How Muscles Work

Every muscle is actually a wrapped package, containing other smaller wrapped packages of long, slender cells known as muscle fibers. The outer wrapping, made of connective tissue, is called the muscle fascia. The smaller packages are called muscle fascicles, and each one contains a bundle of up to 150 muscle fibers. At both ends of every muscle, the fascia covering the muscle tapers to form a strong, rope-like length of connective tissue called a tendon, which is connected directly to one of your bones. One end, which connects to a relatively unmoving skeletal part, is the origin of the muscle. The point where it’s attached to a moving bone is the insertion of the muscle. For example, the biceps muscle originates at the shoulder, and its insertion is in the forearm, near the elbow, which allows the forearm to flex during muscle contraction.

When the muscle contracts, it pulls on the tendon, and this causes the bone to move. The bigger the muscle, the more force it can generate on the bone. During contraction, the muscle pulls its origin and insertion closer together. Often a muscle is attached to either side of a joint, allowing motion of the joint during muscle contraction. For example, the biceps pulls the forearm up toward the body across the elbow joint.

Each muscle fiber shares a nerve ending with other nearby fibers, making up a group of fibers known as a motor unit. Every time the master motor nerve fires (sends an impulse to a muscle), this motor unit contracts simultaneously. This effect is called the “all-or-nothing” principle of muscle contraction.

So how many fibers are in a motor unit? It depends on whether the muscles are used for large, powerful movements, which require less nerve control, or for intricate activities, which call for more nervous system input. A typical finger muscle contains 40,000 muscle fibers divided into 120 motor units — a ratio of 340 fibers per nerve ending. The eye muscles are even more finely controlled, with 10 fibers per nerve. On the other hand, each of the 580 motor units in the large muscle of the calf is much bigger — averaging about 2,000 muscle fibers per nerve ending.

Every time a nerve ending fires, a burst of energy is released in each individual muscle fiber, causing tiny filaments to slide toward each other. The result is a significant shortening of the muscle fiber. When the fibers in a motor unit contract in unison, the result is a muscle contraction. Whatever form of exercise you’re doing, from swimming to bicycling; your movements depend on the repeated, coordinated firing of the appropriate motor units. Improved coordination of this firing sequence is a major reason you get more skilled at any physical activity with practice.

Swine Flu Jab Linked to Rare Nerve Disease

LONDON – There may be a possible link between the swine flu jab and an increased risk of developing a rare nerve disease, admit health watchdogs.

Experts are carrying out studies to examine a possible link between the vaccine and Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis and even death.

Authorities have always denied any link although it had been suspected that a previous swine flu vaccine had caused the disease in the US in the 1970s.

Now the Medicines and Health care products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has published a report that suggests that further tests are to be carried out, reports the Telegraph.

It reads: “Given the uncertainties in the available information and as with seasonal flu vaccines, a slightly elevated risk of GBS following H1N1 vaccines cannot be ruled out.”

It is not known precisely what causes GBS but the condition attacks the lining of the nerves, leaving them unable to transmit signals to muscles effectively.

It can cause partial paralysis and mostly affects the hands and feet – but it can be fatal if it paralyses the respiratory system.

A vaccine used to combat a different form of swine flu in the US in 1976 led to 25 deaths from the condition, compared with just one death from swine flu itself.

The MHRA had 15 suspected GBS cases after vaccination – and six million doses of the swine flu jab Pandemrix were given.

US-Based Group Launches Hospital Ranking Service in India

NEW DELHI – With patient care and safety emerging as a major concern, a US-based health care organization has launched a certification service for hospitals for the first time in India.

KEMP Health care has started a comprehensive collection of evidence-based performance indicators that have been tried and tested in international health care systems as reliable benchmarks. The hospitals would be evaluated on parameters like safety, quality, timeliness, effectiveness and patient satisfaction.

It would then rate hospitals on a five star scale.

