Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Exercise for Chronic Dizziness

Scientists are trying to determine why some people have persistent unexplained dizziness. They are finding some association between psychiatric or neurologic conditions and dizziness. I think what's in common between the two are things that raise cortisol levels. Here's the story.

The association between cortisol and psychiatric conditions is somewhat established. But how I am getting to an association between cortisol and dizziness?

Cortisol and Trigger Points

Well, cortisol can be created by muscular trigger points. And proponents of trigger point massage therapy claim that some dizziness may be caused by trigger points in the neck muscles. The idea is that the brain uses information from muscles of the neck, along with information from the eyes and ears, to judge position. So a trigger point in one muscle makes it more tense and the signals its sends are off a bit.

You get dizzy when the different signals used by the brain to judge position conflict. So if you have fluid in your ear, the hairs don't react to motion as quickly, and you get dizzy. I've experienced this problem when I had an ear infection.

Some people get dizzy when they're in the car but looking at something that isn't moving. The signals conflict and they get dizzy. Closing the eyes can actually help by removing the conflicting signal.

So what can you do to determine if trigger points in neck muscles are causing your dizziness? Should you learn how to massage your trigger points or try to find a massage therapist? You could, but is there something easier?

Exercising Your Sarcomeres

You can do exercises to resolve a trigger point. Trigger points are caused by the sticking of tiny structures in the muscles called sarcomeres. The collective action of these sarcomeres IS the force your muscle exerts. This action also pumps blood through the sarcomeres themselves, bringing nutrients and carrying away waste products.

In a trigger point, sarcomeres get stuck in their "on" position. Blood can't flow normally.

But I have found that doing gentle, high-repetition exercises can restore that blood flow and resolve a trigger point. And it seems that such exercise works better than massage, which can't work across the entire length of a muscle at once.

For the neck, I did about thirty repetitions twisting the neck from one side to another (gently!). Then do the same for bending the neck forward and backward. Then bending the neck from left to right.

IMPORTANT: Do contract and stretch completely, but don't contract or stretch hard. Hold contractions for a few seconds. But keep it gentle. You aren't trying to build muscle, but get the blood pumping. The range of motion is also unimportant; just do what you can easily do.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Treating Trigger Points with Exercise Instead of Massage

I've been reading a lot about how trigger points actually work at a microscopic level. This one article in particular discusses a structure called the sarcomere and how they get stuck in the contracted position.

The normal contraction of a sarcomere actually pumps blood through the muscle fiber's capillaries. Fresh blood is exactly what a sarcomere in contracture is not getting because its stuck.

Massage forces blood into stuck sarcomeres enabling them to come out of contracture. That got me thinking about other ways to do the same thing. Ways that might work better than massage.

Massage doesn't always seem to work very well and some sarcomeres stay in contracture. They are, after all, microscopic. A therapist can only tell if there are large concentrations of sarcomeres in contracture. That makes it easier for a larger trigger point to return.

Since contracting a muscle pumps blood in healthy sarcomeres, it seems that exercise that contracts a muscle might get blood into the unhealthy ones.

The article also explains how stretching and lifting heavy weights don't really help and can aggravate a muscle with trigger points.

So I tried doing a bunch of reps with no weight and just contracting semi-hard (50% of the max probably) at the top of the movement. On the way back, I fully extend the muscle but don't stretch it with any significant effort. I did about thirty reps.

This seems to work more effectively and easily than massage. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

One Laptop Per Child Project Does Security Right

According to Wired, software on the laptop can't even ask for permission to do things like access the Internet or look on the file system unless they have been certified by an external authority. Users can still set things themselves manually, but the default case (which is important when he user is a child) allows no requests unless the trusted authority thinks its OK.

This is a security model that makes it very hard for viruses and spyware. Bravo!

Learn more about One Laptop Per Child project.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Windows Firewall - Thinking Different

From what I hear, the firewall in Microsoft's new Vista operating system still lets applications open connections to the outside world. Which means viruses and spyware can send stuff out and even attack other systems. This article describes the problem.

Perhaps what Microsoft should do is create an architecture that allows anyone to create a database of approved applications/plugins/scripts, connections they are allowed to make and methods for validating that an executable is what it appears to be.

Since anyone create such a database and make it available to Windows usersm, each user can select the database they prefer to manage what applications can do on his or her system. With each enforcement action, the user could be notified (or not) and accept or change the rules for application.

This way users that just click through would get protected. The best and most up-to-date databases would evolve for specific kinds of users. And we can stop spending all this money on anti-virus, spyware protection, etc.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Rental cars for a buck!

Car rental companies are trying to get cars back up to the northeast from Florida, so they are practically paying you to drive it up. Check the storyon the SJ Mercury news.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

What's the deal with my laptop battery?

So my laptop normally lasts for 2 hours. I have had it set to shutdown when it dips to 10% charge. Recently it starting shutting down after only a half hour.

So to see what happening, I've disabled the shutdown so I can drain it completely (sometimes that helps a battery). Its been more than a hour since it went below 5% and the battery still hasn't discharged completely. Got the wi-fi going and browsing around. Maybe I should watch some videos.