August 2010 - Advanced Physical Medicine
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3 Stories of Miraculous Recovery from Paralysis

A paralysis diagnosis is many people’s worst nightmare because the thought of not being able to control your body can be a mind boggling idea.  If presented with this life-changing diagnosis, there still remains hope of regaining movement function; some people have gone on to beat the odds and move again!  Though these cases can be rare, the possibility remains.  Read on for some extraordinary tales of three people who overcome paralysis:

-Wesley Battles was just a normal 16 year old kid hanging with his girlfriend at her home one evening.  Needing to get to his own home, he hopped into his car and proceeded on his way, not knowing that his life was about to completely change.  In route to his house, Wesley collided with a tree and sustained brain and  neck injuries that should have killed him but instead left him in a coma for two days with many broken bones as well as damaged pancreas and liver.  When he woke back up, it was realized that his right side was paralyzed as a result of his injuries.  Luckily for him, his father was a brain injury rehabilitation expert and had the innovative idea of using the Wii gaming console because of the motor skills that the game hones.  After a couple of weeks, Wesley was playing Wii bowling and by using the game throughout the day, he recovered the full range of movement in his right side.

Motor skills returned to his son with the help of an unlikely method, his father has gone on to develop a rehabilitation program for other patients, using the Wii gaming console.

-College sophomore track star Adrian Gordon was doing the one thing that you’d figure there’s no way to sustain an injury from when he became paralyzed: sleeping.  Adrian was asleep in the backseat of a friend’s car on a drive along the Long Island Expressway when a back tire blow out ejected the sleeping occupant through the back window, breaking his spine and causing total paralysis. The once agile athlete could then only move his eyelids for two weeks until he noticed that he could wiggle his toes as well.  Adrian was walking on crutches within seven weeks because he willed himself and worked hard at regaining movement.

-In 1988 Chris Waddell was living out his dreams as a sophomore at Middlebury College, skiing on their competitive Division I skiing team. In a routine warming up session a ski came off, causing him to careen into a tree.  The impact severed his spinal cord and crushed some vertebrae, destroying his ability to walk.

Determined to return to school, Chris made a comeback after two months and in a wheelchair.  The school and his coach fitted the chair with a sit-ski and Chris was able to return to his true passion.  Upon graduating from Middlebury, he joined the United States Disabled Ski team and went on to win 12 medals in the paralympics. On top of those accomplishments, he also was the first paraplegic to try climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in a hand-controlled, modified bike.

In life you never know what hand you will be dealt, but aiming to make the best of the situation is always a great outlook.  Let these people be a reason to keep hope alive or at least to relish what you take for granted.

The Best and Worst Types of Shoes for Your Feet

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Honestly, the best shoe for your foot is none at all. Human feet are perfectly well-suited to walk barefoot—in fact, that is what they have evolved to do! So putting shoes on your feet is, in general, bad. It’s bad for your knees, your tendons and your spine. The problem is, we are used to wearing shoes—so much so, that it hurts to walk without them. If walking barefoot around the city seems too gross to you, there are some shoe choices you can make to simulate barefoot walking. Here are the shoes to avoid, and the shoes you should replace them with:

Stay Away From:

1. Pointed Toes

Cramming your poor toes into a point causes overcrowding, which is a key player in causing bunions and hammertoes. These are both extremely painful conditions that have to be surgically corrected.

2. High, High Heels

The stiletto’s list of crimes is very long. The higher the heel, the more stress on unnatural pressure points along your spine. Standing in high heels slides your feet forward, forcing you to redistribute your weight. Wearing heels destroys your body’s natural alignment, causing injury to leg muscles, osteoarthritis of the knee and low back pain. All this, in addition to the risk of ankle injury should you fall off your high heels. Women should in general never wear a shoe with a heel higher than 2 ¼ inches, and definitely not for more than three hours at a time.

3. Running Shoes with Thick Heels

All athletic shoes have built up heels, but some are worse offenders than others. A study has shown that people who wear expensive running shoes—those built up to “protect” your feet with all kinds of extra material and springs—actually increase their odds of injuring themselves by 123%! Expensive shoes often increase plantar pressure, the force produced by the impact of the sole hitting the ground.

Instead, Check Out:

1. Vibram FiveFingers

These shoes actually look like gloves for your feet, with a little holder for each toe! They work as a tougher sole for your feet without interfering with your foot’s natural motion during activity. They strengthen muscles in your feet and lower legs that you probably didn’t know were weak, all while allowing the thousands of neurological receptors in your feet to inform you about your surroundings. ($75 at www.vibramfivefingers.com )

2. Vivo Barefoot

This “unshoe” protects your feet with a minimal sole, avoiding the damage that thicker soles cause our balance and posture. It is thin, but it is puncture proof, so your foot is completely protected. The Barefoot also allows all the nerve-endings in your feet to receive stimulation, enhancing your body’s sensory perception. ($160 at www.terraplana.com)

