Officials reject concerns over 500 percent radiation increase on California beach.

AFP Photo / Spencer Platt

Health officials in California are now telling residents not to worry after a video uploaded to the internet last month seemed to show high levels of radiation at a Pacific Coast beach.

The video, “Fukushima radiation hits San Francisco,” has been viewed nearly half-a-million times since being uploaded to YouTube on Christmas Eve, and its contents have caused concern among residents who fear that nuclear waste from the March 2011 disaster in Japan may be arriving on their side of the Pacific Ocean.

Throughout the course of the seven-minute-long clip, a man tests out his Geiger counter radiation detector while walking through Pacifica State Beach outside of San Francisco. At times, the monitor on the machine seems to show radiation of 150 counts-per-minute, or the equivalent of around five times what is typically found in that type of environment.

After the video began to go viral last month, local, state and federal officials began to investigate claims that waste from the Fukushima nuclear plant has washed ashore in California. Only now, though, are authorities saying that they have no reason to believe that conditions along the West Coast are unsafe.

The Half Moon Bay Review reported on Friday that government officials conducted tests along California’s Pacific Coast after word of the video began to spread online, but found no indication that radiation levels had reached a hazardous point.

“It’s not something that we feel is an immediate public health concern,” Dean Peterson, the county environmental health director, told the Review. “We’re not even close to the point of saying that any of this is from Fukushima.”

Screenshot from YouTube user Kill0Your0TV

Screenshot from YouTube user Kill0Your0TV

According to the Review’s Mark Noack, counts-per-minute does indeed measure radiation, but “does not directly equate to the strength or its hazard level to humans.” And while the paper has reported that testing conducted by Peterson’s department on their own Geiger counters has since revealedradiation level of about 100 micro-REM per hour, or about five times the normal amount, officials are confident that there is nothing to be concerned about.

“Although the radiation levels were clearly higher than is typical, Peterson emphasized that it was still not unsafe for humans,” Noack wrote. “A person would need to be exposed to 100 microREMs of radiation for 50,000 hours before it surpassed safety guidelines by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, he explained.”

Screenshot from YouTube user Kill0Your0TV

Screenshot from YouTube user Kill0Your0TV

Even so, officials are still uncertain as to why those levels — even if they are relatively safe — seem to be five-times higher than what is expected. Peterson told the Review he was “befuddled” over the ordeal, but suggested the culprit could be something not too sinister — such as red-painted eating utensils buried on the beach.

“I honestly think the end result of this is that it’s just higher levels of background radiation,” he said.

Researchers at the Geiger Counter Bulletin website have since tried to make sense of the reading on their own, and agree that the levels being detected are several times over what should be expected. According to a post on their website from this weekend, however, an independent testing of soil taken from near Pacifica State Beach tested positive for some radioactive material — but nothing that would have come from Fukushima.

The results of testing conducted by California’s Department of Public Health are expected to be announced later this week.

The sun has flipped upside down

The sun has “flipped upside down,” NASA announced at the end of December. Although the star that defines our solar system has not physically flipped, its north and south poles have reversed in a natural process marking the midpoint of what is known as the solar cycle.


According to Todd Hoeksema, director of the Wilcox Solar Observatory at Stanford University, the sun goes through a natural cycle that averages 22 years. In each half-cycle, areas of intense solar magnetic activity known as sunspots gradually move from the sun’s equatorial region toward the poles, eventually disrupting the magnetic fields at the star’s North and South. Eventually, the sun’s magnetic field shuts down entirely, then reboots with the positive and negative poles at opposite sides.

“It’s kind of like a tide coming in or going out,” Hoeksema said. “Each little wave brings a little more water in, and eventually you get to the full reversal.”

This cycle then repeats, ending when the poles are back in their initial locations. The recent reversal marks the midpoint of Solar Cycle 24, which began in 2002.

NASA video shows reversal

Earlier in December, solar physicists announced that “the sun’s north pole has already changed sign, while the South Pole [sic] is racing to catch up.”

Solar Cycle 24 has been full of surprises. It was initially predicted to reach its midpoint in 2012, but scientists revised this estimate to 2013 when 2009 was marked by “extremely low activity” that, if it continued, could have led to another Little Ice Age.

To mark the long-anticipated solar reversal, NASA has released a video simulation of the second half of Solar Cycle 23.

“A reversal of the sun’s magnetic field is, literally, a big event,” said Tony Phillips of NASA.

The video begins in 1997, showing the sun with its positive polarity (marked by green lines) at the top and its negative polarity (purple lines) at the bottom. The video shows the lines gradually moving toward opposite ends of the sun, having completely switched places by 2002. This marked the end of Solar Cycle 23 and the beginning of the current cycle.

Cosmic effects

The solar reversal will have significant effects that reach past our own solar system, although few of them will be felt on Earth.

“At the height of each magnetic flip, the sun goes through periods of more solar activity, during which there are more sunspots, and more eruptive events such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections,” said NASA’s Karen C. Fox.

For us on Earth, these effects will mostly be limited to an increase in the breadth, frequency and visibility of the aurora borealis and aurora australis – the Northern and Southern Lights. The magnetic reversal might also lead to freak geomagnetic storms, temporarily disrupting satellite or radio signals.

“It’s not a catastrophic event,” Hoeksema said, “it’s a large scale event that has some real implications, but it’s not something we need to worry about.”

In outer space, however, the effects will be felt more strongly.

“The domain of the sun’s magnetic influence (also known as the ‘heliosphere’) extends billions of kilometers beyond Pluto,” Phillips said. “Changes to the field’s polarity ripple all the way out to the Voyager probes, on the doorstep of interstellar space.”

“Cosmic rays are also affected,” he said. “These are high-energy particles accelerated to nearly light speed by supernova explosions and other violent events in the galaxy.”

These effects may impact space exploration. Intensified cosmic rays, for example, might damage space probes or even pose physical dangers to astronauts. They might also have effects on Earth’s climate, although the exact nature of these effects remains unclear.

Sources for this article include:

7 Drugs Whose Dangerous Risks Emerged Only After Big Pharma Made Its Money.

Have you ever noticed how warnings about dangerous prescription drugs always seem to surface after the drug is no longer marketed and its patent has run out? Whether it’s an FDA advisory or a trial lawyer solicitation about harm that may have been done to you, the warnings are always belated and useless. If a drug you took four years ago may have given you liver damage, why didn’t the FDA tell you then? Why didn’t the FDA recall the drug or better yet, not approve it in the first place?

The official answer from the FDA and Big Pharma is that problems with a drug are only seen after millions begin using it, which is why post-marketing surveillance is conducted. In other words—who knew? But in a startling number of cases revealed in court documents Pharma did “know” and clearly misled medical journals, the FDA, doctors and patients, hoping to get its patent’s worth before the true risks of a drug surfaced. In other cases, Pharma and the FDA should have known before rushing a dangerous drug to market and making money at the expense of patients.

