MODALITY Researchers explore massage therapy as muscle builder An illness, an accident, or even just getting older can limit a person’s capacity for exercise. Rest is an essential component of healing, but it also atrophies muscles. “People who are unable to exercise due to, for example, a recent surgery or illness, lose as much as three percent of their muscle mass per week,” said Dr. Esther Dupont-Versteegden of the University of Kentucky’s College of Health Sciences (CHS). “That doesn’t sound like much, but it can make recovery much more difficult, especially for the elderly.” Dupont-Versteegden and her UK CHS colleague Dr. Tim Butterfield have been testing an inexpensive, non-invasive treatment that appears, in preliminary studies, to aid in the recovery of muscle mass and reduce muscle atrophy: massage therapy. “Don’t run out and get a massage when you read this,” she laughed. “It might make you feel good, but it won’t turn you into a body builder.” Proteins are the basic building blocks of all of the body’s tissues, especially muscle. The complicated metabolic process that turns protein into muscle, called protein synthesis, increases muscle cell size, which in turn strengthens muscle fibres. But one of the crucial ingredients for muscle growth is exercise. “However, there are times and circumstances in which exercise is not possible, because of a severe illness or surgery, for example” Dupont- Versteegden said. “Our research proposes that massage may stave off atrophy, even if you aren’t able to get up and move around.” According to Butterfield, it appears that massage mimics the effect of exercise by sending signals to the muscle to begin protein synthesis. But perhaps even more tantalizing: massaging one limb seems to confer benefit to its corresponding muscle on the other side as well. “We’re not sure why yet, but if we could understand the mechanisms for this crossover effect it could have real healing benefits for patients with wounds to one limb – for example, car accident victims or wounded soldiers,” Butterfield said. Their initial work is promising enough to garner a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health to further their study in conjunction with Drs. Benjamin Miller and Karyn Hamilton from Colorado State University. The loss of skeletal muscle mass and the inability to recover from atrophy are major contributors to disability and a major factor in the elderly’s loss of independence, Dupont-Versteegden said. “If we can identify new, cost-effective ways to reduce disability and improve overall health, that’s an allaround win.” – Newswise CAREERS Study probes garlic effect on hypertension It’s great for pasta sauce and repelling vampires, but the jury’s still out on how effective garlic is at lowering blood pressure. Dr. Peter Jones is the principal investigator in a new study at the University of Manitoba’s Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. He and his team are looking into the ageold question and hoping to get a more definitive answer. Jones told CTV Winnipeg there are studies indicating that garlic works to lower hypertension, but other studies have failed to confirm the findings. He’s looking for 40 participants to take part in his own study on the issue. It’s open to non-smoking men and women aged 40-70 years old who have elevated blood pressure but are not currently taking any blood pressure lowering medication. Participants will randomly take two rounds of pills – one is a placebo and the other contains aged garlic extract. Participants will also wear an ambulatory blood pressure cuff during the day that takes readings every few minutes and saves the results on a chip. Jones said this piece of technology will allow for more accurate data sharing and eliminate the need for participants to go into a clinic for testing. He said many people have a reaction in clinical settings commonly known as “the white coat effect.” “Your blood pressure spikes,” he said. “So it’s an inaccurate reading.” – The Canadian Press MODALITY Non-LCD may help lessen post-concussion symptoms: study A pilot study conducted by the Canadian Concussion Centre has shown that using a non-LCD screen for computer tasks may decrease the risk of exacerbating symptoms in sufferers of post-concussion syndrome (PCS). The findings provide a potential option for earlier return to work or return to school for those suffering from light sensitivity and computer or cell phone screen intolerance – common, persistent concussion symptoms. The data, presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 2017 Sports Concussion Conference, reported that 26 participants who read a narrative on non-LCD screens for 30 minutes or until their symptoms worsened, experienced less symptom exacerbation compared with doing the same exercise on a LCD screen. “These results are very encouraging as they indicate there may be a technology that allows PCS sufferers with photophobia and screen intolerance to return to work or school faster,” said Dr. Charles Tator, neurosurgeon and director, Canadian Concussion Centre. “We’ve observed that photophobia occurs in up to 43 per cent of individuals with PCS and, in severe cases, can last several years or even permanently. In a society more and more reliant on working and learning on screens, PCS sufferers can experience the added suffering of being unable to return to their academic or professional routine which can be frustrating.” Photophobia – also known as photosensitivity – is an abnormal sensitivity to light. The majority of screens on computers, televisions, phones and other technology are liquid crystal displays (LCD) using a backlight or reflector to produce light in colour. For someone suffering from photophobia, the backlight is aggravating as well as the ‘flicker rate’ of an LCD screen which refreshes approximately 60 times per second. PCS