brain signals from above the severed spinal cord to below the injured cord. From there the electrical signals travel via the regular nerves into the muscles of the lower extremities. Extensive work with a physiotherapist is still necessary to complete the ability to walk again. For tissue defects, extracellular matrix treatment helps. For leg paralysis think spinal cord stimulation device implantation and physiotherapy treatments.

Leg Paralysis Can Be Treated

Leg Paralysis Can Be Treated

Conclusion

Lately great strides forward made it possible to help help people with paralysis enabling them to walk again. The most promising system is the one involving Kelly Thomas presented here. Briefly, following a serious car injury with a spinal cord crushing injury she received a spinal cord stimulation device. The stimulation device sends the electrical encoded muscle commands to below the scar of the spinal cord injury. The electrical impulses from above the spinal cord scar transmit smoothly to below the scar. The body does the rest.

Lots of physiotherapy

But the body needs a lot of coaxing to relearn the old body movements that connect with walking. A lot of that knowledge receded into the background following the spinal cord injury. However, extensive and prolonged physiotherapy treatments can achieve this. The Spinal Cord Injury Research Centers throughout the US have done a tremendous job researching this area. This resulted in new ways how to make paraplegic people walk again.

Aug
25
2018

The Downside Of Living To 100

A review article has examined longevity and reviewed the downside of living to 100. In their 80’s about 10% of the population live in nursing homes, but among centenarians 55% are residing in nursing homes. They are often very lonely, as their social circles have shrunk as they aged.

Common diseases of older people

Osteoarthritis makes it difficult for people to get around, it causes chronic pain and it can also be the reason for falls. In 1990 there were 213.4 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000. 26 years later, in 2016 there were 232.1 cases of osteoarthritis per 100,000 people.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been falling, because less people smoke cigarettes now. Statistics show 1667 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 1990, but only 945 cases of COPD per 100,000 in 2016.

Diarrhea and common infections have dropped sharply from 8951 per 100,000 in 1990 to 3276 per 100,000 in 2016.

What other common diseases do older people get?

There are a number of common diseases that affect the elderly.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the hips and the knees are common, but it can affect every joint in the body. In the end stage knee replacements or hip replacements may be necessary. But before a total knee replacement or total hip replacement can even come into consideration, the person’s heart needs a thorough checkup to ensure that it is safe for the patient to undergo surgery under a general anesthetic.

Heart disease

Older people often have heart disease.

When coronary arteries are narrowed, heart attacks occur. Cardiologists can place stents, so that previously narrowed coronary arteries receive normal blood flow. Following such a procedure the patient may live for another 10 to 15 years.

There are also heart valve calcifications. The aortic valve is particularly endangered. A heart surgeon may be able to replace a diseased aortic valve by a porcine valve.

The nervous system of the heart transmits electrical signals from the sinus node to the muscle fibers, which can get diseased. Heart rhythm problems may necessitate the insertion of a pacemaker.

Finally, the heart may enlarge, but pump less blood than before. This condition is congestive heart failure. The 5-year survival for this condition is only 50.4%. Unfortunately there is very little the doctor can do for patients like this.

Cancer

The older we get, the more DNA mutations we accumulate. At one point cancer develops. If the diagnosis happens at an early stage there is a good chance that surgery can remove a cancerous growth, and the patient survives. But there are cancers that are notoriously difficult to recognize in the early stages. These are: cancer of the pancreas, kidney cancer, stomach cancer and certain types of leukemias.

Respiratory diseases

Those who smoked earlier in life may develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a chronically disabling lung disorder. Often these individuals have to carry an oxygen tank with them wherever they go. The 5-year survival rate for people with COPD is 40 to 70%.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease where the bone is brittle. Spontaneous bone fractures can occur at the wrists, the upper thigh bone (femoral fractures) or in the vertebral bones. Women in menopause are hormone deficient and this contributes to calcium depletion of the bones. Lately research has shown that vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 are necessary for a normal calcium metabolism. Briefly, 200 micrograms of vitamin K2 and 5000 IU of vitamin D3 every day are the necessary dosage that the body can absorb calcium from the gut, eliminate it from the blood vessels and deposit it into the bone. Calcium is present in milk products and milk. If a person does not consume enough milk products a supplement of 1000 mg of calcium daily does make sense.