It is the business model for new drugs that provokes Big Pharma to bury risks and exaggerate benefits. A new drug under patent has a high price and no competition, and will make millions or even billions every year it is under patent. A settlement for death or injuries down the road is a nuisance and just the cost of doing business. Needless to say, the “forgiveness is cheaper than permission” business plan breeds shameless repeat offenders since the company makes money and no officers go to jail.

Hidden and unforeseen risks in new drugs are such a danger that some medical professionals advise patients to wait up to seven years before they try a new drug. Of course, the drug is no less risky when made by a generic drugmaker except that it has been in use longer and is not accompanied by slick advertising to push demand and even “sell” the condition it treats. But generics have their downside, too. Unlike branded drug companies, a 2013 Supreme Court ruling says generic drug makers can’t be sued.

Here are some drugs whose risks did not did not keep them from getting their “patent’s worth.”

1. Vioxx: Remember the “super aspirin” Vioxx, that was heavily marketed by Merck and athletes Dorothy Hamill and Bruce Jenner 15 years ago? Vioxx was a wonder drug that treated everything from arthritis pain to menstrual cramps, its ads claimed, sparing users the gastrointestinal problems caused by older drugs like aspirin. It turned out that Vioxx was super at something else, too: it doubled the risk of cardiac events , causing 27,785 heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths according to news sources.

While Merck pleaded ignorance, the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 accused Merck of concealing “critical data on an array of adverse cardiovascular events” caused by Vioxx. It was withdrawn in 2004. In 2007, Merck agreed to pay $4.85 billion to patients or survivors’ families which represented less than one year of Merck’s profits, computed the New York Times. Vioxx made Merck an estimated $2.5 billion a year from its 1999 launch to its 2004 withdrawal. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

2. Fosamax: Vioxx was not the only Merck drug demonstrating that forgiveness is easier and cheaper when it comes to marketing new drugs. Merck’s Fosamax, the first of an anti-osteoporosis drug class called biphosphonates that included Boniva and Actonel, was linked to heart problems, intractable pain, jawbone death, bone fractures and esophageal cancer—only after its patent ran out in 2008. Court-released documents reveal that Merck scientists knew about Fosamax’ link to jawbone death as early as the 1970s in animal studies.

There was even a subplot to Merck’s mendacity. The company installed bone density scanners in medical offices across the US to scare women into taking Fosamax if their scans revealed thinning bones, reported National Public Radio. The subterfuge of “selling” the disease of thinning bones to sell Fosamax did not make a big dent in sales when it came to light: Fosamax was already off patent.

3. Lipitor: What is the best-selling drug in the history of pharmaceuticals? What made $125 billion in 14 and a half years and as much as $11 billion in a single year? Lipitor, Pfizer’s blockbuster statin drug, owed its success to two factors. It was launched in 1997 when direct-to-consumer drug advertising was just beginning and it harnessed the growing national fear of cholesterol-linked heart attacks. Thanks to Lipitor’s “Know Your Numbers” TV ads and Pfizer reps who saturated medical offices with free samples of the white pills and sometimes lunch, more than 29 million people were prescribed Lipitor.

But in 2012—the same year Lipitor’s patent expired—those 29 million people (and millions taking other statins) got a surprise from the FDA. The agency made a label change warning that Lipitor and other statins could cause diabetes, liver injury, muscle damage and memory impairment. Who knew? The quartet of concerns “should not scare people off statins,” said Amy G. Egan, deputy director for safety in the FDA’s Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products. Right.

4. Nexium: What is the second bestselling drug, after Lipitor? The Purple Pill. Like statins, Nexium and the other Proton-Pump Inhibitors (PPI) to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), became household medications thanks to direct-to-consumer advertising. Before Proton-Pump Inhibitors, people took over-the-counter treatments like Tums or Tagamet when they had heartburn or indigestion. As the afflictions were upgraded into the “disease” of GERD, Nexium made almost $5 billion in the US in one year and the class of PPIs made $13.6 billion in one year, translating into 119 million prescriptions.

In 2012, the same year the FDA warned about statins, the FDA warned the public that Nexium and the whole class of PPIs are linked to Clostridium Difficile, a stubborn and sometimes deadly intestinal infection that is becoming increasingly drug-resistant and hard to treat. In 2013, medical literature linked PPIs to fractures, calcium and magnesium deficiencies, community-acquired pneumonia and vitamin B-12 deficiencies. Research by John P. Cooke, clinical professor at Houston Methodist Hospital, found in 2013 that PPIs might cause blood vessels to constrict and cardiovascular risks. Not a great ending for the blockbuster Nexium, whose patent runs out in 2014.

5. Adderall: It is no secret that doctors, parents and teachers are calling millions of children ADHD. Thanks to Pharma marketing, ADHD is now the second most common long-term diagnosis in children after asthma, says the New York Times, often conferred for “childhood forgetfulness and poor grades.” While some critics of the massive dosing say kids are being penalized for being kids and that “treatment” used to be recess, Big Pharma’s spin campaigns maintain that daily stimulants do not hurt children.

But in 2009, the same year Adderall XR went off patent (and two years before Concerta, a time-release version of Ritalin went off patent) a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found the drugs were actually killing kids. There was “A significant association of stimulant use with sudden unexplained death emerged from the primary analysis,” wrote the authors who looked at 564 cases of sudden death in children 7 to 19.  Pro-stimulant Pharma doctors disputed the study, saying the drugs might spare users death by improving their driving skills . Why didn’t anybody test that?

6. Paxil: Few SSRI antidepressants have the checkered safety profile of GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Paxil. In 2007 the BBC revealed that Paxil’s Study 329 showed adolescents six times more likely to become suicidal on the drug but the results were buried . (GSK settled related charges in 2012 for $3 billion.) Rumors had circulated for years about suicide and toxic withdrawal symptoms with Paxil and they were evidently true in some cases.

In 2005, the FDA revealed birth defects associated with Paxil including heart malformations. (Babies may also have “seizures, changing body temperature, feeding problems, vomiting, low blood sugar, floppiness, stiffness, tremor, shakiness, irritability or constant crying,” warned the Paxil website.) Commensurate with the “forgiveness is cheaper than permission” business model, by the time the Paxil risks surfaced, GSK had taken the money and run. In fact, Paxil made $2.12 billion for GSK in 2002, the last year it was under patent, and was the preferred method of treating returning Iraq war veterans’ PTSD.

7. Ambien: One of Big Pharma’s cash cows has been insomnia pills, because everyone watches TV when they can’t sleep—and they see sleeping pill ads. Leading the sleeping pill category was Sanofi-Aventis’ Ambien, which netted $2 billion a year before it went off patent in 2006. But even as the patent expired, stories began to circulate about deranged behavior committed in an Ambien blackout. People drove and made phone calls on the drug with no memory of it; dieters woke up amid mountains of pizza and Häagen-Dazs cartons, and one woman drank a bottle of black shoe polish in an Ambien blackout. (Sanofi-Aventis was forced to publish ads telling people if they were going to take Ambien, to get in bed and stay there.)

