Rob Brown, MD

A Physician's Unique Perspective on Wellness

Month: January 2017

Grace and the Himalayan Salt Lamp

Grace and her husband, JB, are both wonderful friends and accomplished physicians. Their home is reminiscent of a rejuvenation spa with a relaxing, health conscious atmosphere. Attention is paid to every detail. From organic food and air purifiers on each floor to house plants, essential oil bathroom sprays, and organic soaps, I always leave their home with new ideas for my own. During my most recent stay with them, I gained a new appreciation for the Himalayan salt lamp.

My first morning, I awoke before the sunrise. I navigated the dark bedroom carefully and as I opened the door, I became subtly bathed in a warm, inviting reddish glow. On a hall tabletop sat a Himalayan salt lamp. I hadn’t noticed the crystal the day before. At 5 am, though, this lamp created a memorable and favorable impression. It created a tranquil light especially appreciated at this early hour. Bleary eyed, the light filled me with joy.

I purchased a salt lamp many years ago and placed it in my office. During stressful days, I plug in the lamp to help me stay calm amidst the chaos at work. When the lamp is turned on, coworkers will occasionally enter my office and comment on how calm and welcoming the room feels. Whether the effect be a real physical reaction to negative ions or a placebo effect doesn’t concern me. The lamp helps me relax.

Salt lamps are typically carved from a solid block of salt and hollowed out to make room for a light source. Some manufacturers create lamps with a scalloped recess suitable for a tea light while others contain a small bulb and attached electrical cord. The lamps are attractive in their own right, creating an earthy table top sculpture. When illuminated, they emanate a reddish glow. The reddish glow is a perfect color of light for a hallway or bathroom night light because it has much less of an inhibitory effect on melatonin production than would bluish colored light.

Salt lamps have also been attributed to be a source of negative ion production. Although this claim has not yet been verified in scientific literature, the relaxation effect created by the lamp is similar to that serenity experienced with other locales known to be associated with a greater concentration of negative ions.

What are Negative Ions?

Atoms, the building blocks of our world, commonly become charged. The acquisition of a charge turns the atom into an ion. A charge allows ions to form bonds with each other. Negative ions, referred to as anions, are attracted to and form chemical bonds with positively charged ions, also known as cations, forming molecules.

Ions are a ubiquitous component of the natural world. Moving water is a known source of negative ions. Plants undergoing photosynthesis are another common source of negative ions. Most people are familiar with the sense of relaxation associated with a walk through the forest, a trip to the beach, or by sitting next to a running stream or waterfall. In a typical home, the only sources of negative ions are houseplants and running water filling a sink, bath or shower.

Research has shown that negative ions promote relaxation and improve moodIn the 1980s, several papers were generated discussing a reversible phenomenon known as “serotonin irritation syndrome” in which anxiety worsened when people were exposed to positively charge ions. This effect however was reduced with exposure to an increased concentration of negative ions. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter within both the brain and body, is associated with many functions, including mood regulation and is thought to be affected from exposure to charged ions.

Some who suffer with asthma have reported a sense of improved breathing and a decrease in asthmatic exacerbations when exposed to negative ions, perhaps by a possible cleansing effect on the air. This effect, however, has not been proven.

I’ve been a fan of Himalayan salt lamps for years. Regardless of scientific validation, I have found these light sources to induce a sense of calm and relaxation. Although I have been using a salt lamp at stressful times during the work day for years, I have gained a new appreciation for them, now as a hallway night light!

Western Medicine is OK, but I Love my Magnets

The instant I stepped down awkwardly on to the rock and felt my knee “squish”, I knew there was trouble.
Quickly, the knee swelled and stiffened. Thankfully, it was the last day of vacation.
After a week of self medication with Advil, I gave up and went to an orthopedic surgeon. He expressed concern about the meniscus and prescribed me a 6 week course of a potent anti-inflammatory. The pain improved and the swelling subsided. But, an unnerving twinge continued to plague me with certain movements. Stepping on the clutch in my standard transmission car continued to be particularly bothersome. A few days after finishing the treatment, the pain returned and then worsened.
At my follow up appointment, the surgeon offered me a choice of physical therapy, another round of anti-inflammatory medication, or arthroscopic surgery.
Back at my work desk, I hopelessly weighed my options. That’s when my colleague, a physician in the next work station, cautiously asked if I was “open minded” and if I would consider an “alternative treatment?”
Intriguing… I thought. “Tell me more.”
This rebel of the medical establishment handed me two metallic discs and explained that his wife was a distributor for a Japanese company called Nikken that manufactures magnets. It sounded like a “woowoo” treatment, along the same line as snake oil. But, I had nothing to lose, so I let him tape the two discs onto my hurt knee.
I kept those magnets on for the rest of the day. It wasn’t until I was halfway home that I realized I hadn’t felt any twinges of pain while shifting gears.
“Hmm,” I thought. “That’s interesting?!”
I continued to wear those magnets for two months.
No weakness. No pain. No medication. No surgery.
And, today, 25 years later, no arthritis.
A True Believer
Since that fateful day, I have used magnetic products over and over again on myself, family, and friends. In fact, a whole shelf in my medicine cabinet is dedicated to this technology. I have accumulated an assortment of sizes and strengths of round magnetic discs, wraps, insoles, jewelry, and even spinning varieties that penetrate deeper into the body. My first mode of first aid is usually to tape a magnet onto an injury. From experience, I have learned that this will almost always speed up the recovery time and often without the need for other medication.
The trick is to know when to use a magnet and when to go to the doctor for a more formal evaluation. That, unfortunately, cannot be taught on a blog post. If one hears a noise during an injury, the suspicion should be raised for the need of a professional medical assessment. Tendons snap, ligaments pop, bones crack.
Visible deformity, numbness, and severe weakness should also direct one to seek a medical professional at an emergency room or urgent care center. An inability to fully move a joint due to a sense of “locking” or a feeling of “instability”, will also more than likely require a doctor’s evaluation, but not typically as an emergency.
Most strains, sprains, bruises, and other localized injury, even lower back pain, can often benefit from the application of magnets. I have even observed fractures heal much more quickly than expected following the application of magnets to a cast.
How Do they Work?
Nikken’s magnetic products penetrate and infuse the body with a magnetic grid. Blood flow improves and… the rest is seemingly magic. I imagine that the magnetic framework helps the body to heal itself, similar to scaffolding workmen use to repair a damaged edifice. I have no experience with other brands of magnetic technology and therefore cannot comment on their effectiveness. It is important to understand though that magnets aren’t “medication”. In fact, the FDA forbids magnet manufacturers from claiming that these products heal or cure.
Despite not clearly understanding how they work I can tell you unequivocally, as an orthopedic radiologist, that these strange discs from Nikken help the body heal, and often without any additional medication or treatment.
Sustainable
An anti-inflammatory with no side effects. No needed prescription and no concern for refills. In fact, unless you lose them, they seem to last forever.
Do you have an open mind?

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