Review Category : Health

Chronic Pain Sufferers Find New Relief in ‘MELT Method’

Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — For Marisa Merliss, movement is life. A dancer and a fitness model, she has even starred in workout videos like the Brazil Butt Life.

But like millions of Americans, Merliss is living in chronic pain, and after spending years of coping, she thinks she has finally found relief in a new body work system that targets our body’s connective tissue, called the MELT Method.

Only in her 30s, Merliss has already endured seven surgeries for a variety of injuries, including having two vertebrate in her spin fused together and having a hip operation.

After the spinal surgery, she said, “It was heartbreaking to not be able to move, not just dance, but [not] be active for three to four years.”

Merliss said the pain first started when her dance partner dropped her during a routine.

“I was dropped during a lift,” she said. “I was lifted overhead with a partner; it just went awry. I fell on my tailbone almost 7 feet.”

To manage the pain, Merliss said she tried for years with different therapies, from physical therapy to weekly trips to a chiropractor, but found little relief.

“It is just really frustrating that I can’t break through that,” she said. “I would say most of the time I am in some degree of pain. If I am being really honest, I think about [the pain] throughout the day.”

She’s not alone. It’s estimated that over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, costing almost $600 billion per year in health care expenses, lost wages and productivity, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

Not to mention the psychological toll chronic pain has on sufferers.

“It affects everything,” Merliss said. “I just got married four months ago and it’s awesome… but there are certain things, like it’s 6 p.m., I shouldn’t be exhausted, and we are supposed to go to dinner, but because of the pain I just want to be home lying in bed.”

Merliss said she doesn’t want to be reliant on painkillers, and after years of searching for relief, she decided to try something new called “the MELT Method.”

Developed by therapist and bestselling author Sue Hitzmann, the MELT Method is touted as a tantalizing new “pill free” pain relief, which works on the collective tissue, called the fascia, in the body.

“To MELT,” Hitzmann said, “means you are empowering yourself to get out of chronic pain,” and she says she is on the cusp of revolutionizing pain management.

Hitzmann said MELT works by stimulating the connective tissue in the body, manipulating pressure points in the fascia to loosen it up and reduce inflammation, which can reduce aches, pains and stiffness.

“If you compress or pull on connective tissue for short periods of time in very specific ways, you can re-hydrate it,” Hitzmann said. “That is one of the key parts of MELT, how to juice back up the tissue, how to stimulate it and organize it.”

Hitzmann uses a variety of soft rollers and massage balls to target problem areas. After just one class and a one-on-one session with Hitzmann, Merliss said she had already started to feel a difference.

But some wonder if this method is really a placebo effect, or if it really has tapped into something.

“This is a relatively new area of research… not that many people are looking at the fascia and that needs to be looked at more.” said Dr. Helene Langevin, the director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “[Fascia] literally forms a network in the body and connects everything with everything else. I think that is might play a role in the interface between body systems. We can have a better understanding of the body if we understand connective tissue better.”

What scientists do know is that people feel more pain in their fascia than they do in their muscles.

“Fascia has a lot of nerve endings in it,” Langevin said. “When it is inflamed, it can feel painful. It’s a part of the body you don’t think about very much. The nerve endings in the fascia are more sensitive than the nerve endings in the muscle.”

So by manipulating the fascia, whether through massage or stretching like during yoga, or even acupuncture, the techniques are reducing pain.

“When you put an acupuncture needle into connective tissue, it winds around the needle, a little bit like spaghetti around a fork,” Langevin said. “After that, every time you move the needle, the fascia moves with it.”

Science has yet to fully weigh in on the benefits, but plenty of people say they feel an immediate difference. Merliss has been diligently “MELT-ing” for over a month now, even on her honeymoon, and says Hitzmann’s method has managed to melt away years of chronic pain.

“I was able to climb up a cliff, which I never thought I would be able to do this soon,” she said. “It’s just been really empowering to feel like I can make money again and have a normal life.

“I feel like more hope, and I feel hopeful I’m going to be able to have the career that I want again.”

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Woman Donates Kidney to Stranger, Starts Kidney Transplant Chain

ollega/iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) — When Zully Broussard decided to donate one of her kidneys to a stranger, she had no idea her act of kindness would spur five more people to donate their kidneys to strangers as part of a rare kidney transplant chain.

Broussard, of Sacramento, California, underwent surgery at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco Thursday, donating her kidney to a man whose relative wasn’t able to donate because the relative wasn’t a compatible match. That relative then donated a kidney to a stranger who was a match, and the chain continued, with recipients’ loved ones donating until six people gave kidneys and six more received them.

“I thought I was going to help this one person who I don’t know, but the fact that so many people can have a life extension, that’s pretty big,” Broussard told ABC’s San Francisco station KGO.

