Saturday, October 15, 2016

Why Your Back Hurts

What Is Low Back Pain?

Low back pain is a universal human experience -- almost everyone has it at some point. The lower back, which starts below the ribcage, is called the lumbar region. Pain here can be intense and is one of the top causes of missed work. Fortunately, low back pain often gets better on its own. When it doesn't, there are effective treatments.

Symptoms of Low Back Pain

Symptoms range from a dull ache to a stabbing or shooting sensation. The pain may make it hard to move or stand up straight. Acute back pain comes on suddenly, often after an injury from sports or heavy lifting. Pain that lasts more than three months is considered chronic. If your pain is not better within 72 hours, you should consult a doctor.

Symptoms That Require Urgent Care

Severe back pain after a fall or injury should be checked out by a health care professional. Other warning signs include a loss of bowel or bladder control, leg weakness, fever, and pain when coughing or urinating. If you have any of these symptoms along with your back pain, contact your doctor.

Muscle Strain or Sciatica?

The kind of back pain that follows heavy lifting or exercising too hard is often caused by muscle strain. But sometimes back pain can be related to a disc that bulges or ruptures. If a bulging or ruptured disc presses on the sciatic nerve, pain may run from the buttock down one leg. This is called sciatica.

Back Pain Culprit: Your Job

If your job involves lifting, pulling, or anything that twists the spine, it may contribute to back pain. However, sitting at a desk all day comes with risks of its own, especially if your chair is uncomfortable or you tend to slouch.

Back Pain Culprit: Your Bag

Although you may wear your purse, backpack, or briefcase over your shoulder, it is the lower back that supports the upper body -- including any additional weight you carry. So an overstuffed bag can strain the lower back, especially if you carry it day after day. If you must tote a heavy load, consider switching to a wheeled briefcase.

Back Pain Culprit: Your Workout

Overdoing it at the gym or golf course is one of the most common causes of overextended muscles leading to low back pain. You're especially vulnerable if you tend to be inactive during the work week and then spend hours at the gym or softball field on the weekend.

Back Pain Culprit: Your Posture

Mom was right when she said, 'Stand up straight!' Your back supports weight best when you don't slouch. This means sitting with good lumbar support for your lower back, shoulders back, with feet resting on a low stool. When standing, keep weight evenly balanced on both feet.

Back Pain Culprit: Herniated Disc

The spine's vertebrae are cushioned by gel-like discs that are prone to wear and tear from aging or injuries. A weakened disc may rupture or bulge, putting pressure on the spinal nerve roots. This is known as a herniated disc and can cause intense pain.

Back Pain Culprit: Chronic Conditions

Several chronic conditions can lead to low back pain.

o Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, which can put pressure on the spinal nerves.
o Spondylitis refers to chronic back pain and stiffness due to severe inflammation of the spinal joints.
o Fibromyalgia causes widespread muscle aches, including back pain.

Who's at Risk for Low Back Pain?

Most people get their first taste of low back pain in their 30s. The odds of additional attacks increase with age. Other reasons your low back may hurt include:

o Being overweight
o Inactive lifestyle
o Jobs that require heavy lifting

Diagnosing Low Back Pain

To help your doctor diagnose the source of low back pain, be specific in describing the type of pain, when it started, related symptoms, and any history of chronic conditions. Your doctor will probably not need to order X-rays, CT or MRI scans before starting treatment.

Home Care for Low Back Pain

Back pain due to muscle strain will usually get better on its own, but you can take steps to make yourself more comfortable. A heating pad or warm baths may provide temporary pain relief.

The Bed Rest Debate

When your back hurts, you may not feel like getting out of bed. But if the problem is muscle strain, doctors recommend returning to your normal activities as soon as possible. Studies suggest that any more than a day or two of bed rest can actually make the pain worse and may reduce muscle tone and flexibility.


If back pain doesn't go away in three months, there's evidence that yoga can help. In one study, people who took 12 weeks of yoga classes had fewer symptoms of low back pain than people who were given a book about care for back pain. The benefits lasted several months after the classes were finished. The study suggests conventional stretching also works just as well. Make sure your instructor is experienced at teaching people with back pain and will modify postures for you as needed.

Spinal Manipulation

Chiropractors and some osteopathic doctors use spinal manipulation to treat low back pain by applying pressure with their hands to bones and surrounding tissues. This treatment is not appropriate for everyone.

