Summit Connects Faith and Mental Health Communities

By admin
January 02, 2017

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JACKSON, Miss. – Last fall Belhaven University mobilized a collaborative effort among churches to address the issue of mental health in Mississippi. So many of the challenges facing the state have a mental health component, and the church is often the first place people turn to for help.

Bridging the gap between faith, mental health and health leaders, Belhaven’s Institute for International Care and Counsel hosted over 170 pastors, mental health workers, social workers, nurses and community leaders. They explored ways to work together in advocacy, prevention, support and training.

The Mind, Body, Spirit: Connecting Faith and Wellness summit featured keynote speakers, workshops, discussions and several short, powerful talks related to health and mental health. The event specifically focused on raising awareness, reducing stigma, creating stronger relationships and building a sustainable plan for the future of mental health in Mississippi.

According to Belhaven University President Roger Parrott, the summit laid the groundwork for future training, conferences and projects. “We’re looking forward to ways in which we can work together going forward to address this critical need all across the state of Mississippi.”

For more information, visit: www.belhaven.edu/careandcounsel/summit.htm or email bsmith@belhaven.edu or call 601-968-8916.

VooDoo Flossing, Kinesio Taping and Cupping, Oh My!

By admin
November 18, 2016

male athlete with tape on his knees

By Brian B. Parr, Ph.D. ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist

If you play sports or exercise regularly you probably have experienced some sort of injury. Hopefully yours was just a minor muscle strain, joint sprain, or soreness after a workout. Sports-related injuries are common, and most people who exercise report some type of injury in a given year. Thankfully, most are not serious enough to prevent continuing an exercise program, especially if minor injuries are addressed before they progress to cause more lasting damage. If you do sustain a muscle or joint injury you will probably ice the affected area to help it heal. But there are also several other techniques that can help speed recovery.

RICE is Nice

The most common recommendation for treating a minor exercise injury is to use ice to reduce swelling and speed healing. For example, an ankle sprain might be treated by sitting with the injured leg elevated while applying ice; later the joint might be wrapped with athletic tape to provide support and further reduce inflammation. This combination is called RICE – rest, ice, compression, elevation – and makes intuitive sense. Staying off the injured limb prevents further injury and allows healing to begin. And it seems reasonable that reducing inflammation through cold therapy, compression, and elevation can reduce pain and enhance repair of the injured muscles, tendons, or ligaments. It is also something that people can do at home without medical guidance. For most of us, RICE is how we have been told to treat minor injuries.

Other Techniques on the Treatment Menu

In recent years, many athletic trainers and athletes have begun to use several other treatments for sports injuries. These techniques have become more visible, thanks in part to their use by professional and Olympic athletes. Their popularity is in part due to the realization that inflammation is a key component in tissue repair and in some cases reducing it with ice therapy might actually hinder injury healing. More and more sports medicine professionals are using modalities other than (or in addition to) RICE to treat many injuries. Let’s explore a few alternative treatments for sports injuries – voodoo flossing, cupping, and kinesio taping.

Do That VooDoo

wb-cuppingpowerbandsThe benefits of compression for injury healing can be achieved by tightly wrapping an injured area with a rubber band, called “floss,” for a short time, usually less than a minute. This technique, commonly called voodoo flossing, is used to increase joint mobility and speed healing of minor injuries. Tightly wrapping a joint has several potential effects which can help improve movement and reduce pain. When voodoo floss is applied to a joint it presses the skin, muscle, and fascia (the layers between the skin and muscle) together. Then, moving the joint forces these tissues to slide past each other, breaking adhesions between the layers. When the floss is removed, the tissues can move more freely. Compressing the tissue also reduces blood flow which, paradoxically, results in even greater blood flow when the floss is released, providing nutrients to the injured area.