Half of the surgeries took place Thursday, and the rest are taking place Friday, according to the hospital.

Dr. Steven Katznelson, who directs the California Pacific Medical Center transplant program, said Broussard had wanted to donate a kidney “some time ago” to a specific recipient, but that recipient wound up receiving a kidney from a deceased donor instead. She decided she still wanted to be a donor, and approached the hospital.

“She’s just an amazing person,” he said, adding that Broussard is in recovery and doing well. “She’s truly altruistic and almost … ethically needed to help.”

Since she has blood type O, the so called “universal” donor type, it was easier to make the chain happen, Katznelson said.

“Blood type O is like gold,” he told ABC News. “It really opened up a lot of possibilities.”

Using sophisticated software, Katznelson identified a chain of matches from a database and the transplants took about a month to coordinate before surgery day, he said.

In all, 101,586 people are awaiting kidney transplants right now, according to data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, the organization under contract with the federal government. Of the 16,895 kidney transplants that took place in 2013, 5,732 came from living donors, according to OPTN.

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FDA Approves First Biosimilar Product, Could Be Step Towards Cheaper Medicines

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first biosimilar product for use in the U.S., potentially paving the way for cheaper medicine.

Once a drug’s patent expires, other manufacturers are able to make generic equivalents to a name-brand drug. One class of medications, however, biologics, do not have generic equivalents, as they are not made with chemicals, but instead are produced by or extracted from living cells. Some of these drugs, such as Enbrel, Humira and Neulasta, are among the most expensive drugs on the market.

The FDA hopes to create a path to licensing drugs that act similarly to biologics. On Friday, the agency approved Zarxio, made by Novartis, which will act similarly to Amgen’s Neuprogen.

Neuprogen was first licensed in 1991. Zarxio is approved for the same uses as Neuprogen, which include patients with cancer receiving myelosuppresive chemotherapy or undergoing bone marrow transplantation and patients with severe and chronic neutropenia, among other uses.

“Biosimilars will provide access to important therapies for patients who need them,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hambrug said in a statement. “Patients and the health care community can be confident that biosimilar products approved by the FDA meet the agency’s rigorous safety, efficacy and quality standards.”

Biosimilars can only be approved by the FDA if they match the reference product in how it works, how it is administered and dosage forms and strengths, and only for the same indications and conditions as the original product.

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Goal Setters Often Delude Themselves

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — When you’re trying to achieve a goal and think you’re doing a good job at it, don’t be too quick to give yourself a pat on the back.

Researchers from the University of Colorado and Texas A&M University say that too often, people tend to delude themselves into thinking that they’re doing much better than they really are.

Some of examples of this occurring, say Margaret C. Campbell and Caleb Warren, are when you diet or try to save money. Essentially, human nature involves giving more significance consistent with one’s beliefs.

After looking at seven studies in this regard, Campbell and Warren say the tendency of people is to overestimate how well they’re doing on the way to achieving weight loss or saving money and to downplay setbacks.

That might explain why, for instance, people abandon exercise programs when they don’t see much results. The frequent reason for that is people think just because they’re working out, they should be able to eat whatever they feel like.

This is called “progress bias” and it often prompts people to quit working towards a desired outcome before they should.

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Staying Fit Throughout Adulthood Takes Brains

iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — Instead of getting depressed when you turn 40, think of it as a new lease on life.

So rather than letting yourself go, make a conscious effort to stay fit. In that way, says Nicole Spartano, a postdoctoral fellow at Boston University School of Medicine, you’ll be able to brag about having a young brain when you turn 60.

Spartano examined the records of 1,270 people, average age 41, who underwent treadmill testing during the 1970s. Fast forward to 20 years later, she then looked at the results of the same people who underwent MRI brain scans and mental performance tests.

Overall, the participants who had a lower increase in heart rate and blood pressure did better on tests involving decision-making than their less healthy counterparts, meaning they retained more brain volume.

Spartano says this would suggest that fitness throughout adulthood has an impact on brain aging. Previously, other studies have shown that elderly people who undergo fitness programs can help prevent brain-aging, at least in the short-term.

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One in Seven 2-Year-Olds in Boston Drink Coffee

iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — Do you remember having your first sip of coffee? It was probably when you were a kid and you also probably hated it.

However, a new study out of Boston Medical Center has some shocking news: an estimated one out of seven children aged 2 in Boston drink coffee.

The researchers, led by Anne Merewood, analyzed 315 moms and toddlers to arrive at that estimate. They also found that children of Hispanics were more likely to be coffee drinkers than non-Hispanics and that more girls than boys drank coffee.

Merewood believes that infants and toddlers in other parts of the country are also being given coffee, saying it “could be associated with cultural factors.”

