Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tantric Sex

Tantric sex might help rekindle the love in your relationship.

Have you ever experienced a moment of sexual ecstasy? How did it make you feel? Exhilarated? Luminous? Deeply connected? Intense sexual experiences are one of our greatest sources of pleasure.
At the same time, sex is often regarded with an equal measure of fear and fascination. We may crave sexual intimacy to the core of our being, yet also take great pains to avoid it. We may wish to be touched with all of our heart, yet fear our own vulnerability. We may long to rekindle lost passion, but have forgotten how to light the fire.
The practice of Tantra shows us how to reclaim the sexual intimacy that is our birthright. And through this most ancient of arts, we may discover new joys of the erotic and expand mere moments of sexual ecstasy into a lifetime of sexual bliss. At a time when the stresses, fears and distractions of daily life threaten so many relationships, the age-old practice of Tantra shows us how to open our hearts, our emotions and our sexuality.

What Is Tantra?

Although Tantra has long been practiced in many eastern cultures, it is just beginning to flourish in the United States. Born in India more than 6,000 years ago, Tantra emerged as a rebellion against organized religion, which held that sexuality should be rejected in order to reach enlightenment.
Tantra challenged the acetic beliefs of that time, purporting that sexuality was a doorway to the divine, and that earthly pleasures, such as eating, dancing and creative expression were sacred acts.
The word Tantra means "to manifest, to expand, to show and to weave." In this context, sex is thought to expand consciousness and to weave together the polarities of male (represented by the Hindu god, Shiva), and female (embodied by the Hindu goddess, Shakti), into a harmonious whole.
Couples need not adopt the Tantric pantheon in order to benefit from the sexual wisdom of this ancient art. Tantric sexual practices teach us to prolong the act of making love and to utilize potent orgasmic energies more effectively.
Tantra is also health enhancing. "Sexual energy is one of our most powerful energies for creating health," says Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom."
"By using sexual energy consciously...we can tap into a true source of youth and vitality."

How Is Tantric Sex Unique?

In the West, we sometimes view sex as a source of recreation rather than a means of transformation. The goal may be to reach orgasm rather than to pleasure our lover or to connect with him or her more fully.

Beginning Tantric Sex Techniques

This kind of lovemaking, say sex experts, has a distinct beginning and ending, with a climax somewhere in between and an average duration of 10 to 15 minutes. Given that women can take about 20 minutes just to reach full arousal, this type of sexual experience can be deeply unsatisfying.
In the Tantric model, the sexual experience is seen as a dance with no beginning or end. There is no goal, only the present moment of exquisite union. For this reason, lovemaking is meditative, expressive and intimate. Tantra teaches lovers how to extend the peak of their sexual ecstasy so that women and men can experience several orgasms in a single sexual encounter.
Leading teachers of Tantra suggest that even men who experience premature ejaculation can learn how to extend orgasm, and, with practice, to enjoy multiple orgasms. One of the most well known advocates of Tantra is the musician, Sting, who credits his fulfilling sex life to this ancient art. With ingredients such as love, trust and mutual respect, the magic of Tantra is available to couples of all ages and levels of sexual experience.
The following exercises will help you reconnect with your body and with your partner in a profound way. As you move through these steps, do not focus on intercourse as the ultimate goal. Instead, simply enjoy giving and receiving pleasure using gentle touch and loving words.
Communicate with your lover to discover what he or she finds most arousing. Try to spend several weeks practicing the Tantric Intimacy Exercises without necessarily engaging in intercourse. For many, experiencing these erotic exercises with no pressure to "go all the way" helps release sexual guilt, builds trust and reawakens sexual desire. Enjoy!

Welcoming Love

Make time for each other every week. Plan a sexual rendezvous at least once per week. Set aside an hour or more of uninterrupted time to be together. Although it may be difficult to find the time or to manage children, you won't be able to benefit from Tantra if your relationship is not a priority.
Create an inviting atmosphere. Whether you meet in your bedroom, living room or another space in your house, creating a sacred space for each other will help relax you and bring you into the moment. Candles, fresh flowers, erotic art, finger foods and tantalizing aromas can transform any room into a temple of sexual delight. Even something as simple as dimming the lights and playing erotic music will help create a welcoming environment.
Dress provocatively. Or, wear nothing at all. Experiment with clothing or accessories that make you feel sexy and excite your partner.

Tantric Intimacy Exercises

Use ritual to develop intimacy. Begin your journey with a ritual. This may be something as simple as feeding each other delicious foods or sharing a glass of wine in the nude. Some couples enjoy bathing together in order to attune to each other.
Take time to wash each other with loving care. Water relaxes the body and is a symbol of sexuality. Massaging each other is also an excellent way to fuse your energies. Or, read poetry to each other, dance, play, listen to music—work on developing new intimacy skills. Most importantly, use this time to communicate,sharing what you adore about each other. The idea is to help each partner feel loved and cherished.
In order to fully focus on each other (rather than on the goal of sex), some lovers experiment with various intimate rituals for several weeks before moving on to the next steps or engaging in intercourse. This is a wonderful way to strengthen the bonds of love and ignite passion.
"The only time we ever think about breathing is when we have trouble doing it, yet conscious breathing can be a powerful aid in sexual growth," according to sex therapist Marty Klein, Ph.D. of Palo Alto, California. Breathing exercises also quiet the mind and help you focus on each other.
Try this exercise: Sit quietly, cross-legged, facing each other. Rest your hands on your knees with your palms facing up. As you gaze into your partner's eyes, take soft, but deep breaths. Keep your eyes open, gazing beyond the eyes, into the soul. Although this may feel awkward at first, sustained eye contact is essential for building intimacy.
Now, pay attention to your breathing. Begin to breathe at the same pace, bringing air slowly in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Maintain eye contact while you breathe together. Practice this exercise until you can sustain eye contact and harmonized breathing for about 10 minutes. Then, you may move into the next exercise.
Experiment with erotic touch to fully appreciate your partner. This most pleasurable practice will help you become better lovers. Although you should continue to maintain eye contact, don't worry about keeping your breath synchronized. Breath will come back into play later. Guide your partner as you take turns stimulating each other. Describe exactly how you would like to be touched.
Share your desires in an encouraging way, making requests in a clear and loving manner. For example, ask your lover to caress your clitoris or penis (or any erogenous zone), encouraging him or her to apply more or less pressure, to stroke in a specific pattern, to use the tongue, etc. Thank your lover and let him or her know with words or sounds that you are enjoying this sensual touch.
Once you become comfortable with this process, you may wish to create a "pleasure chest." Include whatever excites you and your partner—a feather, vibrator, massage oil, blindfold, soft fabric, erotica and loving notes to each other are just a few ideas. As you pleasure each other, don't be shy about asking for something different. This is your time for appreciation, experimentation and for taking responsibility for your own fulfillment by asking for what you want.
From here, you may wish to embark on your own erotic journey. Create amorous adventures together, exploring new and creative ways to awaken each other's bodies and minds. Then, you will be ready for Tantric lovemaking.

Basic Tantric Sex Techniques

The Tantric tradition emphasizes preparation for lovemaking. Erotic rituals such as those described above focus on exchanging pleasures, awakening the senses and allowing couples to communicate on deep physical and emotional levels.
During this time, lovers are able to establish an intimate connection that can be maintained and heightened as they transition into the sexual dimension. Intimacy exercises are a form of extended foreplay, helping titillate lovers for the sex that is to come and create the optimal conditions for Tantric lovemaking.
As you experiment with Tantric techniques, don't worry whether you are doing something the "right" way. Tantra does not judge right or wrong, good or bad. Ultimately, your pleasure is what matters most.
As you transition into sex, the idea is to maintain a state of sexual ecstasy for as long as possible. Tantric lovemaking is not result-oriented, but rather, timeless and unstructured.
Maintain a deep level of intimacy. Continue to gaze into each other's eyes as much as possible. Sprinkle your lover's face, neck and shoulders with light kisses and whisper words of love and encouragement. Help each other feel loved and desired.
Keep it slow. A long, slow build helps men control orgasm and piques women's arousal. According to Tantric teacher, Robert Frey, the longer you linger in this process of building energy, the longer men can resist ejaculation. During this time, focus on each other. If your thoughts should wander, gently bring your attention back to the present, concentrating on your lover and the magic of the moment at hand.
Bring your attention back to your breath. Resist the urge to breathe quickly. Quick breathing or panting creates arousal, speeding you toward orgasm. Instead, take long, slow, deep breaths from the belly, exhaling gradually. You may match your breath to that of your partner, or try breathing alternately—as you inhale, your partner exhales. This moves energy back and forth and connects you to your lover.
Vary your positions to explore your duality. Different sex positions add to sexual pleasure and balance male and female energies. When lovers release themselves from gender roles, they are free to engage in deeper, more intimate sex. Men realize their sexual potential through surrender, by being soft and open, gentle and vulnerable. Women, in turn, can direct and initiate. As you experiment with different positions, some male-dominant, some female-dominant, explore your capacity to be strong and gentle, generous and receptive.

Multiple Orgasms for Men

Tantric sex distinguishes between the experiences of orgasm and ejaculation. Although they often happen at the same time, men are capable of having orgasms without ejaculating. Ejaculatory control is what makes it possible for Tantric lovers to capture and extend the magical energy of orgasm. By holding back, men can experience a series of "mini-orgasms."
This does not mean that you are never to ejaculate, but that you can control your climax. The essence, say Tantric experts, is to catch a wave of energy and to surf the edge without going over. Use these strategies to stay atop the wave:
The pubococcygeal (PC) muscles, which run from your public bone to your tailbone, are the ultimate sex muscles. These are the same muscles used to stop the flow of urine. If properly conditioned, the PCs enable you to stop ejaculation while continuing to enjoy sex. Kegel exercises are the best way to tone the PCs.
Here's how: Contract your PC muscles three times per day, squeezing 20 to 25 repetitions. This is a simple exercise that you can do at anytime. Just don't overdo it. After a month of conditioning, try to extend the squeeze, holding each contraction for two seconds. Gradually work up to 10 seconds. Once your PCs are in top shape, you will be able to pump them in order to ride the orgasmic wave without gliding over the brink too soon.
Relax. Although it sounds paradoxical, it's important for men to stay relaxed during high states of arousal. If you feel the undulations of ejaculation, take a slow, deep breath and stop making love long enough for your arousal to subside. Relax and try to direct energy from your penis up through your body.
Take this time to talk to your partner or to draw several slow, deep breaths. By experimenting, you will discover how much "time out" you require before catching the next wave. The idea is to allow yourself enough time for the intensity to subside, but not so much that you lose your erection.
Put it all together. When you and your partner make love, thrust slowly, allowing your arousal to build gradually. Before your excitement mounts, relax for a moment, tighten your PC muscles and take a deep breath. Resume your lovemaking, continuing to generate excitement.
Then, relax again, hold your PCs and breathe. Continue to ride this swell until you near the crest. Then, open your eyes, clamp down on your PC muscles and take a deep breath to experience the joy of orgasm without ejaculating. Since these techniques take practice, expect a few "wipe outs" before you achieve mastery.

