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How Essential Oils Heal

As essential oils grow in popularity, many people want to know more about their benefits and healing properties. We spoke with Scott Johnson at Young Living Essential Oils last week and asked him a few questions about how these fragrant and powerful oils work.

According to Johnson, PhD and director of Global Education and U.S. Sales at Young Living, “one of the things that makes essential oils so special is their ability to rapidly absorb into the human body.” The reason for this is that essential oils are fat-soluble nutrients, so they are attracted to the lipid (fat) membranes that surround our cells. “They penetrate our cell membranes, delivering nutrients to various cells and tissues to support health,” explains Johnson. Compounds of essential oils can be detected in the blood within minutes if applied topically on the skin.

Furthermore, essential oils can be used in a variety of ways, both internally and externally, and they have unique healing properties. If you’re using an essential oil to treat sore muscles, for example, it might be best to apply the oil topically. If you want to cleanse your body, however, you might take the essential oil internally. “It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish,” affirms Johnson.

Natural essential oils are made through a unique distillation process that involves extracting oil from plant material or resin. There are several methods—essential oil can be steam-distilled, hydro-distilled with the use of water, or cold-pressed with the aid of citrus oil that comes from the rind of the fruit.

Because essential oils are potent, rapid, and very volatile, people with certain conditions—like pregnancy, epilepsy or fever—must be especially cautious while using them. If you’re pregnant, stay away from oils that have phytoestrogens (like anise, clary sage, fennel, and mugwort), as these may stimulate uterine contractions. Also keep in mind that some oils (bergamot and citrus oils, for example) are photosynthesizing, so if you go into the sun with them they may discolor skin or create depigmentation.

That being said, essential oils are generally very safe to use. Indeed, the safety and natural benefits of essential oils were qualities that led visionary founder Dr. Gary Young to the creation of Young Living in 1993. A pioneer in essential oil study and production, Dr. Young made essential oils more readily available to people through a wholesale business model. He also helped spread awareness about the health benefits of each essential oil, and established Young Living’s five-step Seed to Seal process—“seed,” “cultivate,” “distill,” “test,” and “seal.” This process ensures the purity of each essential oil and serves as the foundation for Young Living’s distribution of essential oil around the world today.

Written by Nicole Kagan

[themedy_toggle icon=”plus” heading=”Reference” onload=”closed”]

  • How do I choose and use essential oils?(2013, July 16).

More on Aromatherapy & Essential Oils

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Massage and Insomnia: The Healing Power of Touch

A gentle massage can do more than just relieve pain and discomfort in the body. If you have chronic difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep because of insomnia, massage can help establish a pattern of restful and rejuvenating sleep.

As we move throughout our daily lives and experience stress, we store a lot of tension in our muscles and ligaments without knowing it. Restlessness at bedtime could be a result of anxiety, overwork, overeating, indigestion, an empty stomach, smoking, or an excessive intake of caffeine or sugar. Feeling angry, upset, resentful, afraid, or unsafe can also contribute to sleeplessness. Through massage, pent-up energy due to stress is released from targeted parts of the body.

Studies have shown that massage enhances relaxation and improves sleep patterns, especially when used in tandem with essential oils. Lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia) in particular may result in improved sleep quality, reduced anxiety, a more stable mood, and increased mental capacity, reports a study conducted at University of Maryland Medical Center.

That being said, certain types of massage may be more effective for particular people. Swedish Massage, the most popular type of massage, is both relaxing and stimulating as it combines movement of joints with soft, kneading strokes to massage the topmost muscle layers. Thai Massage, on the other hand, uses yoga-like stretching and puts gentle pressure on energy lines in the body called meridians. It is similar to Shiatsu Massage, which means “finger pressure” and involves the therapist using rhythmic pressure on precise acupressure points. Shiatsu massage focuses on restoring the flow of the body’s vital energy, called chi.

