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13 hours ago · Home Remedies: Get in touch with the benefits of massage

Massage is no longer available only through luxury spas and upscale health clubs. Today, massage therapy is offered in businesses, clinics, hospitals and even airports. It can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being. Learn about the possible health benefits and what to expect during a massage therapy session.

What is massage?

Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure. There are many different types of massage, including these common types:

  • Swedish massage. This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping to help relax and energize you.
  • Deep massage. This massage technique uses slower, more-forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
  • Sports massage. This is similar to Swedish massage, but it’s geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
  • Trigger point massage. This massage focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.

Benefits of massage

Massage is generally considered part of complementary and integrative medicine. It’s increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.

Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.

While more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage may also be helpful for:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia related to stress
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain

Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people enjoy massage because it often produces feelings of caring, comfort and connection.

Despite its benefits, massage isn’t meant as a replacement for regular medical care. Let your doctor know you’re trying massage and be sure to follow any standard treatment plans you have.

Risks of massage

Most people can benefit from massage. However, massage may not be appropriate if you have:

  • Bleeding disorders or take blood-thinning medication
  • Burns or healing wounds
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Fractures
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Severe thrombocytopenia
 

Discuss the pros and cons of massage with your doctor, especially if you are pregnant or you have cancer or unexplained pain.

Some forms of massage can leave you feeling a bit sore the next day. But massage shouldn’t ordinarily be painful or uncomfortable. If any part of your massage doesn’t feel right or is painful, speak up right away. Most serious problems come from too much pressure during massage.

What you can expect during a massage

You don’t need any special preparation for massage. Before a massage therapy session starts, your massage therapist should ask you about any symptoms, your medical history and what you’re hoping to get out of massage. Your massage therapist should explain the kind of massage and techniques he or she will use.

In a typical massage therapy session, you undress or wear loose-fitting clothing. Undress only to the point that you’re comfortable. You generally lie on a table and cover yourself with a sheet. You can also have a massage while sitting in a chair, fully clothed. Your massage therapist should perform an evaluation through touch to locate painful or tense areas and to determine how much pressure to apply.

Depending on preference, your massage therapist may use oil or lotion to reduce friction on your skin. Tell your massage therapist if you might be allergic to any ingredients.

A massage session may last from 10 to 90 minutes, depending on the type of massage and how much time you have. No matter what kind of massage you choose, you should feel calm and relaxed during and after your massage.

If a massage therapist is pushing too hard, ask for lighter pressure. Occasionally you may have a sensitive spot in a muscle that feels like a knot. It’s likely to be uncomfortable while your massage therapist works it out. But if it becomes painful, speak up.

Finding a massage therapist

Ask your doctor or someone else you trust for a recommendation. Most states regulate massage therapists through licensing, registration or certification requirements.

Don’t be afraid to ask a potential massage therapist such questions as:

  • Are you licensed, certified or registered?
  • What is your training and experience?
  • How many massage therapy sessions do you think I’ll need?
  • What’s the cost, and is it covered by health insurance?

The take-home message about massage

Brush aside any thoughts that massage is only a feel-good way to indulge or pamper yourself. To the contrary, massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being, whether you have a specific health condition or are just looking for another stress reliever. You can even learn how to do self-massage or how to engage in massage with a partner at home.

This article is written by Mayo Clinic staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.

15 hours ago · Ulcerative colitis can be debilitating

Multi-racial man with stomach pain

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers (sores) in your digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis affects the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum. Symptoms usually develop over time, rather than suddenly.

Ulcerative colitis can be debilitating and can sometimes lead to life-threatening complications. While it has no known cure, treatment can greatly reduce signs and symptoms of the disease and even bring about long-term remission.

Symptoms

Ulcerative colitis symptoms can vary, depending on the severity of inflammation and where it occurs. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Diarrhea, often with blood or pus
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Rectal pain
  • Rectal bleeding — passing small amount of blood with stool
  • Urgency to defecate
  • Inability to defecate despite urgency
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • In children, failure to grow

Most people with ulcerative colitis have mild to moderate symptoms. The course of ulcerative colitis may vary, with some people having long periods of remission.

Types

Health care providers often classify ulcerative colitis according to its location. Types of ulcerative colitis include:

  • Ulcerative proctitis. Inflammation is confined to the area closest to the anus (rectum), and rectal bleeding may be the only sign of the disease. This form of ulcerative colitis tends to be the mildest.
  • Proctosigmoiditis. Inflammation involves the rectum and sigmoid colon (lower end of the colon). Signs and symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, and an inability to move the bowels in spite of the urge to do so (tenesmus).
  • Left-sided colitis. Inflammation extends from the rectum up through the sigmoid and descending colon. Signs and symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and pain on the left side, and unintended weight loss.
  • Pancolitis. Pancolitis often affects the entire colon and causes bouts of bloody diarrhea that may be severe, abdominal cramps and pain, fatigue, and significant weight loss.
  • Acute severe ulcerative colitis. This rare form of colitis affects the entire colon and causes severe pain, profuse diarrhea, bleeding, fever and inability to eat.