Alzheimer’s

The older we get, the more likely it is an onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Between the ages of 90 to 94 there is a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 12.7% per year. The group from age 95 to 99 years has a yearly increase of Alzheimer’s of 21.2% per year. Persons aged 100 years and older have an increase of Alzheimer’s by 40.7% per year. What this means is that essentially there is a doubling of Alzheimer’s every 5.5 years. We do not have all of the answers why this is happening and why Alzheimer’s develops. But we do know that diabetics are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. High blood sugar levels and high insulin levels seem to lead to the precipitation of the tau protein in the brain, which causes Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes

When diabetes is not well controlled, there is accelerated hardening of the arteries. This can cause heart attacks and strokes. Longstanding diabetes can affect the kidneys (diabetic nephropathy, kidney damage) and can lead to hardening of the leg arteries. Often the only treatment left is a below knee amputation. Blindness from uncontrolled diabetes is common and pain from diabetic neuropathy as well.

Diabetics have an average life expectancy of 77 to 81 years. However, if they pay attention to their blood sugars and manage their diabetes closely they can live past the age of 85.

Falls and balance problems

As people age, their balance organ is not functioning as well. Also, people with high blood pressure medication may have postural hypotensive episodes that can lead to falls.

There may be a lack of cognitive functioning and misjudging of steps, ledges and irregularities in the floor. When a person has brittle bones from osteoporosis and they fall, a hip fracture is very common. At a higher age surgery for a hip fracture is dangerous. It can have a mortality of 50%.

Obesity

A person with obesity has a life expectancy that is 10 years less than a person without obesity. The reason for this is that with obesity This is so, because the risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, arthritis and diabetes is increased.

Depression

Older people often get depressed. It even has its own name: involutional depression. People can get into a state of mind, where they think negatively. Depressed people feel that they have nothing to live for. They lost friends; they are shut in because they can’t drive a car any more. This type of depression needs treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist. The danger of leaving depression untreated is that the person may get suicidal. In older people depression is often precipitated by physical health problems.

Oral health

When teeth are not looked after, gingivitis and periodontitis can develop. Infected gums can shed bacteria into the blood and this can affect the heart valves. Endocarditis, the infection of heart valves, is a cardiological emergency. Prolonged antibiotic therapy is necessary to overcome this condition.

Poverty

Poverty has real consequences. The aging person may not have access to the optimal medical care facility because of a lack of funds. But even at a younger age there is evidence that people are healthier when they are wealthier.

Shingles

Older people often get shingles, even if they had chickenpox or shingles as a child. This is evidence that the immune system is getting weaker. Shingles in an older person should alarm the treating physician that there could be an underlying cancer. Due to that knowledge a cancer-screening tests should be part of the medical exam. In addition, a varicella vaccine should be offered to the patient to build up immunity.

The Downside Of Living To 100

The Downside Of Living To 100

Conclusion

Living to 100 is often glorified in the press. Maybe you have seen a 90-year old jogger completing a marathon, or you saw an 85-year old couple ballroom dancing. But what they don’t show you is what I summarized here, the less glamorous things about living to 100. You may get a heart attack or a stroke. Osteoarthritis may affect you how you walk. Congestive heart failure may make you get short of breath when you walk upstairs. Then there are various cancer types that are difficult to diagnose early.

If you have smoked in the past, you may suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which leaves you breathless.

Other illnesses

Osteoporosis can lead to spontaneous fractures. Because the bone has a lack of calcium, this is difficult to treat and takes a long time to heal.

Alzheimer’s is ever so much more common when you approach the year 100. There are other medical conditions you can get: obesity, diabetes and depression. When you get shingles for the second time, it may mean that your immune system is getting weak and a cancer-screening test should be done.

There are some downsides when you approach the age of 100.

Know your risks and be vigilant

You may keep your physician busy checking out various age-related illnesses, but more importantly, get regular check-ups and tests. Any condition is easier to treat with an earlier diagnosis! The message for anybody reading this is very simple. Prevention through healthy living is something you can actively pursue. Keep your body and your mind busy. Enjoy time with friends and family instead of living a solitary existence. See the glass that is half full instead of viewing it as half empty. Stick to a healthy diet. Knowing all the risks is not a scare but a call to being vigilant. Knowledge is powerful and will help you to enjoy your golden years feeling well and happy.

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Mar
17
2018

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Don Benedict hurt his lower back and tells about benefits of hot baths and saunas to relieve his chronic pain. He is a 70-year old former handball player. He played competitive handball for 30 years in the Pacific Northwest. His story is reviewed here. In order to stay in shape, he ran 5 miles every other day. But at the age of 57 he ruptured a disc in his back. In the following years he ruptured several more discs and had three back surgeries for that. Eventually scar formation set in and no more surgery was possible. This left him with a chronic pain syndrome, for which he received prescriptions for strong pain medications. OxyContin, Tramadol and anti-anxiety pills were on his prescription list. He needed to take 14 doses of pills per day to control his chronic back pain.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for chronic pain

Finally he remembered that as a younger man he was a summer river guide on Idaho’s Salmon River. When he and his wife had sore muscles they would relax in the hot baths of natural hot springs. Other people who visited these hot springs told him how having hot baths helped them for their aches and pains. For the past four years Don and his wife have been visiting the hot springs in Idaho City three times per week. This has decreased Don’s back pain significantly. He could reduce more than half of his pain medications and reduce the potency of the pain pills as well. The water temperature in the hot springs hovers between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit (36 to 37 degrees Celsius). His wife, who has an asthmatic condition, reported that the hot soaks helped her muscle spasms around the throat.

