Friday, December 23, 2005

Products to help your aching back

Your back hurts. Heck, everybody's back hurts it seems. I wonder why? Be that as it may, one cure for an aching back is to have good quality chairs, sofas, beds and ergonomically correct computer work areas. The problem is, where do you find them? And, let me tell you, your local Office Max or whatever does not have much in the way of ergonomically correct anything, and they carry a lot of ergonomically incorrect products.

Ultimate Back Store

This is an online-only store that carries office chairs, massage chairs, beds, pillows, recliner chairs, and various ergonomic accessories.

The office chair brands are Herman Miller, Steelcase, Humanscale, ErgoGenesis, Backsaver, Jobri, and Neutral Posture. I've tried several of these brands and found each to be good and interesting.

The "massage chairs" they carry look like recliners but have embedded vibrational units.

They offer several brands of memory foam mattresses and pillows, including TempurPedic. Last year I switched to the TempurPedic memory foam mattress after several years of sleeping on water beds and air beds. While the water and air beds were nice both were, in practice, very hard. That's because as soon as you get on the mattress, your weight pushes the air or water aside to where the mattress surface becomes stretched like a drum. In the end both air and water beds do not have the comfort you might think they would.

I tried several brands of memory foam mattresses, and settled on TempurPedic. It was TempurPedic that invented this kind of product, and a couple years ago their patents ran out allowing competitors to enter the market. Still, I found the TempurPedic mattress to be the best of the ones I tried. The price, though, offers extreme sticker shock.

Ergonomic and Massage Accessories

Relax the Back

RelaxTheBack is both a mortar-and-brick store, and an online merchant. They offer massage chairs, office chairs, accessories, books and videos, and mattresses and pillows. Their web site contains a wealth of information about ergonomics and back care, and I know from experience the personell in the stores know a lot on these subjects.

RTB Health

Losing weight with BalanceLog software

The BalanceLog software offers an intruguing way to approach losing weight. In todays fast paced "super-size" society it can be hard to keep track of your food intake, and gauge how much you really need to exercise or eat. Is walking a mile after lunch having any benefit? How will you know? That's what the BalanceLog software is meant to do, to help you track the facts.

Based on your unique Metabolic Fingerprint, occupation and lifestyle factors, diet preference, and exercise, BalanceLog personalizes your daily calorie budget to reach your goals. Once your calorie budget has been determined, BalanceLog makes it easy to log your food and exercise each day, enabling you to stay on track. With more than 4,000 foods and 300 exercises, finding the appropriate entry is easy, and with the ability to add foods and create your own custom foods, menus and exercises, there is nothing you can't record.

The features include:

  • Personalize your program based on your unique Metabolic Fingerprint™. Use our Facility Locator to find a convenient location near you offering measurements.
  • Set weight management and nutrition goals.
  • Accurately track calories in and calories out.
  • Track protein, carbohydrates, saturated fats, cholesterol, fiber, sodium and more for better health and nutrition management.
  • Select your preferred eating plan or design a custom diet.
  • Add your favorite foods and create personal menus.
  • Easily adjust your program as your metabolism changes.
  • Access a database of more than 300 exercises and 4,000 foods, including brand-name foods and menu items from national restaurant chains.
  • Convenient and easy to use
  • Use with Windows® PCs and Palm OS® Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). Supports color PDAs and Sony Jog Dial functionality.

BalanceLog Weight & Nutrition Software

Clean your air and water for your good health

The environment we live in is dirty. Almost every object, building, vehicle, food, clothing, etc, involves poisons and toxic chemicals. The levels these poisons exist in our environment are low enough to be "acceptable", but to whom? It's known that car exhaust causes respiratory diseases, asthma, and even cancer. It's known that plastics and foams give off toxic gas. It's known that the middle of the Pacific Ocean has more plastic compounds in it than it has plankton, that's how polluted our environment is.

Given that the government is not stepping up to solve the pollution problem, what can you as an individual do? Especially if you have a respiratory disease today?

One thing you can do is use an air purifier to clean the air of the areas you spend the most time. It won't solve the big picture, but at least your living area will have clean air.


BioZone is a series of products for air purification at home, in commercial settings, in air ducts, and to carry around with you. The technology uses ozone and ultraviolet light to clean the air of contaminants, bacteria, fungi and viruses. Both ozone and ultraviolet light have been used for decades in medical settings for sterilization. BioZone has taken that technology, and packaged it for use by regular folk.

No more odors or contaminants - just PURE AIR

Allergy Be Gone

Allergy be Gone is an online store specializing in products to help people "attack their allergic conditions". They sell bedding, cleaning and laundry supplies, air cleaners, vacuum cleaners, air and water filtration, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, mold control, respiratory devices, and aromatherapy kits.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Thinking away the pain

Pain can be a mysterious condition. Why does it occur? The Buddha said the source of pain is suffering, or something like that. He also sat under a tree for years at a time, so maybe he wasn't all that sane. In any case modern research has been identifying mind-body-spirit connections where your mind can control what your body does. I suppose that can change ones personal experience of life from being a victum of whatever your body does, to having some mastery over your experience of life.

The research discussed here: Think Away the Pain (By Rachel Metz, Wired News, December 21, 2005) sounds so very much like BioFeedback, though the article doesn't use that word.

The research is detailed here: Learned Volitional Control Over Brain fMRI Activation and Pain

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a tool that allows researchers to open windows into the brain and “see” brain activity. Until recently, fMRI data needed to be analyzed off-line with the results being unavailable until many hours after the subject was scanned. Through software developed by Dr. Christopher deCharms in collaboration with Stanford University, we are now able to analyze the imaging data in near real time and show a subject being scanned their own brain activity on a moment by moment basis.

From the description (and pictures on the site) I imagine the user has a moving real-time image of some kind of measurements of activity in their brain. Then they made some kind of suggestions over how a person could change their brain activity in the the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC). They don't go into what those suggestions are.

I mentioned biofeedback, which has a long history in mind-body studies. The general concept is to have some kind of instrument that measures biological activity, displays that biological activity to the patient, and through their inner "mental" processes they find a way to change that biological activity. The biofeedback machine continuously measures their biological activity, giving direct feedback as to whether they're succeeding to make the change. (Get it? biological feedback --> biofeedback?)

In the past biofeedback machines measured electrical brainwaves or heartrate. At the end of this article I link to the Wild Divine game, which is a simplistic biofeedback machine packaged as a computer game. It measures heart rate and skin resistance.

In one way, the rtfMRI is just a fancier set of biological activity measurements. Though, I suppose having more data to display to the user is better than the limited amount of data past biofeedback machines display. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

In the meantime I have a lot of experience with pain myself. I tend to agree with the Buddha, and that by using meditative techniques I've found myself able to shift the experience of pain in my life. I have had for years chronic pain that comes and goes, and have found it always has within it some emotional content. My inner turmoil manifests as this pain. And if I sit with that turmoil and find a wholesome or compassionate way of witnessing the turmoil, then the pain will shift dramatically.

So there's something to what that Buddha guy said all those years ago. Maybe we don't need the gadgetry? Or maybe the gadgetry can help us more quickly learn the meditative techniques taught by the Buddhists?