As some of you know, I try to keep up with medical research that is related to my personal-injury law practice. This research may pertain to new diagnostic techniques, the efficacy of injury treatment protocols, improving injury outcomes using alternative medicine, etc… Although sometimes I summarize medical abstracts I happen to find generally interesting.
Published in February 2015 – University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Article
For those with severe injuries that require amputations: Researchers, with a grant from the White House and DARPA (the advanced military projects group), at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine are starting a project with five volunteers essentially plugging prosthetic arms into the spinal cord (connecting the prosthesis to the nerve areas known to innervate the upper extremities) to continue the development of naturally moving, working and (incredibly) feeling prosthetic limb technology. The scientists involved are excited at the possibility of a prosthetic hand providing neuro-feedback giving the injured person detailed phantom-limb sensations which would allow for the better intuition needed for fine-motor coordination activities such as gently hold an egg, turn a stuck door knob and hold a pen – actions that are currently nearly impossible with existing and cumbersome artificial-limb technology.
Published in March 2015 – Journal of Clinical Pain.
The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as effective complimentary treatment for back pain, headaches, and hypertension, among other ailments. A growing body of research links one’s psychological outlook with long-term back pain related disabilities. In essence – it’s not just the needles doing the trick: the person’s psychological disposition towards the treatment is apparently an important factor. In this study, people who associated acupuncture akin to voodoo medicine were less likely to report long-term benefits as their treatment continued.
Published in March 2015 – Carnegie Mellon University Article
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon are proving what monks and yogis have known for a thousand years – mindfulness training and meditation can improve a broad range of physical and mental health maladies. The research suggests (but has not yet proven) that mindfulness influences health through stress-reduction pathways in the brain. When we experience stress, prefrontal cortex activity decreases (this is the area responsible for conscious planning) while brain activity in the hypothalamus, amygdala and cingulate cortex increases (these areas are responsible for our chemical stress response). The Carnegie Mellon research suggests that mindfulness/meditation training reverses these stress cycles, which is important because continuous increases in stress has already been linked to depression, slower injury recovery, and cardiovascular health.
Published in March 2015 – British Psychological Society
Simply put – MRIs are disasters for the claustrophobic and generally uncomfortable for everyone. Simply laying still for 30 minutes is difficult in and of itself. But properly documenting a spine injury or a shoulder / knee ligament tear after a car accident or slip and fall requires an MRI scan, sometimes multiple MRI scans. When the patient moves the image is not as clear and the radiologist has a more difficult time diagnosing the injury. This can make my job as a personal-injury lawyer all the more difficult. This study provided one group of people already scheduled for an MRI with a short DVD video with detailed relaxation and mindfulness techniques and encouraged the participants to practice the techniques prior to the MRI. The other group was not provided with this material. In the group provided with relaxation techniques over 85% of the group performed a successful MRI. In the control group, less than 55% were as successful. These findings may significantly impact health-care quality and costs.
June 2008. Dr. Michael J. Wan, B.Sc. from The Toronto Western Research Institute reported that: head and neck trauma, which can cause direct spinal cord compression or contusion, can trigger the onset of symptoms in previously-asymptomatic Chiari Type I Malformations. It is believed this happens by the trauma damaging sensitive cerebellar tonsils that have herniated into the upper cervical spinal canal. In head injury cases, the increase in cranial pressure might exert a downward pressure on the brain and exacerbate the pre-existing cerebellar-tonsil herniation through the foramen magnum.
Most Chiari I Malformations are congenital defects that remain asymptomatic until an exacerbating injury occurs – such as whiplash or head trama from a car accident or slip and fall. The most common symptom of Chiari I Malformations are recurrent suboccipital headaches, aggravated by physical activity, coughing and other rapid maneuvers. Other Chiari I malformation symptoms include: visual disturbances, dizziness, vertigo, and loss of coordination. Because these symptoms can indicate many other potential sources, pain stemming from Chiari I Malformation often go un or misdiagnosed.