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31 March 2010

Research confirms that some forms of massage help against low-back pain

Most people have experienced back pain – and many hope that massage will relieve it. But not all forms of massage have been scientifically proven to help against low back pain. That is what the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) pointed out in information published on today.

Back pain often affects the lower back and can be a big physical and psychological burden. "The cause of back pain is not always immediately clear," explains Professor Peter Sawicki, the Institute's Director. "But low back pain usually gets better on its own within a few weeks." Back pain is only rarely caused by a more serious health problem.

Classic massage, Thai massage and acupressure could help against low back pain

If low back pain does not get better on its own, massage therapy could be a worthwhile option. "Research suggests that classic massage, Thai massage and acupressure can relieve low back pain that has lasted longer than several weeks," says the Institute's Director. In classic (Swedish) massage the affected area of skin and muscles are massaged, in Thai massage the limbs are pulled and stretched, and acupressure involves applying pressure to certain points on the body. "But relying on massage alone does not appear to be the best approach when it comes to back pain", adds Sawicki. Research indicates that people could benefit more if they combine massages with exercises and stretching. In some trials this combination of approaches led to better pain relief and mobility compared to massage alone.

Not all massages are the same

"Not all forms of massage have been scientifically proven to help against chronic back pain though," concludes Sawicki. "So it is worth finding out about the different techniques before deciding to have a certain type of massage." An overview of the most common forms of massage is now available on

Curry ingredient shows promise against liver damage

In a study published in Gut, a British Medical Journal title, Austrian scientists found that feeding the compound curcumin to mice reduced the types of inflammation that can cause liver cell damage, blockage and scarring.

Previous research has suggested that curcumin, which gives turmeric its bright yellow color, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which may be helpful in fighting disease.

Some studies have indicated it can suppress cancer tumors and that people who eat lots of curry may be less prone to the disease, although curcumin loses its anti-cancer attributes quickly when it is ingested.

The Austrian research team wanted to find out if curcumin could delay the damage caused by progressive inflammatory liver disease, including two conditions called primary sclerosing cholangitis and primary biliary cirrhosis.

Both of these conditions, which can be sparked by genetic faults or autoimmune disease, cause the liver's plumbing system of bile ducts to become inflamed, scarred, and blocked.

This can lead to major tissue damage and irreversible and ultimately fatal liver cirrhosis, they explained.

The team led by Michael Trauner of the Gastroenterology and Hepatology division at the Medical University Graz in Austria analyzed tissue and blood samples from mice with chronic liver inflammation before and after adding curcumin to their diet for four or eight weeks.

They found the curcumin diet significantly reduced bile duct blockage and curbed liver cell damage and scarring by interfering with chemical signaling pathways involved in inflammation.

Although the research was at a very early stage, the scientists said it seemed to show that curcumin targets "several different parts of the inflammatory process" and could offer a "promising treatment in the future."

U.S. researchers said in 2007 they had found curcumin may help stimulate immune system cells in Alzheimer's disease.

29 March 2010

Vitamin D and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus nasal carriage.

Abstract Studies have found that vitamin D plays an important role in mediating immune function via a number of pathways, including enhancing the release of antimicrobial peptides in the skin. Given these findings, we hypothesize that low serum vitamin D levels may increase the risk of nasal carriage of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). A secondary data analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2004 was performed to investigate the association between serum vitamin D levels and MRSA nasal carriage for the non-institutionalized population of the USA. An estimated 2.7 million persons (1.2% of the population) are MRSA nasal carriers.

An estimated 63.3 million persons (28.4% of the population) are vitamin D deficient (serum vitamin D <20 ng/ml). In an adjusted logistic regression analysis controlling for age, race, gender, poverty income ratio, current health status, hospitalization in the past 12 months, and antibiotic use in the past month, individuals with vitamin D deficiency had a statistically significant increased risk of MRSA carriage of 2.04 (95% CI 1.09-3.84). Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of MRSA nasal carriage. Further trials may be warranted to determine whether vitamin D supplementation decreases the risk of MRSA colonization.