sufferers are often advised by their health-care team to avoid using LCD screens if the screen exacerbates their symptoms. For this research, the CCC team used a non-LCD computer monitor based on ‘E-paper’ technology provided through a research partnership with Iris Technologies, a company with the Biomedical Zone – a physician-led incubator for health technology companies that is a partnership between St. Michael’s Hospital and Ryerson University. E-paper screens use a magnetized polymer to create shapes on its display, unlike the light modulating liquid crystals with backlighting used for LCD screens. These screens also only refresh when content on the screen changes, holding a static image for the viewer that is easier to look at. Participants in the research were diagnosed with PCS, which persisted for at least three months since their last concussion, and reported suffering from screen intolerance. The participants were randomized into two groups each reading a narrative on either an LCD screen or a non-LCD screen for 30 minutes or until their symptoms worsened. After completing the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 3rd edition (SCAT3) and a reading comprehension test utilizing one of the computers, participants then repeated the evaluation using the other screen. They then completed a questionnaire about the experience. The majority of the participants reported fewer exacerbated symptoms and a significant difference in the amount of time they were able to spend reading when using the non-LCD screen. They also reported an increased ability to focus and that the non-LCD computer screen was easier on the eyes. “The findings certainly warrant further investigation to determine how helpful non-LCD screens could be to specific PCS patient populations,” Tator said. “We are already planning other research projects to evaluate this further.” The study was made possible with funding from the Queen’s University Entrepreneurship Competition, the Ontario Brain Institute, and the Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation. – Newswise SPORT Canadian sports RMT takes on Hungarian swim team Canadian certified sport massage therapist, Aurel Hamran of Edmonton planned his vacation to Hungary in July. What he was not planning for was a call from the Hungarian Swimming Federation by Fodor Szabolcs, leader of the open water department. Szabolcs asked him to help their swim team as a full member at the FINA 2017 Aquatic World Championships, in Hungary. He didn’t hesitate, and accepted the invitation. “They know me for my 28 years with the Canadian Swim Team and I met the Hungarians at five Olympics. I was surprised by the call and found it interesting that a Canadian therapist would help the Hungarian swim team at the World Championships. The open water competition was not unknown to me for I worked with the Canadian team at the 2015 Pan Am Games, in Toronto. However, the uniqueness was that instead of working with the Canadians, now I will be with Hungarians,” Hamran said. Being born and raised in Hungary, Hamran is fluent in that language and had no problem fitting in with the team. He had to be at Balatonfüred by July 12th, three days before the 10-day competition started, to meet and get to know the four women and four men on the team with their coaches and support staff. Balatonfüred is one of the famous vacation towns of Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central and East Europe. Amran related his experience: “Our accommodation was at the glamorous Anna Grand Hotel for all teams. You may guess how busy and loud the restaurant was when many of the teams were together. Needless to say, the Canadian team was very surprised to see me there – in Hungarian team attire. Massages took place in my large room, usually in the afternoons and evenings. Every afternoon team meeting was throughout the 10 days and in the morning on non-competition days training in one of the town’s indoor pools. To get to the fenced race area, we had to go through the security gates where the bags were x-rayed and accreditation ID cards were scanned. Sometimes we noticed heavy police and army presence around the area, but no incidents.” The huge tent, where all teams prepared for the races, always holds some excitements, Hamran recalled. “Securing the time recognizing ‘wrist watches,’ sensed by the Omega time measuring system, requires special knowledge and experience.” It is also important for the therapists to know how to apply the waterproof, greasy ointments around the edges of the swimmer’s shoulder, armpits, chest and back area to help avoid skin rashes, or abrasions. All these activities take time, Hamran said. Often, swimmers were called to get immediately to the adjacent “ready tent” for last-minute race instructions and regulations. When the race started, boats with officials, judges and emergency personnel followed the swimming group on both sides all the way to the finish line. Others on boards were paddling along the way, so the last swimmers can be taken care of, in case they experience difficulties. There were “feeding stations” on elevated platforms along the course, where coaches were holding cups on long sticks, offering water to swimmers, who were turning over on their backs to take a few sips, then continue swimming. Some racers won’t stop at all at these stations, except during longer races, as they didn’t want to lose their position and time. Thousands of spectators from the tribune followed the races on huge screens, cheering for the swimmers and crews when they reached their area. The competition started on July 15th with the men’s 5-km and on the 16th with the women’s 10-km races, followed by a rest day after. On the 18th and 19th the men’s 10-km and the women’s 5-km race caused excitement for swimmers and spectators, not to mention the mixed team