Massage Therapy

Massage may relieve chronic low back pain, especially when combined with exercise and stretching. Researchers noted patients who did all 3 were able to move around easier and had less short term and long term pain.


Can acupuncture treat back pain? The evidence is mixed. A study of several hundred people with long-lasting back pain found surprising results. Those who had simulated acupuncture (involving toothpicks tapping the skin) got the same benefits as those who had real acupuncture with needles. After eight weeks, both groups had greater relief than people who did not have acupuncture.


Mild back pain often feels better with over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Pain-relieving creams may be helpful for muscle aches. For severe pain or chronic pain, your doctor may recommend prescription medication.


If simpler therapies and medications aren't helping, your doctor may recommend injections to the back. One procedure, called a nerve root block, targets irritated nerves. Injections for back pain usually contain steroid medication.


If long-lasting back pain is interfering with your daily life, and other treatments have not provided relief, you may be a candidate for surgery. Depending on the cause of your pain, a surgeon may remove a herniated disc, widen the space around the spinal cord, and/or fuse two spinal vertebrae together.

Physical Therapy

If back pain has left you inactive for a long time, a rehabilitation program can help you strengthen your muscles and get back to your daily activities. A physical therapist can guide you through stretches, strength exercises, and low-impact cardio that will help you be fitter without straining your back.

Strengthening the Back

Two types of strength-training moves that may benefit the lower back are flexion and extension exercises. In flexion exercises, you bend forward to stretch the muscles of the back and hips. In extension exercises, you bend backward to develop the muscles that support the spine. One example is doing leg lifts while lying on your stomach. Depending on the cause of your back pain, there are some exercises you should not do. If you have back pain, make sure to talk to your doctor about what exercises are safe for you.

Preventing Low Back Pain

There's no sure way to prevent back pain as you age, but there are steps you can take to lower your risk:

o Stay at a healthy weight.
o Exercise regularly.
o Lift with your legs, not your back.
o Make sure your work station position isn't contributing to your pain.

Inspirational Quote for October 15, 2016

“Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.”

Amen to that. This is the wisdom hard won by overcoming worrying times financially, dealing with a broken heart because of a failed relationship or the loss of a loved one, job, career or business difficulties, etc. It helps us learn the lessons we’re being taught, whether we realize it or not, in recognizing the pain for what it is, a lesson in wisdom that we will keep with us for the future and which will, no doubt, be added to in time. That’s just life as we know it.


How to Talk to Strangers

Kio Stark enjoys interacting with people she doesn't know. Not in an "anonymous acts of kindness" sort of way, but in an adventurous way. Author of the book, "When Strangers Meet: How People You Don't Know Can Transform You," Stark has always been fascinated and enamored by the experience of interacting with strangers. Most people don't give these encounters a second thought, but Stark encourages people to take notice of how special they can be. If we reframe them as learning experiences and things to cherish, they become very meaningful and even worth going out of our way to try to have. With mindfulness and reflection, one can discover empathy, moments of connectedness, joy, self-knowledge, humility, or more. In this excerpt from her book, Stark suggests five "expeditions" to take on a quest for an encounter with a stranger, sure to yield unpredictable yet rewarding results.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Is Pride Really a Sin?

By Jill Suttie 

According to a new book, we evolved to feel pride because it serves an important social function.

Pride is often considered a negative force in human existence—the opposite of humility and a source of social friction. It’s even been called the “deadliest sin.”
But is it? Not according to psychologist Jessica Tracy, author of the new book Take Pride: Why the Deadliest Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success. She argues that pride, like other human emotions, is part of our evolutionary heritage, helping us to survive and thrive in cooperative societies by inspiring us to be the best humans we can be.
Pride makes us feel good, and it’s an indication to ourselves that we are behaving in a way congruent with the values of our society, says Tracy. The pride display—chest out, head back, and a slight smile—is recognizable in cultures around the world, she adds, connoting status, encouraging deference from others, and motivating us to work hard to gain approval from our communities.
“Pride makes us care about how others see us and—just as important—how we see ourselves,” she writes. “It makes us want to feel good about ourselves and make sure others look up to us, admire us, and see us as competent and powerful.”