In 2012, the Mayo clinic in Rochester announced it was no longer prescribing Ambien to inpatients because of its fall rate—four times that of patients not on Ambien and greater than falls caused by age, mental impairment or delirium. In 2013, the FDA warned about Ambien hangovers, in which the drug has not left the body, and recommended lower doses, especially for women. The warning came too late for Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and former wife of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Witnesses said she had been weaving for miles when she swerved into a tractor-trailer and kept driving, during the summer of 2012. Kennedy told police she may have taken an Ambien thinking it was her daily thyroid med.

New compounds discovered that are hundreds of times more mutagenic.

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered novel compounds produced by certain types of chemical reactions – such as those found in vehicle exhaust or grilling meat – that are hundreds of times more mutagenic than their parent compounds which are known carcinogens.

These compounds were not previously known to exist, and raise additional concerns about the health impacts of heavily-polluted urban air or dietary exposure. It’s not yet been determined in what level the compounds might be present, and no health standards now exist for them.

The findings were published in December in Environmental Science and Technology, a professional journal.

The compounds were identified in laboratory experiments that mimic the type of conditions which might be found from the combustion and exhaust in cars and trucks, or the grilling of meat over a flame.

“Some of the compounds that we’ve discovered are far more mutagenic than we previously understood, and may exist in the environment as a result of heavy air pollution from vehicles or some types of food preparation,” said Staci Simonich, a professor of chemistry and toxicology in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences.

“We don’t know at this point what levels may be present, and will explore that in continued research,” she said.

The parent compounds involved in this research are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, formed naturally as the result of almost any type of combustion, from a wood stove to an automobile engine, cigarette or a coal-fired power plant. Many PAHs, such as benzopyrene, are known to be carcinogenic, believed to be more of a health concern that has been appreciated in the past, and are the subject of extensive research at OSU and elsewhere around the world.

The PAHs can become even more of a problem when they chemically interact with nitrogen to become “nitrated,” or NPAHs, scientists say. The newly-discovered are NPAHs that were unknown to this point.

This study found that the direct mutagenicity of the NPAHs with one nitrogen group can increase 6 to 432 times more than the parent compound. NPAHs based on two nitrogen groups can be 272 to 467 times more mutagenic. Mutagens are chemicals that can cause DNA damage in cells that in turn can cause cancer.

For technical reasons based on how the mutagenic assays are conducted, the researchers said these numbers may actually understate the increase in toxicity – it could be even higher.

These discoveries are an outgrowth of research on PAHs that was done by Simonich at the Beijing Summer Olympic Games in 2008, when extensive studies of urban air quality were conducted, in part, based on concerns about impacts on athletes and visitors to the games.

Beijing, like some other cities in Asia, has significant problems with air quality, and may be 10-50 times more polluted than some major urban areas in the U.S. with air concerns, such as the Los Angeles basin.

An agency of the World Health Organization announced last fall that it now considers outdoor air pollution, especially , to be carcinogenic, and cause other health problems as well. PAHs are one of the types of pollutants found on particulate matter in air pollution that are of special concern.

Concerns about the heavy levels of air pollution from some Asian cities are sufficient that Simonich is doing monitoring on Oregon’s Mount Bachelor, a 9,065-foot mountain in the central Oregon Cascade Range. Researchers want to determine what levels of may be found there after traveling thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean.

Provided by Oregon State University

Bedroom kit promises ‘smarter sleep’

Withings Aura
The Aura system adjusts its wake-up timings based on its users’ sleep cycles

The maker of a set of communicating bedroom sensors that control a changing-colour lamp claims to be able to wake sleepers at the best moment.

Withings unveiled the Aura “smart sleep” system on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

One part slides under the mattress to study the dozing owners while another screens their bedroom environment.

It is the first of more than a dozen sleep-related gadgets set to be launched at the event.

However, one expert warned it was too soon to know how much difference such devices could really make to purchasers’ health.

Changing light

The Aura system consists of three parts:

  • A soft padded sensor that is slipped under the mattress. The firm says it is able to record body movements, breathing cycles and heart rates.
  • A device that should be placed next to the bed. This includes sensors to study noise levels, room temperature and light levels. In addition it contains a clock, a speaker that plays alarm sounds and a circular LED (light-emitting diode) lamp.
  • A smartphone app that controls the system and provides feedback about the sleepers’ night.

The light changes colour from blue to yellow and red across the course of the night on the basis of research that different light wavelengths can affect the secretion of hormones.

Philips Wake-up Light
Philips’ rival Wake-up Light lacks the mattress sensor but can charge a smartphone

Studies have suggested that blue light stimulates melanopsin – a pigment found in cells in the eye’s retina, which send nerve impulses to parts of the brain thought to make a person feel alert.

Blue light is also believed to suppress melatonin – a hormone made by the brain’s pineal gland which makes a person feel sleepy when its levels rise in their blood.

By switching from blue to red light – via an intermediary yellow or white stage – this process should be reversed, encouraging a feeling of sleepiness.

Space agency Nasa has previously studied the phenomenon and has announced plans to install a light-colour changing system of its own into the International Space Station (ISS) in 2016.

Withings’ system is being launched at a cost of $299 (£180).

Philips recently announced a competing product at the same price. Its Wake-up Light system mimics the changing conditions created by a sunrise, turning from red to bright yellow over the course of half-an-hour before sounding an alarm. However, it does not monitor the sleepers themselves.

Early days

Brian Blau, an analyst at the tech consultancy Gartner, said the fall in price of the components involved was encouraging companies to introduce sleep tracking systems, but that consumers should be cautious about the claims made about their benefits.

“Providing data to help you understand your sleep patterns has the potential to help you get over problems with them,” he told the BBC.

Sensible Baby
Sensible Baby will show off a prototype baby sleep monitoring system at CES

“But it’s an open question just how useful each individual type of device will be.

“Because they are so new and there’s not a mass market yet, I think that a lot of learning and experimentation has got to be done to figure out exactly what to monitor, how best to analyse the data produced and how to give good feedback to whoever is using them.”

Other sleep-related technologies on show at CES include:

  • Sensible Baby – a sensor put in an infant’s night clothes that tracks their temperature, orientation and movement. It sounds a smartphone app alarm if it detects a problem.
  • Sleepow – a pillow that plays tones at slightly different frequencies for each ear, which its maker claims promotes relaxation.
  • Basis – one of several new smartwatches that can monitor sleep data, in this case by studying the wearer’s heart rate, perspiration and skin temperature.

Google drives Android into cars

Google's self-drive car
Google is already involved in car hardware and has promised self-driving cars by 2017

Google is teaming up with car manufacturers including Audi, Honda and Hyundai to integrate its Android operating system into their dashboards.

It would allow the apps and music on Android smartphones and tablets to work better with onboard car systems.

Rival Apple has already signed similar deals with BMW, GM and Honda.

In a blogpost, Google announced that, along with GM and Nvidia, it would form the Open Automotive Alliance to “speed up innovation” in the car industry.

“Millions of people already bring Android phones and tablets into their cars, but it’s not yet a driving-optimised experience,” said Patrick Brady, director of Android engineering.

“Wouldn’t it be great if you could bring your favourite apps and music with you and use them safely with your car’s built-in controls and in-dash display?” he added.