This certification would give the hospitals additional credibility and confidence within an increasingly competitive market and will make them more attractive to the health insurance providers, panel companies and also to the foreign visitors coming to India for medical tourism, Pallav Bhatnagar, KEMP managing Director, said Monday.

Bhatnagar said it was ironical that the country which has one of the most contemporary health care systems in the world does not have a formal mechanism to gauge how good it is.

On one hand we have sophisticated health care facilities, while on the other we have numerous clinics and nursing homes that inundate the cities and are trying to provide the best care with their limited resources, making the entire health care delivery system in India look patchy and sporadic, added Bhatnagar.

THE SECRET OF A LONGER LIFE

VARIETY on our meal tables holds the key to a long and healthy life.

Food that contains anti-oxidants, wholegrain and vital fatty acids can cut the risk of killer illnesses including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, a study shows.

Scientists found that the diet could reduce cholesterol – a significant cause of heart disease – by a third and bring blood pressure down by nearly a tenth.
But rather than just a narrow range of foods being responsible for boosting health, the research showed that the answer was a widely varied diet that might include oily fish, porridge oats and blueberries.

Nutritionist Angela Dowden said: “The key is definitely to introduce these kinds of foods into the diet. It is a very healthy diet and completely proves the point that it is about healthy eating as a whole, not just doing one thing.

“It is a lifestyle change instead of tweaks here and there. It could be that it is just one of the foods that is producing these effects but it is much more likely that it is an additive affect of them all contributing.

“I think this study is very interesting and it is showing time and time again that it is about an additive approach, not just doing one thing.”

Ms Dowden, who was not part of the research group, added: “This is another spin on the Mediterranean diet.“All of these foods have independently been shown to have some health benefits so it makes sense that they have a big impact when combined.”

It has long been known that keeping active and a healthy diet can hold back the onset of a range of diseases like heart problems and cancer.
Previous studies have put this down to eating lots of antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables and nuts, others to a diet rich in fish containing essential fatty acids, like fresh mackerel, and some to wholegrain cereals.

But the results of the study carried out at Ant diabetic Food Centre at Lund University in Sweden have shown that it is multiple rather than just single foods with anti-inflammatory effects that work wonders.

Inger Björck, professor of food-related nutrition at the university and head of the Ant diabetic Food Centre, who carried out the research, said: “The results have exceeded our expectations. I would like to claim that there has been no previous study with similar effects on healthy subjects. Our purpose was to find out which preventive effect can be obtained on established risk markers by combining food concepts with an expected positive impact on inflammation.

“We hope that these results on healthy subjects will inspire more intense preventive efforts in society.”

She said it was not possible to tell precisely which food factors had a greater or lesser impact on the research results.

“That’s the point,” she added. “We believe in the idea of combined effects. Drug or specific products with health claims affect only one or maybe a couple of risk factors.

“By a combination of food you can in a simple and striking way affect many risk parameters simultaneously.”

The study saw 44 healthy but overweight people between the ages of 50 and 75 take part.

They ate foods which are presumed to reduce low-grade inflammation in the body, a condition which in turn triggers metabolic syndrome which leads to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The test diet was high in antioxidants, low-GI foods – which release carbohydrates slowly – omega fatty acids, wholegrain products, probiotics and viscous dietary fiber.

Examples of foods the test group ate included oily fish, barley, soy protein, blueberries, almonds, cinnamon, vinegar and a certain type of wholegrain bread.
The results showed that the diet slashed bad cholesterol by 33 per cent, lipids – blood fats – by 14 per cent, blood pressure by 8 per cent and a risk marker for blood clots by 26 per cent.

A marker of inflammation in the body was also greatly reduced, while memory and cognitive function were improved.

Inflammation is thought by some experts to be one of the chief causes of chronic diseases.

It can lead to cells becoming damaged and turning cancerous and inflammation has been linked to a higher risk of developing heart disease.

This is Britain’s biggest killer, claiming the lives of one in five men and one in seven women.

About 2.6 million people in this country have Type 2 diabetes, which is caused by poor diet and a lack of exercise.

