8 great tips to improve short-term memory

What is short-term memory?

The seat of memory lies in a region of the brain known as the hippocampus, part of the diverse limbic system. This is the part of memory responsible for pieces of information we pick up throughout the day, many of them are used during the task at hand and then discarded. This is far different from our long-term memory which is responsible for recalling events from our past.

8 tips to improve short-term memory

  1. Chewing bubble gum. You may have grown up being told it was rude to chew gum (especially with an open mouth), but it may actually help you retain information. In a research study, scientists saw those chewing gum experience a 10% increase in levels of alertness and performance on an intellectual task. Studies have also shown that chewing gum is directly related to maintaining hippocampal function and increases activity in the prefrontal cortex.
  2. Ginkgo. While certain hobbies and activities have been shown to help improve memory, sometimes you need something a bit more targeted. Ginkgo biloba contain an active compound referred to as ginkgolides which have the ability to dilate blood vessels, specifically those of the brain. Standardized extracts of the herb have been shown to benefit memory in those suffering from cognitive decline and various forms of dementia including vascular and Alzheimer’s.
  3. Doodle. We may jump to the conclusion that those who doodle aren’t listening to us and can be found exploring their own little world. After listening to a tape listing various bits of information, those in the doodling group experienced a 29% increase in their ability to recall what was said.
  4. “Sit up straight”. Slouching or stooping over is often associated with laziness or poor self-confidence, but it may be connected to memory too!
    In a clinical trial out of San Francisco State University and the Institute for Holistic Health Studies, 216 college students recalled positive and negative memories while erect or slouched. Those in the slouched position had an 86% easier time recalling negative memories while those in the upright position had an 87% easier time recalling positive memories. It is therefore worth considering the benefits of new ergonomic furniture while you try and study.
  5. Healthy body, healthy mind. It’s no surprise that when our diet and sleep is poor and we fail to exercise, the body doesn’t have the proper foundations to learn or understand new information. While multi-vitamins are an option worth considering, whole-food supplements are more in line with how humans have absorbed nutrients over millennia.
    Bio-Strath is just that, a whole-food supplement containing the full spectrum of B vitamins and essential amino acids, the building blocks of the body. Nutrient deficiencies manifest as all sorts of symptoms throughout the body, including impaired memory. Making sure you get the vitamins and minerals you need ensures a strong and healthy memory.
  6. Laughter is the best medicine. Whenever we face a stressful event, it can be hard to recall certain facts about the event because of high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, circulating through the body. When we recall a humorous story, perhaps one that leaves our belly’s aching from laughing so hard, cortisol levels drop. Older adults watching funny videos in a randomized control trial performed 38.5% better on a learning task and had a 43.6% improvement in the ability to recall information learned before the videos. When in doubt, laugh it out!
  7. Step into nature. It probably isn’t hard to imagine how much better we feel stepping into nature and walking through the woods. We not only feel healthier, but our minds benefit as well. 2,593 primary schoolchildren from the second to fourth grade were followed for an entire year. The children were assessed for how much greenery they were exposed to on a daily basis, at home and school, and as part of their daily commute. The children who were surrounded by the most greenery on a daily basis showed superior working memory and improvements in inattentiveness than their peers. This was also partly explained by lower air pollution thanks to trees shouldering the burden of some pollutants.
  8. Move that body! At the heart of exercise are increases in blood flow, including to the brain. Those who exercise the most in middle-age have a 30% reduced risk of developing dementia later in life. To top this off, 2,000 men were followed and five healthy behaviours were tracked, including:
    • Regular exercise
    • No smoking
    • Moderate alcohol intake
    • Healthy body weight
    • Healthy diet
    Men who followed at least 4/5 of these habits were at least 60% less likely to develop dementia and the associated memory issues. This doesn’t mean you are lost if you find yourself past middle age without exercising. Regular aerobic activities continue to benefit our brains no matter the age, helping to increase the size of our hippocampus.

Hopefully you’ve taken away a few helpful tips for yourself and the loved ones in your life. Don’t forget (pun fully intended) to check out other helpful articles including ‘Implicit and Explicit Memory Explained’ and ‘Exams? Keep your Brain Sharp!’.

5 Type of Foods to Boost Your Immune System

Certain foods may be helpful for boosting the immune system and preventing colds and the flu. Here’s a look at five types of nutrients that your immune system needs to perform and which foods to find them in.