It is expected that Audi and Google will show off some of the systems at the CES show in Las Vegas this week.

In-car entertainment

The car was fast becoming the next battleground for technology firms, said Ovum analyst Jeremy Green.

“From car makers to the makers of car components, from the big software names to the telecoms players, everyone is piling into this market,” he said.

General Motors shows off its independent 4G data connection technology

“People spend a lot of time in their cars and Google wants people to use its services wherever they are. Searching is something you do a lot of in the car,” he added.

Google already has its eyes set on drivers. As well as developing a self-drive car, it has also added a traffic layer to Google Maps, sourced from other Android users, to inform users about traffic jams and other road issues.

Last summer the search giant acquired crowd-sourced traffic app Waze.

Connected cars is likely to be a big theme at this week’s CES tech show in Las Vegas.

“A lot of the focus is on entertainment, how to get Spotify and other services into your car,” said Mr Green.

But he added that other apps were also beginning to launch – such as systems that sent diagnostic information directly to garages to allow mechanics to prepare for car services.

“There are also systems that allow users to remotely lock or unlock vehicles or even turn on the air conditioning before you get in the car,” he said.

Supervolcano eruption mystery solved

Aerial view of Grand Prismatic thermal spring in Yellowstone National Park
If the Yellowstone supervolcano erupted the impact would be catastrophic

Scientists have made a breakthrough in their efforts to understand what causes so-called supervolcanoes to erupt.

Supervolcanoes are capable of eruptions thousands of times larger than normal outpourings.

It was thought that an external trigger, such as an earthquake, was needed to bring about a giant blast.

But tests at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble show the sheer volume of liquid magma is enough to cause a catastrophic super-eruption.

Details of the research by a Swiss team appear in Nature Geoscience.

Simulating the intense heat and pressure inside these “sleeping giants” could help predict a future disaster.

Lead author Wim Malfait, of ETH Zurich, said: “We knew the clock was ticking but we didn’t know how fast: what would it take to trigger a super-eruption?

“Start Quote

This is something that, as a species, we will eventually have to deal with”

Wim Malfait ETH Zurich

“Now we know you don’t need any extra factor – a supervolcano can erupt due to its enormous size alone.

“Once you get enough melt, you can start an eruption just like that.”

There are about 20 known supervolcanoes on Earth – including Lake Toba in Indonesia, Lake Taupo in New Zealand, and the somewhat smaller Phlegraean Fields near Naples, Italy.

Super-eruptions occur rarely – only once every 100,000 years on average. But when they do occur, they have a devastating impact on Earth’s climate and ecology.

When a supervolcano erupted 600,000 years ago in Wyoming, in what today is Yellowstone National Park, it ejected more than 1,000 cubic km of ash and lava into the atmosphere – enough to bury a large city to a depth of a few kilometres.

Lake Toba in Sumatra
Lake Toba in Sumatra was formed during the eruption of a supervolcano 74,000 years ago

This ejection was 100 times bigger than Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1992 and dwarfs even historic eruptions like Krakatoa (1883).

“This is something that, as a species, we will eventually have to deal with. It will happen in future,” said Dr Malfait.

“You could compare it to an asteroid impact – the risk at any given time is small, but when it happens the consequences will be catastrophic.”

Being able to predict such a catastrophe is obviously critical. But the trigger has remained elusive – because the process is different from conventional volcanoes like Pinatubo and Mt St Helens.

One possible mechanism was thought to be the overpressure in the magma chamber generated by differences between the less dense molten magma and more dense rock surrounding it.

“The effect is comparable to holding a football under water. When you release it, the air-filled ball is forced upwards by the denser water around it,” said Wim Malfait, of ETH Zurich.

The magma chamber of a supervolcano with partially molten magma at the top. The pressure from the buoyancy is sufficient to initiate cracks in the Earth’s crust in which the magma can penetrate.
Pressure from magma buoyancy creates cracks in the Earth’s crust through which magma can penetrate

But whether this buoyancy effect alone was enough was not known. It could be that an an additional trigger – such as a sudden injection of magma, an infusion of water vapour, or an earthquake – was required.

To simulate the intense pressure and heat in the caldera of a supervolcano, the researchers visited ESRF in Grenoble, where they used an experimental station called the high pressure beamline.

Scientist at ESRF loading a speck-sized magma rock sample into the anvils of a press.
Scientists studied a magma-like substance under extreme heat and pressure at the ESRF in Grenoble

They loaded synthetic magma into a diamond capsule and fired high-energy X-rays inside – to probe for changes as the mixture reached critically high pressures.

“If we measure the density difference from solid to liquid magma we can calculate the pressure needed to provoke a spontaneous eruption,” Mohamed Mezouar, an ESRF scientist, told BBC News.

“To recreate the conditions in the Earth’s crust is no trivial matter, but with the right vessel we can keep the liquid magma stable up to 1,700C and 36,000 atmospheres.”

The experiment showed that the transition from solid to liquid magma creates a pressure which can crack more than 10 kilometres of Earth’s crust above the volcano chamber.

“Magma penetrating into the cracks will eventually reach the Earth’s surface. And as it rises, it will expand violently – causing an explosion,” said Carmen Sanchez-Valle, also of ETH Zurich.

But if Yellowstone happened to be on the brink of an eruption, the good news is that we will still see a warning, Dr Malfait told BBC News.

“The ground would probably rise hundreds of metres – a lot more than it does now.

“We think Yellowstone currently has 10-30% partial melt, and for the overpressure to be high enough to erupt would take about 50%.”

In a separate study in the same journal, a team led by Luca Caricchi of the University of Geneva used a mathematical model to explain the differences between conventional volcanoes and supervolcanoes.

They showed that “hyperactive” common volcanoes can evolve over time into “sleeping” supervolcanoes.

“Taken together, Malfait and Caricchi paint a provocative picture. Their results imply that rare, giant super-eruptions and smaller, more frequent events reflect a transition in the essential driving forces for volcanism,” said Mark Jellinek, of the University of British Columbia, writing in Nature.

Diamond capsule
Inside this diamond capsule, magma was heated to the temperature of the Earth’s crust

How to Treat Back Pain Without Dangerous Drugs.

Story at-a-glance

  • Back pain is a prevalent problem in the United States, with at least 31 million Americans experiencing low back pain at any given time.
  • Sports injuries are common causes of back pain. But there are other factors that increase your risk of this condition, such as poor posture, obesity, poor physical conditioning and inactivity, psychological and emotional stress, and silent diseases like osteoporosis.
  • Prolonged sitting and poor posture put you at risk of not only chronic back pain, but other health issues as well, such as weight gain, obesity, joint problems, and other diseases.
  • Prescription drugs for back pain are saddled with severe, even life threatening side effects. NSAIDs, one of the most commonly prescribed painkillers in the market, put you at a two- to four-fold higher risk of heart attack, stroke, as well as a variety of other health problems.
  • There are many safe and effective alternatives to prescription and over-the-counter painkillers, and while they may require some patience for them to work, the improvements they generate are often longer lasting. Some of the effective strategies I recommend include chiropractic care, yoga, massage, exercises for back pain, and Neuro-Structural Integration Technique (NST).
  • Back Pain

Back pain is a common health issue today that affects at least eight out of 10 people. It is a prevalent problem among Americans. In fact, statistics from the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) reveal that at least 31 million Americans experience lower back pain at any given time.