Freeing Female Orgasm

It is often said that a woman's most powerful sex organ lies between her ears. Since desire can be short-circuited by fear, guilt, stress and a host of other distracting thoughts, women often need to concentrate on feeling rather than thinking when making love. Taking breaks to pleasure each other, manually and orally, is a great way to ward off any lingering diversions and to coax one or more orgasms.
Clitoral stimulation. Most women require stimulation of the clitoris and labia (the inner lips surrounding the clitoris) during sex to reach orgasm. Prolonged clitoral touch with a gentle, patient hand is, for many, the key to sexual ecstasy. Use sounds and positive words to guide your lover, showing your partner how to stroke you just so.
The sacred spot. The mythic Grafenberg Spot (G-spot) is referred to in Tantra as the "sacred spot." This potent and mysterious erogenous zone is located about two to three inches up on the front side of the vaginal channel. When your lover is aroused, slip your ring finger into her vagina allowing your fingertip to brush against the inner wall.
The G-spot is between the size of a pea and a quarter with a slightly rippled texture. For some women, though not for all, gentle stimulation can induce powerful orgasms and even female ejaculate. However, take care not to over-stimulate this sensitive spot.
According to Tantric philosophy, lovers who have practiced these ancient techniques can learn to direct sexual energy through the body's "chakras," or energy centers. Moving the energy of orgasm through these physical channels is thought to create sensations of ecstasy throughout the body and to enhance health.
There is much to learn about this ancient art. "Tantra is a school of many courses in which there are many levels of study and an unlimited degree of potential for spiritual gain, for sexual delight, and for worldly success," state Charles and Caroline Muir, authors of "Tantra: The Art of Conscious Loving." Although they caution that Tantra does not promise instant results, for couples who wish to enrich their relationship, these practices "can release a particular kind of energy that can bring about harmony...and increase sexual pleasure and intimacy."

Continue to Read more ...

What are the white dots on my nails?

Personal Hygiene ­Image Gallery
Personal Hygiene ­Image Gallery
Personal Hygiene ­Image Gallery A condition called leukonychia can cause white spots on fingernails.

You finally finished repainting those end tables for the guest room. As you're washing up, you notice something on your fingernail. You try to scrub it off and realize the little white dots are not paint; they're actually part of your nail.

You show the spots to your roommate and he says it could mean you have a calcium deficiency. Or wait, is it zinc? It's definitely some sort of nutritional deficit, of that he's certain. But you start to wonder if he's right because just last month, he told you that washing your face in egg whites will decrease the size of your pores. However, when you mentioned that to your dermatologist, she said that nothing can actually shrink your pores. So what are these white spots and how'd you get them?

One of the most common causes for these little white spots, which can show up on both fingernails and toenails, is a condition called leukonychia [source: Tuzun and Karakus]. Although the name sounds pretty serious, the condition typically isn't. And while many people think they're caused by a calcium or zinc deficiency, that's generally not the case [sources: Sound Medicine, Weil].

In reality, these spots most often develop as a result of mild to moderate trauma to your nail. If you can't think of anything that would have injured your nail, consider the fact that nails grow very slowly, so the injury may have occurred weeks before the spots ever appeared [source: WebMD]. Another possibility is that the spots could be a sign of a mild infection or allergy, or a side effect of certain medications [source: Weil].
Whatever the source of the injury, these spots typically do not require any treatment and should go away as your nail grows out. And they should not return unless you suffer another nail trauma [source: Weil].

However, this generally applies when only a single or a few nails are affected. If all of your nails are showing white spots or streaks, the leukonychia could be related to another more serious condition such as anemia, cardiac disease, cirrhosis, diabetes or kidney disease [source: Bryant]. Overall, it's good practice to pay attention to changes and abnormalities in your fingernails and to consult your doctor if you're concerned.

Continue to Read more ...

Top 10 Natural Ways to Boost Libido

See these natural ways to bring back your libido.
Discovery Health
Do you feel like your sex drive just isn't what it used to be? You aren't alone — many people feel that way at some point in their lives. In some cases, a decrease in libido may be due to a medical issue. For many people, however, the situation may be remedied without resorting to medication. Check out the top 10 natural libido boosters, from Dr. Catherine Hood. You just may find one that puts the spark back into your love life.

One drink may help you get in the mood.

10: Drink in Moderation

One alcoholic drink can lubricate a nervous first-date situation. By reducing anxiety and stress one drink can help get you in the mood for sex. But beware, alcohol is a depressant, too much booze and you can end up with quite the opposite problem.

Aphrodisiacs usually contain vitamins and minerals that aid in sexual functioning.

9: Try Aphrodisiacs

There is no magic love potion but aphrodisiacs can be fun. Often they are foods that look sexually suggestive like asparagus. Others, like oysters, gain their love-inducing reputation by containing antioxidants and trace elements necessary for good sexual functioning. For example, oysters are packed with zinc, a mineral central to fertility.

Stop smoking and you can boost your libido.
Discovery Health

8: Stop Smoking

It's well known that smoking can have a terrible affect on blood flow to the sexual organs as it causes the blood vessels to narrow. It also saps your stamina and most people

Keeping fit can boost your libido.
Discovery Health

7: Keep Fit

Moderate regular exercise will help improve blood flow to the sexual organs. In addition, exercise helps you feel good about yourself. Anything that improves self-esteem will improve libido.

Being overweight can negatively affect your sexual performance.

6: Lose Weight

Being overweight can affect not only your self-esteem and your feelings of sexuality but you're likely to suffer from blood vessel disease which can reduce essential blood flow to the genitals.

Eating your fruits and vegetables can boost your libido.

5: Eat the Right Things

If your body becomes frail due to bad health, sex invariably suffers. Five to nine fruits and vegetables a day can provide the cornerstone to your health. The vitamins and antioxidants will help maintain good blood flow to the sex organs and prevent certain chronic diseases.

A massage can put you in the mood.
Publications International, Ltd.

4: Massage

Massage techniques can do wonders for sexual arousal particularly if you're stressed, worried or angry. Prepare the room with soft lighting and soothing music then start with a back massage.

Plant remedies like yohimbine are thought to treat a variety of men's health issues.

3: Yohimbine

Long used in Africa as an aphrodisiac and often called natural Viagra, yohimbine is thought to improve male impotence although clinical trials have been disappointing. There is little evidence that it works for women.

Gingko can boost your libido.

2: Gingko Biloba

This herbal remedy made from the leaves of the gingko biloba tree, is known to improve blood flow to the brain and sexual organs. It is thought to have an enhancing effect upon desire, excitement and orgasm.

By taking care of your own esteem you can increase your interest in sex.

1: Feel Good About Yourself

Nothing reduces your interest in sex more than low self-esteem. Spoil yourself when you're feeling down and take some time to relax or do an activity that makes you feel better within yourself.

Continue to Read more ...

15 Home Remedies for Constipation

Everything in your body is sending you the signal that it's time to move your bowels, but nothing's moving. You feel bloated and uncomfortable, but when you try to go, nothing happens. Or, if you do finally go, it hurts.
Constipation occurs for many different reasons. Stress, lack of exercise, certain medications, artificial sweeteners and a diet that's lacking fiber or fluids can each be the culprit. Certain medical conditions, such as an underactive thyroid, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes and cancer, also can cause constipation. Even age is a factor. The older we get, the more prone we are to the problem.
And constipation is a problem, although it's not an illness. It's simply what happens when bowel movements are delayed, compacted and difficult to pass. Once you understand the basics of constipation, it's possible to treat it. Depending on the severity of the case, it may respond to simple home remedies, or it may require medical intervention.
What's Normal? Some people mistakenly believe they must have a certain number of bowel movements a day or a week or else they're constipated. That couldn't be further from the truth, although it's a common misconception. What constitutes "normal" is individual and can vary from three bowel movements a day to three a week. You'll know if you're constipated because you'll be straining a lot in the bathroom, you'll produce unusually hard stools, and you'll feel gassy and bloated.
Laxatives Aren't No. 1
It's not a good idea to use laxatives as the first line of attack when you're constipated. They can become habit-forming to the point that they damage your colon. Some laxatives inhibit the effectiveness of medications you're already taking, and there are laxatives that cause inflammation to the lining of the intestine.
Conventional thinking on laxatives is that if you must take one, find one that's psyllium- or fiber-based. Psyllium is a natural fiber that's much gentler on the system than ingredients in many of the other products available today.
Now that you understand what it means to be constipated, it's time to learn some tried and ture home remedies for this disorder. Go to the next section to learn ways that you can find relief from constipation in your very own kitchen.

1: Eat 6 Ounces of Grain Products Each Day

Eat 6 ounces of grain products each day. Grain products include cereals, breads and starchy vegetables (such as corn, green peas, potatoes and lima beans). Whenever possible, choose whole grains such as whole-wheat bread and whole-grain cereal. To get a big dose of fiber early in the day, eat high-fiber cereal for breakfast. Check the labels on cereal boxes; anything with more than 5 or 6 grams of fiber per serving qualifies as high fiber. If you don't like high-fiber cereals, try mixing them in with your usual cereal and increasing the amount of high-fiber cereal over time.
Also, try making barley a permanent addition to your diet. It can relieve constipation and keep you regular. Buy some barley flour, flakes and grits, and add some barley grain to vegetable soup or stew.