Vitamin C

An essential nutrient, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help fight free radicals, a type of unstable molecule known to damage the immune system.1

There’s some evidence that vitamin C may be particularly helpful in boosting the immune systems of people under major stress. To increase your vitamin C intake, add these foods to your diet:

  • citrus fruits and juices (such as orange and grapefruit)
  • kiwi fruit
  • red and green peppers
  • broccoli
  • strawberries

Vitamin E

Like vitamin C, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. Research suggests maintaining ample levels of vitamin E is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system, especially among older people. To get your fill of vitamin E, look to these foods:

  • wheat germ oil
  • almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • hazelnuts
  • peanut butter

Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral involved in the production of certain immune cells. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) caution that even mildly low levels of zinc may impair your immune function.2 Here are some top food sources of zinc:

  • oysters
  • baked beans
  • cashews
  • raisin bran
  • chickpeas

Carotenoids

Another type of antioxidant, carotenoids are a class of pigments found naturally in a number of plants. When consumed, carotenoids are converted into vitamin A (a nutrient that helps regulate the immune system).3 Look to these foods to boost your carotenoids:

  • carrots
  • kale
  • apricots
  • papaya
  • mango

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential fatty acid known to suppress inflammation and keep the immune system in check.4 Although it’s not known whether omega-3s can help fight off infections (such as the common cold), research suggests that omega-3s can protect against immune system disorders like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Try these omega-3-rich foods:

  • oily fish (including mackerel, tuna, salmon, sardines, herring, and trout)
  • flaxseed
  • walnuts

More Foods for Boosting the Immune System

To keep your immune system healthy, it’s important to get sufficient sleep, exercise regularly, and manage your stress.

Although supplements containing high doses of antioxidants and other nutrients found in whole foods are often touted as natural immune-boosters, some research indicates that taking dietary supplements may have limited benefits for the immune system. (If you’re still considering taking them, it’s a good idea to consult your healthcare provider first to weigh the pros and cons.)

For more foods that may help boost your immune system, try adding garlic, foods high in probiotics (such as yogurt and kefir), and green tea to your diet.

What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?

Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal cord stimulation patients use an implanted device to send electrical signals to the spinal cord in order to provide pain relief. The stimulator is activated by the patient using a remote control that triggers the implanted device to send electrical signals to the spine. The internal stimulator consists of electrodes placed near the spinal cord and a small battery pack that is often placed in the abdomen or the buttock. 

This treatment method is often used when nonsurgical treatment options have proven ineffective at reducing pain.  

Treatable Conditions

Spinal cord stimulation is used to treat several conditions that lead to chronic pain, including post-surgical pain, inflammation, peripheral vascular disease, neuropathy, post-amputation pain, and other types of pain causing conditions. When other surgical options to treat back pain are not successful, back pain can be treated by spinal cord stimulation. Arachnoiditis, pain caused by inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord can also be treated using this procedure. Likewise, patients suffering from certain types of abdominal pain such as visceral and perineal pain may also benefit from spinal cord stimulation. 

During the Procedure

Implantation of the device usually is performed in two phases, the first of which is a trail period. During the trial period a temporary device is implanted using a type of x-ray technology, known as fluoroscopy, as a guide to assist in the proper placement of the electrodes into the spine. During the trail phase the battery pack remains on the outside of the body and is usually worn on a belt around the waist. Then, pain levels are tracked for a period of time after implantation. If the patients’ pain is significantly reduced by the device, a permanent option may be considered. However, if a satisfactory level of relief is not reached with the temporary device, it can be removed without injury to the spinal cord and nerves.

For those who move on to the second phase, which involves implanting a permanent device, another surgery is required but this is usually performed as an outpatient surgery. During the procedure the previous electrodes are replaced and secured more permanently in the affected area to prevent shifting. The battery pack is also implanted beneath the skin at this time. All together the procedure takes a couple hours, during which the patient may remain awake to help the surgeon to ensure proper placement of the electrodes into the spine to provide the most relief.

Expected Outcome

Usually patients are released the day of the procedure with certain restrictions. Patients may be asked not to perform certain movements that are likely to pull at the incision sites, such as stretching and twisting, for a period of time following the procedure.  Most patients return to work, with their surgeon’s approval, within a couple of weeks following the procedure.