Although the report did not delve into the reasons or possible ramifications of allowing children to drink coffee at such a young age, other studies have said that it can lead to depression, diabetes, sleep problems, substance abuse and obesity.

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Daylight Saving Time 2015: Tips for Springing Forward

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It’s time to spring forward on Sunday, but the act of moving the clocks an hour ahead can deliver a blow to your sleeping schedule.

For most, daylight saving time is an exciting sign of spring that comes with a slightly sleepy Monday. But if you’re not a morning person to begin with, your mood and productivity can take a dive. Daylight saving time has been blamed for car accidents, workplace injuries and stock market dips in the past.

That’s because people are experiencing more than just jet lag this time of year. They’re dealing with a new light-dark cycle.

“It’s an interesting paradox, because traveling one time zone east or west is very easy for anyone to adapt to,” said Dr. Alfred Lewy, director of Oregon Health and Science University’s Sleep and Mood Disorders Laboratory in Portland, Oregon. “But in daylight saving time, the new light-dark cycle is perversely working against the body clock. We’re getting less sunlight in morning and more in the evening.”

The body clock is a cluster of neurons deep inside the brain that generates the circadian rhythm, also known as the sleep-wake cycle. The cycle spans roughly 24 hours, but it’s not precise.

“It needs a signal every day to reset it,” said Lewy.

The signal is sunlight, which shines in through the eyes and “corrects the cycle from approximately 24 hours to precisely 24 hours,” said Lewy. But when the sleep-wake and light-dark cycles don’t line up, people can feel out-of-sync, tired and downright grumpy.

With time, the body clock adjusts on its own. But here are a few ways to help it along:

Soak Up the Morning Light

Getting some early morning sun Saturday and Sunday can help the brain’s sleep-wake cycle line up with the new light-dark cycle. But it means getting up and outside at dawn. Sleeping by a window won’t cut it, Lewy said. The sunlight needs to be direct because glass filters out much of the frequencies involved in re-setting the sleep-wake cycle.

Avoid Evening Light

Resisting the urge to linger in the late sunlight Sunday and Monday also can help the body clock adjust, Lewy said.

Try a Low Dose of Melatonin

While light synchronizes the body clock in the morning, the hormone melatonin updates it at night.

The exact function of the hormone, produced by the pea-size pineal gland in the middle of the brain, is unclear. But it can activate melatonin receptors on the neurons of the body clock, acting as a “chemical signal for darkness,” Lewy said.

Taking a low-dose (less than 0.3 milligrams) of melatonin late in the afternoon Friday through Monday can help sync the sleep-wake and light-dark cycles. But be careful: Though melatonin is sold as a dietary supplement, it can cause drowsiness and interfere with other drugs.

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Websites Pushing Genetic Cancer Tests Rife With Bogus Claims

Sirikornt/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Don’t believe everything you see on the Internet, especially if it has to do with commercial cancer tests.

Researchers analyzed 55 websites that marketed “personalized” cancer products, which included genetic testing, in a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers found that most sites were sponsored by a commercial entity for profit and offered nonstandard testing with no proven utility for patients.

Most would advertise supposed benefits, but very few included drawbacks or limitations.

The study adds to previous scrutiny of online products and advocates for regulation over Internet marketing of nonstandard medical technology, according to researchers.

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The World of Intersex Children and One Person’s Journey Between Two Sexes

Jackie Pou/ABCREPORTER’S NOTEBOOK By ABC News’ Jackie Pou

(SALINAS, Dominican Republic) — Growing up in a small town near Barahona, Dominican Republic, southwest of the island home to pristine beaches not yet sullied by the outside world, I heard stories about children nicknamed “guevedoces.”

The town is called Salinas, and if you ask anyone in the country about Salinas — the one close to Barahona because there are four — you will hear two tales: One is how some of the people there were born with a rare condition that made their feet look like lobster feet. And the other tale is of how a number of children were presumably born as girls and later turned into boys once they hit puberty. They were called guevedoces, or “penis at 12.”

To the best of the villagers’ knowledge they looked like girls at birth and were raised that way. But as they got older, their voices deepened and it was discovered they had testicles, eventually turning into adult men. Doctors from Cornell University in upstate New York traveled there to study some of the children with this medical anomaly, even bringing some of them back to the States for research.

I traveled the rural roads of Dominican Republic in search of the mystery town.

Upon my arrival, I saw a group of people sitting in the shade of a tree. And they were not surprised that a Dominican-American journalist was asking about the guevedoces.

One of them was a barefoot man and his foot looked like a lobster — making at least one of the tales I had heard true.

Back in Salinas, I was hoping to interview one of the guevedoces. I was told that when doctors took some of them to the U.S. for research, most of them used it as an opportunity to stay — never returning to Salinas.