2: Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables. Select a variety, including sweet potatoes, apples, berries, apricots, peaches, pears, oranges, prunes, corn, peas, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower. And opt for the whole produce over juice as much as possible; a glass of orange juice, for instance, provides 0.1 grams of fiber, while eating an orange gives you 2.9 grams.
Apples. Eat an hour after a meal to prevent constipation.

Apple juice and apple cider. These are natural laxatives for many people. Drink up and enjoy!

Bananas. These may relieve constipation. Try eating two ripe bananas between meals. Avoid green bananas, because they'll actually make your problem worse.

Raisins. Eat a handful daily, an hour after a meal.

Rhubarb. This is a natural laxative. Cook it and eat it sweetened with honey, or bake it in a pie. Or, create a drink with cooked, pureed rhubarb, apple juice and honey.

3: Cut Back on Refined Foods


Try choosing products with more whole grains and less flour.
Bump up your fiber intake by switching from refined foods to less-refined foods whenever possible. Switch from a highly processed cereal to a whole-grain cereal, move from heavily cooked vegetables to less-cooked vegetables, and choose whole-grain products over products made with white flour. A serving of white rice has 0.5 grams of fiber; a serving of brown rice contains 2.4. And while a serving of potato chips has only 0.6 grams of fiber, a serving of popcorn supplies 2.5 grams.

4: Bulk up on Fiber

Sometimes, a little extra dietary fiber is all you need to ensure regularity. Fiber, the indigestible parts of plant foods, adds mass to the stool and stimulates the colon to push things along. Fiber is found naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains and beans (although refining and processing can significantly decrease their fiber content). Meats, chicken, fish and fats come up empty-handed in the fiber category. The current recommendations for daily dietary fiber are 20 to 35 grams, but most people eat only 10 to 15 grams a day. Fiber supplements may be helpful, but you're better off getting your fiber from foods, which supply an assortment of other essential nutrients as well. To avoid getting gassy, increase the fiber in your diet gradually, and be sure you drink plenty of water so the fiber can move smoothly through your digestive system.

5: Have Some Blackstrap Molasses and Honey

bottles of honey

Joseph Devenney/Photographer's Choice
Honey by itself or mixed with molasses can be a mild laxative.
Take 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses before going to bed to relieve constipation. Molasses is too high in calories to use it as a daily preventative, but on an occasional basis, it can help to get you moving. It has a pretty strong taste, though, so you may want to add it to milk, fruit juice, or, for an extra-powerful laxative punch, prune juice.
Honey is also a very mild laxative. Try taking 1 tablespoon three times a day, either by itself or mixed into warm water. If it doesn't work on its own, you may have to pep it up by mixing it half and half with blackstrap molasses. Or, you can also mix 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon honey in a glass of water. Keep in mind, however, that honey (like molasses) is high in calories, so use it as an occasional laxative, not a daily preventative.

6: Don't Forget Beans

Pinto Bean & Andouille Sausage Stew

Beans are not only good for your heart; the more you eat them, the less likely you are to experience constipation.
Dried beans and legumes, whether they're pinto beans, red beans, lima beans, black beans, navy beans or garbanzo beans, are excellent sources of fiber. Many people don't like them because of the gassiness they may cause. Cooking beans properly, however, can ease this problem considerably. Plus, if you add beans to your diet gradually, you'll minimize gassiness.

7: Try a Cup of Coffee

heart shape in a coffee cup
This cup of coffee may stimulate your digestive tract.
The bitter-tasting constituents in coffee, and all bitter-tasting foods, stimulate the digestive tract. If you don't like coffee, try an herb called Oregon grape. The root of this plant and some close cousins such as barberry have been used safely since ancient times to overcome occasional constipation. Mix 1/2 teaspoon Oregon grape tincture in water and sip slowly before eating for best results.

8: Snack on Sesame Seeds

These seeds provide roughage and bulk, and they soften the contents of the intestines, which makes elimination easier. Eat no more than 1/2 ounce daily, and drink lots of water as you take the seeds. You may also sprinkle them on salads and other foods, but again, no more than 1/2 ounce. Sesame is also available in a butter or paste and in Middle Eastern dips, such as tahini.

9: Oil Up

Various bottles of olive oil.

Vegetable oils can help lubricate the intestines.
Safflower, soybean and other vegetable oils can be just the cure you need, as they have a lubricating action in the intestines. Take 2 to 3 tablespoons a day, only until the problem is gone (not on an everyday basis). And remember that on those days when you increase your intake of oils, balance the calorie count by lowering your consumption of butter. Otherwise, you risk packing on extra pounds as you seek relief from constipation. If you don't like taking oil straight from the spoon, mix the oil with herbs and lemon juice or vinegar to use as salad dressing. The combination of the oil and the fiber from the salad ought to fix you right up.

10: Get Moving

Exercise not only boosts your fitness level but also promotes regularity. When you are active, so are your bowels -- and the more sedentary you are, the more slowly your bowels move. That may partially explain why older people, who tend to be less active, and those who are bedridden are prone to constipation. So, gear up and get moving. You don't have to run a marathon; a simple walking workout doesn't take much time and can be very beneficial. When it comes to regularity, even a little exercise is better than none at all.

11: Know Your Medications

Medicine bottles

Some medications can cause constipation.
A number of prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause constipation. If you're currently taking any medication, you might want to ask your doctor or pharmacist whether it could be causing your constipation. Among the drugs that can cause constipation are calcium-channel blockers taken for high blood pressure, beta blockers, some antidepressants, narcotics and other pain medications, antihistamines (to a lesser degree), certain decongestants and some antacids. Antacids that contain calcium or aluminum are binding and can cause constipation; antacids that contain magnesium tend not to cause constipation. If you are unsure what's in your antacid, check the label or ask your pharmacist or doctor.

12: Train Yourself to a Daily Routine

We're all born with a reflex to defecate a short time after we're fed, and as babies, that's what we did. With socialization, we learn to control our bladders and bowels, and we tend to inhibit this reflex. Work on reviving this innate tendency by choosing one mealtime a day and trying to have a movement after it; you may be able to teach your body to pass a stool at the same time each day. (This works better with younger people than with seniors.)  By following that routine every day, whether you have to go or not, and soon it may very well become your time. 

13: Keep a Food Diary

If you suffer frequent bouts of constipation, it's possible that your body is reacting to certain foods that you're consuming. By keeping a detailed log of what you eat, you'll see which foods are clogging you up.

14: Drink Water

Woman Wearing a White Vest Holding a Glass of Water

Water is good for your health.
Consuming at least eight glasses of water a day not only improves your general health, but also helps moisten the intestines so that the bowels move easily.

15: Don't Fight the Urge

People sometimes suppress the urge to have a bowel movement because they're busy or have an erratic schedule, or because they don't want to use public bathrooms. If at all possible, heed the call when you feel it.
Continue to Read more ...

18 Home Remedies for Kidney Stones

Publications International, Ltd.
According to an old fairy tale, a single tiny pea placed beneath 20 mattresses and 20 featherbeds was enough to keep the true princess awake throughout the night. In real life, a tiny pea-sized stone, lodged in one or the other of your kidneys, is enough to keep you not only awake all night but crying out in pain and gritting your teeth until you can get to a doctor for relief.
Kidney stones are deposits of mineral or organic substances that form in the kidneys. Approximately 10 percent of people develop kidney stones at some time in their lives. You're most likely to suffer stones if you are male, are 20 to 40 years old, or have gout. Men are four times more likely than women to get kidney stones, the theory being that female hormones prevent kidney stones from forming.
Kidney stones also tend to run in families, so individuals with a close relative who has been through a stone episode should be careful. Most first-time victims are between 30 and 40 years old and are otherwise in very good health.
Like gallstones that go undiagnosed, kidney stones don't always cause problems. Kidney stones may be present for years and never produce symptoms. But when they grow large enough to block the flow of urine through the ureter (one of two tubes that allow urine to drain from the kidneys to the bladder), the pain can be excruciating. Symptoms include severe pain and tenderness over the affected kidney, frequent and painful urination, blood in the urine, nausea, fever, chills, and extreme exhaustion.
Diet may be a major contributor to why some people develop kidney stones. There are also simple lifestyle changes you can make to help keep kidney stones from forming. Read the next section for home remedies that will prevent the pain of kidney stones.

Regular exercise can lower your risk of developing kidney stones.
Publications International, Ltd.