More than 820,000 people have a form of dementia, with more than half suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. By 2025, a million people will have dementia, soaring to 1.7 million by 2051.

Strict Diet Cuts Risk of Breast Cancer

LONDON – A strict diet two days a week comprising only vegetables, fruits, milk and a salty beverage could prevent breast cancer.

Women who cut back to just 650 calories a day, twice a week, had significantly lower levels of cancer-causing hormones in their blood, according to a new study.

Researchers said women at high risk of breast cancer could be put on similar diets for the rest of their lives to try to prevent tumours.

The study examined 50 overweight women aged 30 to 45 years who were at a high genetic risk of developing breast cancer as either their mother or sister had suffered from the disease, the Daily Mail reported.

For two days each week, they were limited to eating just a third of the recommended 2,000 calorie daily intake for women, the International Journal of Obesity said.

This had to include four portions of vegetables, one piece of fruit, two pints of semi-skimmed milk or green tea, a diet soft drink or a salty beverage such as a cup of hot Bovril.

For the remainder of the week, they were allowed to eat as much as they wanted, as long as they stuck to healthy food that was relatively low in fat.

After six months, scientists found that the women had far less leptin and insulin in their blood – hormones that can cause cancer.

Leptin fell by an average of 40 percent and insulin by an average of 25 percent.

The women also lost an average of 6.3 kg in weight and recorded a 15 percent drop in levels of the potentially harmful C-reactor protein, which is also known to increase the risk of breast cancer, in their blood.

Michelle Harvie, a dietician specialising in breast cancer, who led the study at the Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, said: “On the two-day diet you can restrict your calories far more than you would be able to if you were on a diet every single day.”

How To Slow Down Your Eating

Slow down, you eat too fast!

It takes 20 minutes for our stomach to tell our brains that we are full. If we eat fast, we can eat way past what we need. This causes us to be overweight, develop chronic health problems and reduce our quality and quantity of life.

Slow down using this “Fork Down!” technique that has helped many people. You may even notice yourself tasting your food, enjoying it more and losing weight.

Here’s How:

  1. Put food in your mouth.
  2. Put your fork, spoon, or chopsticks on the table.
  3. Release your fork, spoon or chopsticks from your hand.
  4. Chew your food. Chew it well. Pay attention to taste and texture.
  5. Empty your mouth.
  6. Pick up your fork and reload it with food. (Do not do step six until your mouth is 100% empty.)
  7. Continue the technique through the whole meal. Notice if your eating time increases. Notice too if you naturally eat less.

Paralyzed Patient Gets Stem Cells to Walk Again

LONDON – A paralyzed patient has become the first person to receive a shot of human embryonic stem cells to help him walk again.

Doctors believe stem cells will help nerves in a newly-damaged spinal cord regenerate before the disability becomes permanent.

The patient has had millions of stem cells injected into the site of his injury in an effort to find a revolutionary cure, according to the US firm carrying out the hugely controversial experiment.

The study has been described by University College London professor Chris Mason as “the dawn of the Stem Cell Age”.

It is likely to reignite a fiery debate over the ethics of the treatment, which uses cells derived from three-to-five-day old fertilized embryos discarded by in vitro fertilization (IVF) doctors, the Daily Mail reported.

It offers hope to patients suffering from devastating spinal injuries and blindness – the two specific areas being targeted by the US tests.

Researchers are also looking to unlock the potential of stem cells for new ways to treat cancer, Parkinson’s disease and a host of other illnesses.

In animal experiments, paralyzed rats were able to walk again after being injected with the cells, but the effect on humans is still unknown.

The landmark test at a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, by US biotech giant Geron comes after America’s Food and Drug Administration eased restrictions on stem cell research.

Geron president Thomas Okarma said it will take some time to get the results.

The technology was championed by Superman star Christopher Reeve, who received the treatment for his spinal injury after a fall.