A Cup to Go

Cupping therapyCupping gained much attention this past summer when swimmer Michael Phelps appeared at a race in the Olympics with large red welts on his back. He wasn’t hurt, as many feared. Rather, he was using cupping as a technique to treat injury and improve performance. Cupping literally involves the application of glass or plastic cups to the skin for several minutes, typically 5–15 minutes. Using either vacuum or heat, the cups pull the skin away from the underlying muscle tissue, increasing blood flow and improving movement. Athletes and trainers who use it tout its effectiveness, despite the painful red spots that remain on the skin. While cupping may be new to most of us, it is far from a modern technique. In fact, cupping has been used since ancient times and factors prominently in traditional Chinese medicine. Its use by athletes is more recent, and is becoming more widespread among amateur, professional, and recreational athletes.

Roll Tape – Kinesio Tape that is

Kinesio taped kneeWhile voodoo flossing and cupping have a role in treating injuries and improving performance in the training room, there is a relatively new modality that can be used during exercise to enhance performance. Kinesio tape, also called K-tape, is applied over specific muscles to reduce pain and improve movement. The tape actually pulls the skin away from the underlying muscle, which increases blood flow and enhances movement, much like cupping. The difference is that kinesio tape can be used during exercise, as many people first saw on the shoulders of beach volleyball players in the 2008 Olympics. The fact that kinesio tape actually improves movement distinguishes it from the taping or bracing that many athletes use to stabilize joints to prevent injury during exercise.

DIY Injury Prevention and Care

While many sports medicine professionals still recommend RICE as a first line of treatment for minor injuries, they are increasingly utilizing other techniques as well. With a little training, is it possible for athletes to use some of these less traditional methods at home to treat their own minor injuries so they can get back to the road, pool, field, or gym? Obviously, it is important to learn how to properly use these methods. Also, it may be difficult for someone who is not a professional to evaluate whether they are working. Improper treatment can delay healing and may make some injuries worse. Before trying one of these alternative paths to treatment, it may be wise to check with a trained professional. Your injury could be more serious than you realize and require attention by a sports medicine professional or physician. That said, if you are looking for an injury treatment beyond RICE, voodoo flossing, cupping, and kinesio tape might be worth consideration.

Something to Consider

Well-Being spoke to Mike Wilkinson, MS, ATC, who is the director of athletic training outreach services for Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center, about his thoughts on the newer treatment techniques discussed in this article, from his perspective as an athletic trainer.

“These are all typical modalities used to increase circulation,” notes Wilkinson. “They all work to some extent, although research about their effectiveness has been varied, with some showing success and some not. However none of the three discussed are covered by insurance, so they are primarily used by high level elite athletes who can afford to pay cash for their treatments. That is why you do not see them in a typical PT clinic.

Brian B. Parr, Ph.D., is an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of South Carolina Aiken.

Cryotherapy: Hot Trend. Cool Recovery?

By admin
September 05, 2016

Cute young woman in cryosauna booth

Brian B. Parr, Ph.D.

If you pay attention to health trends you have likely heard about whole body cryotherapy. For years athletes have touted the benefits of cryotherapy for reducing muscle soreness and improving performance. Now cryotherapy is going mainstream, with enthusiasts claiming it can help you lose weight, look younger, and experience better health. While the buzz about cryotherapy is fairly recent, using cold as a treatment has been around for decades. And even if you haven’t been to one of the new cryotherapy centers, you have likely used this treatment yourself. Let’s explore what cryotherapy is, how it is used by both athletes and non-athletes, and some smart recommendations, if you are considering trying it.

Just Add Ice

The term cryotherapy simply means using cold as a modality to treat an injury or disease, promote healing, and ease pain. If you have ever put ice (or a bag of frozen peas) on an injury you have used cryotherapy. The use of ice, either applied to an injured area or as a whole body ice bath, has been a part of sports medicine for years. The application of cold is thought to reduce swelling and inflammation, reduce pain, and speed the healing process.

