May 2005


  • Good Posture Equals Good Health
  • New Study Highlights Dangers of Over the Counter Pain Medications
  • Quality of Life Improvement in Homeless People with Chiropractic Care
  • Drug Companies Spend More on Lobbying Than Anyone Else
  • Most Older Adults Use Alternative Healthcare
  • Americans Take More Drugs Than Any Other Nation


Good Posture Equals Good Health

Stories from each side of the Atlantic Ocean have highlighted the benefits of good posture and its relationship to good overall health. One of the articles found in the May 4, 2005 PR Newswire highlights the problem that many people spend all day tapping away on a keyboard at the office only to come home and slouch in a recliner for hours while watching TV.   This article points out that 80 percent of Americans have not only endured back pain, but contribute to it in the way they sit, exercise, work and sleep. 

Across the "pond" in a related April 2005 article from the British "ResponseSource.com" comes the headline, "Work May Be Hazardous to Your Health."  This article also highlights the dangers of workplace posture and its effect on health.  In this article the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) joined forces with Targus, leading supplier of mobile computing cases, to conduct the research that showed that a third of office workers make no adjustments to either seating or computer equipment when switching desks. The article noted that the same percentage of office workers say they currently suffer back pain – and experts believe there may be a link.

The American PR Newswire article noted that the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) was declaring May to be "Correct Posture Month" and is using this event to highlight the relationships between posture and health. Spokesperson for the ACA Dr. Jerome  McAndrews stated, "Once established, poor posture creates a chain reaction throughout the body. The digestive and respiratory systems will be affected by poor posture, especially poor sitting posture. And in more serious cases, where poor posture has had major effects on the musculoskeletal system, there can be a resulting negative impact on the vascular system."

In the British article, Tim Hutchful from the British Chiropractic Association commented, “Whether at work or at home, computers have begun to dominate our lives, yet what we don’t realise is that they in fact have the ability to damage our health. The nation is suffering from an epidemic of back pain and our working lives could be contributing to this. By taking time to adjust your chair and by taking regular breaks can help protect your spine and prevent the onslaught of back pain”.

Both Chiropractic organizations released a series of recommendations to help deal with the posture issue. Similarly, The International Chiropractors Association also released recommendations related to posture and sitting at work. These include:

When sitting - use a chair with firm low back support. Keep desk or table top elbow high, adjust the chair or use a footrest to keep pressure off the back of the legs, and keep your knees a little higher than your hips. Get up and stretch frequently--every hour if you sit for long periods of time. Do not sit on a fat wallet; it can cause hip imbalance!

When working on a computer - take a one or two minute task break every 20 minutes when you work at a computer screen. Keep the screen 15 degrees below eye level. Place reference materials on a copy stand even with and close to the terminal.


New Study Highlights Dangers of Over the Counter Pain Medications

ABC News reported on an April 17, 2005 Associated Press story stating that over the counter pain medications increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.  According to a study performed in Norway, smokers who took such drugs for at least six months had twice the risk of dying of a heart attack, stroke or other heart-related problem.

Previously, the main concern was for so-called cox-2 drugs Bextra, Vioxx and Celebrex.  This study suggests that there are also problems associated with the family of medications known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, which include naproxen, ibuprofen and virtually all other over-the-counter pain relievers except Aspirin and Tylenol.

Dr. Andrew Dannenberg, a Cornell University scientist who helped do the Norway study noted, "To the best of our knowledge, these are the first data to support putting a box warning on NSAIDs, not just cox-2s."  The original purpose of the study was to determine if these pain relievers could prevent oral cancer.  However,  the data revealed that the NSAID users were dying at twice the rate of the others from heart-related problems.  The risk was highest among ibuprofen users, who were nearly three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than non-NSAID users.

Concerns over the prescription drugs Vioxx and Bextra have already caused then to be pulled from the market. Now this study has raised disturbing questions about the heart safety and long-term use of the very common over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil, Motrin and Aleve.


Quality of Life Improvement in Homeless People with Chiropractic Care

A study published in the April 15, 2005 scientific peer reviewed, "Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research " showed that the quality of life in a study population of homeless individuals was improved after the addition of chiropractic care.  In this study, a small population of 10 homeless women at the Ellis Street Women’s Shelter was reviewed for their overall health index both before and after the introduction of chiropractic care. 

The health index was measured using the SF-36 Health Survey. The SF-36 Health Survey is a standardized health form that is used in research and health assessment. It measures such things as limitations in physical activities, limitations in social activities, bodily pain, energy and fatigue, and general health perceptions.

The results showed that the SF-36 scores of patients from the shelter increased in each of the various areas as well as showing an increase in the summary scores.  Of most interest was that the vitality (VT) score of the participants improved an average of 22 points.  The authors of the study did note that the scores for the participants were well below normal before the study began, and that although they did improve, they did not reach the level of the normal population. 