In addition, Neuromuscular Therapy Massage and Deep Tissue Massage are used in cases of chronic pain and severe stiffness. They target underlying causes of discomfort in the muscular and nervous systems. Chair Massage offers a 15- to 20-minute seated massage of one’s neck, head, shoulders, back, arms, and hands.

Edan Harari of Kinetic Massage Therapy says, “A good thing about massage is that while it’s recommended that you see a professional for complete and more effective one hour sessions, you can also benefit greatly from having your partner or a loved one give you some nurturing and gentle massage before you go to sleep.”

Regardless of which massage therapy you choose, the therapeutic qualities of massage can help manage insomnia. Be sure to maintain regular massage treatments until symptoms of sleeplessness subside.

Written by Nicole Kagan

Reviewed by Edan Harari, LMT


  • Benefits of thai massage. (n.d.).
  • Insomnia. (2012, January 20). Retrieved from
  • Massage therapy styles and health benefits. (2012, May 10). Retrieved from


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How to Meditate – 3 Easy Techniques

While meditation can sometimes seem like a difficult feat, meditating can be as simple as watching the breath or observing one’s surroundings. Supplement your life with a daily meditation practice by following these helpful guidelines and techniques.

Notice thoughts: do not judge or avoid them

The most important element of meditation is this: simply notice your experience. We all have ideas bubbling in our minds throughout the day, so it’s completely normal for thoughts to come up. Simply observe or “watch” what is happening: become aware of any thoughts, emotions, stimuli, or sensations that come up, and do not judge them as “good” or “bad”. Similarly, do not try to control or avoid thoughts since this will only create inner tension and resistance.

Prepare yourself

Meditate in a comfortable, quiet, and spacious area where you feel safe. Sit on the floor cross-legged with a pillow underneath you to elevate your spine. If you are uncomfortable or have hip or knee pain, sit on a chair with your back straight and your feet on the floor. Set a timer and try to let go of any concerns as you begin your meditation session. Make sure to shut off any devices that may distract you.

Start simple and be consistent

When just beginning your meditation practice, start with shorter sessions—set a timer for five minutes each day and gradually add time when you feel ready. You can meditate for five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes, or however long you like.

Be brief but consistent: you can meditate when you first wake up or before you go to bed, as this will help set a positive tone for the day and will help you experience a relaxing and deep sleep. If you prefer, meditate in the afternoon or during your lunch break to balance yourself in the middle of the day.

Meditation Techniques

Technique 1. Breathing – Lengthening the exhale

As natural as breathing is, it has been used as a powerful tool for thousands of years to calm anxiety and establish mental clarity. One simple breathing technique involves “following” the breath and extending each exhale slightly.

Step-by-step instructions:

  • Sitting in a comfortable position, inhale gently and steadily for four counts.
  • At the top of your inhale, hold your breath for three counts.
  • Then, as slowly and gently as possible, exhale for six counts.
  • Hold the breath out for a count of one to finish.
  • Repeat for at least five minutes

*Note: When your exhalation is slightly longer than your inhalation, your vagus nerve (which moves from the neck down through the diaphragm) signals your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system, which is involved in the body’s activities while comfortable and at rest. Similarly, the vagus nerve cues the brain to turn down the sympathetic nervous system, which functions as a way of stimulating body functions associated with stress and the fight-or-flight response.

Technique 2. Walking meditation

Walking meditation is a way to practice moving without a goal or intention,” says Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. It can be used to become aware of each step that we take, regardless of where we are, and it can be joined with the practice of mindful breathing as we walk through a space with our bodies and minds.

Step-by-step instructions:

  • Choose a place to begin your walking meditation and go there. Walking through a local park or forest can be therapeutic, and going for a walk around your neighborhood can work, too.
  • Set an intention to remain silent throughout your walk and to observe stimuli in a manner that is nonattached, observant, and calm.
  • Begin to take steps that are slow and relaxed. Observe your experience with awareness. Focus your attention on the feeling of walking and other parts of your environment like the colors, people, animals, sounds, and temperature. Notice the weather and the way the air feels around you.
  • As you move your body, pay attention to your inhalations and exhalations.