When to see a health care provider

See your doctor if you experience a persistent change in your bowel habits or if you have signs and symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in your stool
  • Ongoing diarrhea that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications
  • Diarrhea that awakens you from sleep
  • An unexplained fever lasting more than a day or two

Although ulcerative colitis usually isn’t fatal, it’s a serious disease that, in some cases, may cause life-threatening complications.

Read more on the Mayo Clinic IBD blog, discussing the latest advances in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

This article is written by Mayo Clinic staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.

16 hours ago · Help for fears and phobias

Specific phobias are an excessive and intense fear of certain situations or objects to the point where they cause significant disruption in your life. Understandably, the prospect of experiencing extreme anxiety and panic often leads to avoiding these triggers. While they’re one of the most common mental health conditions — affecting an estimated 12% of the population at some point in their lifetime — less than 10% ever seek treatment.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition classifies specific phobias across five subtypes:

  • Animals, such as snakes, spiders and dogs
  • Situations, including driving, flying and public speaking
  • Natural environmental, such as thunderstorms, heights and the dark
  • Blood-injection-injury, including blood draws, needles and wounds
  • Other — this is where things get weird

According to basic learning models, having a very bad experience with almost anything can result in developing a phobia. About 50% of individuals report a direct, negative experience that led to the onset of their phobia.

Naming a phobia involves combining the prefix of a Greek or Latin term for a specific object or situation with the Greek suffix “phobos,” which means “to fear”. Here are several of our favorites from The Phobia List — ones in the “other” category:

Coulrophobia (fear of clowns). A fear of clowns is, ahem, no laughing matter. For some, this may fall in the creepy category, but for the most part, clowns do get a bad rap. See the website, I Hate Clowns, for more evidence.

Pediophobia (fear of dolls), pupaphobia (fear of puppets) and automatonophobia (fear of a ventriloquist’s dummy). Staying with the creepy theme — porcelain dolls and marionette puppets. Need we say more?

Limnophobia (fear of lakes), chionophobia (fear of snow) and cryophobia (fear of extreme cold). The most effective treatment for phobias is prolonged exposure therapy. For those of you living in Minnesota, consider it free treatment.

Anablephobia (fear of looking up) and photoaugliaphobia (fear of bright, glaring lights). Sometimes it may not always be the best advice to keep your head up and look on the bright side of things.

Chaetophobia (fear of hair). This fear gives new meaning to the phrase “hair raising”.

Bathmophobia (fear of steep slopes). For those afflicted with this condition, unfortunately, it’s all downhill from here.

Alliumphobia (fear of garlic). Exposure therapy can be conducted just about anywhere. Folks with this phobia can face their fears at their local pizza parlor.

Omphalophobia (fear of belly buttons). Did you know that your belly button is home to over 70 different types of bacteria? Not good news for those who have misophobia (fear of germs) or bacillophobia (fear of microbes).

Athazagoaphobia (fear of forgetting). We honestly can’t remember what this one is about…

Cnidophobia (fear of stings). These phobics avoid listening to The Police.

Botanophobia (fear of plants). We won’t beat around the bush. Some plants, like the Venus flytrap and devil’s tooth, are truly terrifying.

Osphreisophobia (fear of bad smells). Not sure why this one is a phobia; seems rather adaptive to us.

Lutraphobia (fear of otters). They can be scary cute.

Arachibutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth). Sticking to your exposure treatment plan is the only way to get over this phobia.

Panophobia (fear of everything). This is condition is highly related to both phobophobia (fear of phobias) and decidophobia (fear of making decisions).

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (fear of long words). Yup.

Thankfully, phobias are among the most treatable mental health condition, with success rates often reaching close to 90%, which is great, even for those suffering from euphobia (fear of good news). Exposure therapy, which involves predictable, controllable and repetitive exposures to phobic triggers is an extremely effective treatment approach. Some phobias, even long-standing, weird fears, can be treated in as little as a single session of prolonged exposure.

So for all those isolophobics (fear of being alone) out there, you’re not alone — phobias are very common and highly treatable conditions.

This article is written by Dr. Craig Sawchuk, a Mayo Clinic psychologist, and clinical psychology fellow, Olivia Bogucki, PhD.

1 day ago · Alzheimer's and dementia: When to stop driving

Safe driving requires attention, concentration, and the ability to follow particular steps and rules. You also need to be able to make quick and appropriate decisions. For people with Alzheimer’s disease or other disorders causing dementia, these skills will decline over time. Eventually, driving will not be an option.