Cold exposure using chilled air or clothing before exercise, called precooling, and during exercise, called percooling, can help athletes perform better in hot environments. Those “cooling towels” that you wet and hang around your neck to cool you while you exercise or work are a good example of percooling – cryotherapy in action! In cases of hyperthermia, ice baths can be used to quickly lower body temperature to avoid heat injury.

Now cryotherapy is no longer confined to just the training room. Whole body cryotherapy centers cite a host of health and fitness benefits from weight loss to anti-aging effects on the skin. These facilities typically offer sessions of exposure to extremely cold (-200 to -400°F) air for a few minutes at a time causing the skin temperature to drop rapidly. This triggers a physiological response that includes reducing blood flow to the skin, diminishing inflammation, and causing hormonal changes, which proponents of the technology claim to be beneficial for health, fitness, and weight loss.

All the Cool Kids Are Doing It

While ice baths have been used as a recovery tool for years, whole body cryotherapy chambers are being more widely used, especially among prominent professional athletes. This celebrity factor, and the media coverage surrounding it, is one reason why cryotherapy has become so popular. And the technology has advanced to the point where the equipment is safe and effective for cooling the body. If there isn’t a cryotherapy center in your area now, there may be one soon.

Like many health trends, the popularity of whole body cryotherapy is based on people, especially famous people, using it and talking about it. Much of the buzz about it may be based more on how people feel after a session, than on measurable health improvements. While currently, there is no scientific research that supports the use of whole body cryotherapy for health purposes, there is also no evidence it is harmful if used properly. Regardless of its perceived benefits, whole body cryotherapy should not replace medical management for injuries or chronic conditions like arthritis or obesity.

Hold the Ice!

Despite the potential benefits of whole body cryotherapy some experts still question the efficacy of this treatment. This may seem strange, because for decades icing an injury to speed recovery has practically been sports medicine dogma and the basis for the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) recommendations for treating minor muscle and joint injuries. Despite its common use, you may be surprised to learn that there is actually little research-based evidence to support using cryotherapy as a treatment.

Current practice is moving away from using ice and focusing more on compression (voodoo flossing is an example) and maintaining mobility for injury treatment. For recovery from intense exercise, an ice bath is thought to temporarily disrupt the natural physiological response, including inflammation and increased blood flow to the muscle, that is necessary for building strength and endurance. It may be that whole body ice or cold air exposure may help to reduce pain initially, but may not necessarily be a long-term solution for improving recovery and performance. Many physicians, physical therapists, and athletic trainers still rely on ice as a part of post-injury treatment. The take away is that you should follow the advice of your doctor or therapist.

As far as safety goes, whole body cryotherapy has been associated with only one death (likely due to exposure to the nitrogen gas used to cool the air, not the cold temperature itself). It has not been found to be harmful if used correctly. A more realistic concern is that people might use this therapy in lieu of (as opposed to in addition to) treatments that are known to be effective, allowing minor medical conditions to get worse over time.

To Chill or Not to Chill

Because there is limited research at this time, it is impossible to verify the claims made about the benefits of whole body cryotherapy. Currently, the FDA has not cleared or approved any cryotherapy devices. The lack of scientific evidence supporting the use of whole body cryotherapy to treat health concerns like arthritis or obesity suggests that it should not be used exclusively or as a primary treatment therapy for these conditions. Yet, many people who use whole body cryotherapy claim to experience benefits including improved health and wellbeing with no negative effects.

If you are considering trying cryotherapy, see your doctor first and keep in mind that it should not replace other healthy habits. Ideally, it should be part of a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, good nutrition, and medical management of serious health conditions. These are practices that are proven to help you get fit, lose weight, and feel better, whether you decide to “chill” or not.

Ice cubes

 

Brian B. Parr, Ph.D., is an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of South Carolina Aiken.

Getting on track for weight loss… or down for the count?

