Health Tip: The ‘Wall Test’ For Good Posture

Health Tip: The ‘Wall Test’ For Good Posture

(HealthDay News) — Proper posture can prevent pain and injury, says Mayo Clinic. To check if you have proper posture, Mayo suggests the “wall test.”

Here’s what it involves:

  1. Stand so the back of your head, shoulder blades and buttocks touch the wall. Your heels should be 2 to 4 inches apart.
  2. Place a flat hand behind the small of your back. You should be able to slide your hand between your lower back and the wall.
  3. If there’s too much space behind your lower back, draw your belly button toward your spine.
  4. If there’s too little space behind your lower back, arch your back so your hand can slide behind you.
  5. Walk away from the wall while holding proper posture. Return to the wall to check whether you kept the correct posture.
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Get Moving: Exercise Can Help Lower Older Women’s Fracture Risk

Get Moving: Exercise Can Help Lower Older Women’s Fracture Risk

FRIDAY, Oct. 25, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Older women who get even light exercise, like a daily walk, may lower their risk of suffering a broken hip, a large study suggests.

A number of studies have linked regular exercise to a lower risk of hip fracture — a potentially disabling or even fatal injury for older adults. Each year, more than 300,000 people in the United States aged 65 or older are hospitalized for a broken hip, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new study, of more than 77,000 older U.S. women, took a deeper look at the types of exercise that are related to the risk of hip fracture and other bone breaks.

The researchers found that, on average, women who regularly exercised at any intensity — from walking, to doing yard work, to jogging — had a lower risk of hip fracture over 14 years, compared to inactive women.

It all suggests that even light activity is enough to curb the risk of these serious injuries, said study leader Michael LaMonte, a research associate professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

“We were happy to see a strong relationship between walking and lower hip fracture risk,” he said. “As we get older, we naturally do less-strenuous physical activity. This suggests that to lower your risk of hip fracture, you don’t need to do anything fancy. It can be as simple as walking.”

The findings “strongly support” longstanding recommendations for people to fit physical activity into their daily routine, according to Dr. Richard Bockman.

“Get out there and walk,” said Bockman, chief of the endocrine service at the Hospital for Special Surgery, in New York City.

Lower-impact activities do not have a big effect on bone density. But Bockman, who was not involved in the study, said that while bone density matters in hip fracture risk, other factors are also involved. They include muscle strength in the lower body, balance and agility, since broken hips are almost always the result of a fall.

The findings, published online Oct. 25 in JAMA Network Open, come from the Women’s Health Initiative — a study begun in the 1990s at 40 U.S. medical centers. It involved more than 77,000 women who were between the ages of 50 and 79 when they enrolled.

At the outset, the women reported on their usual physical activities, among other lifestyle factors.

Over an average of 14 years, one-third of the women suffered a bone fracture. When it came to hip fractures, women who’d reported higher amounts of physical activity at the study’s start typically had a lower risk.

For example, women who regularly got moderate to vigorous exercise, such as brisk walking or jogging, had a 12% lower risk of hip fracture than those who were less active. But there was also a link between “mild activity” — like slow dancing, bowling or golfing — and lower hip fracture risk. And the more often women walked, at any speed, the lower their risk of a broken hip.

The news wasn’t all good: Women who exercised at moderate to vigorous intensities had a relatively higher risk of a wrist or forearm fracture, compared to less-active women.

It’s not clear why, but LaMonte offered a guess: When women with more “functional ability” do fall, they may be more likely to stretch out an arm to break the fall, which is how wrist and forearm fractures often happen.

One question the study cannot address, LaMonte said, is whether starting exercise at an older age reduces hip fracture risk. Study participants who were physically active may have been active their whole lives.

But, he said, it is clear that “sitting less and moving more” is key in older adults’ overall health, with benefits such as better control of blood pressure and diabetes, and a lower risk of heart disease.

Besides exercise, older adults can take other steps to reduce their hip fracture risk, LaMonte noted. They include getting bone mass measurements as recommended by your doctor, and following a healthy diet with adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more on hip fracture prevention.

SOURCES: Michael LaMonte, Ph.D., M.P.H., research associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health, State University of New York at Buffalo; Richard Bockman, M.D., Ph.D., chief of endocrine service, Hospital for Special Surgery, and professor of medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City; Oct. 25, 2019, JAMA Network Open, online

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Your Noisy Knees May Be Trying to Tell You Something

Your Noisy Knees May Be Trying to Tell You Something

THURSDAY, Oct. 17, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Ever hear your joints clicking, creaking or crunching? Now, researchers say a new technique that listens closely to knees may help doctors diagnose and monitor osteoarthritis.

In the new study, researchers attached small microphones to participants’ knees, which allowed them to listen for high-frequency sounds as the person repeatedly stood up and sat down again.

Computer analysis of the sounds then provided information about the health of the knee, the study authors explained.