The decision to stop driving may be difficult for the person with dementia, caregivers and family members. If you care for someone with dementia, consider these strategies to prioritize safety and ease the transition.

Starting the conversation

A person with dementia may perceive giving up driving as a loss of independence, and deciding not to drive means accepting that one’s abilities are changing. To help a person with decisions about driving:

  • Begin the conversation as soon as possible and involve the doctor
  • Involve the person with dementia in the planning and decision-making
  • Talk about the safety of the driver and others
  • Appeal to the person’s sense of responsibility
  • Be aware of the person’s feelings about this change

If possible, have the person with mild dementia sign a driving contract. The contract will give you permission to help him or her stop driving when necessary.

Making the transition

Look for alternatives to driving and begin using them as soon as possible. Even if the person with mild dementia is still driving, you can begin the transition to other transportation options. These may include:

  • Family members and friends who can provide rides for errands or appointments
  • Delivery services for groceries and medication
  • City or county senior transportation services
  • Transportation services offered by community centers, houses of worship or other organizations
  • Taxi or car services that allow you to set up a payment account you can manage

An additional passenger to travel with the person with dementia — to sit in the back seat together and chat — may help with the transition to being a passenger rather than a driver.

When to stop driving

People with mild dementia are at a much greater risk of unsafe driving compared with people of the same age without dementia. The American Academy of Neurology recommends that people with mild dementia strongly consider discontinuing driving.

Some people with dementia may decide they no longer want to drive because they are concerned about safety. Others may be reluctant to stop driving, and they may not be aware of a decline in their driving skills.

Regular assessments during office visits may help your doctor identify a decline in abilities that indicate a greater risk. Your doctor may ask for feedback from the person with dementia and a caregiver separately to assess risks. Signs of unsafe driving include:

  • Getting lost when driving to familiar places
  • Not staying in the lane
  • Confusing the brake and gas pedals
  • Failing to observe traffic signs
  • Making slow or poor decisions
  • Hitting the curb while driving
  • Driving too slowly or speeding
  • Becoming angry or confused while driving
  • Getting into an accident or getting tickets

If the individual with mild dementia has not shown signs of unsafe driving and would like to continue to drive, your physician may recommend a roadside driving evaluation by a professional such as an occupational therapist.

An occupational therapist can evaluate the impact of the disease on a person’s ability to drive and offer strategies for driving safely, as well as when and how to reduce or stop driving. The American Occupational Therapy Association has a national database of driving specialists.

State regulations regarding dementia and driving restrictions vary. Your health care provider may be required to report a diagnosis of dementia. The local motor vehicle department can provide information about relevant state guidelines or laws.

Strategies for difficult transitions

If the person living with dementia is unwilling to give up driving, consider these last-resort preventive strategies:

  • Control key access. Keep keys out of sight. If the person with dementia wants to keep a set of keys, offer keys that won’t start the vehicle.
  • Disable the vehicle. Remove a battery cable to prevent the car from starting, or ask a mechanic to install a “kill switch” that must be engaged before the car will start.
  • Sell the vehicle. If you can make do without the vehicle, consider selling it.

This article is written by Mayo Clinic staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.

1 day ago · Tuesday Tips: Outsmarting salt at the grocery store

a young couple in a grocery store with a shopping cart and looking at items

During this holiday season of cooking and baking make sure you think ahead when shopping for the recipe ingredients on your list. Try to avoid the most sodium-packed foods. For instance, canned vegetables are filled with sodium and so are condiments.

Watch: How to outsmart salt at the grocery store.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:07) is in the downloads at the end of the post. Please ‘Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.

4 days ago · Science Saturday: A 'gut-feeling' for high-risk, high-reward research

Arthur Beyder, M.D., Ph.D., runs a research laboratory at Mayo Clinic focused on examining the molecular mechanisms of gastrointestinal function and dysfunction in diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome. His goal is to discover better ways to diagnose and treat these conditions, including individualized treatment options.

Using the patch-clamp technique to study
the mechanical and electrical properties of sensory cells.

“These conditions affect 10-15 percent of Americans, and it’s amazing how much we still have to learn about the molecular mechanisms of these diseases,” says Dr. Beyder. 

Dr. Beyder believes that the “high risk, high reward” approach may be the best way to go when it comes to tackling this problem. He recently received a 2019 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award,  honoring his work as an “exceptionally creative early career investigator,” an award given to support the researchers who pursue high risk, high reward research.

What is high-risk, high-reward research?

High-risk, high-reward research is innovative research that pushes the boundaries of science and has the potential for broad impact.

“Incremental questions lead to incremental progress,” says Dr. Beyder. “High-risk questions allow us to break away to view the problems in a completely different light or from a different perspective. These approaches allow us to make big leaps forward and often bring true transformation in science and medicine.”

