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Monday, July 4, 2016

Shoulder blade (scapula) pain causes, symptoms, treatments, and exercises

Shoulder blade pain can occur for numerous reasons, and we are going to look into those causes along with the symptoms, treatments, and exercises that can help improve shoulder blade pain.
The shoulder blades – known as the scapula – are two triangle-shaped bones located at the top of your back. The scapula is connected to the humerus (upper arm bone) and clavicle (collar bone) along with the muscles of the upper back, neck, and arms.
Shoulder blade pain can be experienced above, within, over, or under the shoulder blades, as well as in-between and below the shoulder blades. 
As mentioned, there are numerous reasons for shoulder blade pain ranging from mild causes like muscle strain to more severe like lung conditions or tumors.

Causes of shoulder blade pain

Below are 27 different causes of shoulder blade pain to help you narrow in on what may be causing your pain.
Muscle strains, muscle contusion (bruise): Overuse of the muscles surrounding the shoulder can result in shoulder blade pain. Other causes of muscle strain are changing workout routine, overusing the muscles, lifting heavier weight than what you are used to, or sleeping in one position for too long.
Disc disease: Compression of nerves in the neck due to a collapsed or displaced disc can result in shoulder blade pain. You may also experience pain in your neck, or tingling or numbness down your arms to your fingers.
Heart conditions: More commonly seen in women, shoulder pain can be sometimes a result of a heart condition. Heart attacks, pericarditis, or aortic dissection can cause pain in the left shoulder.
Fractures: It is quite difficult to fracture the scapula, but it is possible. Fractures of the scapula commonly occur as a result of a car accident or fall and can lead to shoulder blade pain.
Shingles: Shingles is an infection from the chickenpox virus. This type of shoulder blade pain is often a burning sensation followed by a rash.
Bone metastases: Bone metastases occur with the spread of a cancerous tumor. The shoulder pain is often a result of the spread of breast, lung, esophageal, and colon cancer.
Lung conditions and tumor: Lung conditions like pulmonary emboli or a collapsed lung along with lung tumors can contribute to shoulder blade pain.
Arthritis, osteoarthritis: Arthritis or osteoarthritis can affect the scapula causing shoulder blade pain.
Snapping scapula syndrome, broken scapula, scapular cancer: There are conditions that solely affect the scapula, such as snapping scapula syndrome, broken scapula, and scapular cancer, leading to pain.
Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is a bone disease, which causes the bones to become thin and fragile. The scapula can be affected by osteoporosis resulting in pain.
Abdominal conditions (GERD, stomach disorders): Sometimes, a shoulder blade pain can result from stomach and digestive issues. This type of pain can occur in the right shoulder and is a result of gallstones, peptic ulcers, and liver disease. Ailments that lead to pain in the left shoulder blade include pancreatitis.
Gallbladder disease: A gallbladder attack can cause pain under the right scapula and the pain can radiate from the upper abdomen to the shoulder.
Liver disease: Liver disease can lead to pain under the right shoulder because the liver is located under the right rib so the pain radiates to the shoulder.
Overuse of shoulder muscles: As mentioned, the overuse of shoulder muscles, whether through exercise or work, can cause pain.
Sleeping the “wrong way”: Sleeping for prolonged periods of time on one side or simply sleeping at an odd angle can cause shoulder blade pain.
Nerve impingement: If your shoulder blade pain radiates down your arm it could be a result of nerve impingement. You may also experience a burning sensation in your hand.
Rotator cuff injury: This injury is most common among athletes and affects one of the four muscles of the rotator cuff.
ScoliosisScoliosis is a curvature of the spine, which can cause pain between the two shoulders.
Paget’s disease: Paget’s disease is a chronic viral infection of the bones which can cause shoulder blade pain.
Brachial neuritis: Brachial neuritis is a rare neurological condition without a precise cause. Symptoms of brachial neuritis include sudden, severe burning pain above the shoulder.
Whiplash: Whiplash is a strain or sprain of the upper neck muscles, tendons, or ligaments. Pain can begin at the neck and radiate downward.
FibromyalgiaFibromyalgia is characterized by allover pain with unknown cause. Fibromyalgia patients are known to have tender points and shoulder blades are among those tender points.
PleurisyPleurisy is inflammation of the lung membrane caused by a viral infection.
Enlarged spleen: An enlarged spleen can cause left shoulder blade pain, which can worsen when breathing in and out.
Frozen shoulderFrozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is inflammation and thickening of the shoulder capsule, which wraps the shoulder joint. The condition can take years to heal, but can be aided in physiotherapy exercises.
Avascular necrosisAvascular necrosis is bone death as a result of limited blood supply. Symptoms include deep, throbbing, and poorly localized pain around the shoulder that can radiate down to the elbow.

