Archive | July, 2015

24. Republican Poll Misinterpreted

29 Jul

In several recent polls related to Republican presidential candidates, voters have given the most votes (around 20%) to Donald Trump.  It seems that many people interpret this as Trump being the “leader.”  However, this type of poll can be misinterpreted.  About 20% goes to Trump and the remaining 80% is spread out to the others.

But if there was only one other candidate, that other candidate might get the entire 80%. Since Trump seems to be in a category of his own (radical and provocative), a new type of poll should be considered.  Trump could be compared to each of the other candidates and this might show that Trump is actually less popular than some of the others. It is for this type of situation that some elections have run-offs, if no one reaches a majority.

23. Treatment for Common Back-Pain

17 Jul

The basis for a back-pain condition is often unknown. I have discussed some aspects of this in my previous blog number 22. The most common source is some type of muscle strain or damage. The pain can also be caused by a spinal defect. Medical advice should be obtained from a physician.

The treatment I am concerned with here, is for the most common source of back pain: muscles that are excessively contracted for prolonged periods of time. As a psychologist specializing in stress, I have seen many patients with back-pain. My work with patients was many years ago, but more recently, I have had a severe back-pain condition, and this stimulated research and experimentation.

I am going to describe in detail, a method that cured my pain and is consistent published medical and therapeutic research. Note that my spine has numerous defects (as revealed by an MRI scan), but simple muscular relaxation procedures have provided complete relief. Note also that from time-to-time I have taken the anti-inflamatory drug naproxen, which does not seem to be key, but probably is helpful. I also take calcium and magnesium supplements, which are known to help with muscle cramps.

I am going to describe a simple method that anyone can perform. The basic method is to frequently stretch the back muscles and observe the tension. Of course, there is nothing new about the idea of stretching, but the feedback concept I use, may be novel. The back-muscle stretching is done by bending over and touching the toes. It can be done standing or sitting. To be effective, it must be done many time per day – say 20 to 40 times, and three to five bends in one session.

Before continuing, I will suggest some precautions:
1. Bend slowly and without any twisting. Sudden bending can cause damage.
2. If careful bending causes substantial pain, you should see a doctor.
3. If the pain is more on one side than central and/or radiates down a leg, it is likely that the spine is involved and medical examination is needed.

The stretching procedure should be done before and after any activity, including physical working, computer work, games, cooking, gardening, watching TV, etc. Before and after sleep is very important. Sleep should be relaxing, but often involves considerable tension. If you are in a social situation where stretching is difficult, you can move around in certain ways to detect tension. This alone may help loosen the back muscle, or if very tense, do some major stretching in some private area.

A brief session of stretching should consist of about four bendings to touch the toes. This will only take about 10 to 15 seconds so anyone will have time to do this. The feedback is related to the difference between the first and last stretching. For example: the first stretch only reaches (without straining) to a point four inches above the floor. Each successive bending brings your fingers closer to the floor — the fourth is one inch from the floor. The difference is three inches and this is a measure of the built-up tension. The greater the difference, the more tension has accumulated during the previous activity. As you do a variety of activities you will be able to gauge the tension that each activity (or immobility) has produced. For people with back-pain, this tension tends to build up through the day (and often during sleeping) and can lead to serious pain, unless you do the frequent stretching procedure (or equivalent). My experience is that pain medication alone is not sufficient.

Why is feedback so important? Because the better you understand something, the better you are able to control it. Also, the frequent stretching and tension-observations can lead to improvements in automatic control — improving the body’s natural regulation systems. If you work conscientously on the stretching procedures for three or four weeks, you may be able to cut-down on the time spent in this process. For example, I have found that when working on the computer, I can simply move around for 2 or 3 seconds in certain ways to diminish the tension. But after sleeping for several hours, I must carefully perform several toe-touching stretches. If you are going to lift something heavy or do something athletic, it is very important to stretch before doing so.

It is amazing how many of our problems can be solved by research, thought and experimentation. The above is a guide and you may be able to develop your own effective variations. You could also go to a specialist, such as a Ph.D. psychologist that utilizes “biofeedback.”