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IN THIS ISSUE                                                                              December 4, 2006

  • Back Pain: Conservative Care
    Still the Best
  • Permanently End Your Struggles
    With Food

  • Looking Ahead to 2007
  • The Recipe Corner ... More Tasty Recipes 


Back Pain: Conservative Care Still the Best

Who Gets Back Pain
Back pain is a common problem affecting most people at least once in their lifetime. The cause for most back pain is not clearly understood. One diagnosis, herniated disks, accounts for about 300,000 Americans receiving surgery each year. Herniated disks occur when the spacers, called disks, between the vertebrae in your back bulge and press on nerves causing pain. Disk surgery removes part of the disc to eliminate pressure on the nerve and supposedly relieves the pain.

However, according to a recent Newsweek article, a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that after a two-year period, herniated disk patients who did not have surgery (conservative approach) did nearly as well as those who had surgery (surgical approach). This is good news because many patients in the past were scared into surgery; being told their condition would worsen if they delayed surgery and tried a conservative approach.

Surgical vs. Non-Surgical Solutions
The study went on to say that given the closely matched effectiveness of surgery and conservative care, the patient's comfort level should dictate whether to have surgery or go the conservative route. The conclusion this study draws is too simplistic and fails to fully explain the small but potential downside of the surgical solution. When the risks of general anesthesia, post operative infection, failed back surgery syndrome, spinal cord injury and scar tissue formation are factored in, the non-surgical option is still the best initial course of action. If the two outcomes are virtually the same and there is any risk with surgery, why risk going that route?

To read more about the study go to

Before we talk about the best ways to keep your back healthy and what to do if back pain strikes, let's look at some of the risk factors not discussed in the study.

Risks of General Surgery
According to published statistics, your chances of having a reaction and dying from general anesthesia are between 1 in 15,000 and 1 in 30,000. General anesthesia is serious stuff and that's why they have an anesthesiologist (a special doctor) there to make sure things go right. General anesthesia becomes more risky when other medical problems like obesity, diabetes, heart and kidney disease are present. Any operation, no matter how "routine", is a significant stress on your body. Given the conservative approach is just about as good, avoid the risk and try a properly designed conservative program first.

Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS)
One of the greatest problems for people choosing back surgery is FBSS. For a number of different reasons, their surgery does not fully eliminate the back pain and in some cases makes the pain worse. More often than not, a second surgery is required to fix the first one. Statistically, those people who have decided to have surgery will require another one down the road. This reinforces the importance of trying a well designed conservative option first.

How to Keep Disks Healthy
The disks in your back are sensitive to abnormal pressures and biochemical changes brought on by lack of strength and flexibility of back muscles, proper water/hydration levels, posture and vertebral alignment. Drinking enough water, based on your body weight, is essential for healthy disks. Healthy disks are about 70% water where unhealthy disks can be as low as 45%. Maintaining good posture keeps vertebrae properly aligned and prevents premature wear or arthritis of the disks. Adequate strength and flexibility of the spinal and abdominal muscles allows the back to function properly and prevents disk injury. Vertebral alignment keeps the disks free of abnormal wear and tear as well and promotes healthy movement.

What to Do When Back Pain Strikes
There are many reasons why people experience back pain. However, a majority of back pain is related to the following: tight hamstring and hip muscles, chronic stress, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, osteoporosis, dehydration, muscle strain and over use syndrome. The first and best way to treat back pain is to know exactly what is causing the pain. Generally, a few simple tests can determine the cause and dictate the best course of action.

Back pain due to overuse syndrome (too much gardening or tennis), responds well to regular ice treatments, muscular stretching, drinking more water and rest. For those who have recurrent back pain (chronic back pain), there is generally a mechanical imbalance (muscle or bone) problem that needs to be fixed. Passive stretching, strength training, massage, chiropractic or acupuncture treatments and guided relaxation will all help dramatically in eliminating the pain and then keeping it from returning.

For over 20 years I have helped clients resolve their back and neck pain conservatively. A healthy back and living pain free comes from having the right back strengthening tools and knowing how to use them. A healthy back is an important part of living a healthier lifestyle. See how
Fresh Start helps your back feel better while improving your health, independence, wellbeing and quality of life.

Permanently End Your Struggles
With Food

No Need to Struggle With Food
If you are someone who struggles with food, from Thanksgiving to the end of the year is an especially challenging time. You are not alone if this continued food struggle sounds familiar. It is estimated that over 80% of Americans now have some sort of food related problems. With all the holiday parties, special dinners and family gatherings, this time of year is really "food insanity" at its peak. These next few weeks can certainly tip you over the edge especially if you've been battling with food other times of the year. Taking the time to understand your Food Priority now can help fix food struggles once and for all.