Definitions of Herbal Properties

adaptogen: a non-toxic substance which helps the body to adapt to stressful situations while also normalizing physiology

alterative: gradually alters the body towards health, also often referred to as a blood cleanser. Alteratives work directly through the metabolism

anodyne: pain relieving

antibacterial: effective against bacteria

anticoagulant: prevents blood from clotting, blood thinner

antidepressant: relieves depression

antifungal: effective against fungal infections

anti-inflammatory: reduces inflammation

antimicrobial: inhibits micro-organisms

antioxidant: prevents free radical or oxidative damage

antiseptic: prevents growth of microbes

antispasmodic: stops spasms

anti-tumor: inhibits growth of tumors

antiviral: inhibits growth of viruses

aphrodisiac: increases libido

aromatic digestant: promotes digestion through aromatic actions of moving energy and relieving stagnation (promoting peristalsis, expelling gas, etc)

astringent: tightens tissues, useful for toning organs, stopping diarrhea and other excessive fluid loss

bitter: a taste that stimulates salivation and the secretion of bile and HCL to promote

carminative: expels gas from the intestines (often an aromatic digestant)

cell proliferant: promotes cell growth

cholagogue: stimulates bile flow from the gall bladder

circulatory stimulant: promotes circulation

demulcent: internally soothing, often times a mucilaginous that coats and protects the

diaphoretic: a relaxing diaphoretic relaxes the exterior to allow for heat to leave the body a stimulating diaphoretic engages the tissues to help push the heat out.

digestant: aids digestion

diuretic: stimulates urination

emetic: promotes vomiting

emmenagogue: promotes menstruation

emollient: soothing and softening to the skin

expectorant: promotes the expulsion of mucous from the lungs

hemostatic: stops bleeding

hepatoprotective: protects the liver

hypotensive: lowers blood pressure

immunomodulator: promotes health in the immune system by modulating extremes in hyper or hypo action

laxative: promotes bowel evacuation

lymphatic: promotes lymphatic movement; an example is reducing enlarged lymph glands

mood elevator: promotes a happier disposition

nervine: can be relaxing or stimulating. A relaxing nervine relaxes constricted or contracted tissues in the nervous system. . A stimulating nervine stimulates stagnant or overly relaxed tissues of the nervous system.

nutritive: contains a high amount of vitamins and minerals

sialagogue; promotes the salivary glands to secrete saliva

styptic: stops bleeding usually through astringent actions

tonic: gradually increases organ tone and is often considered invigorating

trophorestorative: a nourishing herb or food that usually has an affinity to a particular organ or system of the body, it acts on the particular system to bring it into balance and can also restore function

vulnerary: heals wounds

Internal Body Temperature Regulates Body Clock

WASHINGTON – Fluctuations in internal body temperature regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle that controls metabolism, sleep and other bodily functions, revealed UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers.

A light-sensitive portion of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) remains the body’s “master clock” that coordinates the daily cycle, but it does so indirectly.

The SCN responds to light entering the eye, and so, is sensitive to cycles of day and night. While light may be the trigger, the UT Southwestern researchers determined that the SCN transforms that information into neural signals that set the body’s temperature. These cyclic fluctuations in temperature then set the timing of cells, and ultimately tissues and organs, to be active or inactive, the study showed.

Scientists have long known that body temperature fluctuates in warm-blooded animals throughout the day on a 24-hour, or circadian, rhythm, but the new study shows that temperature actually controls body cycles, said Dr. Joseph Takahashi, chairman of neuroscience at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study.

“Small changes in body temperature can send a powerful signal to the clocks in our bodies,” said Dr. Takahashi, an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, as saying.

“It takes only a small change in internal body temperature to synchronize cellular ‘clocks’ throughout the body,” he added.

In the current study, the researchers focused on cultured mouse cells and tissues, and found that genes related to circadian functions were controlled by temperature fluctuations.

SCN cells were not temperature-sensitive, however. This finding makes sense, Dr. Takahashi said, because if the SCN, as the master control mechanism, responded to temperature cues, a disruptive feedback loop could result, he said.

The study has been published in the issue of Science.