Home Remedy Treatments for Kidney Stones

If you have been through a bout with a kidney stone in the past or think you might be a candidate for developing one, you should do your best to beat the odds by trying the home remedies listed below.
Drink more than your fill. Increasing your fluid intake should be your first step (and may be the only step needed) toward staying free of kidney stones. Six to eight 8-ounce glasses is the minimum amount you should drink every day. While water is always a good choice, other caffeine-free and nonalcoholic beverages count (although your doctor may caution you about drinking too much decaffeinated tea if you produce a high concentration of oxalates in your urine).
Check it out. Sometimes, it's not easy to keep track of how much fluid you've taken in during the course of the day. That's why measuring your urine output may provide a better indication of your fluid intake. (Pharmacies generally carry measuring devices that fit right inside the toilet bowl.) During a typical day, your body should produce 40 to 45 ounces of urine.
Go easy on oxalates. Eating large quantities of fruits and vegetables provides you with lots of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients; however, some of these foods also provide oxalates, which you may need to go easy on if you have a tendency toward kidney-stone formation.
People prone to forming calcium-oxalate stones may be asked by their doctor to cut back on the following foods if their urine contains an excess of oxalate: Beets, chocolate, coffee, cola, nuts, parsley, peanuts, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, tea, and wheat bran. But don't completely avoid these foods without first talking to your doctor. In most cases, these foods can be eaten in limited amounts.
"C" less. Although some regard it as a wonder vitamin, in very high doses -- more than 3,000 milligrams daily -- vitamin C can be a potential problem for those who tend to form kidney stones. That's because the body converts this vitamin to oxalate. If you have had a kidney stone, your safest bet is to get your vitamin C from foods, not high-dose supplements. (Vitamin C is essential -- the Recommended Dietary Allowance for men is 90 mg a day and for women, 75 mg a day -- so don't think of trying to go without it.)
Eat less meat and certain fish. Individuals who form uric-acid stones are usually found to eat diets high in animal protein. Animal protein can accelerate formation of uric acid and calcium in the urine, which may, in turn, cause stones to form. So try to moderate your meat intake.
Uric acid also forms when purines in protein foods are broken down. If you suffer from uric-acid stones, you also may need to cut back on protein, particularly foods high in purine. Some of these foods include anchovies, fish roe, herring, mackerel, mussels, sardines, and shrimp. Other foods high in purine to watch out for include beer, brains, heart, kidney, liver, sweetbreads, and wine. Of course, high-protein fad diets should also be avoided.
. One of the many benefits of regular exercise is that it facilitates the passage of calcium out of the bloodstream and into the bones. The result: stronger bones and less risk of stone formation. If you need one more reason to lace up those walking shoes, recalling the anguish of a kidney stone may be a great motivator.
Don't oversoothe your tummy. Some over-the-counter antacids are calcium based (indeed, some people use them primarily as calcium supplements). Check the label, and if the word "calcium" appears there, you may need to select another type of stomach medication (again, confirm this with your doctor).
Home remedies from your kitchen can also prevent kidney stones from inflicting their pain on you. Learn about these remedies in the next section.

For more information about treating disorders of the kidney and gallbladder, try the following links:

©2007 Publications International, Inc. The vitamin A in foods like carrots can bolster the overall health of your urinary tract.

Natural Home Remedies for Kidney Stones

When it comes to preventing kidney stones, what you should eat is just as important as what you should not eat. Read on for home remedies, in the form of foods and supplements found in most kitchens.

Home Remedies From the Cupboard

Bran flakes. Fiber helps get rid of calcium and oxalate in your urine, which cuts the risk of kidney stones. A bowl of bran flakes can give you 8 mg of fiber.
Mesh strainer. If you are passing a kidney stone, doctors recommend catching it. Urinating through a mesh strainer is one of the easiest ways to trap your stone. Allowing your doctor to analyze the stone's content can offer clues about what caused your stones to form and give you more success in treating your stone problem.
Two-liter bottle. Many doctors recommend measuring your urine output if you are at risk for kidney stones. You should be urinating at least the equivalent of a two-liter bottle every day. Carrying a bottle to the bathroom with you may seem odd, but if you're having kidney stone trouble, knowing that your kidneys are functioning fluidly will ease your mind.
Whole-wheat bread. A couple slices of whole-wheat bread contain a good amount of magnesium, a mineral known for averting stones. One study found that people who got an adequate amount of magnesium stopped getting kidney stones altogether.
Salt. There's also a high correlation between kidney stones and salt intake. Limit your sodium consumption to no more than two grams per day.
Nettle leaf. Drinking plenty of water is the undisputed champion of kidney stone prevention. Some herbal teas, such as those made from the leaves of stinging nettles, may enhance the benefits of water by acting as natural diuretics.
The nettle leaf has a long tradition of safely promoting urination. By keeping water flowing through the kidneys and bladder, nettle helps keep crystals from forming into stones and washes bacteria away. It may also help maintain a kidney-stone-busting balance of electrolytes in the urine. Though further research is needed, drinking 2 to 3 cups of nettle leaf tea per day may help prevent kidney stones. Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons dried nettle leaf with 1 cup hot water and steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
Dried nettle leaf should be stored in an airtight container, away from light and heat. It will last as long as a year if protected. You must either grow them in the garden or have a nearby source to harvest them from the wild. Keep fresh nettles in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Home Remedies From the Refrigerator
Carrots. Vitamin A is an essential ingredient for healthy kidneys. One carrot can give you twice your daily requirements for this kidney-friendly nutrient. Foods rich in vitamin A include sweet potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash, broccoli, and carrots.
Chicken. The B vitamins, specifically vitamin B6, are well-known stone fighters. Vitamin B6 keeps the body from building up excess oxalate. Too much oxalate is a major factor in kidney stone formation. Three ounces of chicken provide more than one-third of your daily needs.
Milk. Something to put in your strange but true file. Though calcium is one of the major minerals in kidney stones, recent evidence shows that not getting enough calcium can actually increase chances of getting a stone. The reason: When you have lower levels of calcium, your body produces more oxalate, which makes you more at risk for kidney stones. One study found that men who ate the most calcium had a 34 percent less chance of developing stones than those who ate the least amount of calcium. How much is enough? Meeting your recommended daily allowance, which for most adults is between 1,000 and 1,200 mg a day, the amount in about three glasses of milk, should do the trick.
Home Remedies From the Supplement Shelf
Vitamin A. As we've mentioned, Vitamin A is necessary for the overall health of your urinary tract. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin A for healthy adults is 5,000 international units, which should be easily met through a varied, balanced diet. However, if you get too much A, your body won't excrete the excess, and the buildup can be toxic. See your doctor if you are unsure how much A your body is getting.
Vitamin B6. Scientists have found that vitamin B6 may actually lower the amount of oxalate in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of stone formation. Magnesium, too, seems to be helpful in preventing stones. Your doctor may suggest a daily supplement of B6 and/or magnesium or a drug that combines the two. If you take a supplement of vitamin B6, don't take more than 25 milligrams a day.
Kidney stones, either as small as a peanut or as large as a walnut, can cause serious pain. By using the home remedies mentioned in this article, you can take better care of yourself and keep kidney stones from forming.

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Continue to Read more ...

Top 10 Countries With the Highest Life Expectancy

Consuming a healthy diet and not smoking seems to translate into a longer life rate for the following countries.

Want to live to a ripe old age? By far the most important factor in life expectancy is wealth; richer people tend to eat healthfully and smoke and drink less. They also have access to the best health care. Affluent countries also tend to have low rates of violent crime and civil unrest. The following countries have the highest average life expectancies in the world. In case you're wondering, the United States, with an average life expectancy of 77.85, ranks 48th.
Get started now and see the list of countries with the highest life expectancy.

Along the cliff walk in Guernsey

10. Guernsey: 80.42 Years

The island of Guernsey, located in the English Channel, is a British Crown dependency, but it's not part of the U.K. The reason for its high life expectancy is simple: It's extremely wealthy. Very low taxes make Guernsey a popular destination for tax exiles who can afford the very best in nutrition and medical care. More than half of the island's income comes from financial services -- which means well-paid desk jobs -- with very few people working in heavy industry.

Broome, Buccaneer Archipelago, Australia

9. Australia: 80.50 Years

­All the usual factors relating to prosperity apply here, but the life expectancy of indigenous Australians is about 20 years less than that of white Aussies, due to higher rates of just about every factor that shortens life, including smoking, obesity and poverty. Incidentally, research suggests that Australia's life expectancy may start falling as obesity reaches epidemic proportions in the land down under.

Train running through the mountains of Switzerland

8. Switzerland: 80.51 (tied)

­Aside from a stable economy with all of the usual factors that increase longevity, such as a healthful diet and high standard of health care, Switzerland's much-vaunted neutrality means that its inhabitants are highly unlikely to die in an armed conflict.

Rushing mountain brook in Laktajakka, Sweden

7. Sweden: 80.51 Years (tied)

­Although an economic downturn in the late 1990s did some damage to Sweden's world-renowned welfare and public health systems, they are still among the best in the world. Also, Sweden has the lowest rate of smokers in the developed world -- about 17 percent -- so tobacco-related deaths are half the European average.

Daigo-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan

6. Japan: 81.25 Years

Japan has one of the lowest adult obesity rates in the industrialized world, at only 3 percent. As in Hong Kong, this is mainly due to a healthful diet based around vegetables, fish, rice and noodles. Many Japanese people also stop eating when they feel about 80 percent full, rather than continuing until they can't manage another mouthful. The Japanese are also much less reliant on cars than people in Western countries, preferring to walk whenever possible, and therefore get plenty of exercise.

Skyline in Hong Kong

5. Hong Kong: 81.59 Years

People in Hong Kong generally eat a healthful and balanced diet, based around rice, vegetables and tofu, with only small amounts of meat. This means that obesity rates are low, as are the rates for most dietary-based cancers and heart disease.

An aerial view of the Singapore skyline shortly after dark

4. Singapore: 81.71 Years (tied)

­Aside from prosperity, one factor in Singapore's long average life expectancy is that in the early 1980s, the government recognized that it had an aging population, with the average age of its citizens increasing steadily. The government planned accordingly, and now Singapore has excellent health care facilities for the elderly.

Town of San Marino

3. San Marino: 81.71 Years (tied)

This enclave in central Italy is the third smallest state in Europe (after Vatican City and Monaco), as well as the world's oldest republic. Here, the long life expectancy is due to prosperity and the fact that the majority of the population is involved in office-based work rather than heavy industry and labor, which shorten life spans.

Chinese temple in Macau

2. Macau: 82.19 Years

This island in the South China Sea is reaping the rewards of a booming economy. The money has come from visitors, particularly from the Chinese mainland, coming to take advantage of a recently liberalized gaming industry. Gambling profits now provide about 70 percent of the country's income, and the government uses the money to invest heavily in public health care.

Panoramic view of Ordino, one of the most beautiful towns in Andorra

1. Andorra: 83.51 Years

Located between France and Spain, Andorra was one of Europe's poorest countries until it became a popular tourist destination after World War II. Its 71,000 inhabitants now enjoy all the benefits of a thriving economy, which include excellent nutrition and public health care facilities.
Continue to Read more ...

10 Mysterious Pains You Shouldn't Ignore

If you have mystery pain, don't wait to see your doctor. If you delay, a relatively minor illness could become life-threatening.