Symptoms of shoulder blade pain

shoulder painThe symptoms you experience depend on the cause of your shoulder pain. Pain can be sudden, chronic, temporary, burning, radiating from one area to another, and appearing in different parts of the shoulder. Shoulder blade pain can also cause numbness or tingling, and pain can become worsened when lying on the shoulder or breathing.
Another symptom of shoulder blade pain is crepitus, which is a grating sound when the shoulder moves or when it is pressed.

Pain under right shoulder blade

Pain under the right shoulder can have minor or severe causes. Causes which typically result in pain under the right shoulder include using a computer mouse, carrying a child on the right side, incorrect posture, sleep positions, heart attack, gallbladder attack, liver disease, breast cancer, and arthritis.

Pain under left shoulder blade

Common causes of pain under the left shoulder blade include injury, aging, wrong sleeping position, cold or flu, dislocation, frozen shoulder, fracture, bursitis, torn rotator cuff, compressed nerve, trigger points, inflammation, heart attack, gallbladder attacks, and pneumonia.

Pain between the shoulder blades

Common causes of shoulder blade pain experienced in-between the shoulders are poor posture, herniated discs, gallbladder disease, heart attack, inflammation under the diaphragm, spinal stenosis, cervical spondylosis, osteoarthritis, and facet joint syndrome.

Shoulder blade pain diagnosis and treatment options

If shoulder pain does not go away within a few days, you should see your doctor as it could be an indication of a more serious injury or ailment. Your doctor will perform MRI scans in order to see what is going on with your shoulder to determine if medical intervention is required or home remedies will suffice.
Some treatment options for shoulder blade pain include stopping the pain-causing activity and resting, keeping proper posture, practicing scapular retraction exercises, applying cold and hot compresses, reducing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, practicing acupuncture, wearing a sling, getting massages, taking medications like painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications, getting treatment for underlying illnesses like heart or lung conditions, arthritis, and other infections, which could contribute to shoulder blade pain.

Stretches for shoulder blade pain

Here are some tips, stretches, and exercises you can perform in order to help shoulder blade pain.
Improve your work station: Ensure feet are flat on the ground and knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, back is straight, arms are bent at the elbow at 90 degrees, monitor is at eye level, and your mouse is close to your keyboard.
Correct your posture: Ear, shoulder, and hip joint should be aligned when sitting with good posture. Shoulders should not be slouched and your head should not be tilted.
Massage the area: Lay your shoulder on the massage ball and roll on it with the weight of your body.
Stretch the shoulders: Intertwine your fingers together, lean back, and hunch your upper body as far back as possible, push your hands as far away from you as possible, while looking down. In this position, you can move around to feel other areas of the upper back become stretched.
Stretch the thoracic spine: Have a foam roller underneath your shoulders and lay on it. Keep your ribs downward, but don’t arch your back too much. Keep your hands behind your head in order to support it. Roll gently on the roller.
Do a chest stretch: Stand in the middle of a doorway with each hand forward flat on the side of the door frame. Gently lean into the door frame and feel your chest opening up.
Strengthen postural muscles: Stand up against a wall with your back touching. Have your arms bent at the elbow, hands facing up, palms outward (you should look like a W). Lift your hands above the head to make yourself into the letter I, hold, and return back to the W.
After completing any type of exercise, apply heat packs to the area to further relax the muscle.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Lyme disease vs. Zika virus, differences in symptoms, causes, and treatment

Lyme disease and Zika virus are known as zoonotic diseases, meaning they come from animals and spread to humans. Both illnesses are currently on the rise in the U.S. and worldwide, so it’s important to have a good understanding of each in order to effectively protect yourself and your family.

Lyme disease is transmitted through tick bites, while Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes. Both can lead to very serious conditions and complications.
 Lyme disease can be contracted in the U.S. where the habitats for the ticks that spread Lyme disease can be found. Zika, on the other hand, is mainly spreading through the Central and South America, and although there are some American cases, too, there is no local transmission, as of yet.