*Note: You can practice walking meditation individually or with other people. Tai Chi and Qigong are also types of moving meditation which you may be interested in.

Technique 3. Trataka meditation

In Trataka meditation, one focuses their attention on the flame of a candle or another object of interest. The technique is used to establish concentration and it creates stillness as the mind becomes focused on the flame. The benefits of Trataka meditation range from relaxation, to improved eyesight, to, activation of the third eye (pineal gland), and they can be felt by anyone.

Step-by-step instructions:

  • Light a candle and put it on a small table 3-4 feet in front of you.
  • Sit comfortably with the spine upright and the upper body relaxed. Any posture is fine; but try to refrain from moving for the duration of the practice.
  • Check to make sure that the flame is at the level of your eyes.
  • Close your eyes and take 4-5 deep breaths to relax.
  • Open your eyes and gaze at the flame without being distracted by thoughts or external disturbances. Keep your eyes open and do not blink, for as long as is comfortable. If thoughts come up, simply acknowledge them and get back to focusing on the flame and your breath.
  • Keep your vision steady on the flame rather than the candle or wick.
  • Continue to look at the flame until you cannot keep your eyes open anymore. Close your eyes.
  • When you close your eyes, you may visualize an after-image of the flame. Bring this image to the point between your eyebrows at the middle of the forehead, where your third eye is.
  • When the image begins to fade away completely, become aware of your breathing and begin to watch the flow of your breath for 7-8 breaths (If you cannot see the image of the flame, that’s okay. Simply continue with the exercise. With practice, the depth of your concentration will allow the after-image to become clearer).
  • Open your eyes and repeat the full routine 1-2 more times.


Meditating causes us to be less reactive, less automatic in our responses, and more intentional with our actions. There isn’t any specific result you need—you don’t have to be “enlightened” or reach some sort of nirvana—but hopefully you’ll feel more relaxed and grounded afterwards. While some meditation sessions are more successful than others, keep up a regular practice to improve concentration and grow in mental clarity. The purpose of meditation is to improve concentration and to become more comfortable with the present moment.

Written by Nicole Kagan



  • Berzin, R. (2012, April 01). A simple breathing exercise to calm your mind & body.
  • Hanh, T. N. (2008). Mindful movements: Ten exercises for well-being. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
  • Trataka and the amazing benefits of candle gazing. (2013, November 02).
Natural Health News and Articles

6 Ways to Fight Osteoarthritis with Food

Move over, apples, it’s time to start sharing the spotlight.

We’ve all heard “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” but more and more research is showing health benefits of a variety of other foods too. Especially when it comes to osteoarthritis.

As the approximately 27 million Americans who suffer from it can attest, it often begins slowly with stiffness and soreness that is uncomfortable but not seemingly serious. Some lucky people stay at this level while others have it grow increasingly painful and debilitating to the point simple tasks like walking and sleeping are difficult. It can affect a variety of joints but the knees, back and hips are frequent victims.

A number of factors can cause it ranging from being overweight and/or older to overusing the joint or having a previous injury to simply being unlucky genetically-speaking. While there is no cure, maintaining a proper weight and staying active are key—as well as eating nutritious foods.

Inflammation in particular is a big enemy when it comes to keeping osteoarthritis at bay as it creates free radicals which can damage the cushions between joints (as well as various other body tissues).

Foods that can help fight against inflammation are some of the following:

  • Antioxidants—Antioxidants are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables including strawberries, apples, onions, kale and blueberries among others. Green tea and cocoa powder contain them as well.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids—This nutritional powerhouse is common in fish such as salmon, tuna, trout and sardines so aim for at least two 3-ounce servings a week. Walnuts and omega-3 fortified eggs are other options.
  • Olive Oil—Olive oil contains the compound oleocanthal which acts similarly to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Next time instead of popping a 200 mg pill, try 3-and-a-half tablespoons of olive oil instead. (When possible use it instead of butter and other fats as olive oil is relatively high in calories.)
  • Spices—Spices especially turmeric and ginger also seem to have anti-inflammatory benefits.

Getting enough of certain vitamins is also critical. For example:

  • Vitamin C – Vitamin C can be found in everything from oranges, strawberries and kiwi to tomatoes and bell peppers to broccoli and kale and is important in maintaining cartilage health.
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D may also help keep cartilage healthy so eat fortified milk and eggs, wild-caught salmon and shrimp and various Vitamin D and calcium-fortified foods like cereal and orange juice.

Finally, it’s important to avoid a few things too. Saturated and trans fats, excess salt and sugar should all be consumed in moderation if at all. Also, watch out for AGEs or advanced glycation end products which can end up in foods that are cooked at high temperatures and lead to inflammation. Examples include fried, grilled and broiled meats as well as some processed foods.

So go ahead and eat those apples…but make sure to add some of these other powerhouses to the plate as well.

by Kristen Stewart
Kristen is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting and lifestyle topics. To learn more, visit her website at




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Fibromyalgia and D-ribose

Studies tout the energy boost D-ribose provides people suffering from fibromyalgia.

D-ribose, also called ribose or Beta-D-ribofuranose, is a type of sugar that your body produces naturally.

  • D-ribose increases the energy to all of the cells of the body, especially the muscle cells. Supplementing with D-ribose can provide your heart with the energy boost that it needs.
  • D-ribose commonly comes in capsule or powdered form. The powdered form is preferred as you can add it to your morning drink.
  • The recommended starting dose is 2500 mg. Increase by 2500 mg every few weeks to reach a maximum dose of 10,000 mg.
  • Even though ribose is a “sugar” it will not raise blood glucose levels. Higher doses than 10,000 mg can cause diarrheal symptoms in some people.
Written by Rich Snyder, DO
  • Teitelbaum J, Johnson C et al. “The use of D-ribose in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia: a pilot study.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2006 Nov;12(9):857-62.
  • Lucas HJ, Brauch CM et al. “Fibromyalgia–new concepts of pathogenesis and treatment.” International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology. 2006 Jan-Mar;19(1):5-10.


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Fibromyalgia and Pregnancy: 6 Things to Help You Survive and Thrive

What woman isn’t tired and achy during pregnancy? Whether suffering through morning sickness in the early months or slowly waddling around in the third trimester women may often feel pregnancy is closer to an extreme physical sport than the hearts-and-flowers ads depicted on TV. Add fibromyalgia to the mix and the pain and fatigue can leap to a whole new level.

With its symptoms of musculoskeletal pain and fatigue along with issues related to sleep, mood and memory fibromyalgia can take a lot out of a person even under the best of circumstances. A number of medications can help keep problems in check but many may not be fully safe to take when pregnant.

The good news is some women can experience a lessening of symptoms during pregnancy with the increase of serotonin and cortisol. This does not happen for everyone, however, so a woman should be prepared for any outcome.

Fortunately there are some things women can do both in advance of becoming pregnant and while carrying the baby that may help.

  1. Do any experimenting with treatments before pregnancy. Take the time to explore different treatments that would be safe to use during pregnancy and find one that works before actually getting pregnant.
  2. Evaluate your life situation and look for areas to cut back on to save as much energy as possible. Consider working part time or not at all depending on fatigue levels and other symptoms. Accept help when it’s offered. Everything from meals being dropped off to errands run by someone else can translate into extra time to rest. Delegate when possible. Ordering groceries online and/or hiring a cleaning service can be a godsend.
  3. Stay active as much as you can. Exercises like stretching and swimming in a warm (but not hot) swimming pool can be helpful in keeping muscles loose and symptoms at bay. Yoga and meditation may also offer some relief.
  4. Try non-medication options. A warm bath may soothe soreness though try to limit the temperature to 100 degrees or less and time to 15-20 minutes to avoid becoming too hot. Massage from a therapist who knows both fibromyalgia and pregnancy can also be something to try.
  5. Keep in touch with your fibromyalgia specialist as well as your obstetrician. Problems ranging from pain to postpartum depression (which can strike during pregnancy or after the baby’s birth) should be discussed and addressed.
  6. Keep your eye on the prize. As challenging as a pregnancy with fibromyalgia may be, remember it’s only nine months…and has a terrific reward at the end.

Written by Kristen Stewart
Kristen is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting and lifestyle topics. To learn more, visit her website at





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Kids and Migraines: What You and Your Family Need to Know

Few things are harder for parents than seeing their kids in pain—and no one needs to tell this to the 10 percent of families that have school-age children with migraines.

Unlike in adults, migraine pain in children isn’t always as pronounced and can lead to difficulty in diagnosis. Dizziness, nausea, vomiting and/or abdominal pain are common symptoms in kids for example but not necessarily typically associated with migraines. Other tip offs can include everything from irritability and mood swings to food cravings or loss of appetite to fatigue and yawning.

While migraines can sometimes be hard to determine as the culprit in a child’s discomfort, there are some clues that can help point the finger. Specifically, a child with one parent who experiences migraines has a 40 percent chance of having migraines also. That percentage increases to 90 if both parents suffer from them. Motion sickness and certain sleep issues such as night terrors, sleep walking and sleep talking may also be indicators of a tendency to experience migraines.

The first step to getting help is finding the correct diagnosis. If migraines are suspected it’s important to see a healthcare professional for a complete patient (and family) history. This can include everything from description of the pain and how bad it is to how often it’s experienced and for how long. Other symptoms should also be discussed along with the possibility of any patterns or triggers. Medical tests may also be undertaken including an EEG, a blood test and neuroimaging among others.

Once a diagnosis of migraine is reached, successful treatment becomes the next goal. This can be achieved on several levels.

Kids & Migraines: Prevention

Obviously the most preferable, this method prevents the migraines from even starting. Discerning a child’s trigger(s) is important for this to work. Triggers in children can be similar to those found in adults such as not getting enough sleep, not eating at regular intervals, stress, environmental issues (loud noises, bright lights or strong odors), changes in the weather, eating certain foods and in the case of girls hormonal fluctuations. While a few of these cannot be controlled, many can be by careful habits.

Herbs and supplements such as magnesium, riboflavin and feverfew among others may also be helpful for kids who suffer from many migraines. (Always consult with a healthcare professional before giving supplements or herbs to a child.)

Finally, some families find they are able to ward off migraines using means such as biofeedback, hypnosis, imagery and other relaxation techniques. Exercise, acupuncture and cognitive behavioral therapy are other possibilities to explore.

Kids & Migraines: The Future

To the extent possible it’s important to try to get childhood migraines under control. Not only do they cause pain and other debilitating symptoms but even just the anxiety and fear kids experience thinking they might have a migraine can wreak havoc on their enjoyment of school and social activities.

In some cases children can look forward to growing out of their migraines but others may suffer with them for decades with 60 percent of kids who started having them in adolescence still experiencing them decades later.

By Kristen Stewart
Kristen is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting and lifestyle topics. To learn more, visit her website at





Holistic Resources for Migraines

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Far-Infrared Saunas in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a debilitating, chronic condition characterized by symptoms of generalized musculoskeletal pain and stiffness, chronic fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal dysfunction, sleep problems and depression. There is no cure for fibromyalgia but symptoms and flare ups can be successfully managed. Though pharmacology tends to be the mainstream treatment, these drugs come with side effects. Furthermore, drugs result in the build-up of toxins in the body. Body toxins are hypothesized to be a significant factor in fibromyalgia.

The Importance of Detoxification In Fibromyalgia

Medications certainly are not the only toxic substances that can build up in our body. Sugar, food colorings and additives are daily culprits. There is also what we inhale and absorb through our skin. The body holds toxins at a cellular level and when these toxins are stockpiled for too long they may either cause or aggravate health conditions.

Our body naturally detoxes when we void, sweat and breathe, yet those living with fibromyalgia may have an increased sensitivity and vulnerability to toxins. Many believe fibromyalgia suffers have a large “toxic load” and problems with their detoxification pathways.

There are many benefits to detoxing for general health and wellness. Emerging research supports a decrease in fibromyalgia symptoms after detoxification treatments, therefore assisting the body with detoxification may be particularly helpful for those living with fibromyalgia.

Reducing your intake of toxins by eating organically and avoiding toxic personal care products, detergents and cleaners is an important step. Other detoxifying methods include lymphatic massage, ionic foot baths and far-infrared saunas.

What Is A Far-Infrared Sauna?

Unlike the saunas you might see in the gym, a far-infrared sauna uses light to create heat. Instead of using heat to warm the surrounding air (which then warms your body), far-infrared saunas emit waves that stimulate cellular metabolism. It acts like the sun, without giving you a tan. It directly heats your body without warming the air around you.

The benefits of saunas is that they make you sweat. This is important because when you sweat, toxins are released from the body. A traditional sauna gives you a surface sweat. A far-infrared sauna, however, makes your sweat much deeper and therefore it’s more detoxifying.

The added benefit of a far-infrared sauna is that it yields the same results as a traditional sauna without the high temperatures so anyone can utilize them without concerns of over-heating.

Far-Infrared Saunas for Fibromyalgia

Sauna treatments have enjoyed popularity in the restoration and rejuvenation of the skin and body. They have demonstrated some benefit in the treatment of health conditions such as fatigue, insomnia, arthritis and pain which are major symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Studies using far-infrared saunas in the treatment of high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and rheumatoid arthritis report some benefit. While more studies need to be conducted on far-infrared saunas in the treatment of a wide variety of chronic illnesses including fibromyalgia, there have been no known studies showing any adverse effects (Mayo

Other Health Benefits of Far-Infrared Saunas

Far-infrared saunas can be used as a general health and wellness tool for weight loss and stress management. They been utilized in the treatment of a variety of health conditions – from sports injuries to high blood pressure to chronic pain relief. As always, consult with your doctor before embarking on far-infrared sauna treatments.

Written by Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D.

Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D. is a freelance writer with a doctorate in psychology. Her personal essays and parenting articles have appeared in various newspapers and magazines. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four girls, one of whom has extensive special needs. She can be found writing about her adventures in parenting at her blog, Lost In Holland.


  • Marianne Beck, Women’s Best Health ( )
  • Brent A. Bauer, M.D., Mayo Clinic ( )
  • Kim Henderson, Hot News for Fibromyalgia Sufferers, (


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Bodywork for Migraines

When treating migraines from a holistic approach, sufferers may wish to consider bodywork and physical treatments to alleviate symptoms and frequency of attacks. Several techniques are available from practitioners and specialists to relieve migraine pain, control physiological responses and eliminate nerve inflammation.

The Chinese Medicine Practice of Acupuncture has shown much promise for the treatment of migraines. Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles through the skin at reflex points to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue for the relief of migraine symptoms. Clinical trials have shown acupuncture to help reduce headache pain by targeting the health of blood vessels involved in migraine attacks.

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Similarly, the practice of Acupressure is also effective in treating migraines. Acupressure uses the same reflex points as acupuncture, but the areas are stimulated with gentle pressure using fingers, hands or small seeds instead of needles. Points can be held, rubbed or tapped during an acute attack to relieve migraine pain. Acupressure can self-administered or migraine sufferers can attend sessions by a certified acupresure specialist to prevent migraine frequency.

The alternative medicine technique called Biofeedback is another option for the treatment of migraines. Biofeedback aims to condition the body’s response to the onset of imbalances. Biofeedback focuses on connecting your mind to physical reactions from the body and helps train it to control bodily functions such as muscle tightening and heart rate. During a treatment session, an individual has electronic sensors that measure biological feedback, including migraine stress triggers. Learning to control your body’s response to stress can help prevent or stop a migraine attack.

Lastly, treating migraines with Chiropractic therapy can significantly help migraine sufferers. Chiropractic therapy offers spinal alignment to help keep the body balanced and functioning optimally. When used for migraine treatment, chiropractors align the vertebrae in an attempt to alleviate nerve irritation. Chiropractors believe that nerve irritation along the spine can create chemical imbalances in the brain, which are perhaps the number one cause of migraines. When specific attention is given to posture and restoring spinal alignment, the nerves function freely and without interruption.

Visiting a chiropractor migraine headaches can include a single or multiple visits to correct spinal misalignment. Most sessions provide immediate relief from symptoms associated with migraines but proper posture, consistent stretching, and good spine health are required for more permanent relief.

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5 Ways to Avoid (or Banish) Pregnancy Migraines

Most pregnant women expect common symptoms like morning sickness and back pain. Pregnancy migraines, on the other hand, catch many by surprise. This is especially true because they can be unpredictable.

Some women who had migraines before pregnancy, for example, experience them more often when with child while others are stricken less frequently. Still other women who have never had a migraine suddenly have one for the first time during pregnancy.

Experts are not entirely sure why this is nor can they guess which camp a particular woman will fall into. Hormones are an obvious culprit but they are not the only one with experts also pointing fingers at chemicals in the brain which can affect blood vessels. Outside forces can be at work too including stress and fatigue, sensory stimulation like heat, cold, bright lights and loud noises, tobacco smoke and some foods and food ingredients.

Regardless of the cause, pregnancy migraines can be miserable with throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. In addition, either before or during a migraine some women may experience an aura that can include light flashes, blurry vision, blind spots and/or tingling or numbness in arms or legs. Dizziness, nausea, vomiting and fatigue can also accompany the migraine.

Fortunately there are things women can do to try to help. For example:

  1. Keep a headache journal. Note when and where a pregnancy migraine strikes along with what has been eaten and any activities that were being undertaken in order to look for a trigger pattern.
  2. Avoid any known triggers. Watch out for chocolate, caffeine, nitrates and artificial sweeteners in the diet which are known to cause issues for some people along with anything else that has been personally determined. Staying away from smokers is a healthy practice anyway but especially important for women prone to pregnancy migraines.
  3. Take care of yourself. Sometimes easier said than done but try to find the time to get enough sleep and decompress as both fatigue and stress can contribute to migraines. Exercise may help lessen their numbers and severity. Drink enough water to stay fully hydrated and eat at regular intervals.
  4. If a migraine does strike, try to lay down as soon as possible in a dark quiet room with a cold compress. Sometimes taking a nap can decrease the pain or even stop it.
  5. Be sure to discuss pregnancy migraines with a healthcare provider. It is possible the headache could be caused by preeclampsia which is a serious pregnancy complication. If preeclampsia is ruled out, the doctor may be able to recommend relatively safe medications to take to ease the pain (always check before taking any medicines, herbs or supplements during pregnancy).

Written by Kristen Stewart
She is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting and lifestyle topics. To learn more, visit her website at

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Pilates as a Safe and Effective Exercise for Fibromyalgia

If you are looking for a functional form of exercise that can help improve strength, balance, and flexibility without worsening pain or fatigue then look no further than Pilates. It is a comprehensive system that also includes light muscle resistance training in addition to performing efficient and balanced movements while building a strong central core. Because the goal of Pilates is to exercise all muscle groups symmetrically, the risk for muscle fatigue or injury is very low.