This study is the first to assess this technique in a large number of people with knee osteoarthritis. It was found to distinguish between healthy knees and those afflicted by this “wear-and-tear” form of arthritis.

The findings move the technique a step closer to use by doctors and in research, according to the report published Oct. 16 in the journal PLOS ONE.

“This work is very exciting because it involves scientists and clinicians working together as a team to develop an entirely new approach,” said project leader John Goodacre. He’s an emeritus professor at Lancaster University, in the United Kingdom.

“Potentially, this could transform ways in which knee osteoarthritis is managed. It will enable better diagnosis, and will enable treatments to be tailored more precisely according to individual knee condition. It will also enable faster, bigger and better clinical trials of new treatments,” Goodacre said in a university news release.

The next step for researchers is to develop a non-invasive portable device that health care providers could use to assess whether patients’ knees are changing or are responding to treatment for osteoarthritis.

This technique could provide a quicker, cheaper, more convenient and more accurate assessment than current methods, the study authors said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on osteoarthritis.

SOURCE: Lancaster University, news release, Oct. 16, 2019

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‘Smartphone Slouching’ More Serious Than It Sounds

‘Smartphone Slouching’ More Serious Than It Sounds

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 9, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The health risks that spring from poor posture while using mobile devices don’t concern many Americans, a new survey finds.

But maybe it should.

Poor posture can lead to health issues such as chronic pain in the back, neck and knees, circulation problems, heartburn and digestive problems, according to researchers from the Orlando Health system in Florida.

American adults spend an average more than 3.5 hours on their smartphones every day, meaning they may be looking down or slouching for long periods of time, they noted.

Their national survey, published Oct. 9, asked respondents their level of concern about eye strain, carpal tunnel and other potential health consequences of mobile device use. Only 47% said they were concerned about poor posture and how it affected their health.

“It’s not just when you’re scrolling on your phone, but any time you put your body in a less-than-optimal position, whether that’s reading a book, working at a desk or lounging on the couch,” said Nathaniel Melendez, an exercise physiologist at Orlando Health’s National Training Center in Clermont, Fla.

“People don’t realize the strain they’re putting on their body when it is not aligned correctly, or just how far corrective exercises and daily adjustments can go toward improving pain and postural issues,” he added in a health system news release.

“I see a lot of people compensating for poor posture with short steps, rounded shoulders, walking with their head and neck down,” Melendez said.

Even slight misalignment can put a lot of strain on the body. For every inch your head moves in front of your body, 10 pounds of pressure is added to your shoulders, he said.

“If, for example, your head is 4 inches in front of your body when you’re looking down at your phone, that’s like having a child sitting on your shoulders that whole time,” Melendez noted.

Most problems caused by poor posture are reversible with some simple changes.

“Just doing strength training will not help your posture or the pain it’s causing,” Melendez said. “I work with people specifically on strengthening their core and doing some corrective postural exercises. We also do a lot of functional training exercises, which mimic daily life.”

People who work at a desk or spend a lot of time sitting should raise their screens to eye height, sit with both feet on the floor, and take frequent breaks to get up and move around, Melendez advised.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on posture.

SOURCE: Orlando Health, news release, Oct. 9, 2019

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Humans May Possess Ability to Regrow Cartilage

Humans May Possess Ability to Regrow Cartilage

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 9, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Humans may lack the salamander skill of regrowing a limb, but a new study suggests they do have some capacity to restore cartilage in their joints.

The findings run counter to a widely held belief: Because the cartilage cushioning your joints lacks its own blood supply, your body can’t repair damage from an injury or the wear-and-tear of aging.

And that, in part, is why so many people eventually develop osteoarthritis, where broken-down cartilage causes pain and stiffness in the joints.

But that lack of blood supply does not mean there’s no regenerative capacity in the cartilage, according to Dr. Virginia Byers Kraus, the senior researcher on the new study.

In fact, her team found evidence that human cartilage can, to some degree, renew itself, using a molecular process similar to the one that allows a salamander to grow a new limb.

The researchers are calling it the “inner salamander capacity.”

“For the first time, we have evidence that the joint has the capacity to repair itself,” said Kraus, a professor at Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham, N.C.

Specifically, she explained, that capability exists in a “gradient.” It’s greatest in the ankle, less apparent in the knee, and lowest in the hip.

And that makes sense if this repair capability is an artifact of evolution, according to Kraus. Animals that regenerate tissue have the greatest capacity for it in the distal portions of the body — the parts “most likely to get chewed off.”

Dr. Scott Rodeo, an orthopedic surgeon not involved in the study, said the findings raise some interesting questions.

For one, he said, could this be a partial explanation for why osteoarthritis is common in the knees and hips, but not the ankles?

“It’s been assumed that it’s related to the biomechanics of the joints,” said Rodeo, an attending surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery, in New York City.