Lyme disease or Zika virus: Which one is more dangerous?

Although Zika virus is constantly showing up in news headlines, you should probably be more concerned about Lyme disease. Zika virus is a more serious threat if you are travelling to countries with the infected mosquito. Lyme disease, on the other hand, is locally transmitted, so if you’re not careful you may actually develop Lyme disease way before you even run the risk of contracting Zika virus.
The prevalence of Lyme disease is growing, though providing any particular estimates is difficult for the CDC as many cases go unreported or are misdiagnosed for another condition.
Zika virus poses the largest threat to fetuses and pregnant women, but Lyme disease can actually develop into a chronic illness for those infected. On the other hand, Zika virus does not have a cure or any treatment available, whereas Lyme disease does. Still, the risk of complications rises with the delay of Lyme disease treatment.
It’s hard to say for sure which one is necessarily more dangerous, but overall Lyme disease poses a larger risk – right in your own backyard.

Lyme disease vs. Zika virus: U.S. prevalence

lyme disease inflammationThere are roughly 30,000 Lyme disease cases reported annually, but it’s not an accurate reflection of how many cases actually occur, as these are only incidences reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In order to improve data collection on Lyme disease, the CDC has set out two different studies known as Project 1 and Project 2. Project 1 estimated 228,000 cases of Lyme disease through laboratory testing, and Project 2 estimated 329,000 cases of Lyme disease based on medical claims information from insurance databases.
There are no locally transmitted cases for Zika, but the U.S. has reported a total of 820 cases accounting for those who have travelled overseas. There are ongoing talks that Zika virus mosquitoes may end up in the Southern U.S. or even along the East coast as a result of global warming.

Difference between Zika virus and Lyme disease: Signs and symptoms

Zika virus symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, headaches, and muscle pain. Many Zika patients will not experience any symptoms, so they remain unaware of the virus, which increases the risk of transmission to others. Furthermore, Zika incubation period is still not known well, but researchers estimate it is anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Early signs of Lyme disease include fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, and erythema migrans rash, which looks like a bull’s eye. As the disease progresses, symptoms can worsen into severe headache and neck stiffness, with additional rashes, arthritis accompanied by severe joint pain and swelling, muscle loss in the face, intermittent pain in the tendons, joints and bones, heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat, dizziness or shortness of breath, nerve pain, shooting pain, numbness or tingling, and problems with short-term memory.

Comparing Zika and Lyme disease: Causes and transmission

Lyme disease transmitted by ticks reported in nearly half of all U.S. countiesLyme disease is caused by a bite from the Ixodes scapularis, or deer tick. These ticks are not inherently infected with Lyme disease, but rather they get it from feeding on an affected animal. These ticks can be found in wooded lands and prefer damp areas underneath the trees. Because ticks are so tiny, it is difficult to notice that they are on you, let alone that they are biting you, so it’s important that you cover your body and check yourself every so often if you are going out for a hike.
Tick populations are higher in the East, Midwest, and West coast, but can be found all across the U.S.
There is some debate about how long it takes for a tick to infect a person. Some experts suggest it’s up to 24 hours from attachment, and others believe it’s even less than that. Essentially, the longer a tick is attached to you, the higher your risk of Lyme disease is.
Zika virus are transmitted through bites of mosquitoes from the Andes species. These mosquitoes typically lay their eggs near standing water and are quite aggressive during the day, but can also bite at night. Mosquitoes pick up the virus after biting an infected person and continue to transmit it to other individuals through bites.
Zika transmission can also occur from mother to fetus, sexual contact, and blood transfusions. Once you are infected, you become immune to that virus.

