postaday2011 question: what would you tell yourself 10 years ago?

At age 61 with 20/20 hindsight, I’d counsel myself to laugh a lot, live my own life and not someonelse’s, and eat 25-30 grams of fiber a day to “stay regular.” I know, I know, TMI! But it’s the truth, the God awful truth! ha,ha. Told you…laugh a lot.

One other thing I’d pass along is to ward off “ants,” or automatic negative thoughts, as described by psychiatrist Daniel Amen in Change Your Brain Change Your Life. I’d go even further to say we should beat the c**p out of those buggers for attempting to suck the life from us. “Ants” take on a life of their own if we let them.

Automatic negative thoughts fester in our minds, convincing us that they are truth when, in fact, they are only illusions, posturing as facts. Many of us, if not all, live our lives based upon these masters of manipulation. No wonder relationships run aground, and mistrust among countrymen is possible, if not inevitable. If we allow these “ants” safe haven, they will grow fat and multiply. As hosts, we will succumb and self-destruct. Alzheimer patients are prime candidates for these nasty “critters,” which eventually consume the sufferer’s every thought, spinning falsehoods until fantasy and reality are one.   

It’s for sure we have all been overrun with automatic negative thoughts from time to time, some may never be without respite from these “ants.” Fighting them is imperative, sooner rather than later. Dr. Amen’s book provides the armament necessary. He speaks of these “ants” in the following YouTube videos. I’m hoping you will be encouraged to pick up and read  Change Your Brain Change Your Life, and other books authored by Dr. Amen.

Join me in stopping “ants” dead in their tracks!!!

wish I’d learned this 10 years ago…or earlier…hugmamma.

“ringing in the ear,” not just a senior problem

I THINK I’ve experienced tinnitus, “ringing” in the ear, but I can’t be certain, because I tried to ignore whatever it was. My mom often spoke of it, so I thought only elderly people heard “ringing” in their ears. And, of course, I was trying really hard not to get older. Looks like my reaction was the right thing to do.

According to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, “A Most Annoying Ringtone,” many causes can be blamed for tinnitus. It can result from “hearing  loss-due to aging, exposure to loud noise, accidents, illnesses, auditory nerve tumors, wax buildup, drug side effects, history of ear infections, brain injuries from explosive devices, head and neck trauma, TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), or hormonal balances.” 

Tinnitus, from the Latin root word for “jingle,” is the perception of an external sound when none is there. It varies for people. Some hear a high-pitched buzzing, others hear a “ringing, roaring, hissing, chirping, whooshing or wheezing. It can be high or low, single or multi-toned, an occasional mild annoyance or a constant personal din.” Experts surmise that when hearing is lost in certain frequencies, the brain attempts to fill the void with noise that’s imagined or remembered. Audiologist Rebecca Price, who treats tinnitus in Durham, N.C., at Duke University’s Health Systems, says “Those auditory centers are just craving input.”

The CDC, Centers for Disease Control, estimated that 16 million American adults experienced frequent bouts of tinnitus in 2009. An estimated 2 million are unable to function normally when sleeping, working, concentrating, and interacting with family. Thanks to baby boomers, the elderly population is rising in numbers, as are the incidents of tinnitus. Remarkably 12-year-olds are also complaining of the ailment, according to Jennifer Born, speaking on behalf of the American Tinnitus Association, a nonprofit education and advocacy group. The culprit it seems might be “personal music players cranked up high.” Vets from Afghanistan and Iraq also suffer tinnitus, the “No. 1 service-related disability,” as a result of brain injuries from explosive devices.

