Do You Get Wiser As You Get Older?

Along with other body functions, your brain activity slows down as you age. A seventy year old, even if she has a huge storehouse of knowledge, has zero chance of beating a 35 year old at Jeopardy, simply because she won’t be able to process the information in her brain and punch the buzzer quickly enough.

But is there a compensating factor for this slowing of processing speed in the brain? Do we gain wisdom as we age?

This is a question that has intrigued philosophers throughout the ages. It’s a tricky question, because it’s hard to even define wisdom in a meaningful way.

Yet neuroscience can now begin to provide an answer to this question.

One of my valued patients sent me a link to an insightful article authored by Anil Ananthaswamy and printed online in Nautilus. In addition to beginning to answer some of the age-old questions about wisdom, the article also forges a link between the activity of meditating and the type of wisdom that can sometimes visit us in our older years.


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Chronic Pain and the Brain

“Chronic pain is a significant public health problem, affecting millions of Americans and incurring substantial economic costs to society.”

That’s a quote from Karen B. DeSalvo, MD, HHS acting assistant secretary for health at a recent scientific conference on pain.

The solution to chronic pain can’t focus entirely on trying to fix the original source of pain – whether it be from an auto accident, sports injury, a medical procedure gone awry, or anything else.

As the weeks and months roll by, the experience of pain shifts from “acute” pain to “chronic” pain. Chronic pain invariably involves changes in brain circuitry and a shift in the nervous system response to stress.

“Chronic pain is associated with marked changes in brain activity compared to acute pain.”

That’s according to a study published in 2013 by A. Apkarian and colleagues at Northwestern University.

The researchers tracked the shift in brain activity as pain evolved from short term to long-term, or chronic pain. As time passed, additional areas of the brain, typically associated with the emotional response to pain, heightened their activity.

In addition to changes in the brain, chronic pain also affects the parts of the nervous system that govern your reaction to stress. Those with chronic pain typically respond with an over-active flight-or-fight mechanism and have less ability to nourish, rebuild and recharge their system.

Effective treatment for chronic pain must address these changes in the brain and the rest of the nervous system.

One strategy to rewire the brain is to feed in new sensory information. You can flood your nervous system with novel input to give it a wake up call. In particular, the brain uses signals from the touch perception system to orient you to the world and set your overall response parameters.

Because of the brain’s sensitivity to touch, both NeuroTactile ™ Therapy and Craniosacral Therapy, two gentle forms of manual therapy, are particularly effective in the treatment of chronic pain. Dr. Lavine has spent more than 35 years in researching and developing the optimal ways to use these methods in combination with other pain relief strategies.


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Fibromyalgia and chronic pain – the latest science

For Bone Density – Let Them Eat Prunes!

Researchers have yet to develop a really good solution to the epidemic of bone loss that plagues older Americans.

Thinning bones are a major health issue. When bone loss is combined with a general decline of balance, muscle strength, and movement skill, seniors have an increased risk of falling and breaking something.

Adding extra calcium to your diet seems like good common sense, along with extra vitamin D and other trace minerals.  But unfortunately there’s little research to show that these strategies help build a significant amount of bone.

Pharmaceutical options have their limits, too, and introduce possible side-effects.

That’s why I was surprised to encounter an article from 2011 that tested an entirely novel strategy to combat potential bone loss – eating 10 prunes each day.

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Do You Need Spinal Fusion Surgery?

The latest research from Sweden evaluated the use of different types of surgery for patients with spinal stenosis.  Some of the patients also had degenerative spondylolisthesis.

One group of patients had decompression surgery to alleviate the pressure on the spinal cord from the stenosis.  The second group also had decompression surgery, and in addition had the affected spinal segments fused.

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Tendon Problems and Your Brain

You have pain in your elbow, knee or shoulder, but part of the problem is in your brain, too.

Chronic tendon issues include rotator cuff problems, patellar tendinitis, lateral epicondylitis (popularly known as tennis elbow), Achilles tendinitis, and more. If you’re physically active, sooner or later you’re likely to encounter one or more of these problems. And if you’re sedentary, you may be at even greater risk.

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We Came to Dance

We Came to Dance

Today’s Spiritual and Health Imperative

The step you need to take today to improve your health is practicing self-acceptance.

You’ve got to do it.

Self-acceptance doesn’t mean knocking yourself down a peg or two. That would backfire: most people manage to combine lack of self-acceptance with low self-esteem.

But for me self-acceptance does require understanding the almost impossibly high standards of behavior I’ve set for myself. Here’s how my psyche ties me up in knots:

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Low Back Pain, Section 3: The lifecycle of back pain

This is the third part of an article on low back pain.

Need to catch up on your reading?  Here’s a link to the first section of the article.

The lifecycle of low back pain

Many people have incidents of low back pain from time to time. Fortunately, most episodes of low back pain go away as long as you remain physically active.

But in many cases,  back pain can become a long-term, recurring problem. That’s because when back pain attacks, some damage is done to the structures of the low back. Even though the pain can temporarily go away, those structures haven’t truly been healed. Your back doesn’t quite regain its previous ability to support your body weight day-in, day-out. It’s all too easy for the pain to come back.
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Low Back Pain, Section 2: Research Status

This is the second part of a three part series of articles on low back pain.

Need to catch up on your reading?  Here’s a link to part 1.

Spinal adjustments for low back pain

There’s a lot of scientific research about the use of spinal adjustments (also known as spinal manipulation) for low back pain.

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Exercise Prevents Back Pain Recurrence

Researchers recently surveyed all the scientific data about preventing the recurrence of low back pain.

The truth is that very little firm advice could be filtered out from all the research. In part, that’s because the field of low back pain is extremely complex. But the other reason is that not enough high quality research has been done. Little data was available to determine if regular chiropractic care, for instance, prevented the return of back pain.

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