All of us have experience with random, mysterious and sometimes lingering pains at some point in our lives. Most of us shrug it off, and usually the pain leaves the same way it arrived -- on its own and without explanation.
These pains aren't so different from the strange sounds your automobile makes from time to time. Something clicks, whirrs or squeals, and then the noise vanishes as quickly as it arrived. Those of us who aren't mechanically inclined may think nothing more of it. However, just like your automobile, your body's aches and pains often get worse over time, or signal a much larger underlying problem. In these cases, we ignore those warning signs at our own peril. Usually, doctors and mechanics alike wonder why we didn't bring these problems to their attention sooner.
While not every pain you feel is indicative of a dire emergency, some mysterious pains simply shouldn't be ignored. While few people are enthusiastic about going to a doctor, few doctors are enthusiastic about treating a medical emergency that they could've detected or treated before the problem snowballed into a potentially life-or-death matter.

10: More Than Chest Pain

While this section focuses on heart disease, chest pain isn't the only indication that something's wrong. Take this scenario: It's a hot summer's day, and you're working up a sweat mowing your lawn, which resembles a modest jungle. You stop to wipe your brow, when suddenly your jaw starts hurting. While heart disease runs in your family, everyone has trained you to look out for the fabled chest pain. So you think nothing of it. You reason that you may have clenched your jaw tightly while sleeping because of stress at work.
Unfortunately, your aching jaw could be a sign that your heart is stressed. Your jaw pain could serve as warning of an impending heart attack or a sign that one has just occurred.
Pain from a heart attack often shows up in places other than your chest: your shoulder, arm, abdomen, lower jaw or throat. Ignore the mysterious pain in your jaw, and that overgrown lawn you're attempting to tame could be your ultimate undoing. If you do experience a sudden pain in your shoulder or jaw area -- especially if you are at risk of heart disease -- stop what you're doing, alert someone and seek medical attention. There aren't many good reasons why your jaw or the length of your arm would suddenly start throbbing with pain, and a doctor's investigation of what's happening could add years to your life.

Lower-back pain is quite common, but it could signal something other than sore muscles.

9: Lower-back Pain

Pain in the lower back is one of the most common pains people encounter and, as such, ignore. Most days, at least one person you know will complain of a bad back, and it makes it easy to deal with the pain when it happens to you. In fact, back pain is the leading cause of job-related disability.
Every year, Americans spend nearly $50 billion trying to take care of their lower back pain [source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke]. The high price tag points not only to the frequency of Americans' lower-back troubles, but also to the complexity of that region of our bodies. Our backs contain most of our bodies' infrastructure -- muscles, tissues, nerve bundles, spines and vertebrae. Without these structures, our bodies would resemble nothing so much as a pile of unstructured flesh, like jellyfish.
But sometimes lower-back pain is a symptom related to kidney trouble. The pain may relate to the formation of a kidney stone, which will usually pass (painfully) on its own. If your kidney is infected, it will swell, causing the discomfort in your lower back. If a kidney tumor has grown large enough, it will cause pain in the lower back, as well.
You should always get back pain checked out, since ignored problems with your back can become chronic problems that only worsen over time. Being vigilant about finding the cause of pain in your lower back could save your kidneys -- and your life.

Your abdominal pain could be from food poisoning, or it could be something more.

8: Severe Abdominal Pain

When our stomachs start clenching and doing somersaults after we've eaten food that's been left out on a buffet table for too long, there's no doubt what's causing the discomfort. But other times, there's no clear cause for the pain. Your torso is a busy place, and an unusual pain in your abdominal area could be a sign that any number of things has gone wrong.
Problems with nearby organs such as kidneys, lungs or the uterus could result in abdominal discomfort. Pain in your lower-right abdomen may mean your appendix is inflamed, and that means a quick removal is in order.
Upper-right-abdominal pain could signal a problem with your gall bladder. Upper-abdominal pain (along with upper-back pain) may be a sign of pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. Rest, intravenous fluids and antibiotics may resolve this condition.
Abdominal pain also could point to an intestinal blockage. If not immediately treated, this can result in death of intestinal tissue and other problems. And finally, a swollen liver due to hepatitis could cause the excruciating pain in your gut. There are different forms of this viral disease, some of which (hepatitis C) can cause liver failure.
Nothing causing abdominal pain is good news, but each condition is the type of bad news you want to get sooner rather than later. If you have unexplained, recurring or sudden abdominal pain, see your doctor immediately.

7: Calf Pain

Sore calves often mark the day after a good run (or a long climb up steep stairs). But sometimes calf pain -- especially when not linked to any type of injury -- may mean something else is amiss, and it's something you definitely don't want to ignore.
Your leg has a network of arteries and veins that move blood to and from your muscle and heart. The veins you can see beneath your skin are called superficial veins, and they move blood farther into the muscle itself, toward deep veins. Little valves inside the veins prevent blood from flowing the wrong way. However, clots may form due to a rupture in the vein, damage to a valve or an injury to the leg. This is a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The pain stems from the clot's presence causing a blood flow blockage, which results in swelling.
If a clot breaks loose -- an event called an embolism -- it could travel through your body, block an artery in the lung or brain, and damage your lung -- a pulmonary embolism -- or cause stroke. This doesn't usually happen, but when it does, it can be very serious and potentially deadly. Doctors usually prescribe anticoagulation drugs and keep tabs on the clot to make sure it's not growing. People with DVT who are overweight or who smoke should make lifestyle changes, as both of these factors increase the risk and severity of DVT.

A chiropractor is performing a distal median nerve NCV (Nerve Conduction Velocity) test. Distal median nerve dysfunction, a type of peripheral neuropathy, affects the movement or sensation in the hands.

6: Burning Sensations in Hands or Feet

If you've ever left your legs crossed too long, you've likely experienced an almost-painful tingling sensation in your legs and feet caused by decreased blood circulation. Fortunately, the tingling goes away quickly once you're standing and moving about, but while it's there, it feels like a cruel combination of pain and tickling.
If your feet or hands feel this way even when you haven't folded yourself up like a pretzel for too long in front of the television, it could be sign of nerve damage. Symptoms such as tingling, numbness and a burning sensation all point to peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy has many causes, including diabetes, alcohol abuse, vitamin B-12 deficiency and other disorders such as shingles. Injury, infections and toxins can also cause nerve damage. Often -- though not always -- treating the underlying cause of the tingling causes the painful sensations in your affected body parts to go away. Aspirin and over-the-counter analgesics sometimes help relieve symptoms, but antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, physical therapy or surgery have a greater chance of reducing or eliminating the burning sensation.
It's important to seek treatment for this condition because the reduced sensation means you'll be less likely to notice injuries to your feet or hands. Injuries left unchecked can become infected, opening the door to a completely new set of problems.
If you're diabetic, getting your blood sugar under control will prevent further nerve damage (among other complications that arise from this disease) and may improve the existing symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

5: Vague, Random, Unexplained Pains

Usually pain in a certain part of your body signals that something in that area needs attention. In fact, this is the how pain benefits us. Being the wise, nonprocrastinating person you are, you tell your family doctor about this. Then, the unexpected (though not entirely unwelcome) occurs: Your doctor performs tests like X-rays or an MRI, only to discover no obvious cause of the mysterious pains you're experiencing.
You may have fibromyalgia, a mysterious condition that results in aches and pains, and affects more women than men. Fibromyalgia seems to result in heightened sensitivity to physical pressure or pain, and often involves sleep difficulties. Currently, no definitive test for fibromyalgia exists, but doctors will work to rule out other possible causes of your pain before making a diagnosis. This condition is treatable with physical therapy and analgesics, but researchers still have much to learn about it.
It's incredible, but depression can also cause "floating," random and otherwise unexplainable pains in various parts of your body. This may manifest in the form of back pain, headaches and heightened sensitivity to pain.
How can this be? It turns out that pain and emotion travel down some of the same neural pathways in your brain. For some people, it seems that neurotransmitters carrying news of gloom and doom can jump the tracks and result in actual physical pain. Usually, antidepressants, therapy or some combination of the two helps to resolve the depression and, with it, the pain.

4: Testicular Pain

You should never ignore testicular pain, as it often indicates a condition that could get worse -- much worse -- if ignored for too long. Anything from a hernia to cancer can cause testicular pain. The spermatic cord could be twisted, causing testicular torsion, which causes excruciating, fall-to-your-knees pain. Ignore it at your testicles' own blood-starved peril.
If you've taken a direct hit to the jewels lately, the pain may go away in the following days, or be a sign of a hematocele, in which blood pools between the protective sacs of your scrotum. Inflammation of the epididymis, a coiled tube located in the back of each testicle that serves as a storage and delivery system for sperm, can also cause testicular pain. If the discomfort in your testicle accompanies a tactile sensation that your scrotum is full of noodles, you've likely got varicose veins, known as varicoceles.
There's little in the way of good news if you suddenly feel testicular pain, and ignoring it in hopes it will go away may cause you to lose a testicle. The thought of it is enough to give you a headache, which we'll discuss next.

Is your headache just a headache? Depending on your symptoms, your aching skull may be a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).

3: Thunderclap Headaches

While headaches often appear to come out of nowhere, some headaches descend incredibly fast, striking like a clap of thunder. While they may soon pass as most headaches do, this mysterious and sudden occurrence could be a sign of something much more serious than a headache. If your headache causes nearly blinding pain, it could be a sign of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
Strokes happen when a blood clot or piece of plaque in the body's veins or arteries breaks loose and travels through the body, eventually making its way to the brain. When this happens, the clot may temporarily or partially block an artery, resulting in a TIA, or it may fully block the blood flow, causing a stroke.
In addition to a sudden headache, other signs of TIA and stroke involve neurological or cognitive difficulties, such as trouble speaking or walking. In fact, people may suddenly fall while standing or walking. In the case of TIA -- often referred to as a "mini-stroke" -- the symptoms include dizziness, temporary visual problems or simply trouble holding a pen.
Either way, get immediate medical attention. Strokes call for clot-busting drugs to restore blood flow to brain tissue, and TIA episodes are often followed at some point by a real stroke. Pain is your body's way of telling you something's not right, so give your doctor a chance to discover what's wrong before it's too late.

