Dr. Kyle: Why You Should Use The Sauna

Everyone enjoys a day at the spa for some much-needed relaxation, but did you know that time spent in the sauna may actually increase muscle gains?

Originating in Finland, this traditional passive heat therapy is becoming increasing popular world-wide. Saunas are often used for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain as well as headaches. Recent evidence has suggested benefits for high-blood pressure, neurocognitive diseases and pulmonary conditions.

Emerging studies have found a protective effect for cardiovascular disease with regular sauna use for both men and women. It turns out, the more you use the sauna the better. More time spent sweating it out, the more health benefits!

Need any more reasons to hop in the sauna?

Sauna use has also been associated with increased net protein synthesis. This is why amenities such as saunas and steam rooms have become more common place in gym and fitness facilities. After your workout may be the best time to jump in the sauna and here’s why:

1. Intense short-term heat exposure stimulates the production of heat shock proteins that reduce muscle degeneration cause by oxidative stress.
2. Produce Growth hormone for increased lean muscle mass.
3. Increased NO (nitric oxide) availability to promote blood flow and circulation.
4. Decrease inflammatory pathway activity and free radical production.
5. Improve insulin sensitivity, allowing your body to utilize glucose more efficiently.
6. Enhance the production of BDNF (brain derived neurotropic factor) which synthesizes new brain cells.

Essentially, saunas stimulate the bodies autonomic nervous system in order to maintain a constant core body temperature in extreme heat. Short durations of heat stress induces adaptive mechanisms similar to exercise and have profound physiological effects.

It has also been found to help with anxiety, depression and improve parasympathetic function! Who doesn’t want a little extra mental clarity in their life.

For any questions or comments please email me at drkyle@forwardhealth.ca and be sure to follow my Instagram and Facebook page @drkylearam.

References:

Hussain, J., & Cohen, M. (2018). Clinical Effects of Regular Dry Sauna Bathing: A Systematic Review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2018, 1857413. doi:10.1155/2018/1857413

Laukkanen, T., Kunutsor, S. K., Khan, H., Willeit, P., Zaccardi, F., & Laukkanen, J. A. (2018). Sauna bathing is associated with reduced cardiovascular mortality and improves risk prediction in men and women: a prospective cohort study. BMC medicine, 16(1), 219. doi:10.1186/s12916-018-1198-0

Dr. Kyle: Cracking Down on Low Back Pain

 

2 people with low back pain attempt 10 minutes of moderate exercise on an elliptical machine. One reports that the pain is better. The other reports that the pain is worse.

What’s the deal?

It turns out that one of the main predictors of stubborn low back pain is hip mobility. You may have heard of the term “hip hinge” before, and this refers to bending at the hips while keeping a neutral spine. Elliptical machines in particular work the gluteal muscles group and keep the spine relatively straight.

When restrictions in the hip develop, the body is unable to “hinge” properly and the low back folds forward to compensate. Over time this repetitive flexion of the lumbar spine causes accumulative stress that is linked to pain!

Could it be serious?

If the pain intensity does not change with alterations in posture, loads and movement, it may not be mechanical in nature. Some “red flags” that may indicate something more serious include:

• Bowel or bladder incontinence
• Numbness in the groin region
• Unexplained weight loss
• Low back pain with fever
• Progressive and constant low back pain

Once these red flags have been ruled out and your back pain has been deemed mechanical in nature, it’s time to develop a plan of management.

What to Do

The first step is to remove aggravating factors. If your back pain is worse bending forward, stop bending forward. If your back pain is worse bending back, stop bending back. To a point. The trick is to find that pain free range of motion and to work within it.

Train the hip hinge! A major part of the process is cueing patients to bend at the hips and not with the low back. This will keep the back straight and reduce shearing forces through the spine.

Next, we train the exercises or movements that take the pain away. For many this involves abdominal bracing to stabilize the spine. A few key exercises include:
• Modified curl up
• Bird dog
• Side plank

Fine Tuning

The final step is to develop strength and endurance. Try to include exercises that challenge one side of the body at a time. This includes lunges, suitcase carries, and one arm rows.

As always, consult the expertise of a registered healthcare professional before starting a strength and conditioning program. Check out my Instagram page @drkylearam for more videos of exercises to prevent low back pain. It’s time to get you out of pain and back on the elliptical!

Dr. Kyle: Can Changes in Weather Predict Pain?

 

 

I always thought my grandma was crazy when she’d say I can “feel” a storm coming as she’d rub her knees. To my surprise, her knees were often better at predicting the weather than our local news. How come?

It’s believed that changes in barometric pressure can lead to increases in musculoskeletal pain. In particular, for individuals suffering from osteoarthritis. But what’s surprising is most of the research is either inconclusive or there’s little evidence to support these claims.

After hearing a number of my patients describe similar changes in pain levels due to the changes in weather, I thought I’d take a further look at these claims.

In one survey by Von Mackensen et al., one to two thirds of patients with rheumatoid arthritis believed their symptoms were weather-sensitive (1).

Other studies found an increase in barometric pressure or a drop in ambient temperature are both associated with an increase in pain (2).

At first glance it appears there may in fact be some credible evidence to support this strange phenomenon, but why?

Joint Pain in Scuba Divers

Have you ever swam to the very bottom of a pool in the deep end and felt your ears pop? This sudden change in pressure is similar to what scuba divers experience but on a smaller scale.

Sudden changes in tissue gas tension surrounding the joints can cause fluid shifts and interference of joint lubrication. When divers go deep, their joints may hurt as there’s not as much fluid surrounding their joints. This becomes worse if severe osteoarthritis exists (3).

Why Your Joints Hurt More on Colder Days

Colder temperature and its association with increased pain is much easier to explain. We know that cold temperature reduces inflammatory markers, changes the viscosity of the fluid in our joints, and can decrease the strength and support of our muscles around joints (4). Patients tend to experience more severe joint pain during the cold winter months.

Show Me Your Search History and I’ll Diagnose Your Pain

I still recommend an in-person consultation but we’re close to this becoming a reality. A recent study found an association with local weather and rates of online searches for musculoskeletal pain symptoms.

Searches for arthritic related symptoms are significantly more common in climates closer to -5 degrees Celsius than 30 degrees Celsius. Although this doesn’t explain WHY osteoarthritic patients suffer more pain, it gives us a better idea of WHEN they experience worse symptoms and under WHAT conditions (5).

Well there you have it folks. There are still many uncertainties and unknowns on why joint pain increases when the temperature drops or pressure rises. But if you can sense the next snow storm or torrential downpour from your knees and not the news, you may be experiencing some underlying osteoarthritis.

1. Von Mackensen S, Hoeppe P, Maarouf A, Tourigny P, Nowak D.
Prevalence of weather sensitivity in Germany and Canada. Int J
Biometeorol. 2005;49(3):156-166.

2. McAlindon T, Formica M, LaValley M, Lehmer M, Kabbara K.
Effectiveness of glucosamine for symptoms of knee osteoarthritis:
results from an internet-based randomized double-blind controlled
trial. Am J Med. 2004;117(9):643-649.

3. Compression pains. In: US Navy Diving Manual. Revision 4 ed. Naval
Sea Systems Command; U.S. Government Printing. 1999:3-45.

4. Golde B. New clues into the etiology of osteoporosis: the effects of
prostaglandins (E2 and F2 alpha) on bone. Med Hypotheses. 1992;
38(2):125-131.

5. McAlindon T, Formica M, Schmid CH, Fletcher J. Changes in barometric pressure and ambient temperature influence osteoarthritis pain. The American journal of medicine. 2007 May 1;120(5):429-34.