Donors Give New Meaning to Eye for an Eye

NEW DELHI – Schoolgoer Shivani Batra, who is 12 years old now, would often ask what the color pink, looked like, making her mother’s eyes well up. The Delhi girl suffered from corneal blindness – a problem that affects two million people in India.

But all this changed, when in 2006, Shivani’s family came to know of corneal transplants through an eye bank. An eye donor was found for Shivani – who had the problem from birth – and after a successful operation, a whole new world revealed itself to her.

“We were worried about her future. She had whole life in front of her,” Shivani’s mother Rajni Batra told IANS. “We can’t explain our gratitude to the person who donated his eyes. Giving light to someone requires courage.”

The advent of the private sector and voluntary organisations, including NGOs, has seen a remarkable rise in eye donations in India. Corneal transplants are emerging as a ray of hope for those waiting for sight.

Corneal transplant operation requires replacing the opaque cornea with a clear cornea. A clear cornea is obtained from a donor’s eye.

“Earlier there was no means of storing eyes after one died. But now, with sufficient storage methods and more willing donors, eye donation is picking pace in India,” said Jayeeta Bose, eye bank in-charge of the Venu Eye Institute.The institute conducts 15-20 corneal transplants in a month, with a 70 percent success rate.

The Eye Bank Association of India currently has over 400 eye banks registered with it. Eye donation camps have also raised the pledge ceremonies happening to donate eyes.

With one fourth of the world’s blind population living in India – numbering around 11.25 million – blindness is identified as a major health problem in the country.

In an effort to promote and create awareness about eye donations, the Venu Eye Institute recently hosted an eye donation fortnight in the capital that saw the participation of over 1,500 school students in a slogan writing and poster-making competition.

“The need of the hour is to educate the masses on eye donation. People need to be aware; eye donation requires a strong

will and medical help at the time of death,” said Bose.

According to an eye bank advisory, the procedure for eye donation requires a call by the donor’s kin to the nearest eye bank within six hours of his or her death.

“Eye extraction takes less than 20 minutes. Later, these eyes are transplanted to a recipient body through the process of cornea transplant,” added Bose.

Tanvi Kavishwar was one such donor who died last May at the age of 17 from meningitis. At 13, she had expressed a desire to donate her eyes. With tears in his eyes, Tanvi’s father Sadanand Kavishwar recalls the moment and says with pride that his daughter is still able to “see” him.

“She wanted to donate her eyes. I am proud to be her father and feel that she can still see me,” said Sadanand Kavishwar.

“Donate eyes – you have the power in you to help visually-impaired people see this world,” he added. He was felicitated at an eye donation ceremony in the capital.

While cataract is responsible for nearly 20 million of the 45 million blind people in the world, the second major cause of concern is corneal blindness. Cataract blindness can also be treated through surgery.

Estrogen Therapy Ups Kidney Stones Risk in Postmenopausal Women

WASHINGTON – A new report has suggested that the use of estrogen therapy is associated with an increased risk of developing kidney stones in postmenopausal women.

Using data from the national Women’s Health Initiative study, Naim M. Maalouf, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, examined data from two trials: 10,739 postmenopausal women with hysterectomy who received either an estrogen-only treatment or matching placebo and 16,608 postmenopausal women without hysterectomy who received either an estrogen plus progestin treatment or matching placebo. Data were collected for an average of 7.1 years in the estrogen-only trial and 5.6 years for the estrogen plus progestin trial.

A total of 335 cases of kidney stones were reported in the active treatment groups, while 284 cases occurred in the placebo groups. The beginning demographic characteristics and risk factors for kidney stones were similar in the two groups, and the authors found that estrogen therapy was associated with a significant increase in risk of kidney stones. The corresponding annualized incidence rate per 10,000 women per year was 39 in the treatment group and 34 in the placebo group.

Development of kidney stones was five times more common in women with a history of kidney stones at the beginning of the study, but was not significantly altered by estrogen therapy. In this trial, estrogen therapy increased the risk of development of kidney stones irrespective of age, ethnicity, body mass index, prior hormone therapy use or use of coffee or thiazide diuretics.