2: Pelvic Pain During Intercourse

If you're a woman, you've no doubt seen the warning found on any box of tampons: leave a tampon in place too long, and complications may arise, including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
One common symptom of PID is pain or discomfort in the pelvic region during sex. PID is a bacterial infection of the uterus or fallopian tubes that results in red, swollen and painful tissue. The inflammation can cause scarring, which can lead to problems such as infertility.
PID can also result in the formation of abscesses, or chronic pelvic pain. Sexually transmitted diseases -- most often chlamydia or gonorrhea -- or any source of bacteria that travels up to the reproductive organs are the usual suspects for PID. Left unchecked, the infection can spread to the blood or other tissues of the body. If a fallopian tube is infected and not treated, it could burst.
PID affects three-quarters of a million women each year, and one out of 10 becomes infertile as a result [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. The pain may not be severe and may accompany other symptoms like frequent urination or abdominal pain. Early detection is important since doctors often can treat PID with antibiotics. However, in cases where the condition isn't detected early, surgery may be required.
Ovarian cysts can also cause pelvic pain, and while cysts often go away on their own, they may require medical intervention. Next, we'll look at a common ailment that sometimes has mysterious origins.

1: Persistent Joint Pain

Osteoarthritis -- generally age-related wear and tear to cartilage that causes bones to rub together -- is a common source of joint pain, but it's not the only one.
Stiffness and swelling of the joints may be caused by lupus, a disease that cycles through periods of flaring up and remission. Other symptoms of lupus include fatigue, hair loss and fever.
Hepatitis, a condition that affects the liver, also claims joint pain as a symptom. Need a good reason to get that joint pain examined by a doctor? Hepatitis is responsible for more liver transplants than any other condition [source: MedlinePlus]. Many other infectious diseases -- such as measles and chicken pox -- can also cause joint pain.
Then again, it could be arthritis, but a more serious form of it: rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that your immune system goes haywire and attacks your own tissue. This causes inflammation of not only the joints themselves, but of tissue surrounding the joints and even of other organs in your body. The result is pain and the breakdown of your joints. It's important to get medical attention as soon as symptoms present themselves to limit damage to your body -- while medications can alleviate discomfort and swelling, tissue damage is permanent.

Continue to Read more ...

How to Relieve Back Pain

Maybe you lifted something heavy or swung a golf club a little too enthusiastically. Or maybe you've been hunched over a desk or computer for two weeks, battling a deadline. Whatever the reason, now your back is "out," and you're wishing for something, anything, that will put an end to the agony.

Take heart; you're not alone. Almost every American suffers from back pain at some point in his or her life. The bad news is that unless you have a major injury or disc problem, your doctor may not be able to do much for you other than prescribe some pain medication and advise you to rest. The good news is that by following some simple steps, you can be back in the swing of things in just a few days. Even better, you can help ensure that you won't have to endure similar discomfort in the future.

In this article, you will learn all about back pain and how to relieve it over the following sections:

    Publications International, Ltd.
    The complete spinal column viewed from the side.
  • How the Spine Works

    It would be impossible to discuss the back without mentioning its major architectural component -- the spine. Basically, the spine is group of bones, stacked on top of each other, along the length of your back. The spine is also your body's way of protecting your spinal column, one of the most important parts of the central nervous system. Most of the problems that occur in the spine involve the spaces between the bones, called disks. Some of the back problems that involve intervertebral disks include herniated disks, torn disks, and ruptured disks. We will teach you everything you need to know about your spine and how it can contribute to back pain.
  • Back Muscles and Ligaments

    The majority of back problems stem from muscles that have been exhausted or strained. Sore backs, aching backs, or simply back pain that won't let you get out of bed probably stems from muscular problems. In this section, we will inform you about ligaments, the connective tissue between the muscle and the bones of your spine. We will tell you how ligaments can be damaged and how proper posture can keep them healthy. We will also explain how the muscles in your back work, and hopefully show you can stop injuring them.

  • Facet Joints and Nerves

    The bones of the spine fit together in fairly intricate and fascinating way. The places where these bones rub against each other are called facet joints. Aside from helping to hold the spine together, facet joints also prevent the spine from bending in ways that might damage your internal organs. Unfortunately, like every part of the back, these joints can be damaged and cause pain. Speaking of pain, we will also talk about the nerves that run through the back, especially the spinal column. Finally, we will show you how all these various parts of your back fit together to make the mechanical wonder you take for granted every day.
  • Emergency Back Pain Relief

  • After you injure your back you probably want to crawl into bed or a hot bath and close your eyes. While this might feel good immediately, the care you give your back in the first few hours after an injury can significantly affect how much pain you feel in the next few days. We will give you advice for treating a back injury, such as resting your back, icing your back, and compressing the area. We will also let you know when your back injury is so serious that you should seek a doctor's advice.
  • Chronic Back Pain Relief

    Some people have chronic back problems, and live their life in fear of throwing their back at from the slightest activity. If you have a back that is constantly throbbing with pain or is stiff most of the day, there are steps you can take to relieve these symptoms. We will show you how to stretch your back to keep it loose and avoid injury. We will also tell you which activities to avoid and the benefits of a massage and good posture. You might also be surprised to learn that activity can keep your back healthy. 

    How the Spine Works

    While most back pain is muscular in nature, there are a host of problems that can stem from your backbones. For instance, a slipped disk or herniated disk can be quite painful. Here is an examination of the skeletal structure of the back.

    Spine Basics

    In simple terms, your spine is nothing more than a group of bones in a line up the center of your back. The individual bones are called vertebrae. There are 33 bones in all -- 24 vertebrae, the sacrum (which is actually 5 vertebrae fused together), and the tailbone, or coccyx (4 vertebrae fused together). The individual vertebrae are stacked on top of each other from about the level of your belly button up to your head.

    When healthy, the bones of the spine are strong and dense. As is the case with all bones, the vertebrae get their strength primarily from two important minerals -- calcium and phosphate. When there is a shortage or loss of these minerals because of an inactive lifestyle (weight-bearing activity actually helps to keep bones strong) or diseases such as osteoporosis, the bones lose their structure and strength. Unless they are weakened in this way or are damaged in an accident or fall, bones do not typically break or wear out.

    The spine has four regions. Starting with the neck and progressing down to the pelvis, the regions are the cervical region, the thoracic region, the lumbar region, and the sacral region. All of these regions work together to provide support and stability for much of the weight of the upper body. Each bony level has a passage that forms a tunnel for the spinal cord, thus protecting the spinal cord as it extends downward from the brain.

    But the spine is more than just a protective tube. While the spine provides protection and support, its design also allows you to bend, twist, rotate, and otherwise move your upper body in every direction. The bones themselves do not actually bend or twist; the flexibility of the spine comes from structures between the bones called facet joints and intervertebral disks.

    Intervertebral Disks
    The infamous disks -- technically known as intervertebral disks -- are situated between the bones of the spine, creating a space for nerves branching out from the spinal cord to other areas of the body. The disks are made of tough rings of fibrous elastic material called cartilage; if you sliced a disk horizontally, it would look something like an onion cut through its middle. At the center of the rings of fibro-elastic tissue is a thick fluid with the consistency of very cold molasses.

    View of an intevetebral disk showing the pulpy, liquid cneter.
    Publications International, Ltd.
    View of an intevetebral disk showing the pulpy, liquid center.
    Together, the rings and the jellylike center of the disk act as a shock absorber, much like the shock absorbers on a car. When healthy, they take up much of the shock that walking, running, jumping, and even sitting can place on your spine. Every time you bend, extend, or twist, there is a change of pressure in the fluid-filled area of the disk. In moderate amounts, this change of pressure is actually good for the disks. In the long term, however, excessive forward bending movements -- with the back rounded and the legs straight -- can damage the rings that hold the fluid in place. Unfortunately, this bending motion is one that many people use repeatedly throughout a typical day to reach or lift objects. Even slumped sitting may expose the disks to possible injury.

    This damage to a disk starts at the rings in the center of the disk closest to the fluid, and then progresses toward the outermost rings. The condition has often been called a slipped disk. However, the disk does not actually slip out from between the bones. Rather, the fluid begins to break through the rings. When this condition has advanced to the point where there are only a few rings left holding the fluid inside the disk, the condition is known as a bulging disk. The rings can push into the spinal cord or the nerves exiting the cord. If all the rings tear, the disk has ruptured, or herniated.
    The three stages of disk herniation.
    Publications International, Ltd.
    The three stages of disk herniation. First, a healthy disk with the fluid center in place (left). Second, a bulging disk in which the fluid has begun to break through the fibrous layers (center). Third, the fully herniated, or ruptured, disk where the fluid has broken out of all the layers and leaks into the surrounding tissue (right).
    Some people experience a condition called degenerative disk disease. This condition usually progresses over many years. In this process, one or more disks dry out, losing their ability to absorb the loads and shock placed on them with everyday activities. Age also has an effect on the disks in the spine. At age 20, the disks are made up of about 70 percent water. With increasing age, the disks naturally lose their water content.

    If a disk wears out, dries out, bulges, or tears, it loses height. This forces the bones closer together, so the facet joints end up having to take much more of the shock as you move. The facet joints, in turn, can wear out prematurely. The loss of height also narrows the opening between the bones through which nerves exit the spinal cord. This narrowing can pinch a nerve, often causing pain.

    All of the conditions that affect the disk can, in the later stages, be extremely painful and debilitating. They can interrupt normal work, play, and even sexual function. Taking steps to protect the disks can pay great dividends in the long run. However, most of the time when people "throw out" their backs, it is due to muscle tears or spasms. Learn all about the back muscles in our next section. 

Back Muscles and Ligaments

The bones of your spine would not be able to move or even hold themselves upright without the muscles and ligaments that surround them. An important part of understanding back pain is understanding how these structures work and how they can get injured.

Back Ligaments

Attached to all the bones and disks in the spine are long, cordlike structures called ligaments. Not as hard as bone but not as soft as muscle, these bands of connective tissue come in almost every size. Some are short, running only between adjacent bones, but some are very long, extending all the way down the length of the spine.