Side Effects and Complication

 As with any surgery, some complications are possible these include bleeding and infection at the site of the incision. Another possible complication includes, instances where the electrodes shift from the intended location, reducing the level of pain relief. In these instances, additional surgery may be required to return the electrodes to their original location. If the stimulator breaks, due to a fall a new device may need to be re-implanted. In some instances, the dura mater that surrounds the spinal cord may be punctured by a needle or electrode during the surgery resulting in leaking spinal fluid. Consequently, severe headaches may occur. Also, trauma to the spinal cord that may result in paralysis may occur during surgery; although, this complication is rare. 

Driving and operating heavy machinery are not recommended when using a spinal cord stimulator. The device should be switched off before performing these activities.

 

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/treating-pain-with-spinal-cord-stimulators

https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/guide/spinal-cord-stimulation

 

What is Radiofrequency Neuroablation?

Radiofrequency Neuroablation

Radiofrequency neuroablation, also known as, radiofrequency neurotomy is a procedure used to treat pain symptoms in patients with chronic pain when other less invasive treatment options such as medication and physical therapy have not been able to provide relief. Radiofrequency neuroablation may also be used in cases when surgery is not an option. Some of the conditions treated with radiofrequency neuroablation include chronic neck and lower back pain, as well as, chronic pain in the hip joint and knee. 

Treatable Conditions

The procedure is used to treat chronic pain from many possible causes, including, auto and other types of accidents, various types of degeneration of the bone and even diseases caused by viruses. One example is the pain associated with whiplash, a condition that occurs due to the rapid back and forth motion of the head and is often seen as a result of car accidents, may be treated with radiofrequency neuroablation. Another condition that may require radiofrequency neuroablation to treat pain symptoms includes joint degeneration due to arthritis or other causes. In some cases, the pain from the rash caused by herpes zoster virus, more commonly known as shingles, may be treated with the procedure.

During the Procedure

Using a targeted approach during the procedure heat is applied to the nerves that are responsible for transmitting pain signals from the affected area of the body to the patients’ brain. This procedure is designed to make it more difficult for the nerves to transport the pain signals to the patients’ brain. 

Because local anesthetics and sedatives may be administered during radiofrequency neuroablation, many patients require an IV to be placed on the day of the procedure. During the procedure a needle is inserted under the skin and using x-ray technology the needle is guided into the affected area. However in some cases, patients may remain awake during the procedure in order help the doctor determine the proper placement of the needle into the most affected area. Once the needle is properly positioned a microelectrode is guided through the needle into the affected area and an electrical current is sent through the microelectrode in order to heat nearby tissue. 

Although patients who undergo Radiofrequency neuroablation return home the same day, they are given certain restrictions to follow for a short time following the procedure. Instructions may be given to avoid activities such as driving, bathing and strenuous activity for a certain length of time while the patient recovers.

Expected Outcome

The results of the procedure vary among patients. Symptom relief is influenced by factors such as, the location of the pain symptoms and the cause of the pain. In some cases, patients’ symptoms are alleviated for years, but more commonly, patients see a reduction in their level of pain that typically lasts between 6 months to a year after the procedure.

Side Effects and Complications

The most commonly reported side effects of radiofrequency neuroablation include edema, bruising and soreness in the area in which the procedure was performed, however, these symptoms usually resolve within a few days following the procedure. Due to the use of a local anesthetic, the patient may experience leg numbness for a few hours after radiofrequency neuroablation is performed. Some patients may experience mild back pain which usually resolve within a couple of days.

While every procedure has risks, radiofrequency neuroablation has been shown to be both a safe and effective way to treat some types of pain. Although uncommon, serious complications include infection and bleeding at the site of the needle insertion. Therefore, patients that have previously experienced bleeding issues and those that have active infections may not be advised to undergo the procedure. There is also a risk of nerve damage during the procedure, but this is also a rare seen complication.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/radiofrequency-neurotomy/about/pac-20394931

https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/treatments/interventional/ablations/radiofrequency-neuroablation-chronic-low-back-pain

https://www.webmd.com/arthritis/radiofrequency-ablation#3

 

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Therapy

WHAT IS IT?

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation therapy is the use of a low-voltage electric current to relieve pain symptoms. It is done with a battery operated TENS device. It has small wires that are connected to sticky pads called electrodes. Electrodes are placed on the body at the site of pain as a medium to deliver energy through the nerve fibers. When the machine is turned on the patient will feel a tingling sensation in the area that the pads are placed. These electrical pulses control pain signals at the nerve site by blocking the pain receptors from being sent to the brain and therefore creating relief from pain. They also stimulate the release of endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killers.