Tracy argues that those who regularly experience pride tend to be “outgoing and friendly, agreeable, calm and anxiety-free, creative, and popular,” and “are generally communally oriented, meaning they place a high value on their relationships and friendships.” In this way, having pride can lead us to feel competent and accepted in our social groups.
She recounts results from several research studies to help demonstrate the ways pride impacts us behaviorally and socially. In one study, participants were experimentally induced to feel pride by being told that their scores on a rather boring cognitive test were especially high. Later, those students voluntarily worked on an unrelated problem set twice as long as the students who were not induced to feel pride for the same scores, suggesting that pride motivated them to persevere.
According to Tracy, children and adults will seek knowledge from people who show pride displays, because proud people are assumed to have expertise underlying their pride. Therefore, pride helps to drive cultural learning, because it helps us figure out who can teach us about our world. And pride attracts mates, which is how it has been selected for in humans as well as animals throughout evolution.

The dark side of pride

But that doesn’t mean that pride is all for the good, Tracy says. It has a dark side, too, when it leads to hubris—meaning, self-aggrandizement at the expense of others.
Hubris, she says, is pride that has been falsely assumed without merit in order to drive away an inner sense of insecurity. If individuals inflate their importance, take credit for others’ achievements, bully others, or act hostilely and aggressively toward anyone who questions them, it’s a sign that pride has turned to hubris and is hiding a wounded narcissistic personality, she says. Those with hubris are more vulnerable to shame, and “tend to have fraught relationships and few close friends.”
“The pride that narcissists experience—a pride that’s best summed up with words like arrogance, conceit, and, in Italy, orgoglio—is not about feeling good; it’s about avoiding feeling bad,” writes Tracy.
She points to Donald Trump as an example of someone with hubris, in part because he brags about things he hasn’t actually done and acts aggressively toward anyone who tries to question his accomplishments. Yet his popularity may be due to the way that pride—even hubris—is linked in people’s minds to power and expertise, and can lead to deference from others.
Interestingly, Trump’s hubris may be related to what some see as his insensitivity and racism toward outgroups, like women and minorities. In one study recounted in the book, participants were induced to feel either genuine pride—by recalling a time they felt confident and accomplished—or hubristic pride—by recalling a time they felt pretentious and superior. Then the participants were asked to set bail for a fictitious gay male prostitute who was under arrest. Those feeling authentic pride set significantly lower bail than those with hubristic pride, suggesting that authentic pride made them less likely to indulge in prejudice and more likely to show empathy.
Yet even hubris has a function, suggests Tracy—otherwise, it would not exist. She has found in her own work that group members displaying pride—authentic or hubristic—are often designated as leaders. And, perhaps surprisingly, she’s found that hubristic leaders have better group outcomes at certain tasks—those that involve deductive reasoning—even if group members tend to dislike them and hate being part of their group.
On the other hand, leaders showing authentic pride have better group outcomes at tasks involving creativity or innovation and tend to be better liked, with people in their groups enjoying their tasks more.
“If a company hopes to foster creativity and diverse thinking among happy, confident, and psychologically healthy workers, then hiring prestigious [authentically proud] leaders should be a paramount goal,” she writes.

How to cultivate authentic pride

Can authentic pride lead to hubris? It depends, says Tracy. If you feel authentic pride and it inspires you to do good by your community’s standards, great. But if you start feeling the need to live up to others’ expectations, and lie or cheat to earn their admiration, chances are you are leaning toward hubris. She points to the bike racer Lance Armstrong as an example of someone who chose that path.
To avoid pride slipping toward hubris, Tracy suggests that you become aware of times you are taking too much credit for accomplishments and be sure you are tempering somewhat your emotional display of pride around people you care about. She warns people not to lose their heads over the positive regard they receive for their accomplishments.
“When we start to receive the external benefits of our authentic pride—be they increased status, fame, or fortune—it becomes exceedingly easy to forget that these outcomes are indirect consequences of striving to be a certain kind of person,” says Tracy. “The temptation to forget…and instead do whatever it takes to get those rewards—even if this means cheating, lying, or faking—is strong.”
In other words, authentic pride might take work, but it’s worth it. If we continue to use pride as motivation to better ourselves and to help our communities—not to build up our own egos—we will not only enjoy prestige, but we will help make a better future for everyone.

Inspirational Quote for October 14, 2016

“It doesn’t matter what others are doing. It matters what YOU are doing.”