The ligaments have several important functions. They provide support for the spine from the head down to the tip of the tailbone, holding disks and bones and muscles in their proper places. Their main function is to hold the bones together, allowing bending, twisting, and other movements to occur within safe ranges. Because ligaments are somewhat elastic, giving them the ability to stretch a little but not too much, they are perfectly suited for this task. When you bend over forward as far as you can, these ligaments reach the end of their length; they become taut, keeping the bones from moving apart any farther. This is an important function, because it spares other parts of the spine, such as the disks, the burden of holding the bones together -- a damaging task that they are simply not designed to do.

When you are standing straight, the ligaments are at normal length

When you are standing straight, the ligaments are at normal length (left).
However, when you bend, rounding your back, the ligaments are stretched
 to their maximum length trying to hold the bones together and support
 your hanging upper-body weight (right).
The ligaments also play a major role in posture. When they maintain their normal length and flexibility, they support the bones of the spine, keeping them in good positions. With poor postural habits, however, the ligaments on one side of your spine can be overstretched. Over time, probably months or years, the result is poor posture. Poor posture, in turn, can cause the ligaments to ache. Indeed, back or neck pain that cannot be attributed to a specific accident or injury is often a sign that poor posture is taking a toll on the ligaments. The ligaments, when sprained or torn, take a long time to heal because of their poor blood supply.

Back Muscles

Muscles are cordlike structures that are even more elastic than ligaments. Like ligaments, muscles can stretch; unlike the ligaments, muscles also have the ability to contract, or shorten. This is, in fact, what happens when you lift a cup of coffee, throw a ball, or do anything that requires movement of the body. The muscles shorten and lengthen, pulling the bones in different directions to coordinate our movements. When you lift, lower, push, pull, carry, or perform any activity, the muscles are doing the work.

Muscles also work to keep the body from moving when movement is not desired. For example, if you are sitting in a canoe and the canoe starts to tip to the left, your muscles quickly respond by coordinating your body's movement to the right to maintain your balance.

Muscles are true workhorses and can be your back's best friend. When conditioned, your muscles maintain their strength, endurance, and flexibility, which allows the body to move and work with less risk of injury and pain. When working properly, the muscles can greatly reduce the load on the bones, facet joints, disks, and ligaments. In contrast, when the muscles become deconditioned from lack of use or from injury, they tend to lose their size, strength, endurance, and flexibility.

How do muscles work? Basically, when you want to move, your brain sends a message through the nerves to the correct muscle. When the message gets to the muscle, chemicals inside the muscle cause the muscle to shorten. Because the muscle is attached to the bone, this shortening pulls on the bone. If the strength of this shortening is strong enough, the bone, and therefore the body, moves.

When your back muscles are in shape, they support the spine well

When your back muscles are in shape, they support the spine well (left).
When they are weak, the spine can suffer poor posture and possible injury (right).
To lengthen, or relax, and return to its resting position, the muscle requires energy. If the muscle runs out of energy, or becomes fatigued, cannot relax back to its original length. The end result may be what is often called tightness. As you use them, some of the smaller muscles in the back may start to get tired and shorten. When the muscles shorten, the bones are held together more tightly than normal; this constriction, in itself, can cause back pain and limit your ability to move with full flexibility. In fact, many people have back pain that is probably related to tight, deconditioned muscles that have fatigued and shortened.

In the short term, this muscle fatigue may result in nothing more than a little low-level back pain, but if this condition continues day after day, year after year, the back can wear out much faster than it should. If the muscles are not stretched, they can be injured. If you're lucky, the injury will only be a muscle pull or strain, in which the muscle is only slightly torn. Muscles can, unfortunately, be damaged more severely. The good news is that muscles, because of their good blood supply, tend to heal fairly quickly.

Our final stops on this tour of the back will be the facet joints and the nerves. Then, once we have all the parts laid out and explained, we will tell you how they all work together. Keep reading to learn more.

Facet Joints and Nerves

We're almost done explaining the anatomy of your back. All we have left are the facet joints, or how the bones of the spine fit together, and the nerves -- don't forget, the back also holds a major part of the body's central nervous system.

Facet Joints

Most of the bones of the spine have four joints, or places where they rub directly against other bones. These joints are called facet joints. Located on the extensions of bone off the back side of the vertebrae, these surfaces come in contact with those of the vertebrae directly above and below. Their purpose is to safely guide and restrict the movement of your spinal bones.

To get an idea of how the facet joints function, think of a door and doorstop. When a door opens so far that it hits against the stop, no further movement in that direction is allowed. In your spine, the bones move as far as the facet joints will allow them to before one bone forces another to stop. For example, when you stand and put your hands on your hips, bending as far backward as you can, it is the facet joints that help stop your backward movement. The same thing goes when you rotate your neck or back to the left or right as far as you can.

Located on the bony extensions of the vertebrae, the surfaces of the facet joints fit together like a three-dimensional puzzle.

Located on the bony extensions of the vertebrae, the surfaces
 of the facet joints fit together like a three-dimensional puzzle.
The surfaces of these joints, when healthy, are relatively thick, hard, and slick. This combination allows the bones an easy, pain-free gliding movement. However, if the joints are irritated, injured, or not used often enough in physical activity, the joint surfaces become thinner, softer, and almost sticky. This results in more difficult movement and possibly pain.

Without intervention, this condition can become chronic; bone spurs may even develop. Bone spurs are the bones' way of trying to grow together, or fuse, rather than remaining separate and moving freely. This condition can be extremely painful and may require surgery. However, it doesn't take such a serious condition to make these joints painful. If you've been standing on your feet too long, the facet joints end up getting compressed by the effects of gravity and the strain of supporting your upper-body weight, causing low-back pain even in healthy backs.


In the spaces between vertebrae run the nerve roots—exits off the spinal cord's information highway.

In the spaces between vertebrae run
the nerve roots—exits off the
 spinal cord's information highway.
Any discussion of the spine is not complete without talking about the body's messenger system -- the nerves. In simple terms, the nervous system is similar to the electrical wiring in your home. The wiring system in your home carries electricity from room to room. The nerves carry electricity -- in extremely small amounts -- around to the different parts of the body.

The nerves actually begin in the brain, your body's command center, and branch out through the spinal cord, which runs through the bones in your spine. The spinal cord is the main information highway in your body; all of the brain's signals to the body are carried through the spinal cord. Where the nerves branch off and leave the spinal cord, they are called nerve roots. Beyond this point, they are simply known as nerves.

The brain is always monitoring what is happening throughout the body and sending messages -- tiny amounts of electricity -- through the nerves. The various parts of the body can, in turn, send signals back to the brain regarding their condition. The feedback to the brain includes important sensations such as pressure, heat, cold, movement, and the big one, pain. If damage occurs to the nerves, communication breaks down, and many problems can arise with the organs that require instructions or that need to report sensations.

Clearly, the spinal cord is vital to the functioning of your entire body. All of the sensations and all of the organs from your neck to your toes rely on that one telephone line. The other structures of the back (bones, muscles, and ligaments) can protect this pathway if they are properly maintained, but poor posture and bad habits can weaken your back's protective ability. Indeed, sometimes injury or strain to a muscle or disk can even affect the nerve root or cord itself, actually causing a nerve injury. And damaged nerves are not only bothersome -- they hurt!

Putting It All Together

All of these spinal structures and tissues work together to allow you to bend, move, or do essentially anything. It is a complex system with complex functions. Not only does your back have to support a good deal of your body's weight and carry vital nerve signals to all of the parts of the body, but we ask it to bend and twist at the same time. It is an engineering marvel.

Even though your back is very versatile, it does like certain positions better than others; that is, it can tolerate some postures or poses better. Specifically, the back is most comfortable while lying down with its natural curves aligned. In general, for sitting or standing, the more you can keep your curves properly aligned, the better it is for your total spine.

Moving, bending, and twisting in limited ranges is healthy for all parts of the back. Limit the forward bending of your back to about 30 degrees; this is a fairly safe range. A similar range exists for twisting of the back; you should try to minimize twisting motions to each side. Remember also that staying for extended periods of time in bent, twisted, or any awkward positions dramatically increases the physical stress placed on the spine. Certainly, the worst thing you can do to your back is combine all of these single factors by repeatedly bending over with straight legs and a rounded twisted back, then picking up something heavy at arm's reach, and then staying in this position for an extended period of time.

Your spine and the related structures do benefit from movements that place acceptable levels of stress on them. Proper exercises can thicken, stretch, lubricate, and build the endurance of your back and strengthen its ability to withstand the forces of gravity in all of your movements. The most benefits are derived when these healthy movements are performed regularly. On the other hand, some people have problems with their backs because they have overdone it. They have performed the same movements too many times, and overuse has fatigued or injured certain spinal tissues.

However, no matter how many precautions you take, we all injure our backs now and again. If you have just injured your back -- maybe by lifting something that is too heavy -- our next page will give you some tips for dealing with the pain immediately after the incident.

Emergency Back Pain Relief

The following remedies are appropriate for anyone who is suffering from back pain due to tight, aching back muscles or a strain. However, if you are experiencing pain, weakness, or numbness in the legs, or a loss of bowel or bladder control, see a doctor without delay.

The best cure for an aching back is a little rest.

The best cure for an aching
back is a little rest.
Rest Your Back

It is almost impossible to do anything without using your back. Even activities that do not seem very stressful on your back usually require some effort on its part. The activity need not be very demanding in terms of muscle strength to cause a problem; maybe the activity is one that your back just isn't used to. Often your back muscles simply overdo it. The end result may be a muscle pull or strain. In fact, most back pain and the majority of back injuries are probably related to muscle pulls and strains.

When strained, your muscles need a chance to turn off, rest, and begin to heal themselves. Continuing to be too active can further aggravate a sore back. Find a comfortable position to allow your back to rest. The best position for an injured or achy back is lying down on either your back or side, with the curves of your spine aligned in their natural position. Try lying down on a firm surface like a padded, carpeted floor. You can relax your back by placing a couple of pillows under your knees. If on your side, place the pillows between the knees instead of under them. For your neck's comfort, roll up a small hand towel and place it under your neck to give it a break, too.