competitions on the 20th. The last race on July 21st was the 25-km race, where the women’s event started after the men’s. “I think, the 25-km is strictly brutal. It is hard to imagine for a recreational swimmer that someone can swim that distance without stopping and still staying above the water,” Hamran said. The organizers and volunteers were praised by participants and spectators as they were all impressed with the beautifully arranged environment and the smooth operation of the competitions. You could hear comments, like, “I’ve never attended a better displayed and organized competition, ever.” The weather was perfect for the 10 days with beautiful blue skies. Interestingly, after the last day of the competition the rain took over as if it was saying, “now it is my turn,” Hamran said. In all, Hamran said, it was a s nice experience with many memories to be thankful for. CONTINUING EDUCATION Free mental health classes in Manitoba PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. – A new program is bringing Manitobans back to school with lessons in understanding mental health. Enrolment at the new Recovery Education Centre at the Canadian Mental Health Association in Portage La Prairie started this September. The college-style model is new to Manitoba, free to attend, and open to anyone. Jordan Friesen, executive director of the association’s central region, said he had seen this done at a few locations in Ontario and wanted to bring it to a rural setting. People who are interested in taking classes will meet with a CMHA staff member who has had their own experience with mental illness and together, they will put together a learning plan that meets the student’s needs. There are close to 20 courses to choose from – many are taught by facilitators with lived experience. Brad Burnell is one example. He is running a course on dealing with addiction, using his own story of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. “The best help I got was from people with the same situation that I was in, you know?” he said. “From the people who have been there.” His class is focused on teaching students how to share their story in a healthy way. “Which a couple (of students) have, and it’s helped them so much, because they’ve gotten it out and they’ve talked about it with someone else and it’s a very therapeutic thing to do.” Some of the classes have been offered over the summer, and Tyson Psoch has taken a few of them. He said he was diagnosed with a mental illness as a child and was often teased or bullied because he felt people didn’t understand him. “Not only are you dealing with the illness, but you’re suffering from the stigma attached to it too,” he said. One of the courses on his schedule is focused on managing a group. Psoch hopes to use the skills he learns to one day teach a class himself. – The Canadian Press HEALTH NEWS Cannabis in the workplace QUEBEC’S LARGEST LABOUR FEDERATION and a major business group said the provincial government needs to pay particular attention to the workplace consequences of cannabis use. The Quebec Federation of Labour and the group representing Quebec’s chambers of commerce made the comments as public consultations continued on the repercussions of legalizing pot. The head of the business group said in an interview that studies in jurisdictions where cannabis is legal have shown a drop in employee productivity, increased absenteeism as well as mental health problems. Stephane Forget also fears a spike in the number of work-related accidents against the backdrop of imperfect screening tests. Forget says certain tests will allow employers to determine that someone has used cannabis within a certain time frame but will not enable them to pinpoint the level of impairment. The Quebec Federation of Labour, meanwhile, fears employers will adopt zero-tolerance policies which will encroach on workers’ private lives. – The Canadian Press BACK CARE Back-to-school should not be a pain in the back Each year, millions of children return to school struggling under the weight of an overstuffed backpack. Heavy backpacks can put children at risk of injury, according to Dr. Joshua Hyman, orthopedic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. Hyman offers the following guidelines to help prevent potential back injuries from overweight backpacks: A backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 15 per cent of the child’s weight, or about seven pounds for a child who weighs 50 pounds. If textbooks are making the bag too heavy, parents should speak with the teacher — sometimes books can be left at school. Children should wear their backpack over both shoulders to spread weight evenly. Alternatively, consider a wheeled backpack. Be sure that the backpack is the correct size for your child. The backpack should not be wider or longer than the child’s torso, and should not hang more than 4 inches below the waistline. A backpack that hangs too low increases the weight on the shoulders, causing the child to lean forward when walking. Be sure that the backpack has wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. The shoulder straps should be adjusted so the backpack can be fitted to your child’s body and a padded backing provides increased comfort and protects the child from being injured by the sharp edges on some school supplies. “Parents should inspect their child’s backpack from time to time. They often carry much more than they should with extra shoes, toys, electronic devices and other unnecessary items,” Hyman said. If the child experiences persistent pain, parents should consult their pediatrician, who may recommend physical therapy to strengthen the back muscles. Some indicators of trouble include changes in the child’s posture while wearing the backpack, difficulty putting on the backpack, and pain, tingling or red marks. – Newswise RESEARCH