The intensity and frequency of the electrical currents are adjusted to suit the needs of each individual. For patients going home with this treatment, the health care provider would educate the patient on the appropriate settings. Research has shown that a tolerance can be developed in patients consistently using the same frequency and intensity, therefore reducing the pain relief that they are experiencing. With professional guidance, the settings could be increased or alternated to prevent this.

For some people, pain relief is long-lasting, and others have found the need for repeated treatments. TENS sessions are short and can be administered as often as necessary.

WHAT DOES IT TREAT?

TENS therapy has been used to treat a variety of pain symptoms and conditions with great success. These include and are not limited to:

BENEFITS

There are many benefits to using TENS therapy including:

  • It can be done at home with a small take home TENS unit.
  • Gives the patient control of managing their pain.
  • It is a non-invasive method for treating pain.
  • It can help people to stay away from taking pain medications or narcotics and reducing risk of addictions, overdose or negative side effects.
  • It can be used in addition to pharmaceutical drugs for breakthrough pain.
  • TENS devices are portable and can be carried with you during the day for immediate pain relief.
  • It is an affordable treatment and TENS devices can be found at your local pharmacy or online.

ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS OR RISKS?

For the most part, TENS therapy is considered a safe treatment. TENS therapy is a relatively new treatment and the effects of it on some groups of people are unknown and therefore best to be avoided at this time. These groups include people with epilepsy, heart problems, pacemakers or other electrical implants, or pregnant women unless otherwise recommended by a doctor or health care professional.

Some people have experienced a rash or itchiness at the placement of the sticky pads which may indicate ultra sensitive skin or an allergic reaction to the pads. Others find the prickling, tingling sensation uncomfortable. Placing the pads on the eyes or neck can have dangerous results. Also placing the pads on irritated or broken skin can further irritate the area. It is important to use the TENS device and pads as instructed for best results and to eliminate possible negative effects.

OVERVIEW

TENS therapy is still being researched. The results of this treatment have varied from person to person but greatly depends on the type of condition being treated and the treatment schedule.

TENS therapy has been known to reduce pain in a safe and natural way. With little to no side effects, it is a great option to trial. However, speaking with your doctor before trying TENS therapy would be advised.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.healthline.com/health/transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulation-unit#results

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/15840-transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulation-tens

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323632.php#takeaway

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulation-tens/

https://www.psychreg.org/tens-machine/

What does an epidural steroid injection do for neck pain?

Neck Pain

Neck pain is a common issue that impacts physical, social, and mental aspects of an individual. Over 30% of adults in the US are affected by neck pain each year. Neck pain can lead to headaches, depression, low back pain, and decreased physical activity. It is important to try and prevent neck pain as much as possible or to get it treated quickly to reduce effects of neck pain.
 

Epidural Steroid Injection

An epidural steroid injection is an injection of a local anesthetic followed by a long-lasting steroid medicine into the epidural space of the spine. This is the space outside of the membrane covering the spinal cord and nerve roots. Here the nerves travel from the neck, down your spine and into your legs. When you have a pinched nerve, an injury, or you are experiencing irritation from friction with bony structures of your spine, the nerves swell and cause pain.
At Apex Pain Specialists, the goal of this treatment is to reduce pain so that you could resume normal day to day activities as well as a physical therapy program. This common procedure is minimally invasive and takes place in a hospital, physicians clinic, or surgery center. It is done by specialized physicians, anesthesiologists, neurologists, and surgeons. This is a non-surgical procedure done in a short period of time.
 

How Does This Help?

Living with chronic neck pain is not fun. Luckily our modern sciences have developed a technique to combat this. Thousands of people have found relief from neck pain with epidural steroid injections. Epidural steroid injections are intended to give relief from pain caused by inflammatory conditions. When the steroid medicine is injected into the site surrounding the inflamed nerves, it helps to reduce inflammation and irritation of the nerves and therefore the pain associated with it.
These injections often provide instant relief but in some cases once the local numbing wears off, you may feel the pain again for up to a few days before the steroid medication begins to take affect. Some find relief for years, others just weeks. The effects of this treatment varies from person to person therefore requiring the amount of treatments to also vary.
 