Apply Ice to Reduce Swelling

Immediately after your back is injured, blood rushes into the damaged area. Even though swelling is part of the body's normal healing process, too much inflammation can increase pain and lengthen your recovery time. Applying ice immediately after a strain reduces the amount of inflammation, speeds up the healing process, and can numb some of the pain.

Generally, unless otherwise instructed by a physician, ice should be used instead of heat for the first 48 hours after a back strain. Heat from a hot shower, heating pad, or some popular topical lotion may feel better than using ice, but heat treatments increase blood flow, causing greater inflammation, more pain, and usually a slower recovery. At least for the first two days, stick with ice.

You do have to be careful with ice also, though. Incorrect application of ice can damage the skin. To apply ice correctly, warm a towel or pillowcase in slightly hot water, wring out the water, and quickly place an ice pack, ice cubes, or crushed ice in it. Immediately place the towel or pillowcase over the strained area of the back for no longer than 12 to 15 minutes.

If you do not have a towel or pillowcase handy, freeze water in a small paper cup. Peel the cup back so that the ice can go directly on the skin. Make sure that you continually move the ice around in circular motions, not allowing the ice to sit in one place. Another method is to place the ice in a plastic bag or some plastic wrap before applying it to the skin. For additional benefits, use repeated ice treatments approximately once every hour for the first 24 to 48 hours after the strain. This should help to keep swelling to a minimum and reduce the related pain.

Compress the Area

Gently compressing an injured area can assist ice in reducing inflammation and pain, while speeding recovery. Compressing the muscles can provide some temporary support for the area, which may allow you to move around more easily while making you more comfortable. Try using an elastic bandage; wrap it around your midsection over the strained area of the back. Make sure you do not wrap it too tightly. (The wrap can be used over an ice pack providing the ice is applied as described in remedy 2 and for no more than 15 minutes.) An alternative to the elastic bandage is a back support, which acts like a corset to compress and support the back and stomach muscles.
Take Two Aspirin

An over-the-counter analgesic my help relieve your pain.

An over-the-counter analgesic
my help relieve your pain.
Taking an over-the-counter analgesic such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen may help relieve your pain. However, be aware that not all medications, not even nonprescription ones, are for everyone. Pregnant women, for example, should not take any medication without first checking with their doctor. And people with ulcers should stay away from analgesics containing aspirin. Don't take any medicine for a bad back without first learning about its potential side effects and talking to your doctor. For a list of precautions to take when using over-the-counter analgesics, click here.

Know When to See a Doctor

Muscle pulls and strains, although quite common, can be severe. Other spinal tissues can also experience injuries. Ligaments can be sprained or torn, joints can become irritated, and of course, spinal disks can bulge and tear. It is important for you to know when a back injury goes beyond your ability to treat yourself.

After a strain or injury to the back, the body can have a variety of natural reactions causing numerous symptoms, such as back pain. If, after two or three days of bed rest, your severe back pain has not subsided, you should see your physician. Sometimes, when many of the tissues in the back are seriously injured, the muscles can tighten up, or spasm, and clamp down around blood vessels. Muscle spasms can cause pain, sometimes severe, that makes it difficult to sit, stand, or do virtually anything. Many times, the only way to relax intense spasms is with the assistance of a physician.

Other signs to watch for are the loss of bowel or bladder control or pain, numbness, tingling, or other similar sensations that run down an arm or leg or around the chest. This type of symptom can make your hands, fingers, feet, and toes feel like they are burning, cold, asleep, or being poked with pins and needles. Finally, it's time to see your physician when it takes larger and larger amounts of medication to reduce your back pain.

If you experience any of these symptoms, get a professional opinion. Serious injuries that go untreated or are treated incorrectly can be dangerous, leading to further impairment and possibly irreparable damage. Just having one of these symptoms does not automatically mean that you will require major therapy. However, it's best to let your physician rule out serious spinal problems so that you can put your mind at ease and get on with the business of healing.

If you follow these steps you should be able to reduce some of your discomfort and reduce the swelling in your back. If, however, you are experiencing a long-term problem, the next section will offer you some solutions to relieve your backaches.

Chronic Back Pain Relief

Tips for Stretching Back Muscles
Here are some hints for safe effective stretching:
  • Take your time; stretch slowly and gently.
  • Never force your stretch past the point of mild tension.
  • Hold the stretch for at least ten seconds.
  • Never bounce a stretch.
  • Relax your muscle completely between stretches.
  • Repeat the stretch several times throughout the day.
Some people can have a sore or aching back for weeks or even months at a time. If you've had chronic back pain like this, maybe some these tips can help.

Alternate Heat With Stretching

Muscles often spasm, or get tight, as the result of a back injury. This can be quite painful. Tight muscles and most sore joints do respond quite well to heat (topical lotion, hot shower or bath, heating pad), because the warmth relaxes tight muscles, increases blood flow, and eases pain.
Gently stretching these muscles after the heat application can further relax and lengthen tight tissues, easing movement and reducing pain. Remember, though, in an acute injury, don't use heat until after 48 hours, because it can increase the swelling and slow your recovery. In the first 48 hours after an injury, ice is the better alternative, and ice can also be used with stretching. Ice works a little bit differently than heat; it tends to numb the sensation of pain in sore muscles, which allows you to stretch and relax tight muscles gently.

The use of heat or ice is a personal choice, and you have to experiment with each to determine which works best for your particular strain or injury. Try applying heat or ice as suggested for 10 to 15 minutes, and then see if performing the stretches helps your back pain subside. Be careful not to overstretch. Overstretching can aggravate a bad back, increasing pain and possibly causing re-injury. To stretch correctly, take a stretch only to a point of mild tension, not pain. Hold the stretch at this point for at least ten seconds, making sure that you do not bounce on the stretch. Relax the stretch and repeat right away two or three times.

Your muscles are kind of like springs. They tend to stretch fairly easily if you stretch correctly, but they tend to come back to their shortened position over the course of a few hours. So you will probably have to repeat these stretches throughout the day. Finally, if your pain or symptoms increase, stop the activity and consult with your physician or therapist.

Avoid Harmful Activities

The body starts its healing process as soon as an injury occurs. You can help this process by avoiding activities that might make your back condition worse. Depending on the degree of damage to your back, many activities you perform on a daily basis can be stressful to an already sore back. When your back is recovering from a strain or injury, you should consider avoiding or at least being extra careful with the following activities.

Avoid obviously stressful activities such as shoveling, in which the back is often twisted while lifting the weight of the shovel and its contents. Loading and unloading groceries from the back seat or the trunk of the car can quickly irritate your back even if the groceries don't weigh too much. In the same vein, be careful picking up children. It can be very easy to forget how heavy a small child is. Also, hoisting a toddler up to give him a hug is not usually considered strenuous work, so you may not realize the potential hazard it presents to your back.

You also must watch out for less strenuous activities that you might not associate with back stress and pain. Not every movement that is dangerous comes with an obvious warning sign. For example, chores such as raking or vacuuming can be very stressful to the spine, because reaching causes the spine to rotate, a motion that an injured spine may not be ready to do. Even doing the laundry, especially bending to remove heavy, wet clothing from the washer, or washing the dishes can wreak havoc on a painful back.

As your back starts to heal, gradually add these activities back into your daily life as your back can tolerate them, but remember, your back takes time to totally rebuild its strength and stamina after a strain or injury. Don't rush it.

Try a Massage

Your muscles operate kind of like your car's engine. As they work, muscles accumulate waste products that need to be removed like the exhaust from your car's engine. If these waste products do not get out of the muscles promptly, then the muscles don't work very well. Furthermore, the buildup of these waste products can even create pain. A gentle back massage helps to relax tight muscles, open blood vessels, and flush out these waste products, allowing the muscles to work normally while reducing pain and stiffness. Using an over-the-counter topical lotion that contains a heat agent such as mentholyptus can further increase blood flow and comfort by enhancing the relaxation of muscles and blood vessels; follow the package directions.

Practice Good Posture

Couches and recliners can feel very comfortable; however, very few are designed with the health of your back in mind. If you are going to sit, try not to slump or slouch. Poor posture, such as slouched sitting, can place a great deal of stress on your muscles, ligaments, and disks. This stress can make it more difficult for proper healing to occur and may increase back pain. Choose postures and positions that allow you to keep the curves of your back aligned. Try rolling up a towel to about the size of your forearm and placing it in the small of your back to support the curve of your low back. If this feels uncomfortable, see if rolling it smaller helps. Remember to support your neck, as well.

Keep Moving

Even though rest is important for an injured back, too much rest can actually make your back worse. Let's say you have hurt your back, so you lie down on your back on the floor or couch or in bed for a week. Your decision to lie down may have been a good one in the short term -- for a few hours or even a couple of days. The rest will allow your back to heal. In the long term, however, lack of movement robs the spine of its health.

After a couple of days of inactivity, even healthy muscles start to lose their strength and flexibility -- they begin to atrophy. The longer you are immobile, the greater the loss. But muscles are not the only ones who suffer. Movement is vital to the other structures of the back, also. The intervertebral disks receive their blood supply from the bones above and below when you move. Inactive bones that are not bearing any weight become weaker and more brittle. So in essence, movement strengthens and feeds your spine, whereas inactivity weakens, starves, and decreases its life span.

Although your back may need short periods of rest in a sitting or lying position, you should try to change your position from lying to sitting or even walking if you can tolerate it. While you're lying down or sitting, try engaging in an activity that requires the gentle use of your hands and arms, such as knitting or some other handiwork. Whether you know it or not, using your arms, hands, or even your feet in this way is actually a low-level back exercise that will strengthen and feed your spine.
As your condition improves, increase the amount of time that you spend on your feet, performing light activities that require limited bending and twisting movements. Be especially careful with lifting and lowering activities. Gradually progress toward activities that include the bending, limited twisting, and light lifting that your back can tolerate.

Now you should have a fairly comprehensive understanding of how your back works and the ways you can injure the various parts. Of course, knowing how you injure you back won't necessarily stop you from doing it. Fortunately, you now know how to relieve back pain and when you should see a doctor.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider. 

Continue to Read more ...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts