An MRI last year showed that I have scoliosis. My spine is curved at the base, and some discs and vertebrae have degenerated, causing significant pain in my back and legs and making it difficult to go up and down stairs. Physio has not helped so far. Should I Try Pilates?
Brenda Tidbury, Tilehurst, Reading.
I am sorry to hear about all the problems with your spine and the discomfort and disruption they have caused in your life.
The type of spinal degeneration you describe is common, with a number of possible causes, including osteoporosis, wear and tear of the shock-absorbing discs that sit between the vertebrae (or bones) of the spine, and inflammation of the facet joints, which hold the bones of the spine. connect spine.
The underlying problem is usually aging, although heredity, your eating habits in adolescence (95 percent of peak bone mass is reached before age 20, so adequate calcium intake is vital) and the amount of exercise you’ve taken over the years (exercise builds bone strength) also play a role.
Aside from the debilitating pain you experience, another problem is inflammation. This is the body’s way of trying to heal the damage to the bone, but can lead to narrowing of the spinal canal, which carries the nerves that pass messages between your trunk and limbs.
I am sorry to hear about all the problems with your spine and the discomfort and disruption they have caused in your life. The kind of spinal degeneration you describe is common
This narrowing puts pressure on the nerves, which also causes pain in your legs.
Treating spinal pain can be complicated, which is why we now have so-called iPASS (Integrated Pain and Spine Service) clinics, dedicated to the treatment of chronic spinal pain.
You state in your longer letter that you have been referred to an iPASS clinic. Essentially, you will be assessed by a multidisciplinary team, hopefully leading to advice on the best approach for your treatment.
This may initially mean that you will first be seen by a specialized physiotherapist. Even if the recommended physical therapy didn’t help, I wouldn’t try Pilates sessions without further advice from the team looking after you.
For example, a member of the neurology team or one of the neurosurgical specialists may recommend that you have surgery to relieve pressure on the nerves in your spine.
In the meantime, I would recommend sticking to the exercises as it can take weeks or months to see the benefits of physio.
Treating spinal pain can be complicated, which is why we now have so-called iPASS (Integrated Pain and Spinal Service) clinics, dedicated to treating chronic spinal pain
I was on statins for a slight narrowing of an artery. Since then I’ve heard that plant sterols do the same thing, but are more ‘natural’. Are they a good alternative?
Anne Smith, by e-mail.
Sterols and stanols are molecules found in many plants — from grains and fruits to vegetables and nuts — that reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed from the foods we eat. And now they are incorporated into some manufactured foods (like spreads).
You have been given statins because your doctor has diagnosed early coronary artery disease and there is a lot of evidence that lowering cholesterol (especially LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) reduces the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries and increases the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Statins are the most powerful means of achieving this, but the best results are when combined with a healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean diet.
In addition, studies confirm that consuming sterols and stanols, as well as taking statins, can further lower cholesterol.
So eating foods rich in plant sterols and stanols may provide an added benefit to your statins, but they are by no means a substitute for them.
In the meantime, I recommend sticking to the exercises as it can take weeks or months to see the benefits of physio
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In my opinion: friends and family are the key to health
For over ten years my wife has been participating in UK Biobank, a massive research project involving half a million people providing genetic samples and other information to improve our understanding of disease.
She and 100,000 others are about to undergo brain and body scans, detailed heart scans, blood tests, and other examinations.
The potential benefits of this research are extraordinary, but as I dug deeper into this, I came across another more low-tech project that also had some compelling results.
Launched in 1938 at Harvard Medical School, the Grant study has followed hundreds of men for more than 75 years (it’s still ongoing).
The aim was to determine the factors that play a role in healthy aging. The launch of the research predated the modern technology of the Biobank research, but the findings are valuable.
The bottom line is that happy marriages and fulfilling relationships (with family, teachers, or peers) result in better health and longer life. In other words, how we relate to others is the key to good health.
It’s a lesson we can all benefit from.