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Health Headlines Explained August 2014

Thursday 7th August

We bring you the explanations behind the latest health headlines on lower back pain, sleep and Alzheimer's.

Paracetamol for low back pain 'no better than a sugar pill'

What’s the problem?
Recently published research suggests that paracetamol is no more effective than a sugar pill or placebo when treating lower back pain.

What you need to know
Paracetamol is currently recommended as the best cause of treatment for back pain. This study suggests that it may not be the most effective relief for those affected.

With around 26 million people suffering from lower back pain in the UK, the research implies that large numbers may not be receiving the right course of treatment. However, this is just one study and it’s important to remember that paracetamol does not work for every type of pain or every person. It might be right for you, but not for your neighbour.

If you have back pain, visit your GP: they can recommend exercises and other treatments that may help. The NHS recommends avoiding bed rest as this will not aid recovery.

If you have back pain and take paracetamol to treat it, you can speak to your GP about whether this is the best option.

Why disrupted sleep is as bad as getting none at all

What’s the problem?
A study by Tel Aviv University has suggested that disrupted sleep is as bad as getting hardly any.

What you need to know
We know that getting enough sleep is vital to staying healthy, but this study shows us that uninterrupted sleep is what we need. Tests showed that those whose sleep was disrupted behaved in a similar way to subjects who had only four hours sleep, displaying less alertness, more confusion and were more likely to be depressed.

Interrupted slumber could be caused by a number of factors: jobs in which you are required to be on call, parenting young children or certain medical conditions. In many cases, this cannot be avoided. However, if your sleep is being frequently interrupted and you can do something to prevent it, then try to do so. If your wakefulness is a mystery, it may be worth speaking to a GP to see if there is an underlying reason.

Playing games helps put off Alzheimer's

What’s the problem?
A recent study suggests that playing games and doing puzzles can help stave off Alzheimer’s.

What you need to know
The study is encouraging, but Alzheimer’s Research UK made it clear that this is not conclusive. It was carried out on people with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but who were not sufferers. Whilst it doesn’t reach any firm conclusions, it does show that people who took part in these activities were better at learning, memory and cognitive function tests - and that doing these sorts of activities could have a similar impact on you.

The “use it or lose it” debate around dementia and Alzheimer’s is one that has been discussed for many years: the theory is that doing activities like puzzles and games can prevent
deterioration of the brain. These findings contribute to this idea, but give no firm answer.

This article has been brought to you using public health information freely available online (click on links in the article for more information). benenden health has not provided any direct medical advice within this article. Please consult the sources provided if you would like further information or support.

 

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