Other treatment modalities to prevent chronic pain

13 years ago, when Don ruptured his first disc stem, cell treatments were not readily available. But if the same would happen today an unconventional stem cell therapy could be a treatment modality, and chronic pain could be avoided. I am mentioning this here, because Don’s suffering from chronic back pain was causing him a lot of unnecessary suffering. Discectomy surgery, which destabilizes the back and causes scarring, is not the first choice of treatment today.

Stem cell therapy

Instead stem cells are taken from the patient’s fatty tissue (liposuction) and from the bone marrow. A stem cell mix between bone marrow stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells (from fatty tissue) is made. Platelet rich plasma is added to this as an activator. The mix is injected into the disc space of the ruptured disc. Now the stem cells do their magic healing. The beauty of this medical procedure is that healing takes place without any scarring. The stem cells mend all of the damage. They do so by transforming themselves into identical body cells that overbridge broken tissues.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for heart

  1. 2016 study published in the Journal of Physiology describes a study that included adults in their low twenties. Their arms were intermittently exposed to 40.5°C (105°F) water temperature for 60 minutes over a period of 8 weeks. This lowered their blood pressure and caused the arteries in the treatment group to be more flexible.
  2. Scientists in Finland have focused on the benefits of saunas, which is a Scandinavian tradition. Their study in the American Journal of Hypertension followed more than 1,600 middle-age men for almost 25 years. The results showed that the more the men visited saunas, the less they were suffering from high blood pressure. These were the statistics:
  • Visited sauna 2 to 3 times per week: 24% less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to those who had a sauna only once or not at all.
  • Visited sauna 4 to 7 times per week: 46% reduction of blood pressure.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas regarding dementia prevention

2016 study out of Finland found that frequent exposures to saunas could reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Compared to having a sauna only once per week (no reduction of dementia) these were some observations:

  • Visiting the sauna 2-3 times per week: 22% reduction of dementia.
  • Visiting the sauna 4-7 times per week: 66% reduction of dementia.

With regard to Alzheimer’s disease the corresponding figures were a 20% reduction and a 65% reduction.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for brain injuries

Dr. Burke from the Emory University Rehabilitative Hospital is investigating the benefits of hot baths and saunas regarding brain-injured patients.

He recommends 4 saunas per week for brain-injured patients. Dr. Burke said: “This is one thing that’s passive and easier to do, especially in people who have injured joints who need to keep their brains and hearts in good condition, but can’t physically do some of the exercises.“

Caution regarding benefits of hot baths and saunas

Within 48 hours of a new injury, Dr. Burke says, it is best to use ice packs in order to reduce the swelling of the tissues. But subsequently he switches the patients to heat in form of saunas. Some patients have low blood pressure to start with. They may not be good candidates for hot baths as they may pass out when their already low blood pressure gets a further reduction. Always check with your own doctor before doing hot baths or saunas.

Europe’s history of hot baths and saunas

Saunas have a long history in Finland and in the rest of Europe.

Hot baths have a century-old history in Europe and Japan.

Father Sebastian Kneipp invented hydrotherapy, where cold and hot water baths are applied sequentially. The present resurgence of interest in the benefits of hot baths and saunas for healing purposes is nothing new. What may be new is that the medical profession at large is finally paying attention to the research of Father Sebastian Kneipp. He knew that there were benefits of hot baths and saunas.

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Conclusion

There are benefits of hot baths and saunas. This is what was spelled out in the studies cited in this review. The fact that heat can heal was something that Father Sebastian Kneipp knew long time ago. Medical facts have a way to recirculate. But now we know that it can lower blood pressure and can improve the flexibility of arteries. It can help with tissue perfusion and reduce chronic pain. But it also prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition it helps patients with brain injuries to recover faster than without hot baths and saunas.