The women in the group were more eager to talk than the men. Maria Felis remembers vividly when doctors from the United States came to the town, taking some of the guevedoces to New York.

“There aren’t so many now as there were before,” she explained. “I remember when the last two brothers left in 1989. They never told us why there were so many children born that way.”

“There was a baby born like the guevedoces last year,” Maria added, “but the mother would be too embarrassed to talk.”

I was very familiar with this response. I have come across numerous parents in the United States with intersex children and most of them felt the same way.

“It’s an important story and I want to help,” one mother told me, “but I am worried what people will think of my child.”

Another woman, Josefa Cuevos, recalled one of her childhood friends. “I remember when one was born…then she grew up changed her name and started to live as a man.”

In today’s terminology the guevedoces are intersex, and it’s a condition that affects American children as well.

About one in every 2,000 babies are born intersex each year in the United States alone, according to the National Institutes of Health, but they don’t always stay that way forever. Many undergo gender assignment surgery to assign them one gender over the other.

In our Nightline report, we follow the journey of Saifa Wall, who was born with ambiguous genitalia like the guevedoces. But instead of letting him grow into his sex, doctors assigned him female at birth and removed his testicles at the age of 13.

For the first time, Saifa, who is now 35 years old, came face-to-face with the pediatric surgeon, Dr. Terry Hensle, who performed his gender assignment surgery almost 20 years ago at Saifa’s parents’ request, deciding his sex with Saifa’s mother’s consent, which Saifa says was the wrong gender for him.

Gender assignment surgeries among intersex children in the United States are still a common practice, but they are increasingly controversial, with kids and parents coming forward to say the surgeons are sometimes making irreversible mistakes.

Dr. Hensle has been a leader in the field of gender assignment surgery for 30 years and is still a practicing pediatric urological surgeon. He also served as a professor of urology at Columbia University Medical Center.

Hensle said gender assignment decisions are now made by a “gender committee” made up of endocrinologists, ethicists, even clergy, but when Saifa underwent his surgery, which was performed at his parents’ request, only a small team of doctors made the call.

“It really wasn’t the right thing to do,” Hensle told Nightline.

Hensle was the surgeon who removed Saifa’s testicles when he was 13 years old. He said Saifa and his family knew what having gender assignment surgery meant, and medical releases were signed. During the procedure, Saifa’s male organs were removed, an irreversible procedure preventing him from ever having children and turning him biologically into a girl.

It wasn’t until college that Saifa started to ask serious questions, and got a hold of his medical records. He said he was shocked by what he learned.

“I saw that initially they had wrote that I had ‘ambiguous genitalia,’” Saifa said. “They checked it but then they scratched it out and put that I was ‘normal.’ So at first I was Baby Wall, then I became Baby Girl Wall, then I became Suzanne Wall so that’s when everything started to come together.”

“I felt betrayed,” Saifa continued. “Then I felt like, oh, there was this thing that happened and I didn’t — I wasn’t aware of it….No one told me.”

Hensle categorically denies that he did anything Saifa’s parents didn’t ask him to do. But he is forthright in saying that the science on gender assignment surgery back then was not as advanced as it is now.

“There are some mistakes that would never happen today knowing what we know about gender, knowing what we know about nurture versus nature, knowing what we know about individual choices, so yes, we’ve learned a lot and I hope we make the right choices. I think we will,” Hensle said.

Saifa was sterilized by a surgery he now regrets having. As a result, every week, he has to inject himself with testosterone, a hormone he is dependent on for the rest of his life.

So, 20 years after undergoing this surgery, Saifa sat down with Hensle to find answers to questions that have stayed with him since he first found out about the surgery at age 25.

“What you’re saying is because I was assigned female, and I have internal testes, that those testes should be removed?” Saifa asked Hensle.

“You shouldn’t be assigned as a female gender,” Hensle said. “But the point is that what happened to you, it was done not out of malice, or not of lack of thinking about it, it was done because…[in 1992] that was state of the art. In the decade between ’92 and 2002, we learned an extraordinary amount.”

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Energy Drink TV Ads Target Adolescents

Mauro Matacchione/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Pediatricians warn against teen energy drink consumption, but the amount of TV advertising devoted to teens for these products fights that.

Researchers looked at a year’s worth of ads, and found that 13 manufacturers aired 83,071 commercials for energy drinks – that’s over 608 hours, on 139 different networks, according to a study published Friday in the Journal of the Nutritional Education and Behavior.

Ten channels accounted for nearly half of the airtime, and six of these included adolescents as young as 12 in their target demographic.

MTV2 had the most energy drink advertising and the greatest proportion of adolescents in its base audience.

The researchers could not definitively conclude that adolescents viewed the ads, but they say it is likely.

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