In our media culture it seems that everybody, especially the young and impressionable, are besieged by what some “celebrity” is wearing, who is in a relationship with who, what their handbag or shoes cost, the list goes on and on. You know what I mean don’t you? Of course you do because you have the sense to realize that it’s all fantasy, you will only be permitted to see what they want you to see, nothing more. Leave them to their shallow lives and focus on what YOU want to achieve in and from YOUR life. Always remember, YOU are important, YOU matter, and YOU impact on those around you. So, up to YOU now! YOUR choice!


Whistling in the Wind: Preserving a Language Without Words

The last speakers of a language without words reside on La Gomera, one of the smallest islands in Spains Canary Islands. "El Silbo," a whistled communication used in rural and isolated areas, is dying out as islanders embrace digital communication and move to cities and the mainland. Even so, El Silbo has a firm place in the island's culture. Some of La Gomera's schools are teaching the language and in 2009, UNESCO declared it a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This video shares more.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

14 Fruits and Vegetables You Need to Eat This Fall

Autumn Harvest

Cranberries and gourds have had a nice run, but it’s time for them to share the spotlight with some other fall fruits and veggies. You may have to look outside your local grocery store for a few of them, but they’re worth the trip off the beaten path.


These tree fruits came to California via China and Japan in the 19th century. Most are best eaten when they’re still crispy. But one kind called hachiya, grown mostly in Japan, is meant to be eaten only after the flesh gets soft as jelly.


You can use the leaves as an herb -- the aroma and taste are like licorice without the sweetness. And you can roast the roots, or “bulbs,” with other root vegetables -- turnips, carrots, rutabaga, parsnips -- for a perfect fall side dish.


Though often yellow, white, or purple in color, it’s one of the great variety of peppery salad “greens” harvested in the fall. That’s when they begin to soften and sweeten. Slightly bitter, with a refreshing crunch, one kind of endive has leaves that are perfect to use as edible serving spoons for appetizers.


They look like blueberries, but they're rarer and sweeter. The most sought-after ones grow in the moist environment of the Pacific Northwest. If you’re picking them yourself, remember they’re also a favorite of bears.


This fruit is often used in jellies and jams, including membrillo, a very thick jam the Spanish eat with cheese. Quinces are related to apples and pears but better able to survive extremes of temperature and drought.

Brussels Sprouts

Also known as “the vegetable you used to hate,” Brussels sprouts got a makeover when American chefs started roasting them to a delicious crisp with olive oil or pan-frying them with caramelized onions. Now they have a new taste and a new stylish image to match.


This sweet, nutty root vegetable is best harvested in the fall and is great to bake together with fennel and turnips for a delicious fall and winter side dish.

Japanese Sweet Potatoes

Also known as oriental potatoes, these have a yellow-white flesh and purple skin, unlike their more traditional bright-orange cousins. They’re also sweet, but they have a unique flavor and are packed with healthy vitamins and nutrients. In Japan, they’re used to make liquor as well.


This unusual fruit grows on trees and may be eaten fresh, in early fall, just as it turns from green to brown. It also dries on the tree without any outside help. The result is a hardier form of the fruit that lasts much longer and has a flavor similar to dates, though not as sweet.


The beautiful ruby red seeds of this fruit are delicious on their own, on top of a salad, or mixed with yogurt. They’re also used in Persian cooking to make sauces, syrups, and spectacular savory stews.

Asian Pear

Firm and crisp like an apple, this fruit has a pleasant, sweet flavor. It’s delicious on its own or with some yogurt and is a great addition to salads as well. With careful handling, it can have a long shelf life.


The traditional fall harvest of grapes is cause for celebration for winemakers across the globe. But, of course, grapes are good to eat fresh as well -- on their own or added to dishes. Along with walnuts, they can liven up traditional chicken salad.


More than a Halloween decoration, this gourd can be healthy and delicious. And not just in pie, either -- it can be pureed for soup, roasted for a side dish, and even made into a milkshake.


Like leeks, onions, and garlic, shallots are praised for their mild, sweet flavor, especially when cooked. Try them in recipes in place of onions, or raw in salads and marinades.

What Happens When We Shield Kids from Boredom

By Teresa Belton

When we offer kids endless entertainment and activities, do we end up stifling their imaginations?