“At Mayo Clinic, we’re focused on turning scientific discoveries into treatments quickly, so patients can benefit as soon as possible,” says Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., president and CEO of Mayo Clinic, and one of Dr. Beyder’s mentors. “To achieve that, we need to think big, move fast, and take well-calculated risks. Researchers like Dr. Beyder are helping advance a new mindset that will accelerate innovation.”

Read the rest of the article on Advancing the Science.
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Other Mayo Clinic medical research websites:

6 days ago · Hospice care: Comforting the terminally ill

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and this year’s theme is “It’s About How You Live.”

Hospice care: Comforting the terminally ill

Hospice care might be an option if you or a loved one has a terminal illness. Understand how hospice care works and how to select a program.

If you or a relative has a terminal illness and you’ve exhausted all treatment options, you might consider hospice care. Find out how hospice care works and how it can provide comfort and support.

What is hospice care?

Hospice care is for people who are nearing the end of life. The services are provided by a team of health care professionals who maximize comfort for a person who is terminally ill by reducing pain and addressing physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. To help families, hospice care also provides counseling, respite care and practical support.

Unlike other medical care, the focus of hospice care isn’t to cure the underlying disease. The goal is to support the highest quality of life possible for whatever time remains.

Who can benefit from hospice care?

Hospice care is for a terminally ill person who’s expected to have six months or less to live. But hospice care can be provided for as long as the person’s doctor and hospice care team certify that the condition remains life-limiting.

Many people who receive hospice care have cancer, while others have heart disease, dementia, kidney failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Enrolling in hospice care early helps you live better and live longer. Hospice care decreases the burden on family, decreases the family’s likelihood of having a complicated grief and prepares family members for their loved one’s death. Hospice also allows a patient to be cared for at a facility for a period of time, not because the patient needs it, but because the family caregiver needs a break. This is known as respite care.

Where is hospice care provided?

Most hospice care is provided at home — with a family member typically serving as the primary caregiver. However, hospice care is also available at hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and dedicated hospice facilities.

No matter where hospice care is provided, sometimes it’s necessary to be admitted to a hospital. For instance, if a symptom can’t be managed by the hospice care team in a home setting, a hospital stay might be needed.

Who’s involved in hospice care?

If you’re not receiving hospice care at a dedicated facility, hospice staff will make regular visits to your home or other setting. Hospice staff is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A hospice care team typically includes:

  • Doctors. A primary care doctor and a hospice doctor or medical director will oversee care. Each patient gets to choose a primary doctor. This can be your prior doctor or a hospice doctor.
  • Nurses. Nurses will come to your or your relative’s home or other setting to provide care. They are also responsible for coordination of the hospice care team.
  • Home health aides. Home health aides can provide extra support for routine care, such as dressing, bathing and eating.
  • Spiritual counselors. Chaplains, priests, lay ministers or other spiritual counselors can provide spiritual care and guidance for the entire family.
  • Social workers. Social workers provide counseling and support. They can also provide referrals to other support systems.
  • Pharmacists. Pharmacists provide medication oversight and suggestions regarding the most effective ways to relieve symptoms.
  • Volunteers. Trained volunteers offer a variety of services, including providing company or respite for caregivers and helping with transportation or other practical needs.
  • Other professionals. Speech, physical and occupational therapists can provide therapy, if needed.
  • Bereavement counselors. Trained bereavement counselors offer support and guidance after the death of a loved one in hospice.

How is hospice care financed?

Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs and private insurance typically pay for hospice care. While each hospice program has its own policy regarding payment for care, services are often offered based on need rather than the ability to pay. Ask about payment options before choosing a hospice program.

How do I select a hospice program?

To find out about hospice programs, talk to doctors, nurses, social workers or counselors, or contact your local or state office on aging. Consider asking friends or neighbors for advice. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization also offers an online provider directory.

To evaluate a hospice program, consider asking:

  • Is the hospice program Medicare-certified? Is the program reviewed and licensed by the state or certified in some other way? Is the hospice program accredited by The Joint Commission?
  • Who makes up the hospice care team, and how are they trained or screened? Is the hospice medical director board certified in hospice and palliative care medicine?
  • Is the hospice program not-for-profit or for profit?
  • Does the hospice program have a dedicated pharmacist to help adjust medications?
  • Is residential hospice available?
  • What services are offered to a person who is terminally ill? How are pain and other symptoms managed?
  • How are hospice care services provided after hours?
  • How long does it take to get accepted into the hospice care program?
  • What services are offered to the family? What respite services are available for the caregiver or caregivers? What bereavement services are available?
  • Are volunteer services available?
  • If circumstances change, can services be provided in different settings? Does the hospice have contracts with local nursing homes?
  • Are hospice costs covered by insurance or other sources, such as Medicare?

Remember, hospice stresses care over cure. The goal is to provide comfort during the final months and days of life.

This article is written by Mayo Clinic staff. Find more health and medical information on mayoclinic.org.