What is The Food Priority?
Here is an example of The Food Priority. Little Johnny or Jenny is out playing in the back yard. Mom calls at the back door "dinner time" and of course the response is "I'll be right in Mom." You know what happens next; Mom has to come back to the door and call again, not just once but maybe even twice. For Johnny or Jenny, The Food Priority is very low and playing and having FUN priority is very high. This is a good example of a normal and healthy Food Priority; having fun at the top, eating somewhere down the list.

You Can't Just Walk Away From Food
Food is an important part of your daily life. Cigarettes, alcohol or drugs you can walk away from and never use again, food you must face each and every day. Food is essential and should a healthy part of your life, not be a struggle. All too often, under times of heavy or prolonged stress, food leaves its role as nourishment and takes on an unhealthy position or priority. When food moves from a healthy to an unhealthy position, your Food Priority becomes inverted. People who have difficulty with their weight almost always have an inverted Food Priority.

The Chemical Reactions in Your Brain
Besides its nutritional role, food also provides a chemical treasure trove for your brain. Some foods induce an energetic feeling while others are very relaxing and can actually make you sleepy. These are natural reactions and are often unique to each individual. The feeling of being full (not too full) or satisfied after eating is comforting. On the other hand, hunger tends to make you more agitated and restless. During stressful periods, food can incorrectly be used to help you relax or change your mood. Food regularly being used in this way actually becomes a form of medication and is subject to abuse.

Physical vs. Emotional Hunger
The next time you think you're hungry, try this helpful strategy. Take a moment and check where the "hunger signals" are coming from in your body. You might be very surprised to find that the "hunger pangs" are actually originating in your head rather than your stomach. Instead of going straight to the refrigerator, sit or stand quietly for a minute and recognize the "hunger" and make sure it really is related to food. Ask yourself when did you eat last? Is it reasonable to be hungry now? More often than not, this little pause is all you need to differentiate the type of hunger you're experiencing. Often, the false hunger will pass very quickly once you realize that it's not real.

Release Yourself Once and For All
Releasing yourself from the food struggle has nothing to do with dieting, counting calories or spending hours in the gym. Freedom starts with changing your Food Priority and the good feeling that comes from knowing you are in control again. Restoring food to a safe and healthy place on your Food Priority is one of the most challenging but important things you'll ever do in your life. Remember, by restoring FUN to its rightful place at the top of your Food Priority, you'll find life more pleasurable and stop the struggle once and for all.

To learn how Fresh Start can help free you from the food struggle while improving your health, please contact Woody McMahon at
703-628-2880 or email to

Looking Ahead to 2007

Now is a great time of year to contemplate your 2007 goals. This is also an excellent time of year to relax and refresh. With most work schedules slowing down, there is extra time to reflect on the year gone by and the new year to come. For 2006, one of my goals was to provide an
informative and thought provoking newsletter that just didn't rehash the same old stuff. I wanted the newsletter to be balanced while bringing new insights into old subjects. I feel like I have accomplished that goal. I hope you agree.

For 2007, I will take my Fresh Start program and create a new, healthy lifestyle center to support it. This means expanding my existing facility or creating a brand new center somewhere in the Reston/ Herndon area. It's exciting because the new facility will offer more ways for you to have fun while improving your lifestyle. I will keep you posted as things progress.

The Recipe Corner

Another holiday recipe to enjoy with the whole family.

Continued Good Health,


Woody McMahon

The Sequoia Advisor

Sequoia Health and Fitness, Inc.
483A Carlisle Dive
Herndon , VA 20170  

Required Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be construed as a health-care diagnosis,
treatment regimen or any other prescribed health-care advice or instruction. The info rmation is provided with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in the practice of medicine or any other health-care profession and does not enter into a health-care practitioner/patient relationship with its readers. The publisher does not advise or recommend to its readers treatment or action with regard to matters relating to their health or well-being other than suggesting that readers consult appropriate health-care professionals in such matters. No action should be taken based solely on the content of this publication. The info rmation and opinions provided herein are believed to be accurate and sound at the time of publication, based on the best judgment available to the authors. However, readers who rely on info rmation in this publication to replace the advice of health-care professionals, or who fail to consult with health-care professionals, assume all risks of such conduct. The publisher is not responsible for errors or omissions. 

Copyright (c) 2006 by Sequoia Health and Fitness, Inc.

About this Newsletter 

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please contact Woody McMahon :
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