Sam Bauman: Terror, then beauty



Wrenching as the news after the shooting of five Dallas policemen was, it was followed that Sunday with the beauty and grace of the two hours of television of young women trying out for one of seven slots on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.

The young athletes ran through their complex routines on balance beam, uneven bars, floor exercise and vault.

Gymnastics is a lonely sport, and the rewards are fleeting. Some trophies, perhaps endorsements and hometown fame. Nothing like what Serena Williams earns on the tennis courts. But short-lived fame as swimming grabs the headlines.

Gymnastics is a major competition at the Olympics. The Americans are the heavy favorites to repeat the feat of the “Fierce Five,” which took home the team gold at the 2012 London Olympics. The team features a mix of returning medalists and top-flight newcomers, led by reigning three-time world all-around champion Simone Biles. Competing in her first Olympics, Biles is the strong favorite to bring home the gold in the all-around competition, which Gabby Douglas won four years ago. At Sunday’s trials, Biles took first in the all-around to punch her ticket.

While she is expected to shine in the individual competition, the teenage athlete is most excited about the potential of the overall team, which also includes three-time medalist Aly Raisman and Olympic newcomers Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian.

That Sunday night series of tryouts for the Olympic berths was a welcome moment, showing amidst all the bedlam and protests there was more to America than sniper fire.

Pain is (sadly) part of life

Consumer Reports magazine recently ran a big article on pain and several procedures to deal with it. Some have helped me, some offer little lasting relief. Epidural shots helped briefly but were expensive. Therapy was helpful but required constant refreshers. Recently, a therapist at Carson Tahoe Health sat back and said during therapy, “I can’t do anything more for you,” and suggested that I stop my workout routine. No way, that gets me through the day.

I’ve also tried a couple of devices which send a computer-controlled small electronic jolt down the body to where it hurts. Sometimes helps, sometimes no help. I wear one now while hiking, and when I’m going to be standing around at a cocktail party.

I used opioids after my knee replacement, but quickly found they constipated me and gave me sleepless nights. I haven’t tried them since, although I have a couple of vials of Percocet and Vicodin in my medicine cabinet. I can’t foresee using them after my bad experience in the past.

My best defense against back pain (my major problem) is a simple horizontal bar in my bedroom doorway. During my workout I hang from the bar for a count of 100, putting all my weight on the bar. It helps greatly for my back pain but have no idea if it would work for others. I tried a Reno non-surgical system, but all it did was stretch my back like the horizontal bar, just a palliative and no better than the bar.

America is on a painkiller jag, spending $300 million on pain treatments or medications annually and $315 billion in lost productivity, according to Consumer Reports. And more than 14,000 Americans died of overdoses of prescriptions of opioids in 2014.

Consumer Reports printed a list of painkillers and systems that suggest that pain, in essence, is the body telling us that something is amiss. And since pain is a subjective response, it’s best to talk to your doctor about pain as soon as it develops. CR has put together a list of painkillers and pills and available to pain sufferers today. CR advises that patients first discuss these with their primary health doctor.

Acetaminophen is in more than 800 OTC products such as Tylenol and its generic versions. It isn’t as effective at easing pains as drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil and its generic) or as naproxen (Aleve and generics). But it won’t put you at risk of stomach bleeding and a heart attack or stroke the way these two drugs will. It’s OK for acid reflex patients or ulcers. It’s overuse has sent 80,000 to the ER per year. This can happen if you exceed the 4,000 milligrams in 24 hours, especially if you are a heavy drinker or have liver disease. CR’s doctors say 3,200 milligrams is a safe limit.

(Personal note: I’ve used naproxen for occasional back pain and chortled at how much cheaper it is than Aleve.)

Here’s some ideas:

Acupuncture has been around for centuries. And there is still uncertainty about how well it treats pain. Some evidence suggests that it can ease lower back pain, neck and knee pain and reduce headaches and migraines. Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into the body at traditional spots. Sham acupuncture is when the needles don’t break the skin at random spots. A few studies have suggested that real acupuncture was sometimes slightly better, but other studies have found the sham procedures were just as effective.

(Personal note: I’ve tried acupuncture and got little relief. It was the real needles.)

More on pain relief next week.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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