Continuing Treatment

Unfortunately in some cases the epidural steroid injections wear off and repeat injections are needed to improve long term effects of the injection.
Often after experiencing pain relief, patients will work with physical therapists to improve spinal condition. At home exercise programs are also recommended in adjunct to the epidural steroid injection to strengthen your muscles and prevent future neck pain episodes.
Talk to your family physician, or your pain specialist for a professional opinion and or referral for an individualized treatment plan related to your pain.
 
SOURCES:

Tumeric for Arthritis

Curcuma longa, Cur­cuma domestica

Origin: A yellow-colored powder ground from the root of the turmeric plant. The turmeric plant grows in India and Indonesia and is related to the ginger family (it is a common ingredient in curries). Curcumin is a key chemical in turmeric.

Claims: Reduces pain, inflammation and stiffness related to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA); treats bursitis. Known as a cleansing agent, turmeric often is used as a digestive aid in India.

What we know: Traditionally used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine to treat arthritis turmeric/curcumin blocks inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), the target of celecoxib (Celebrex).

Studies: Several recent studies show that turmeric/curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties and modifies immune system responses. A 2006 study showed turmeric was more effective at preventing joint inflammation than reducing joint inflammation.

A 2010 clinical trial found that a turmeric supplement called Meriva (standardized to 75 percent curcumin combined with phosphatidylcholine) provided long-term improvement in pain and function in 100 patients with knee OA.

In a small 2012 pilot study, a curcumin product called BCM-95 reduced joint pain and swelling in patients with active RA better than diclofenac, an nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

Dosage: Capsules, extract (more likely to be free of contaminants) or spice. For OA: Capsule, typically 400 mg to 600 mg, three times per day; or 0.5 g to 1 g of powdered root up to 3 g per day. For RA: 500 mg twice daily.

“Curcumin makes up only about 2 to 6 percent of turmeric, so be sure to check the standardized amount of curcumin,” advises Randy Horowitz, MD, medical director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson.

Source: Arthritis.org

Top foods that fight inflammation

One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory benefits,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Choose the right anti-inflammatory foods, and you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. Consistently pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.

Foods that cause inflammation

Try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:

  • refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
  • French fries and other fried foods
  • soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
  • margarine, shortening, and lard

The health risks of inflammatory foods

Not surprisingly, the same foods on an inflammation diet are generally considered bad for our health, including sodas and refined carbohydrates, as well as red meat and processed meats. Inflammation can cause pain or make chronic pain worse which is why it is important to maintain a healthy diet while participating in a pain management program.

Unhealthy foods also contribute to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for inflammation. Yet in several studies, even after researchers took obesity into account, the link between foods and inflammation remained, which suggests weight gain isn’t the sole driver. “Some of the food components or ingredients may have independent effects on inflammation over and above increased caloric intake,” Dr. Hu says.

Anti-inflammatory foods

An anti-inflammatory diet should include these foods:

  • tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
  • nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
  • fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Benefits of anti-inflammatory foods

On the flip side are beverages and foods that reduce inflammation, and with it, chronic disease, says Dr. Hu. He notes in particular fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens that are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols—protective compounds found in plants.

Studies have also associated nuts with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation, as well.

Anti-inflammatory diet

To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet. If you’re looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.

In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health. “A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life,” Dr. Hu says.

2019 Phoenix Top Pain Management Doctors – Apex Pain Specialists

Exercise & Chronic Pain

Exercise & Chronic Pain

4 reasons why exercise helps relieve chronic pain:

Exercise is probably going to be part of your treatment plan for your chronic back pain. More often than not, resorting to bedrest can make the symptoms of back pain worse.

There are many benefits to exercise, including:

1. Exercise keeps your joints moving.

That’s especially important for patients with chronic pain caused by a form of spinal arthritis.

2. Your muscles will stay strong.

Your spine needs all the help it can get in cushioning your movements and supporting your weight, so you should work on keeping your back and core muscles in good condition. Strong muscles support your body and bones better, and that’s especially important for patients with chronic back pain.

3. Exercise will improve your mental health.

Chronic pain patients can struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. Staying active can help boost self-esteem and make you feel like you’re doing something to fight your pain.

4. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight.

Extra weight can add to your pain, particularly if you have chronic back pain. By making healthy diet choices and staying physically fit, you can maintain an ideal weight.

What Kind of Exercise Should You Do?

Speak with your doctor or a physical therapist about what type of exercise would be good for you. A physical therapist can help you develop a regular exercise plan that you can stick with. Contact our Chandler pain management clinic for more information about physical therapy.