The authors conclude that their results “indicate that estrogen therapy increases the risk of nephrolithiasis in healthy postmenopausal women. The mechanisms underlying this higher propensity remain to be determined. In view of the sizable prevalence of nephrolithiasis in this segment of the population, these findings need to be considered in the decision-making process regarding postmenopausal estrogen use.”

The report has been published in the issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Ancient Egyptian Herbal Medicine.

Herbs played a major part in Egyptian medicine. The plant medicines mentioned in the Ebers papyrus for instance include opium, cannabis, myrrh, frankincense, fennel, cassia, senna, thyme, henna, juniper, aloe, linseed and castor oil – though some of the translations are less than certain. Cloves of garlic have been found in Egyptian burial sites, including the tomb of Tutankhamen and in the sacred underground temple of the bulls at Saqqara. Many herbs were steeped in wine, which was then drunk as an oral medicine. Egyptians thought garlic and onions aided endurance, and consumed large quantities of them. Raw garlic was routinely given to asthmatics and to those suffering with bronchial-pulmonary complaints. Onions helped against problems of the digestive system.

Garlic was an important healing agent then just as it still is to the modern Egyptian and to most of the peoples in the Mediterranean area: Fresh cloves are peeled, mashed and macerated in a mixture of vinegar and water. This can be used to gargle and rinse the mouth, or taken internally to treat sore throats and toothache. Another way to take garlic both for prevention as well as treatment is to macerate several cloves of mashed garlic in olive oil. Applied as an external liniment or taken internally it is beneficial for bronchial and lung complaints including colds. A freshly peeled clove of raw garlic wrapped in muslin or cheesecloth and pinned to the undergarment is hoped to protect against infectious diseases such as colds and influenza.

Coriander, C. Sativum was considered to have cooling, stimulant, carminative and digestive properties. Both the seeds and the plant were used as a spice in cooking to prevent and eliminate flatulence, they were also taken as a tea for stomach and all kinds of urinary complaints including cystitis. Coriander leaves were commonly added fresh to spicy foods to moderate their irritating effects. It was one of the herbs offered to the gods by the king, and seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen and in other ancient burial sites.

Cumin, Cumin cyminum is an umbelliferous herb indigenous to Egypt. The seeds were considered to be a stimulant and effective against flatulence. They were often used together with coriander for flavoring. Cumin powder mixed with some wheat flour as a binder and a little water was applied to relieve the pain of any aching or arthritic joints. Powdered cumin mixed with grease or lard was inserted as an anal suppository to disperse heat from the anus and stop itching.

Leaves from many plants, such as willow, sycamore, acaci or the ym-tree, were used in poultices and the like. Tannic Acid derived from acacia seeds commonly helped for cooling the vessels and heal burns. Castor oil, figs  and dates, were used as laxatives.
Tape worms, the snakes in the belly, were dealt with by an infusion of pomegranate root in water, which was strained and drunk. The alkaloids contained in it paralyzed the worms’ nervous system, and they relinquished their hold. Ulcers were treated with yeast, as were stomach ailments.

Some of the medicines were made from plant materials imported from abroad. Mandrake, introduced from Canaan and grown locally since the New Kingdom, was thought to be an aphrodisiac and, mixed with alcohol, induced unconsciousness. Cedar oil, an antiseptic, originated in the Levant. The Persian henna was grown in Egypt since the Middle Kingdom, and – if identical with henu mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus – was used against hair loss. They treated catarrh with aloe which came from eastern Africa. Frankincense , containing tetrahydrocannabinol and used like hashish as pain killer.

Minerals and animal products were used too. Honey and grease formed part of many wound treatments,  mother’s milk was occasionally given against viral diseases like the common cold, fresh meat laid on open wounds and sprains, and animal dung was thought to be effective at times. At the Cairo Museum bears the legend: “Eye lotion to be dispersed, good for eyesight.” An Egyptian papyrus from 1500 BCE discusses recipes for treating conjunctivitis and cornea, iris, and eyelid problems. Lead-based chemicals like carbonates and acetates were popular for their therapeutic properties .