Advantage of heat treatments

The advantage of heat treatments is the fact that no side effects occur like with the use of drugs. Heat treatments are natural, but drug treatments are artificial. Hot baths and saunas can easily be part of one’s lifestyle. If you feel you need more of it, you can go ahead and do it, but if you feel you don’t need as much, use less. Make it fit into your lifestyle. It is also obvious that too much of a good thing is no longer a good approach to wellness. Limit the temperature in hot baths and don’t exaggerate the time you spend in a hot sauna.

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Feb
18
2018

Causes Of Back Pain And Their Treatment

There are many possible causes of back pain and their treatment is described in this blog. I have listed the 10 most common causes of back pain below. I also added brief therapeutic suggestions.

Facet joint disease (lower back strain)

When there is a misalignment of the facet joints, the joint capsules of these small joints are pulled, which can cause severe back pain. Chiropractic or physiotherapy treatments initially followed by active exercises will help (facet joint pain).

Degenerative disc and facet joint disease

Degenerative changes of the disc material between vertebral bodies and osteoarthritis of the facet joints can cause back pain. This is due to irritation of the nerve roots. Anti-inflammatory medication and physiotherapy treatments often help; swimming will be beneficial as well. End stage intractable disease, if confined to one or two levels, may respond to fusion surgery by a spinal surgeon. While you research the surgical option, I suggest you investigate about the possibility of stem cell therapy with PRP (platelet rich plasma). This is less invasive and will likely heal better than conventional surgery.

Spondyloarthropathies

This is a family of chronic inflammatory joint diseases of the spine . The physician treats the underlying disease and uses anti-inflammatories to control inflammation. Most of all, a person with this condition needs a referral to a rheumatologist for more specific therapy.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a bone condition that can lead to compression fractures of the spine. These in turn can irritate one of the nerve roots to lea to radiating pain into one or both legs. The physician will treat the underlying hormone disbalance, if present. Regular walking and swimming are used to remobilize. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and stop smoking. Supplements like calcium, bisphosphonates, vitamin D in higher doses and vitamin K2 can help re-calcify the bone.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is often congenital. This spinal curvature leads to back pain and hurts more the more the spine is curved. Treatment: bracing during growth spurts; good posture; strengthening exercises; in severe cases corrective surgery by a spinal surgeon through the use of Harrington rods.

Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is often the end condition of severe degenerative arthritis of the spine. It is more common in the older generation. As this link explains, there is a narrowing of the channel through which the spinal cord travels. In the past decompression surgery for severe cases was the only means to free spinal cord and nerve roots. In the last few years stem cell therapy is a new addition as an alternative to orthopedic surgery. The advantage of stem cell therapy is that there is no scarring following the procedure and the stem cells function like a biological knife from inside.

 Posttraumatic fibromyalgia

Some people develop lower back pain following traumatic injuries. Instead of resolving their muscle sprain, they end up with chronic pain. Often low dose antidepressants and cognitive therapy will help. Mild physical exercises may help to rehabilitate the patient and return to normal muscle mobility. Unconventional therapy like prolotherapy, dry-needling and low-dose laser therapy (Dr. Weber) may be useful.

Disc herniation with or without sciatica

With disc herniation the back pain is intense, which often prompts the orthopedic surgeon to do an early discectomy (back surgery). But long term studies have shown that only in 3% of all acute back pain cases surgery is necessary; many cases heal on their own. In this case the new regenerative medicine approach of stem cell therapy with PRP will give superb clinical results. Stem cells will rebuild the disc and also take care of any arthritis in the small joint along the spine.

Spondylolisthesis and other congenital malformations

There are 4 grades of slipped vertebral body diseases (spondylolisthesis), where grade IV is the most severe case. Grade I to IIIA do not need surgery, stage IIIB and IV need fusion with instrumentation by a spinal surgeon.

Bone metastases

In stage 4 of many cancers metastases travel through the whole body including the skeleton. The underlying cancer needs treatment, often chemotherapy is required. Unfortunately cancers with bone metastases have a very poor prognosis. Here is a link how to manage symptoms of bone metastases.

Causes Of Back Pain And Their Treatment

Causes Of Back Pain And Their Treatment

Conclusion

I have listed the ten most common ones of back pain. For muscle spasms, simple physiotherapy or chiropractic treatment are often very helpful. Early degenerative changes in joints and discs will often respond to anti-inflammatory medication. But anti inflammatory drugs can be hard on your liver and your kidneys. If your back pain is getting more chronic, your doctor may want to arrange for an MRI scan of the area that causes pain. If this shows degenerative change in the discs and facet joints it is time to contact a regenerative medicine clinic. They specialize in stem cell and platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatments. This may be what you need to restore your back to normal. Conventional surgical methods are often the choice, but they are not always successful. Surgery can leave scarring behind, which by itself can give you chronic back pain.