3. Nike Free 5.0

If you are looking for new gym shoes, consider these. These are some of the first running shoes designed to have minimal impact on your natural running style, while still providing the traction and protection that we have come to need. These do still offer cushioning, which covers up your foot’s natural sense of the ground, but it is significantly less than what is normally sold in a Nike shoe. ($85 at www.nike.com)

The Ideal Breakfast

In all likelihood, you’ve heard that a well-balanced breakfast is crucial for your health and productivity. And while you might’ve been somewhat skeptical when a sugary cereal commercial told you about the importance of breakfast, we promise that they weren’t lying. Breakfast helps us fuel up our bodies and make good meal choices for the rest of the day. It kickstarts our metabolism as well, ensuring that it runs at its maximum power. Choosing a breakfast made out of the important building blocks—protein, fiber, vitamins and whole grains—will ensure that your day is as productive as it can be.

1. Fast, easy to assemble and full of nutrition, a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and nuts is at the top of our breakfast wish list. The oatmeal offers fiber and whole grains, the nuts protein and the fruit a little added vitamins. Make sure to make your own oatmeal from scratch—you can do this ahead of time and eat it in small increments over the week—rather than prepackaged individual oatmeal servings. These tend to contain hidden sugars and chemicals that get in the way of the oatmeal’s natural goodness.

2. If you are looking for a weekend breakfast without a lot of added saturated fat, try some eggs (cooked with olive oil rather than butter), whole grain toast with honey, lean broiled sausage and an orange. If you are craving this protein-filled breakfast but don’t have time to sit down and enjoy it, just make a sandwich with the toast, eggs and meat.

3. Fruit smoothies are another great way to get a few servings of fruit in while you are on the go--- you will be so surprised how much fruit can fit in one small smoothie! Make your own with yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit and flaxseed or coconut oil. You can even throw in a little spinach, effectively hiding its taste behind a stronger fruit. These are surprisingly filling!

4. Another weekend brunch option is a veggie omelet made with egg whites, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, bell peppers and a little cheese (low fat, if you don’t mind it). Altogether, you can get protein and vitamins that you need from this quick and easy meal.

5. If you are going to eat cold cereal, make sure it isn’t hiding (or maybe not hiding) sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Try Kashi Go Lean Crunch with a little low-fat milk. This is so quick, time can’t be your excuse for unhealthy breakfasts any longer.

Not all breakfasts are created equal, however—do not reach for donuts or muffins in an attempt to meet your breakfast requirement. They are full of fat and sugar, giving you a quick high that will come crashing down significantly earlier than some of these healthier options. And no matter what you eat, be sure to eat a reasonable portion--- nothing is good in large quantities.

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Lactose Intolerance

A dairy fiend’s worst nightmare come true: being lactose intolerant.  This problem affects many people, and while not particularly deadly, it can prove to be a major annoyance when that pint of Ben and Jerry’s is calling your name.  Oh the sweet sweet creamy goodness of ice-cream...I digress.  Being lactose intolerant means that your small intestine can’t produce enough lactase to digest the sugar that is apparent in dairy products such as cheese, milk, and the aforementioned ice-cream.  This makes for one irritated tummy that lets its anger be known by symptoms of diarrhea, gas, bloating, and cramps.  What joy!  Almost as good as that ice-cream, right?  Here’s some handy facts about lactose intolerance:

Fact 1.

The most common demographics to be affected by lactose intolerance are Hispanic, Black, American Indian, and Asian people.  Other than people of Northern European descent, most stop producing lactase after the age of four.  Cancer radiation and premature birth can also cause lactose intolerance.

Fact 2.

The three main reasons that lactose intolerance appears: aging, which moves you past the stage of needing mother’s milk to survive.  Don’t know why nature didn’t factor in the love of cheese for that one!  Diseases or injuries affecting the small intestine can have the effect of causing lactose intolerance as well.  Some babies are simply born with congenital lactose intolerance, which doesn’t allow them to digest mommy’s milk, so they have to be fed lactose-free baby formula.

Fact 3.

For those in the know, there are ways to get around being lactose intolerant.  Consider yourself now part of the in-crowd because we’ll show you ways to leap that hurdle!  Having milk with food will slow the digestive process so that then the body can handle it.  Then there’s always the tip of eating dairy products slowly and in smaller quantities, which can also have the added benefit of ensuring that you don’t eat that whole pint of ice cream and gain 40 pounds, no matter how delicious it may be.  For the truly savvy, there’s lactose free renditions of otherwise lactose filled foods, so look for the ones minus the lactose.

Fact 4.

Some confuse lactose intolerance with irritable bowel syndrome because the discomfort can seem to be the same, so having a hydrogen breath test done can solve that concern.  A doctor will have you drink a liquid with plenty of lactose and then measure the hydrogen in your breath.  Sounds hot right?  Burpy goodness!  Those without intolerance will breath very little hydrogen, but the ones with the problem will have lactose fermenting in your colon and thus more hydrogen in your breath.

As of now, there is no way to induce lactase production in the small colon, so learning to live comfortably with lactose intolerance is important.  Decide what solution works for you and have at it!

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