The ACA report also says that:

  • One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
  • Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, it is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office (next to upper-respiratory infections).
  • As many as 75 to 85 percent of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives. In most cases, this pain is mechanical in nature – it is NOT caused by a serious medical condition, such as inflammatory arthritis or fracture.

Chronic back pain has become such a debilitating problem – and it’s costly, too. According to the ACA, Americans spend at least 50 billion dollars each year on back pain—and that’s just for the more easily identified costs!

I cannot stress enough that preventing or treating disease is possible without the intervention of medications. The same is true for back pain. You only need to address the root cause of the problem by changing your lifestyle and the way you eat and move.

Below is a discussion of the potential causes of back pain, my recommendations for back pain treatment, and how you can alleviate this problem without putting any additional burden on your health.

What Are the Common Causes of Back Pain?

Accidents and sports injuries are the most common causes of chronic back pain. But sometimes, even simple activities or movements – like bending over to pick up an object from the floor – can trigger pain.

There are also a number of other factors that can increase your risk of back pain, such as:

Poor posture Poor physical conditioning facilitated by inactivity Internal disease, such as kidney stones, infections, blood clots
Obesity – According to a study posted in the Journal of American Epidemiology, overweight and obese people had a higher prevalence of low back pain than non-overweight individuals.1 Psychological/emotional stress Osteoporosis or bone loss (as measured by the Z-score and not the young adult-based T-score)

Sedentary Lifestyle Puts You at Risk of Back Pain – and Much More

There is one common denominator among most patients who suffer from severe cases of chronic pain: sedentary lifestyle. A majority of back, neck, and other muscle pains are related to imbalanced distribution of force throughout your body, which is created by working or staying in unnatural positions for extended periods. Prolonged sitting and poor posture are major risk factors of not only back pain, but also of weight gain, obesity, joint problems, nerve problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, and other debilitating diseases. In fact, prolonged sitting – along with smoking and obesity – is now an important risk factor for chronic disease!

An analysis of 18 studies showed the value of reduced sitting. It was found that people who sat for the longest periods of time were twice as likely to develop heart disease or diabetes, compared to those who sat the least. This proves that being physically active is great not only for your back, but also for your overall health. In fact, reducing your sitting time may even prolong your life. One study published in the British Medical Journal found that reducing the average time you spend sitting to less than three hours per day may increase your life expectancy by two years (the average American today spends 4.5 to five hours per day on a chair or sofa).2 So if you have chronic back pain, it is critical that you evaluate your lifestyle and whether or not you’re getting enough exercise. Failing to exercise, and moving your body enough in general, may be the main reason why you’re suffering from this condition.

The Price You Pay for Poor Emotional Health

There’s increasing evidence that back pain and other types of pain may be exacerbated by psychological or emotional issues. It is my experience that emotional health and your ability to effectively address your stress is an essential component for optimal health, and can have a major influence on whether or not you’re effectively eliminating your pain.

If you have any underlying emotional issues and unresolved trauma, it can profoundly influence your health, particularly in terms of physical pain. A 2004 study on back pain supports this theory. Its researchers followed 100 patients over the course of four years. All of the patients, who were back pain-free at the start of the study underwent psychological tests. Afterwards, the researchers compared which of the participants remained pain-free and which ones developed back pain.

According to the results, the people who scored poorly on the psychological tests were three times more likely to report having experienced back pain by the end of the study.

Many health experts from various fields of medicine agree that emotional and psychological trauma has severe effects on a person’s risk of acquiring chronic pain. One example is Dr. John Sarno, a psychiatrist who uses mind-body techniques to treat patients with severe low back pain. He specializes in helping individuals who already had surgery for low back pain but did not get any relief.

This is one tough group of patients – yet Dr. Sarno has a greater than 80 percent success rate! He uses techniques like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), an acupuncture-like technique that stimulates meridian points throughout your body. Read more about EFT. Sadly, many people dismiss these types of treatment strategies simply because they seem “too simple to be effective.” Unfortunately, they believe that in order to get back pain relief, they need to undergo radical treatment or take medications.

The Dangers of Drugs for Back Pain Treatment

Back Pain Medications

Conventional health care practitioners are quick to prescribe medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, and even opioids for chronic pain. But even if these medications can provide immediate back pain relief, their effect is only temporary – the pain will come back sooner or later and in some cases will cause hyperalgesia, or increased sensitivity to pain!

What’s more, medications touted to provide back pain relief are saddled with severe side effects. For example, NSAIDs, one of the most commonly prescribed drugs on the market, not only put you at a two- to four-fold higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems, but may also cause:

  • Severe gastrointestinal problems, like digestive tract bleeding
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Kidney problems

Be mindful that these life-threatening side effects of painkillers are not restricted to prescription NSAIDs like Celebrex, but may also come from over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, Advil, and Motrin.

Opioid painkillers like OxyContin, which are also commonly prescribed for back pain relief, also have a highly addictive nature. In fact, opioids are among the most commonly abused prescription drugs today, and are a leading contributor to the increasing rates of fatal prescription drug overdoses. This is why back pain is now one of the primary reasons why so many American adults get addicted to painkillers.

The bottom line is that painkillers always come with risks. Unfortunately, if you consult your conventional physician about your chronic back pain, he will often prescribe a long-term treatment plan that may include anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants and possibly other types of pain medication or even anti-seizure drugs – a poisonous chemical cocktail that will put your health at severe risk!

Is Your Physician Prescribing This Expensive But Dangerous Drug for Back Pain?

Big Pharma recently began promoting Humira, an expensive drug with a price tag of nearly 20,000 dollars a year. Humira is touted to help treat ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory disease of the axial skeleton, which includes the spine. It is outrageous how drug companies promote this dangerous drug for an exceedingly rare cause of low back pain – one that is only responsible for less than a tenth of a tenth of one percent of low back pain! What’s more, Humira may cause severe side effects, such as:

    • Tuberculosis

Back Pain X-Ray

  • Serious infections
  • Increased risk of lymphoma and other cancers
  • Hepatitis B infection
  • Allergic reactions
  • Liver, nervous system, and blood problems
  • Heart failure
  • Immune reactions, such as lupus-like syndrome
  • Psoriasis

This is just the short list; Humira may have even more damaging effects on your health only to emerge later through post-marketing surveillance in exposed populations who are being forced to act as living guinea pigs.

Cut Your Risk of Back Pain Right from the Start!