By admin
July 05, 2016

Young woman standing on a scale

By Brian B. Parr, Ph.D. ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist

When it comes to losing weight, lets face it, calories matter. Thanks to a host of wearable devices and mobile apps, counting calories has never been easier. Calories matter because losing weight almost always means cutting the calories that you eat and increasing the calories that you burn. The concept of “eat less, move more” is the foundation of nearly every effective weight loss program. In order to eat fewer calories and increase energy expenditure you need to know how many calories you are actually consuming and expending. While current technology allows you to easily track your activity and analyze your diet, it’s important to note that counting steps and tracking calories are just useful tools in your behavior-modification toolbox. Keep your eyes on the real prize – achieving healthy weight loss, and at the same time reaching a higher level of fitness and improving overall health.

An app a day…?

Today’s wearable devices and mobile apps let you track your weight, what you eat, and your activity fairly accurately. And, it seems a new one is introduced almost every day. Some apps measure the intensity of exercise by using GPS and accelerometer features of your phone or by syncing with a wearable bracelet or belt clip. Some measure heart rate to make the estimates even more precise. Using this technology, you can do everything from counting steps, to measuring how many miles you walk or run, and estimating how many calories you burn.

controlling my exercise with a smartphone appOther apps can help you track what you eat. Whether you are counting calories or are more concerned about the amount of protein or carbs you are eating, diet analysis apps can evaluate what you are really eating. Most require that you input the foods you eat and then the app calculates calories, nutrients, sugar, salt, and water intake based on standard databases. This is basically a high-tech version of keeping a food journal and having it analyzed by a nutritionist. The apps generally make this process more user-friendly – some even have a barcode scanner to make entering prepackaged foods easier. But to get accurate results, it’s important that you estimate portion sizes accurately – something that is challenging even for experts. That said, these apps can be useful for tracking what you eat to help you learn about your eating patterns to develop healthier habits or meet specific goals, such as eliminating added sugar or salt from your diet.

Full disclosure – there are some concerns about the accuracy of some of these apps and the potential risks of using unregulated health evaluation tools. Most utilize proprietary technology that can’t be independently tested and frequent updates make it difficult for exercise and nutrition professionals to keep up with evaluating these rapidly-evolving tools. In general, though, these devices and mobile applications are thought to be safe and effective when used for health and fitness purposes.

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Knowledge is power

Activity trackers and exercise apps are especially popular for improving fitness and promoting weight loss through increased physical activity. You can think of increasing activity as a three-step process: Sit less, move more, and exercise every day. This technology can help you know what to do, when to do it, and how much you did at the end of the day. For many people, an accurate report of how many steps they took or how many calories they burned is helpful for gauging their success and identifying things they can improve.

Even if you aren’t concerned about exactly how many calories you burned in an exercise class or how many steps you took during the day, these devices can provide a clearer picture of your activity vs. your caloric intake. Many people are simply unaware of how sedentary they are during the day or are unrealistic about how intense their workouts really are. The technology can show you what you need to change to become more active or make your exercise program more effective – some will even alert you to get up and move if you have been sitting for too long! Tracking activity and exercise over time can also provide motivation to help you keep improving. Some allow you to share your information with others, providing a level of accountability that, for many, is essential.

Think Big: Turn Steps into healthy habits

While mobile apps and wearable devices can be useful, their purpose is to help you develop healthy habits that support a lifestyle that leads to improved fitness and healthy weight loss. If you become too focused on “micromanaging” your steps or calories you may lose sight of the “big picture” changes you want to make. For example, you should strive to be as active as you can throughout the day, even if you have already met your step or calorie goals. Real lasting results and behavior change, require constantly moving the goal line forward.

Family Eating Meal Together At Home

Keep in mind you don’t have to have the latest activity tracker or fitness app to meet your weight loss or fitness goals. Real success comes from making life-style changes that incorporate healthy eating and activity habits you can maintain without constant reminders. While technology can help you make these changes, it does not replace the dedication and commitment that’s needed to develop lasting eating and activity habits that promote good health.

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