From books, arts, and sports classes to iPads and television, many parents do everything in their power to entertain and educate their children. But what would happen if children were just left to be bored from time to time? How would it affect their development?
I began to think about boredom and children when I was researching the influence of television on children’s storytelling in the 1990s. Surprised at the lack of imagination in many of the hundreds of stories I read by 10- to 12-year-old children in five different Norfolk schools, I wondered if this might partly be an effect of TV viewing. Findings of earlier research had revealed that television does indeed reduce children’s imaginative capacities.
For instance, a large-scale study carried out in Canada in the 1980s, as television was gradually being extended across the country, compared children in three communities—one which had four TV channels, one with one channel, and one with none. The researchers studied these communities on two occasions, just before one of the towns obtained television for the first time, and again two years later. The children in the no-TV town scored significantly higher than the others on divergent thinking skills, a measure of imaginativeness. This was until they, too, got TV—when their skills dropped to the same level as that of the other children.
The apparent stifling effect of watching TV on imagination is a concern, as imagination is important. Not only does it enrich personal experience, it is also necessary for empathy—imagining ourselves in someone else’s shoes—and is indispensable in creating change. The significance of boredom here is that children (indeed, adults too) often fall back on television or—these days—a digital device to keep boredom at bay.
Some years after my study, I began to notice certain creative professionals mentioning how important boredom was to their creativity, both in childhood and now. I interviewed some of them. One was writer and actress Meera Syal. She related how she had occupied school holidays staring out of the window at the rural landscape, and doing various things outside her “usual sphere,” like learning to bake cakes with the old lady next door. Boredom also made her write a diary, and it is to this that she attributes her writing career. “It’s very freeing, being creative for no other reason than that you freewheel and fill time,” she said.
Similarly, well-known neuroscientist Susan Greenfield said she had little to do as a child and spent much time drawing and writing stories. These became the precursors of her later work, the scientific study of human behavior. She still chooses paper and pen over a laptop on a plane, and looks forward with relish to these constrained times.
Sporting, musical, and other organized activities can certainly benefit a child’s physical, cognitive, cultural, and social development. But children also need time to themselves—to switch off from the bombardment of the outside world, to daydream, pursue their own thoughts and occupations, and discover personal interests and gifts.
We don’t have to have a particular creative talent or intellectual bent to benefit from boredom. Just letting the mind wander from time to time is important, it seems, for everybody’s mental well-being and functioning. A study has even shown that, if we engage in some low-key, undemanding activity at the same time, the wandering mind is more likely to come up with imaginative ideas and solutions to problems. So it’s good for children to be helped to learn to enjoy just pottering—and not to grow up with the expectation that they should be constantly on the go or entertained.

How to handle a bored child

Parents often feel guilty if children complain of boredom. But it’s actually more constructive to see boredom as an opportunity rather than a deficit. Parents do have a role, but rushing in with ready-made solutions is not helpful. Rather, children need the adults around them to understand that creating their own pastimes requires space, time, and the possibility of making a mess (within limits—and to be cleared up afterwards by the children themselves).
They will need some materials too, but these need not be sophisticated—simple things are often more versatile. We’ve all heard of the toddler ignoring the expensive present and playing with the box it came in instead. For older children, a magnifying glass, some planks of wood, a basket of wool, and so on, might be the start of many happily occupied hours.
But to get the most benefit from times of potential boredom, indeed from life in general, children also need inner resources as well as material ones. Qualities such as curiosity, perseverance, playfulness, interest, and confidence allow them to explore, create, and develop powers of inventiveness, observation, and concentration. These also help them to learn not to be deterred if something doesn’t work the first time, and try again. By encouraging the development of such capacities, parents offer children something of lifelong value.
If a child has run out of ideas, giving them some kind of challenge can prompt them to continue to amuse themselves imaginatively. This could range from asking them to find out what kind of food their toy dinosaurs enjoy in the garden to going off and creating a picture story with some friends and a digital camera.
Most parents would agree that they want to raise self-reliant individuals who can take initiatives and think for themselves. But filling a child’s time for them teaches nothing but dependence on external stimuli, whether material possessions or entertainment. Providing nurturing conditions and trusting children’s natural inclination to engage their minds is far more likely to produce independent, competent children, full of ideas.
In fact, there’s a lesson here for all of us. Switching off, doing nothing, and letting the mind wander can be great for adults, too—we should all try to do more of it.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.