Malachite used as an eye-liner also had therapeutic value. In a country where eye infections were endemic, the effects of its germicidal qualities were appreciated even if the reasons for its effectiveness were not understood.

Ancient Egyptian Medicine

The medical knowledge

A few papyri have survived, from which we can learn about Egyptian medicine

  • The Edwin Smith Papyrus describing surgical diagnosis and treatments,
  • the Ebers Papyrus on ophthalmology, diseases of the digestive system, the head, the skin and specific maladies like aAa, which some think may have been a precursor of aids and others, perhaps more reasonably, consider to have been a disease of the urinary tract, a compilation of earlier works that contains a large number of prescriptions and recipes,
  • the Kahun Gynecological Papyrus,
  • the Berlin Medical Papyrus,
  • the London Medical Papyrus.
  • the Hearst medical papyrus repeats many of the recipes found in the Ebers papyrus.
  • the Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden contains a number of spells for treating physical ailments.

The treatments in these texts are often organized into groups. The Edwin Smith Papyrus for instance opens with eight texts concerning head wounds, followed by nineteen treatments of wounds to the face (forehead, eyebrows, nose, cheeks, temples, mouth, chin), six descriptions of how to deal with injuries to throat and neck, five dealing with collar-bones and arms, and seven with chest complaints. It appears that all this knowledge dates to the third millennium BCE, even though the papyrus itself is of a much later date. Some important notions concerning the nervous system originated with the Egyptians, a word for brain is used here for the first time in any written language:

… the membrane enveloping his brain, so that it breaks open his fluid in the interior of his head.

The Edwin Smith papyrus, case 6

Acting conservatively, they knew how to treat injuries to the brain without killing the patient, but on the whole their understanding of the brain and its functions was superficial: they considered thinking to be a function of the heart.

Their dissection of bodies during mummification seems not to have added greatly to their knowledge of the inner workings of the human body, possibly because mummifiers and physicians did not move in the same circles, but also because of the way the organs were removed: ripped out through a small incision in the corpse’s flank or, in the case of the brain, scooped out in small portions through a nostril. They had some anatomical knowledge though, had made the connection between pulse and heart, but did not have any understanding of the circulation of the blood

The Edwin Smith papyrus, case 1

This knowledge reached Greece through the doctors of Alexandria. The anatomical properties they were best aware of where superficial, pertaining to accessible body parts such as bones of limbs or the infants’ fontanel’s

Fluttering under the fingers like the weak place of an infant’s crown before it becomes whole

The Edwin Smith papyrus, case 6

Often we cannot translate the specialist expressions used in the medical texts, both of the affected body parts such as the mt.w, generally translated as “vessels” or the like and apparently comprising blood vessels, sinews and nerves, and the ingredients of their medicines. Sometimes their knowledge was either not very exact or unfortunately expressed. One will wonder for a few moments underneath what the bronchi were to be found:

“A dislocation in his two collar-bones” means a displacement of the heads of his sickle-bone(s). Their heads are attached to the upper bone of his breast to his throat, over which is the flesh of his gorge, that is the flesh that is over his bosom. Two ducts (i.e. the bronchi) are under it: one on the right and (one) on the left of his throat (and) of his bosom; they lead to his lungs.

The Edwin Smith papyrus,

That this theoretical knowledge was often successfully applied is proven by archaeological finds in the workers’ tombs at Gizeh for instance. Skeletons with broken arms that had been set, a man who had survived the amputation of a leg by fourteen years and another brain surgery by two years.

What is Reflexology?

Reflexology is a form of bodywork that focuses primarily on the feet.

How does reflexology work?