As with any health condition or disease, preventing back pain is better than trying to cure it after it has set in, and may be too late. So even if you’re not experiencing back pain symptoms, I would recommend you follow these simple tips:

  1. Always stretch before any strenuous physical activity. In fact, I strongly advise you to engage in a regular stretching program. My favorite is active isolated stretching (AIS), developed by Aaron Mattes. It’s completely different from the traditional type of stretching, and is a great way to get flexibility back into your system.
  2. Do not slouch when standing or sitting.
  3. If you spend most of your time sitting, pay careful attention to consciously sucking in your belly and rotating your pelvis slightly up. At the same time, you should keep your head back, with your ears over your shoulders and your shoulder blades pinched. This posture will keep your spine in proper alignment. Do this every hour you’re sitting, holding the muscles tight for several minutes.
  4. Sit in chairs or car seats with good lumbar support.
  5. Switch your sitting positions often. I would also recommend periodically walking around or gently stretching your muscles to relieve tension.
  6. Avoid bending over without supporting your back.
  7. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes. Women should also refrain from wearing heels all the time.
  8. Sleep on your side to reduce any curve in your spine. You should also sleep on a firm surface.
  9. When weight-lifting using your legs, always keep your back straight.
  10. Maintain an optimal weight.
  11. Quit smoking. Smoking reduces blood flow to your lower spine, causing the spinal discs to degenerate.
  12. Get enough vitamin D from sun exposure daily, as vitamin D helps keep your bones, including your spine, strong.
  13. Drink plenty of water to enhance the height of your intervertebral disks. Since your body is composed mostly of water, staying hydrated will keep you fluid and reduce stiffness.

How to Relieve Back Pain Naturally

If you are already suffering from chronic back pain or pain of any kind, you should understand that there are many safe and effective alternatives to prescription and over-the-counter painkillers, though they may require some patience. Here are some strategies I highly recommend:

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic Care for Back Pain

One of the best tactics to help treat back pain is to see a qualified chiropractor. I am an avid supporter of the chiropractic philosophy, which puts great emphasis on your body’s innate healing wisdom and does not rely on “Band-Aids” like drugs and surgery.

The problem is that a lot of people ignore chiropractic care, thinking that it’s just “pushing bones into place.” However, there’s a whole lot more to chiropractic care. In fact, one of the basic foundations of this health system is “vitalism” – recognizing that the human body has an innate healing intelligence or ‘life force’ that guides and directs your body’s healing process.

Qualified chiropractic, osteopathic, and naturopathic physicians are reliable, as they have received extensive training in the management of musculoskeletal disorders during their course of graduate healthcare training, which lasts between four to six years. These health experts have comprehensive training in musculoskeletal management.

Many studies have confirmed that chiropractic management is much safer and less expensive than allopathic medical treatments, especially when used for low-back pain treatment.

What’s more, researchers have also found that chiropractic adjustments may affect the chemistry of biological processes on a cellular level. Chiropractic care can affect the basic physiological processes that profoundly influence oxidative stress, immune function and DNA repair. This means that aside from addressing any immediate spinal misalignment that might cause back pain, chiropractic care can also help address, prevent and treat deeper dysfunctions in your body.

Exercises for Back Pain

Adapting an exercise program can help compensate for long hours of being sedentary, a risk factor of back pain. Exercise and being physically active help strengthen the muscles of your spine. One of the best back pain exercises I recommend isFoundation Training, created by chiropractor Dr. Eric Goodman. He developed it to address his own chronic back pain.

Foundation Training exercises are simple but powerful structural movements that help strengthen and realign your body posture and address the root cause of lower back pain, which is related to weakness and imbalance among your posterior chain of muscles that are caused by a sedentary lifestyle and too much sitting.

Foundation Training focuses on your core – the part of your body connected to your pelvis, whether above or below it. These include your hamstrings, glutes, and adductor muscles. Foundation Training teaches all these muscles to work together through integrated chains of movement, which is how you’re structurally designed to move, as opposed to compartmentalized movements like crunches.

Every exercise included in Foundation Training lengthens the front of your body, which is over-tightened, and strengthens the back of your body, helping you stand tall and move with grace and flexibility.

Anyone who wants to do Foundation Training must learn “The Founder,” the key basic exercise. The Founder disperses your weight through the posterior chains, helping to reinforce proper movement while strengthening the entire back of your body. This excellent exercise can help reverse the effects of frequent and prolonged sitting that may lead to back pain.

To help address back pain caused by excessive sitting, I also recommend Egoscue Exercises, a series of stretches and special exercises that help restore your muscular balance and skeletal alignment. I often spend at least one hour or more doing an Egoscue exercise called “The Tower.” It’s simple – you only need to lie on the floor and allow your pelvis and thoracic spine to relax. I found this exercise tremendously helpful for treating my chronic low back pain, which is now gone.

You should also include high-intensity sessions in your exercise routine, although you only need to do these once or twice a week at the most. You should also include exercises that not only challenge your body intensely, but also promote muscle strength, balance, and flexibility. Remember to build up your abdominals to avoid back pain. And, as mentioned above, always do some stretching and warm-ups before engaging in strenuous physical activity.

Remember, though, that just because you exercise regularly doesn’t mean that you can justify your long hours spent sitting. In fact, even if you’re fairly physically active, you may still succumb to back pain and other health problems if you spend most of your day behind a desk or on the couch. This phenomenon is called the “active couch potato effect.” In order to avoid this, you must make it a habit to break the pattern of sitting as frequently as possible. Dr. Goodman says:

“Stand up throughout the day to stretch your body appropriately, the way it is meant to be stretched. The simple act of standing as tall as possible for a minute or two will help break the pattern of sitting, as long as you repeat it frequently. Be sure that while standing you take full deep breaths to expand your torso as well. We often have very shallow breath while we sit, counter that with big deep breaths as often as you can throughout the day.

My opinion is that people should not go longer than 30 minutes in a chair without standing, deep breathing, walking and stretching. If you think I am crazy for asking that much of you, then I suggest you not go longer than 20 minutes.”


Yoga for Back Pain

Yoga may be an effective strategy for alleviating back pain by making people more aware of how they move their bodies. The benefits of yoga were proven in a study of more than 100 adults with lower back pain. After taking weekly yoga classes for 12 weeks, the participants, who were between ages 20 to 64, experienced improvement in their body function and a reduced need for pain medication. At the end of the study, only 21 percent of the patients who take the yoga class were taking pain medication, down from almost 60 percent at the start.


Back Massage

Getting a massage is another simple strategy I recommend to help ease not only your back pain (and other types of pain), but anxiety as well. Massage offers real health benefits that are being recognized even by conventional hospitals, making it a standard therapy for surgery patients. Massage releases endorphins that help induce relaxation, relieve pain, and reduce levels of stress chemicals, such as cortisol and noradrenaline. It also reverses the damaging effects of stress by slowing your heart rate, respiration, and metabolism and lowering raised blood pressure. Massage can:

Ease your tense and knotted muscles and stiff joints, improving mobility and flexibility Relieve pain caused by migraines, labor, fibromyalgia, and even cancer
Relax and soften your injured and overused muscles, reducing spasms and cramping Stimulate your lymph system, which is your body’s natural defense against toxic invaders
Reduce recovery time for strenuous workouts and eliminate subsequent pains of the athlete at any level Provide arthritis pain relief by increasing joint flexibility
Reduce and realign scar tissue after healing has occurred Reduce post-surgery adhesions and edema
Boost your level of alertness and attention Contribute to shorter labor and reduce tearing for expectant mothers
Decrease symptoms of PMS Reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and ease insomnia

Neuro-Structural Integration Technique (NST)

If you’ve never heard of neuro-structural integration technique (NST), then you may be missing out on a simple but effective treatment for your back pain. NST is a gentle and non-invasive technique that stimulates your body’s reflexes. Simple movements are done across your muscles, nerves, and connective tissue. These help your neuromuscular system to reset all related tension levels and promote natural healing. It is different from massage and other manipulations that try to “force” a change – it simply resets your body to heal itself. It gives profound and lasting results that you may feel as soon as the second or third session.