Treatment for tinnutis runs the gamut from hearing aids to antidepressants. “The first step in treating tinnutis is usually to determine if a patient has hearing loss and to identify the cause…ear-wax buildup…infections, accidents, aging, medication side effects and noise exposure.” If loss of hearing is reduced, chances are it also dramatically reduces tinnitus, or at least makes it more tolerable for the sufferer, according to Sujana Chandraskhar, a otolaryngologist in New York and chairman-elect of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Surgery can help as in the case of 42-year-old, New York, pipefitter Frank Scalera, who’s suffered tinnutis since age 15, when a firecracker blew out his eardrum. After 10 surgeries his hearing is restored, and the ringing he’s experienced for 30 years has lessened. Hearing aids help about 40% of patients because they restore “sound in lost frequencies, so the brain doesn’t need to fill in the void. But some also have hyperacusis–in which normal sounds seem unbearably loud–so a hearing aid may be uncomfortable.”

Sound therapy is another treatment option. Soothing external sounds are used to drown out the internal ringing. Some people  are relieved by running a fan, a humidifier, or a machine that emits the sound of waves or waterfalls. At night when tinnitus is most noticeable, thereby disrupting sleep, some even prefer to listen to the static on a radio. Hearing aids also intermix soft “shhhsssing” tones to mask the ringing. But these are not usually covered by insurance and are expensive at $2,500+ per ear.

More sophisticated, and costlier at $4,500,  is the Oasis by Neuromonics Inc. A device that is similar to an MP3 player, it “plays baroque and new age music customized to provide more auditory stimulation in patients’ lost frequencies as well as a ‘shower’ sound to relieve the tinnitus.” According to the company, the brain is gradually trained to filter out the internal noise. “Users listen to the program for two hours daily for two months, then the shower sound is withdrawn for four more months of treatment.” Duke University political science professor Michael Gillespie, claimed the device helped him after he got tinnitus from an ear infection. He says he became accustomed to hearing the music, and then his brain filled in with less irritating sounds.

Some people find tinnutis a cause for anxiety. As mentioned earlier, I identified the “ringing” in my ears with old age. I would’ve dwelt upon other illnesses associated with the elderly, making me a captive of my own fears. Luckily my bouts of tinnitus only last several seconds. “Researchers long theorized–and have now seen on brain scans–that the limbic system, the brain’s primitive fight-or-flight response, is highly activated in some tinnitus sufferers. Patients often have generalized anxiety disorder or depression and a few become suicidal; but its unclear which came first.”  Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication can bring relief for some. Stress can bring on tinnutis, so that alternative health practices can be helpful, like yoga, acupuncture, deep breathing, biofeedback or exercise.  Supplements such as ginkgo, zinc, magnesium, as well as other over-the-counter remedies are advertised to relieve tinnutis, but are not supported by scientific research.

RTMS, repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, a new magnetic pulse treatment has served to treat severely depressed patients for years. Some found that it also stopped the ringing in their ears. Patients feel the treatment is “like a mild tapping on the head and brings no harmful effects.” Brain scans are done to identify tinnutis. Those with severe cases are found to suffer abnormal “communication between parts of the brain responsible for hearing and maintaining attention.” Dr. Jay Piccirillo, a otolaryngologist at Washington University in St. Louis, likens rTMS to “shaking an Etch-a-Sketch to erase an old picture.” Pulses are sent through the skull by a magnetic coil that is placed over the auditory cortex outside the head, to disrupt the faulty communications.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be one of the most effective treatments for tinnutis. Patients are treated for their emotional reactions to the ailment, not the noise itself. ” ‘The goal is to make your tinnitus like your socks and shoes–you’re wearing them, but you’re not actively thinking about them,’ says Dr. Chandrasekhar.” Or as one patient, Mark Church, an entrepreneur and investor, put it ” ‘It’s like living near an airport. After you’ve lived there for a while, you don’t pay attention to the planes…’ ” Having lived with tinnutis for 11 years, Church favors being in his shower, where the water drowns out the noise. Duke University Medical Center psychologist Michelle Pearce, begins therapy by having her patients identify “the automatic negative thoughts they have about tinnutis.” One claimed no one would marry her, while others felt their lives were over. Working with them, Dr. Pearce helped them realize that their lives didn’t revolve around tinnutis, that it was only one aspect which could be managed.