The underlying theory behind reflexology is that there are “reflex” areas on the feet and hands that correspond to specific organs, glands, and other parts of the body. For example:

  • the tips of the toes reflect the head
  • the heart and chest are around the ball of the foot
  • the liver, pancreas and kidney are in the arch of the foot
  • low back and intestines are towards the heel

It is believed that certain areas on the feet and hands are linked to other areas and organs of the body. This concept was furthered by physiotherapist Eunice Ingham into the modern practice of reflexology.

Practitioners believe that applying pressure to these reflex areas can promote health in the corresponding organs through energetic pathways.

Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, an ear, nose, and throat doctor, introduced this concept of “zone therapy” in 1915. American physiotherapist Eunice Ingram further developed this zone theory in the 1930’s into what is now knows as reflexology.

A scientific explanation is that the pressure may send signals that balance the nervous system or release chemicals such as endorphins that reduce pain and stress.

What will you feel?

Most people find reflexology for the most part to be very relaxing.

Reflexology shouldn’t be painful. If you feel discomfort, be sure to tell the reflexologist. He or she should work within your comfort zone.

Some areas may be tender or sore, and the reflexologist may spend extra time on these points. The soreness should decrease with pressure.

Do not worry if you are ticklish. The reflexologist applies firm pressure to the feet.

Why do people get reflexology?

  • Stress and stress-related conditions
  • Tension headaches
  • Digestive disorders
  • Arthritis
  • Insomnia
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Sports injuries
  • Menstrual disorders, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Digestive problems, such as constipation
  • Back pain

Reflexology is a popular alternative therapy. It promotes relaxation, improves circulation, reduces pain, soothes tired feet, and encourages overall healing.

Reflexology is also used for post-operative or palliative care. A study in the American Cancer Society journal found that one-third of cancer patients used reflexology as a complementary therapy.

Reflexology is recommended as a complementary therapy and should not replace medical treatment.

What is a typical reflexology treatment

A typical treatment is 45 minutes to 60 minutes long and begins with a consultation about your health and lifestyle.

You are then asked to remove your shoes and socks and sit comfortably in a reclining chair or on a massage table. Otherwise you remain fully clothed.  The reflexologist will assess the feet and then stimulates various points to identify areas of tenderness or tension.

The reflexologist then uses brisk movements to warm the feet up. Then pressure is applied from the toes to the heel according to your comfort.

Lotion or oil may be used.

How will you feel after?

Most people feel calm and relaxed after a treatment. They may even feel sleepy.

Occasionally, people feel nauseous, anxious, or tearful, but this is only temporary and is considered to be part of the healing process.

Precautions

If you’re pregnant, talk with your doctor first and let the reflexologist know.

Be sure to give the reflexologist a complete and accurate health history.

If you have foot ulcers, injury, or blood vessel disease such as blood clots, consult your doctor before having reflexology.

Your Job Could be Making You Fat

Office-workers have become less active over the last three decades and this decreased activity may partly explain the rise in obesity, according to a new study from the University of Montreal.

“People eat better and exercise more today than they did in the 1970’s, yet obesity rates continue to rise. My hypothesis is that our professional life is linked to this seemingly contradictory phenomenon,” said lead author Carl-Etienne Juneau.

Juneau and his colleagues used several Statistics Canada databases on the health of Canadians that included 17,000 to 132,000 respondents.

He concluded that the lack of physical activity during office hours could explain the fact that obesity has increased 10 percent between 1978 and 2004.

A surprise finding was the increased healthy attitudes toward transportation.

“As a result of urban sprawl we expected to see more car-dependent people. Yet, both men and women increasingly adopted healthy behaviors such as walking and biking, which is definitely good news,” said Juneau.

Juneau suggested that to combat the inactivity and rise in obesity it would be best to integrate sport, work and transportation.

Juneau also said that the promotion and marketing of exercise could be tweaked.

“Exercise can’t just be an individual thing anymore. We must focus on groups. For instance, there are now tax credits for parents who register their child in a recognized physical education course. A similar program could be developed in the workplace for employees.”

The findings were published in the Preventive Medicine.