NST is safe for everyone. Highly trained athletes, newborns, pregnant women, elderly, and sick individuals who suffer from back pain can find relief using this technology. Get a more in-depth explanation of NST through this article by Michael Nixon Levy, who developed this amazing technique.

Other Strategies to Eliminate Chronic Back Pain (and Other Types of Pain)

In addition to the tips above, I also recommend these simple and natural ways to prevent and relieve back pain:

  • Get sufficient high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. One of the best sources of omega-3s is krill oil supplement. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA contained in krill oil have been found in many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties. Unlike fish oil, krill oil does not pose any toxicity and rancidity to your body, which may only damage your health. It is also far lower on the food chain, making it far less likely to accumulate environmental chemicals and toxins.
  • Eliminate or radically reduce your intake of grains and sugars, especially fructose. Excessive intake of grains and sugars will elevate your insulin and leptin levels primarily through causing your body to be resistant to them, resulting in the increase of inflammatory prostaglandin production.
  • Optimize your vitamin D (through regular and appropriate sun exposure) and vitamin K2 levels. These nutrients will help prevent the softening of your bones that can often lead to lower back pain.

As for back pain management, I suggest trying these natural solutions that provide excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards that pain medications often carry:

  • Astaxanthin – This is one of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known to man today. Astaxanthin has very potent anti-inflammatory properties. In some cases, it may even be more effective than NSAIDs. You may need to take high doses of this antioxidant (as much as eight milligrams a day), though, to achieve this benefit.
  • Ginger – This anti-inflammatory herb has pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Steep fresh ginger in boiling water to make a delicious and fragrant tea. Grating and adding it to your vegetable juice is a good idea as well.
  • Curcumin – This is the primary therapeutic compound found in the spice turmeric. A study of osteoarthritis patients revealed curcumin’s pain relief effects: individuals who added 200 milligrams of curcumin a day to their treatment plan were found to have reduced pain and increased mobility. In fact, over 50 clinical studies have proven curcumin’s potent anti-inflammatory activity. There are also four studies that demonstrated its ability to reduce Tylenol-associated adverse health effects.
  • Cayenne cream – Also known as capsaicin cream, this is a spice made from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
  • Boswellia – Also called boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” this herb has been prized for thousands of years for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. This is one of my personal favorites, as I have seen it work well with many of my rheumatoid arthritis patients.
  • Bromelain – Found in pineapples, this protein-digesting enzyme is a natural anti-inflammatory. Bromelain can be used in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful. Most of the bromelain is found within the pineapple’s core, so make sure you leave a little of the pulpy core intact when you eat the fruit.
  • Cetyl myristoleate (CMO) – An oil found typically in fish and dairy butter, CMO acts as a “joint lubricant” and an anti-inflammatory. I use a topical preparation for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and alleviate mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that flares up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards.
  • Evening Primrose, Black Currant, and Borage Oils – The fatty acid gamma linoleic acid (GLA) found in these oils is useful for treating arthritic pain.

I strongly advise you to try these simple but successful back pain relief alternatives. Not only will they treat the underlying causes of back pain, but they can also spare you from additional harm, unlike pharmaceutical or surgical “Band-Aids.”

Acupuncture: Real or Not, Can Ease Side Effects of Cancer Drugs.

Story at-a-glance

  • Acupuncture helped to significantly improve menopausal symptoms among women taking estrogen-lowering drugs for breast cancer
  • Both patients who received traditional acupuncture and those who received a sham acupuncture procedure experienced similar symptom reductions
  • This could be a demonstration of the placebo effect in action, or the slight pricking of the skin involved in the sham procedure may have caused actual physiological changes
  • Acupuncture has been safely used for thousands of years to treat dozens of health conditions, including chronic pain, nausea, high blood pressure, and more
  • Acupuncture appears to work equally well with skin-penetrating needles or acupressure (the use of pressure to stimulate acupuncture points)
  • Acupuncture

Every year, millions of Americans turn to acupuncture as part of their health care routine, using it to relieve chronic pain, high blood pressure, nausea and much more. Although in the US, acupuncture is considered an alternative to conventional forms of medicine, it is actually one of the oldest healing practices in the world.

In China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries, acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, and its staying power isn’t merely a matter of superstition or coincidence.

Acupuncture has withstood the test of time because it works to safely relieve many common health complaints. And, interestingly, one recent study even showed that not only does acupuncture work, but so, too, does a sham acupuncture procedure…

Acupuncture May Ease Menopausal Symptoms in Cancer Patients

New research has again confirmed acupuncture’s usefulness, this time among women being treated with aromatase inhibitor drugs for breast cancer. The drugs, which lower estrogen, often lead to significant menopausal symptoms including joint and muscle pain, hot flashes, and night sweats.

The study involved nearly 50 breast cancer patients taking aromatase inhibitors. They received either eight weekly acupuncture sessions or a sham procedure involving non-penetrating needles placed in “fake” acupuncture points.1

It turned out that both sets of patients reported significantly improved symptoms, especially among hot flashes. This included those who had received either the real or sham acupuncture.

This could certainly be a demonstration of the placebo effect in action, although the researchers also suggested that the slight pricking of the skin involved in the sham procedure may have caused physiological changes. Either way, if it works to make you feel better, does it really matter why? As Dr. Ting Bao, the study’s lead author, stated:2

“Acupuncture as a medical procedure has been practiced for thousands of years… It has a minimal risk and potentially significant benefits.”

How Does Acupuncture Work?

With documented use dating back more than 2,500 years, acupuncture is based on the premise that there are more than 2,000 acupuncture points in the human body, which are connected by bioenergetic pathways known as meridians. It is through these pathways that Qi, or energy, flows, and when the pathway is blocked, the disruptions can lead to imbalances and chronic disease.

The treatment itself, which involves the insertion of metallic hair-thin needles (typically three to 15) into specific acupuncture points, can be conducted by a physician or a trained acupuncturist. It generally involves little or no discomfort, and patients often report feeling energized or relaxed following the procedure.