The local, evening news ran a segment about the growing effects of tinnutis, especially amongst youngsters. At fault it seems is the ramping up of noise levels with the invention of  iPods and the like. Looks like what use to be an old age issue is now open to all ages. It’s not something I want for myself at 61, so it’s unfortunate that 12 year olds can now suffer “ringing” in their ears as well. It took me 50 years to experience what can affect them in their youth… if they’re not careful.

before their time, here’s hoping youngsters don’t get old…hugmamma.

alternative medicine

My daughter has taught me much about the health benefits of alternative medicine. A serious student of dance since age 11, she is aware of every nuance of her body. She knows when it’s in tip-top shape, and she knows when it’s in need of tweaking. Alternative medicine helps her correct imbalances in her anatomy. Being in alignment ensures that she can do her job with utmost confidence. Practitioners who assist her are physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists and accupuncturists. My daughter turns to all of them for help, as needed.

My first encounter with a chiropractor was about 6 or 7 years ago. Living away from my home with my daughter in another state where she was training with a ballet company, I suffered chronic pain in my lower back. Not being able to “live with it” any longer, I searched the yellow pages for a chiropractor, a female one. I wanted sympatico, not brute force. My eyes fell upon an ad in a box. Not only was the doctor female, but she was described as “gentle.” She proved to be that and more.

Dr. Geier adjusted my problem back and in the process, did wonders for my disposition. Throughout the 2 1/2 years of self-imposed exile from my husband and all that was familiar to me, she was a friend with whom I could commiserate about life. With her adjuster, an instrument that makes anatomical corrections through sound waves, Dr. Geier straightened out my back when it was out of alignment, and did the same for other body parts as needed. I came to depend upon her to keep my aging body in working order, and my soul open to the positive energy she imbued. As a bonus Dr. Geier, a practitioner of homeopathic medicine, gave me a better understanding and appreciation for a vegetarian diet (not that I became one) and the use of natural remedies. (My daughter and I use Arnica for muscle aches and pains. It works after being in one’s system for about a week). I will always be beholding to this wise doctor who put me on the right path to caring for myself, body, soul and mind.

Returning home after my daughter’s career was launched, I found an equally competent healer in Dr. Babcox. She is younger than Dr. Geier, but no less capable of adjusting my body parts after my abuse of them in the daily grind of living. She’s convinced me that I can’t expect my body to do what it always does if I don’t give it a “hand-up” once-in-awhile. Quickly throwing luggage onto security conveyor belts and hoisting them up into overhead bins, are sure-fire ways to get me into my chiropractor’s office. I’ve tried to stay away at times, thinking my shoulder and back pain would somehow disappear. But after paying Dr. Babcox a visit I always think “Now why didn’t I do this sooner, I would’ve been rid of my suffering before now.” I may go months without a visit, but I know my chiropractor is always there just in case. And believe me, there will always be ongoing need of her services, until the day I stop living. So it looks like Dr. Babcox is onboard for the long haul.

Several years ago my daughter had strained her groin muscle in a rehearsal. Not attending to it more seriously, the ache lingered for a couple of years. It became an issue when she wanted to be considered for meatier roles during a summer gig. Choreographers tried her in solos, and she tried even harder to make them happen. No matter their consideration or her over-the-top effort, the ache finally got the best of her. She came home to us and spent the remaining summer months recovering.

Throughout her season of regular employment with her dance company, my daughter continued to suffer the niggling ache in her groin. She muscled through and looked forward to a great summer working the gig she’d been with the previous year. Happily, she did dance the full 12 weeks that summer.  But a few weeks into the job, the strained muscle began rearing its “ugly head.” Frustrated, my daughter spoke about it with me. 