Can Pilates be effective for someone with Fibromyalgia? Absolutely. In one study, fifty women who had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia were randomized into two different treatment groups. The first group underwent Pilates training for 60 minutes three times a week for a duration of twelve weeks. The control group was given a home exercise program. At twelve weeks, the group receiving the Pilates training noted a significant improvement in pain as well as a reduction of tender points. They also noted an overall improvement in quality of life compared to the control group. At the 24 week mark, the group who had received the Pilates training did not notice a difference in pain but did have a sustained reduction in tender points and overall life quality compared to the control group. The authors concluded that Pilates was safe and effective in the treatment of Fibromyalgia. The difference in the pain reduction for the group receiving Pilates at 12 and 24 weeks may have been simply that the Pilates treatment stopped at 12 weeks. They experienced a reduction in pain while they were doing the Pilates training.

Fibromyalgia is associated with back pain and chronic pelvic pain. Pilates is also effective in treating low back pain, strengthening the pelvic musculature and improving the stability and flexibility of the pelvic ligaments. Consider adding Pilates to your treatment regimen.

by Rich Snyder, DO

  • Altan L, Korkmaz et al. “Effect of pilates training on people with fibromyalgia syndrome: a pilot study.” Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2009 Dec;90(12):1983-8.
  • Phrompaet S, Paungmali S et al. “Effects of pilates training on lumbo-pelvic stability and flexibility.” Asian Journal of Sports Medicine. 2011 Mar;2(1):16-22.
  • Rydeard R, Leger A et al. “Pilates-based therapeutic exercise: effect on subjects with nonspecific chronic low back pain and functional disability: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy. 2006 Jul;36(7):472-84.
  • Photo credit:


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The Challenge of Treating Pain “Traditionally” when there is Heart or Kidney Disease

Pain is one of the most common reasons that people go to see their doctor. Developing the right treatment plan can be challenging, but this task becomes especially daunting when other medical conditions are present, including heart and kidney disease. Many of the commonly prescribed medications used for pain need to be used with caution if you have either of these conditions. Heart disease represents the number one killer in America and Congestive Heart Failure represents the most common reason that people are going to the hospital. Kidney disease affects approximately one in eight individuals, with approximately over thirty million people diagnosed with kidney disease.

One of the most common classes of medications used to treat pain include the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS. The side effect profile of this class of medications makes them almost intolerable for someone with heart disease. They may antagonize the effect of aspirin and other blood thinners patients may be on which can increase their risk of developing a heart attack. NSAIDS can raise blood pressure as well. If you have kidney disease, the increase in blood pressure is detrimental to your well-being. NSAIDS also increase the risk of bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract; blood thinners such as aspirin or Plavix further increase this risk. Furthermore, NSAIDS significantly elevate your potassium levels which can affect your heart, can cause your body to retain salt and water, and have the potential to cause worsening of kidney function.

Acetaminophen is a commonly prescribed medication for pain. It is known to be toxic to the liver, but long-term chronic exposure, especially at higher doses, may affect kidney function. The use of narcotics also needs to be monitored closely in the setting of kidney disease. Morphine needs to be dosed carefully as the metabolites of morphine can “hang around” longer in the body as they are not eliminated by the kidney as quickly when kidney disease is present. This increases the potential of developing side effects including depression of the respiratory drive and increased lethargy and confusion.

The alternative is to develop a holistic treatment plan in treating chronic pain. Eating a diet that is alkaline and anti-inflammatory, promoting the use of nutrients that reduce inflammation and pain provides significant benefits to your heart and kidneys.

by Rich Snyder, DO


  • Kuo HW, Tsai SS et al. “Analgesic use and the risk for progression of chronic kidney disease.” Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety. 2010 Jul;19(7):745-51.
  • Ray WA, Varas-Lorenzo C. “Cardiovascular risks of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs in patients after hospitalization for serious coronary heart disease.” Circulation, Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2009 May;2(3):155-63.

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