Acupuncture is proven to impact a number of chronic health conditions, and it’s thought that it stimulates your central nervous system to release natural chemicals that alter bodily systems, pain and other biological processes. Evidence, in fact, suggests that acupuncture impacts the body on multiple levels, including:3

  • Stimulating the conduction of electromagnetic signals, which may release immune system cells or pain-killing chemicals
  • Activation of your body’s natural opioid system, which may help reduce pain or induce sleep
  • Stimulation of your hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which modulate numerous body systems
  • Change in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones, which may positively influence brain chemistry

Acupuncture Has Nearly 30 Proven Uses and 60+ Potential Uses

When it comes to acupuncture, one of the most common uses is in treating chronic pain. One analysis of the most robust studies available concluded that acupuncture has a clear effect in reducing chronic pain, more so than standard drug-based pain treatment.4

Study participants receiving acupuncture reported an average 50 percent reduction in pain, compared to a 28 percent pain reduction for standard pain treatment without acupuncture

However, chronic pain is only one of 30+ proven uses for this natural treatment. The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted an extensive review and analysis of clinical trials related to acupuncture, and reported the procedure has been proven effective for the following diseases:5

Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever) Biliary colic
Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke) Dysentery, acute bacillary Dysmenorrhoea, primary
Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm) Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders) Headache
Hypertension, essential Hypotension, primary Induction of labor
Knee pain Leukopenia Low back pain
Malposition of fetus Morning sickness Nausea and vomiting
Neck pain Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction) Periarthritis of shoulder
Postoperative pain Renal colic Rheumatoid arthritis
Sciatica Sprain Stroke
Tennis elbow

Additionally, acupuncture has also shown a therapeutic effect for treating the following diseases and conditions, which range from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and addictions to whooping cough, although further research is needed:

Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm) Acne vulgaris Alcohol dependence and detoxification Bell’s palsy
Bronchial asthma Cancer pain Cardiac neurosis Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
Cholelithiasis Competition stress syndrome Craniocerebral injury, closed Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
Earache Epidemic haemorrhagic fever Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease) Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
Female infertility Facial spasm Female urethral syndrome Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
Gastrokinetic disturbance Gouty arthritis Hepatitis B virus carrier status Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
Hyperlipaemia Hypo-ovarianism Insomnia Labor pain
Lactation, deficiency Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic Ménière disease Neuralgia, post-herpetic
Neurodermatitis Obesity Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence Osteoarthritis
Pain due to endoscopic examination Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein-Leventhal syndrome) Postextubation in children
Postoperative convalescence Premenstrual syndrome Prostatitis, chronic Pruritus
Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome Raynaud syndrome, primary Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
Retention of urine, traumatic Schizophrenia Sialism, drug-induced Sjögren syndrome
Sore throat (including tonsillitis) Spine pain, acute Stiff neck Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
Tietze syndrome Tobacco dependence Tourette syndrome Ulcerative colitis, chronic
Urolithiasis Vascular dementia Whooping cough (pertussis)

There Are Many Different Types of Acupuncture: You Choose What Works Best for You

While traditional acupuncture involves the use of needles (acupuncture actually means “to puncture with a needle”), sometimes the stimulation of acupuncture points is done using electricity, lasers, or acupressure (the use of pressure to stimulate acupuncture points).

The term acupuncture is often used to describe all of these modalities, as each has shown similar benefits. This means that if you like the idea of trying a natural, ancient technique like acupuncture, but don’t like the idea of having needles inserted into your body, there are needle-free alternatives you can try that can offer many of the same benefits.

In one study that evaluated acupuncture for cancer patients suffering from nausea during radiotherapy, one group received traditional acupuncture with skin-penetrating needles while a second group received simulated acupuncture with a blunt placebo needle that only touched their skin.6 Interestingly, 95 percent of the patients in both groups felt that the treatment helped relieve nausea, and 67 percent experienced other positive effects such as improved sleep, brighter mood, and less pain.

My favorite form of “needle-less acupuncture” is The Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, which is the psychological acupressure technique I most highly recommend. EFT is based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments but without the invasiveness of using needles, nor the inconvenience and cost of having to have a practitioner available to treat you.

Instead, simple tapping with the fingertips is used to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on your head and chest while you think about your specific problem — whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, etc. — and voice positive affirmations. This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the “short-circuit” — the emotional block — from your body’s bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body’s balance, which is essential for optimal health and the healing of physical disease.

You can conduct EFT yourself, but if you are not getting the results you would like, or you have a particularly traumatic issue, consider consulting with a skilled EFT professional. Likewise, if you decide to give traditional acupuncture a try, be sure you consult with a qualified practitioner, as your results may vary depending on the practitioner’s skill level.

My Hope for You: How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life

In a world where so many people focus on the bad instead of the good, the ugly instead of the beautiful, on scarcity instead of abundance, fear instead of love, I hope you’ll dare to do things differently. I hope you’ll dare to smile when others frown, to believe when others doubt and to love when others fear…

I wrote this piece today. I call it My Hope for You. Hope you like it :)

My Hope for You

“I hope you’ll put aside all your fears and insecurities and I hope you’ll find the courage to take risks and make all your dreams come true.

I hope you’ll find the courage to lose sight of the shore so that you can discover new oceans.

I hope you’ll let go of all thoughts of limitation and I hope you’ll stop settling for less than you are worth.

I hope you’ll start believing in yourself as much as you want the world to believe in you.

I hope you’ll pour your love into everything you do and I hope you’ll make your life a work of art.

I hope you’ll learn to smile more and frown less; to trust more and doubt less; to feel more and think less; to listen more and talk less.

I hope you’ll give yourself permission to stop taking yourself so seriously and enjoy life a little more.

I hope you’ll give yourself permission to be silly and weird, to laugh when you feel like laughing and to cry when you feel like crying.

I hope you’ll cleanse your inner vision until you see nothing but light, your own and of those around you.

I hope you’ll stop chasing love and approval outside of you and start seeking your own love and approval instead.

I hope you’ll always keep a humble heart and no matter how bad the world will treat you, I hope you’ll look at it with eyes of love.

I hope you’ll learn to treat everyone with love and respect and I hope you’ll make every person you come in contact with feel that there is something valuable in them.

I hope you’ll surround yourself with the best kind of people, positive and cheerful spirits, beautiful and loving souls.

I hope you’ll love with all your heart and no matter if you’ll get hurt, lied or betrayed, I hope you’ll never lose your faith in love.

I hope you’ll put aside all thoughts of envy and jealousy and look at those who already accomplished many of the things you wish to accomplish with respect and admiration.

I hope you’ll learn to honor and embrace yourself fully, and I hope you’ll love yourself as much as you want others to love you.

I hope you’ll learn to forgive and let go of all thoughts of anger and resentment, and I hope you’ll allow peace, love and tranquility to enter your heart.

I hope you’ll let go of the past and all the pain that it caused you, and I hope you’ll allow it to make you better not bitter.

I hope you’ll find the strength to turn your wounds into wisdom and all your difficulties into opportunities.

I hope you’ll learn to be grateful for every experience life sends your way.

I hope you’ll allow your so called mistakes and failures to teach you gratitude, patience, humility and compassion, and I hope you’ll put all thoughts of blame, judgement and criticism behind you.

I hope you’ll become a reflection of that which you want to see in the world and I hope you’ll make the rest of your life the best of your life.”

Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all a Happy New Year filled with love, beauty, abundance, happiness and inner peace. Thank you for being a faithful readers and for constantly working on improving yourselves, your life and the world around you.