The authors concluded that this study holds promise for the homeless population by saying, "The United States government is currently implementing a number of programs aimed at increasing the quality of life in disadvantaged populations with a view to eliminate health disparities. It appears that chiropractic care holds promise and merits further investigation as one means of enhancing the quality of life in the homeless population studied in this case series report.


Drug Companies Spend More on Lobbying Than Anyone Else

From the April 25, 2005 edition of USA Today comes an expose' story showing how much influence the pharmaceutical industry has over US lawmakers. The article starts by describing how drug companies allow their corporate jets to be used by politicians, and that the politicians are only legally required to pay the cost of a first class commercial flight.

In addition to flights and numerous other perks, the article chronicles the vast amount of money that the drug industry contributes to political candidates.  They note that drug companies and their officials contributed at least $17 million to federal candidates in last year's elections.  Additionally it was noted that they contributed nearly $1 million to President Bush and more than $500,000 to his opponent, John Kerry.

The Center for Responsive Politics, who keeps track of contributions, listed that in the year 2004 the drug companies spent $158 million dollars to lobby the federal government.  They spent $17 million in campaign contributions in 2004 to federal candidates, and an additional $7.3 million in support for the 2004 political party conventions.

The article theorizes that the reasoning behind this scale of activity is that drug companies are heavily dependent on federal decisions. They note that it is the federal government that determines which products drug companies can market and how they're labeled. The article also pointed out that the government buys large quantities of drugs through Medicaid, the Veterans Administration and several other programs. When the new Medicare prescription drug benefit takes effect in 2006, the government will be paying 41% of Americans' drug bills, up from 24% at present.

Money also buys manpower. According to  Amy Allina of the National Women's Health Network, 1,274 people were registered in Washington to lobby for drugmakers in 2003.  Of that amazing number, some 476 are former federal officials, including 40 former members of Congress.  Ms. Allina commented, "They are one of the strongest, most well-connected and most effective lobbies in Washington. Going up against them is more often than not a losing battle."


Most Older Adults Use Alternative Healthcare

A Reuters Health News release on April 11, 2005 reported on a new study that shows that more than 70 percent of adults aged 50 or older use some type of non medical care that the report referred to as "alternative therapy".  The author of the study, Dr. Gong-Soog Hong, who is based at Ohio State University in Columbus, noted that she was surprised to see so many older adults turning to alternative treatments, "The percentage of older adults who used alternative medicine was higher than I expected."

Dr. Hong and her team used data from the 2000 Health and Retirement Survey, conducted by the University of Michigan and funded mainly by the National Institute on Aging.  The article noted that many of the people who were turning to non-medical forms of care were in poor health and did not get help from medical care.  When asked why so many were turning to alternative care, Dr. Hong responded, "So when conventional medicine cannot give you an answer, sometimes you turn to alternatives."

The study involved interviews of 848 people aged 50 and above about their use of chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, breathing exercises, herbal medicine and meditation.  The results showed that 71% percent of respondents said they had tried at least one of the six types of alternative therapy. The most popular remedy was chiropractic care, used by 43 percent of older adults. The research showed that the least used type of care on the list was acupuncture. Dr. Hong theorized that this might well be because few insurance companies cover it.

Respondents to the survey said they were more likely to use one of the forms of care if their health was poor and their daily activity was affected. Of those who described their health as poor, 65 percent said they  considered the alternative care as preventive or curative. This represents a higher percentage than among the general population. Additionally, about 63 percent of respondents said that one of the reasons for their choice was that they were not satisfied with their medical health care.


Americans Take More Drugs Than Any Other Nation

An April 17, 2005 Associated Press (AP) story printed in many publications reports that Americans are the most medicated population in the world. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 130 million Americans swallow, inject, inhale, infuse, spray and pat on prescription medications every month.

According to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical consulting company, over the past decade the usage of prescription drugs by Americans has increased by 2/3rds to an incredible 3.5 billion prescriptions per year. Additionally, IMS Health reports that their polling finds that Americans devour even more nonprescription drugs.

The AP story notes that the consequences to this large usage are grave.  The article points out that landmark medical studies of the 1990s suggest that well over 125,000 people die from drug reactions and mistakes each year.  They note that pharmaceuticals are the fourth-leading national cause of death after heart disease, cancer and stroke.

When placed in perspective, the volume of medication usage in the US becomes more evident.  The article notes Americans spent as much on drugs last year as they did for gasoline.  According to drug industry consultants the pharmaceutical industry did more than $250 billion worth of sales last year, the vast majority in prescription medications.  That translated into $850 for every American.

Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and author of "The Truth About the Drug Companies", commented, "We are taking way too many drugs for dubious or exaggerated ailments."  He continued, "What the drug companies are doing now is promoting drugs for long-term use to essentially healthy people. Why? Because it's the biggest market."


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