MS Society of Canada shares wellness toolbox As people settle back into the routine of school and work, the MS Society of Canada is reminding Canadians that multiple sclerosis is anything but a routine disease. MS affects each person differently and treatment options can vary drastically from person to person. “There are as many treatment plans for MS as there are people with MS,” said Dr. Karen Lee, vice-president of research, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. “Everyone’s journey with MS is unique, as is their choice for treatments. Today, people living with MS have a variety of options, from diet and exercise to pharmaceuticals... We want to provide the best information and support that we can on all topics that are of interest to our community.” A little over 20 years ago, there were no disease-modifying therapies or classes of drugs that impacted the underlying disease of MS. Now, there are 14. It’s up to each person and their health-care team to determine which, if any, is right for them. To help from a wellness perspective, the MS Society reached out to those living with MS to determine common threads in managing – and thriving – with this disease. A few wellness themes emerged: 1) Move your body – Exercise is key. For most people (with or without MS), eight hours a day in the gym is not realistic, but that doesn’t mean you do nothing. Pilates and yoga are emerging as new ways to be active and can be tailored for people living with MS. A variety of other activities can be adapted to provide beneficial aerobic and strength training. Just do as much as you can, as often as you can. For guidelines on physical activity and living with MS visit www.mssociety.ca 2) Feed your health – While there is a vast amount of research about diet and wellness, the general rule of thumb is to eat healthy. For some that means cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar, for others it can simply mean increasing your whole foods intake. Find the personal balance that feeds your body and soul. 3) Look beyond the traditional – While having a traditional health-care team is a must for most MS protocols, you don’t have to stop there. Many people living with MS take a holistic approach to healing and incorporate nutritionists, naturopaths, massage therapists, or acupuncturists. Just ensure everyone involved in your health-care is aware of all treatments. 4) Share – Most people living with MS find it helpful to talk about their experiences. While support groups are very popular, they are not for everyone. Some people living with MS choose other avenues like writing a blog; keeping a diary; confiding in a close friend; or attending therapy sessions. 5) Cut yourself some slack – You are going to have bad days. Allow yourself to be down for a day, and then work to make tomorrow better. Just always know that you are not alone on this journey, and that help can be around the corner or a phone call away. COLLABORATION Montreal scientists tout ‘open science’ movement MONTREAL’S WORLD-FAMOUS brain research centre, McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (Neuro), has been transforming into what is touted as the first research centre of its kind in the world dedicated to the principles of open science. Along with the city’s artificial intelligence (AI) community, the Neuro is helping to make Montreal a world leader in the international push toward democratizing scientific research. “To say you’re the first is pretty ambitious, but for all the evidence we have, we are the first,” Guy Rouleau, director of the Neuro, said in an interview. Open science is broadly understood as a movement to make scientific research and data open and accessible to researchers around the world. The Neuro’s open science ambitions are threefold. It is currently building what it hopes will become the world’s largest library of brain imaging, clinical, demographic, genetic and cellular data, as well as biological samples from patients with neurological disorders. The Neuro is also creating what it calls an open drug discovery platform, which will run tests on nerve cells from sick patients in order to explain how neurological diseases manifest and to help develop cures. Thirdly, the centre is building an informatics system in order to share its large-scale research data. All three planks of the project are to be open and accessible to researchers anywhere on the planet. The Neuro, however, is still allowing its researchers to publish in expensive – and exclusive – commercial journals, a practice that reflects part of the academic culture that is slow to change. Yoshua Bengio, one of the best-known artificial intelligence researchers in the country and Canada Research Chair in Statistical Learning Algorithms at Universite de Montreal, is on a personal crusade against commercial publishers of scientific journals and shames them publicly. Bengio helped create the Journal of Machine Learning Research, one of the main publications in the AI field. Academics who submit papers to the journal must sign an agreement making their work open to the public, while authors retain the rights to their work. Bengio says academics in all disciplines will eventually move toward an open-publishing model. “It’s only a matter of time,” he said. “It’s only continuing because of inertia.” Rouleau said the Neuro’s project is still in the building phase and it’s too early to measure its impact. But he and the project are getting attention from governments around the world as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organization started by one of Facebook’s creators. The Neuro has secured $45 million for its three-pronged mission and Rouleau said it needs another $45 million over the next seven years. – Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press
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