One day while browsing the shelves at Barnes and Noble, I happened upon “The Permanent Pain Cure” by Ming Chew, PT. Perusing the introductory chapter, I had a “lightbulb” moment. This man’s advice “The Breakthrough Way to Heal Your Muscle and Joint Pain for Good” seemed tailor-made for my daughter.  So I bought the book, called her on the phone, told her to buy and take certain supplements prescribed by Ming Chew, as well as soak in epsom baths as he also advised. A few days later my daughter called announcing that she was feeling tons better. The problem muscle felt looser, more relaxed. She could dance more fully, not afraid to put pressure on the area. And so it continued to feel fine. I convinced her and my husband that she needed to see Ming Chew for some hands on therapy, for I was absolutely certain he could eliminate the pain for good.

After I exchanged emails with Ming Chew, my daughter flew to NYC where in a week and a half, she spent 3 sessions in physical therapy with him. Not until a year later did she tell me that the treatment was somewhat painful. I say somewhat, because dancers have a high threshold for pain. I would have probably bolted through the ceiling at the hands of Ming Chew. My daughter likened it to Rolfing, another alternative medical treatment which she’d endured at 14 years of age, when a ballet teacher recommended that it might give her more flexibility. (I didn’t learn of the pain my daughter felt at this man’s hands until many years later. Talk about high thresholds?) But after all is said and done, Ming Chew’s treatment DID resolve my daughter’s persistent groin muscle ache. So she owes him, at least in part, for being promoted from apprentice to full company member the year after being treated. 

On the inside flap of the back cover of the book is a description of Ming Chew “…a physical therapist, former champion bodybuilder, and martial artist whose work also uses concepts of Chinese medicine. The Ming Method, which uses no surgery or drugs, has healed thousands of clients, including many high-profile athletes. Ming Chew’s work has been covered in the New York Times, Men’s Health, and the Daily News. He has a private practice in New York City.” You can visit his website at www.mingmethod.net. I highly recommend him, especially if your life, or job, depends upon it.

Finally I’ve been convinced, largely owing to my daughter, that massage therapy is a necessity, not a luxury. And so I see Jennifer, my massage therapist, regularly, if not every month, then every other. She is not one who gives me a spa massage, although I’m sure she could. At her very able hands I am relieved of sore muscles which, if left unattended, would become a chronic issue, and perhaps a major one. Equally important is that massage therapy helps regulate one’s limbic system (A ring-shaped area in the center of the brain that consists of a number of connected clusters of nerve cells.) It’s one of those tidbits of information that I’ve heard but couldn’t tell you where from. But trust me, remember my header is HUGMAMMA’S ATTENTION TO DETAIL. And I am anal about details.

According to “The American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine,” “The limbic system plays a role in the autonomic nervous system (which automatically regulates body functions), in the emotions, and in the sense of smell. The limbic system is extensive, and the different substructures within it have been named (for example, the hippocampus, the cingulate gyrus, and the amygdala). Much of our knowledge of the limbic system comes from the observation and investigation of the behavior of animals and people known to have damage to or disease in the limbic area of the brain. The most commonly observed effects are abnormalities of emotional response, such as inappropriate crying or laughing, easily provoked rage, unwarranted fear, anxiety and depression, and excessive sexual interest.”

My daughter is fortunate to be with a company that cares about the well-being of its dancers. They are regularly seen by physical therapists, and a chiropractor. And the dancers avail themselves of a great massage therapist who makes his sessions more affordable for them.

While I must find my own team of alternative medicine practitioners, doing so has been a “no-brainer.” I see them more regularly than my medical doctors, and gladly so. I have been free of prescribed drugs for a few years, giving my liver a break from processing all those potentially harmful chemicals. (Now it can just focus on breaking down and getting rid of the stuff that’s in the food I still can’t stop eating, like peanuts, and a dessert now and then.) My chiropractor and massage therapist help “heal” my body, soul and mind. These services are priceless in the grand scheme of things…

my best life going foward…hugmamma.