Zika vs. Lyme disease: Risk factors and complications

Risk factors for Lyme disease include spending long hours in grassy, woody areas (especially in the East, Midwest, and West coast), having exposed skin as ticks can easily attach themselves to bare skin, and failing to remove ticks properly once detected. Furthermore, the quicker you remove a tick from your skin, the lower your risk of contracting Lyme disease will be.
If Lyme disease is caught early, antibiotics can be given immediately to reduce complications, but if treatment is delayed, chronic complications can arise, including fatigue, arthritis, joint pain, headaches, short-term memory problems, numbness, Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis), heart problems, including slow or irregular heartbeat, and depression, which can be set off by living with the complications of Lyme disease.
Risk factors of Zika virus include being bitten by an infected mosquito (which is more likely if you visit a country where these mosquitoes thrive), having sexual intercourse with a person who is infected, and being pregnant, as you can pass the virus on to the fetus, leading to birth defects.
The biggest complications resulting from Zika virus are birth defects in babies and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Although much research has come to light revealing an association between birth defects and Zika virus, additional research is still required in order to fully understand the mechanisms behind this association.
Additionally, complications are more likely to arise in pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant. If a woman is trying to get pregnant or is pregnant, the CDC advises that they avoid areas with known cases of Zika and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites. This can be done by using a mosquito repellent, wearing long sleeves and long pants, and staying indoors as much as possible.
For women living in Zika-ridden areas, the use of condoms is highly recommended as an alternative to abstaining from sex. The same protocol should be considered if a male has visited a Zika-ridden country and has returned – he should refrain from sex for at least eight weeks. If a man has been diagnosed with Zika, sex should be avoided for six months.

Difference in Lyme disease and Zika virus: Diagnosis and treatment

CDC-LymeRashDiagnosing Lyme disease involves looking for the erythema migrans rash, which is reported in 70 percent of Lyme disease cases. Your doctor will also evaluate your symptoms and confirm the diagnosis with blood work.
For Lyme disease treatment, your doctor will put you on a regime of antibiotics, which may be taken for several weeks. It’s important that you completely finish your antibiotics, even if you start feeling better. Take note that some antibiotics may make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so you should avoid being out in the sunlight for prolonged periods of time.
Zika virus is diagnosed by examining the patient’s medical history, asking if they have recently travelled abroad, and running blood tests to look for viruses in the blood.
Because there is no vaccine available for Zika, you must utilize alternative prevention methods in order to lower your risk of contracting the virus. Prevention tips for Zika include:
  • Stay in air-conditioned and well-screened homes.
  • Reschedule outdoor activities and avoid high times for mosquitoes.
  • Wear protective clothing – long sleeves, long pants, hats, socks, and shoes.
  • Use mosquito repellent.
  • Reduce mosquito habitat options – remove standing water, which can be found in fountains, buckets, etc.
Treatments for Zika virus include getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids to prevent dehydration, and taking medication to reduce fever and pain. Do not take anti-inflammatory or aspirin to treat Zika virus.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Black tongue causes, symptoms, and treatment

A black tongue can have you running for the hills, but you may not need to head to an emergency room so quickly. In fact, a black tongue isn’t necessarily always a cause for concern, so let’s look at the possible causes for a black tongue so you have a better understanding of the condition.
The key to distinguishing the cause of your black tongue is to consider other accompanying factors such as odor, fuzziness of the tongue, or a metal taste. 
Paying close attention to these accompanying factors can help you narrow down on the cause and help you decide what mode of treatment you need to resolve your issue.

Is black hairy tongue contagious?

The good news is, a black hairy tongue is not contagious or infectious. It is important to keep in mind though that bacteria on the tongue, which may be what’s causing it to appear black and hairy, can be contagious if you share food or beverages or swap spit with someone.

Black hairy tongue symptoms

Black hairy tongue symptoms include black discoloration of the tongue, a hairy or furry appearance, change in taste buds, metal taste, bad breath, and gagging or tickling sensation in case of excessive papillae overgrowth.

What causes black hairy tongue?

tongueThe typical cause of black hairy tongue is an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria. The bacteria builds up on the tongue’s papillae, causing them to grow and lengthen, hence the hairy appearance. Bacteria growth can cause papillae to grow 15 times their normal size.
Normally, papillae are pinkish or white, but food, beverages, bacteria, and yeast causes them to change color.
Other causes of a black tongue include:
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Drinking a lot of coffee or tea
  • Antibiotics
  • Dehydration
  • Medications containing bismuth
  • Lack of saliva
  • Mouthwash that contains peroxide, witch hazel, or menthol
  • Radioactive therapy of the head and neck
As you can see, there are many harmless causes for a black tongue, meaning you can easily get your tongue looking pink once again by making the necessary lifestyle adjustments.

How to get rid of black hairy tongue?