But this study, he said, suggests there might be intrinsic differences in the joints’ ability to repair cartilage.

The other major question, Rodeo said, is whether this newfound human capacity can translate into new treatments for arthritis. “Can we better understand the basic biology, and harness it?” he asked.

For the study, Kraus and her colleagues analyzed proteins in samples of joint cartilage that had been removed from patients having surgery. The researchers developed a method for gauging the “age” of those proteins, based on the premise that young proteins have little to no evidence of “conversions” of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), while older proteins have many conversions.

Overall, the investigators found, ankle cartilage showed the greatest number of young proteins. Knee cartilage looked more middle-aged, and hip cartilage had relatively few young proteins and plenty of old.

In addition, the study found, molecules called microRNAs seem to regulate the process. They were more abundant in ankle cartilage than tissue from knees and hips, and in the top layers of cartilage, versus the deeper layers.

As it happens, microRNAs also help salamanders regrow lost limbs.

The findings were published online Oct. 9 in the journal Science Advances.

It all raises the possibility that the innate repair capacity in cartilage can be augmented, according to Kraus. Could, for example, injectable microRNA drugs be used to boost cartilage self-repair?

No one is saying science is close to helping humans grow new limbs. But, Kraus said, understanding the fundamental mechanisms behind tissue regeneration — figuring out what salamanders have that people are missing — could eventually lead to ways to repair various tissues in the human body.

Rodeo agreed. “Can we learn lessons from animals that do regenerate tissue, and apply that to humans?”

Both he and Kraus said there is a “huge” need for innovative ways to treat osteoarthritis, which affects roughly 27 million Americans, according to the Arthritis Foundation. There is no cure, and current treatments are aimed at managing symptoms.

When people are disabled by arthritis, Kraus noted, that can also raise their risk of other major health problems, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more on osteoarthritis treatment.

SOURCES: Virginia Byers Kraus, M.D., professor, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C.; Scott Rodeo, M.D., attending orthopedic surgeon, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York City; Oct. 9, 2019, Science Advances, online

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Bouncing From ‘Jump Park’ Trampolines Into the ER

Bouncing From ‘Jump Park’ Trampolines Into the ER

TUESDAY, Feb. 5, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Bouncing around at a trampoline park can be great fun, but a new study warns it can also be an invitation to sprains, strains and broken bones.

Nationwide, more than 100,000 emergency room visits were related to trampoline injuries in 2014, according to the latest data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Injuries that occur at a jump park are typically more severe than those that happen on a home trampoline.

“Emergency room visits, hospitalizations and surgical interventions are not uncommon in children and adults due to jump park-related injuries,” said lead researcher Dr. Ryan Voskuil, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Tennessee Health Center in Chattanooga.

Several factors contribute to the danger, Voskuil said.

Jump park trampolines have a stronger bounce than home ones, he noted, and parks place obstacles around the trampolines to make the experience more exciting. Trampolines at parks also are interconnected and can have different slopes. Finally, many people jumping at the same time increases the chance of collisions.

“Similar to a skateboard park or bicycle park, these parks incorporate games, obstacles and various geometric configurations,” Voskuil said. “It’s just like any sport you participate in, except I think, it’s substantially more dangerous.”

For the study, his team looked at 439 trampoline injuries reported over two years.

While more injuries occurred on home trampolines (66 percent), more than half of those injured at jump parks involved fractures or dislocations.

Forty-five percent of adults’ fractures happened at trampoline parks, compared to 17 percent at home. Adults were more than twice as likely to need surgery for a jump park injury than for home trampoline injuries.

Among kids, 59 percent of fractures happened at jump parks and 47 percent at home, researchers found.

“We see cases of trampoline injuries every day, as they have become a part of the contemporary lifestyle,” said Dr. Qusai Hammouri, director of spine and pediatric orthopedic surgery at Staten Island University Hospital, in New York City.

The true extent of the problem, however, still isn’t known, he said.

“This paper tells us how many people were injured in a given time period, but we don’t know how many people went to the trampoline park in that area,” Hammouri said. If that were known, one could calculate the risk anyone has when going to these attractions, he added.

Dr. Teresa Amato is head of emergency medicine at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish in Forest Hills, New York City. She noted that many injuries at jump parks are collisions.

“More people make it more dangerous in a bouncing situation,” she said. “I don’t think I would have a kids party at a trampoline park. As a mom and an emergency room doc, it’s probably not a good idea.”

The report was recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

More information

To learn more about the risks of trampolines, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics .

SOURCES: Ryan Voskuil, M.D., orthopedic surgeon, University of Tennessee Health Center, Chattanooga; Qusai Hammouri, M.D., director of spine and pediatric orthopaedic surgery, Staten Island University Hospital, Staten Island, N.Y.; Teresa Amato, M.D., chair woman of emergency medicine, Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, New York City; Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Jan. 1, 2019

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