Proper diagnosis of a black tongue is to rule out other conditions that could cause the tongue to appear black. These factors include poor hygiene, foods, or medications that could stain the tongue, fungal or viral infections, and inflammation of the lining of the mouth. Once your doctor has determined the cause of your black tongue, they can advise effective treatment methods to resolve the issue.
You may find that for many of the black tongue causes, simple lifestyle changes can aid in returning to the healthy status quo. Below are those common lifestyle changes that can help you recover.
Quitting smoking most successful with ‘cold turkey’ methodBlack tongue lifestyle changes
  • Proper oral hygiene: brush regularly, floss regularly, avoid mouthwashes with peroxide, witch hazel, and menthol, use a tongue scraper.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Increase your fiber intake.
  • See your dentist on a regular basis.
If your black tongue persists even after making these lifestyle adjustments, you will have to see your doctor or dentist for further examination, as you may require antibiotics or antifungal medications to kill off bacteria and yeast.

Friday, July 1, 2016

5 vegetables that are healthier when cooked

We know that a good variety of vegetables – the all-time health foods – is recommended for maintaining our overall well-being. But did you know that some vegetables are actually better for you when cooked?
If you want to reap maximum health benefits from these five vegetables, cook them instead of eating them raw.

5 vegetables that are healthier cooked than raw

Carrots: Carrots are often touted for their eye health benefits and definitely can be eaten raw. Carrots are perfect for a simple and easy snack you can carry around and even dip into some hummus, but every so often you may want to eat them cooked instead. Here’s why.
Carrots are known for beta-carotene – the ingredient that offers eye health support – which our body converts into vitamin A. Studies have shown you can increase the amount of vision-boosting beta-carotene your body can absorb simply by cooking your carrots.
Tomatoes: A staple in sandwiches and salads, tomatoes can give you way more antioxidant goodness when in a cooked form, like a sauce or even ketchup. Research has shown our bodies can only absorb four percent of antioxidants from raw tomatoes, whereas when they’re cooked those antioxidants are more readily available for use.
Spinach: Folate levels become more stable once the spinach, another salad staple, is cooked. Plus, you are more likely to consume more spinach when it is cooked because it wilts – whereas raw spinach takes up more space and involves more chewing, which fills you up quicker. This way, you can eat more spinach and thus increase your intake of the nutrients in it, like iron and folate (a vitamin B).
Asparagus: Our body struggles to break down the rigid cell walls in raw asparagus and access the numerous nutrients this superfood can offer. Cooking breaks down the fibers, facilitating the absorption of nutrients.
Pumpkin: This one is quite obvious because, frankly, it is rare to find someone who prefers to eat pumpkin raw. Nonetheless, cooked pumpkin is way more beneficial – and more delicious, too! Like carrots, pumpkin is full of antioxidants that are much easier to absorb once it’s cooked.
Have you been eating any of these common vegetables raw? You could be missing out then. But do not fret, here are some tips to ensure you are cooking your vegetables properly to reap maximum benefits.
The best method for cooking vegetables is boiling them as you would pasta.
Vegetables should be cooked whole to retain flavor and nutrients.
Feel free to add some healthy fat like olive oil and flaxseed oil, which can further promote absorption of the nutrients.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

6 natural stomachache remedies

Sometimes, our stomach just doesn’t feel right. It’s gurgling, it’s in pain, and it gets us running to the bathroom. 

An aching stomach can be due to numerous reasons, including stress, food, and indigestion. 
Unfortunately, it can strike at any time, meaning you could be out enjoying yourself when the nagging feeling comes on, putting a damper on your plans.
Don’t let an upset stomach rule your life – take charge and try these six tips to help soothe your stomach woes.

6 tips for an aching stomach

Meditation: Believe it or not, meditation has been shown to offer relief for stomach troubles time and time again. This is because stress can upset the stomach, so reducing stress through meditation can promote pain relief.
Lemon balm: After the meal, brew yourself a lemon balm tea to aid with digestion, and reduce gas and bloating.
Apple cider vinegar: Many people have found consuming apple cider vinegar in warm water with honey prior to a meal helps reduce post-meal stomach pains.
Acupuncture: Small studies have shown that acupuncture can lessen indigestion by blocking the pathways that send pain signals to the brain and by altering acid secretion.
Chamomile tea: Drinking chamomile tea after a meal can ease indigestion.
Yogurt: Eating foods like yogurt that contain probiotics can promote regularity and ease stomach troubles. Probiotics are good bacteria that promote smooth digestion.
By trying some of these tips, you can help ease stomach pains and improve digestion naturally.