The Doctor's Consultation: Back Pain
One of the commonest conditions experienced by the human
race is back pain. There are several reasons for this including poor
engineering design in the first place, and secondly our insistence in walking
upright, when our spine was actually designed to allow us to walk on all
fours, and also our not keeping the spinal muscles toned up, to do the job of
keeping our spines together. There is also a problem with overloading! In
actual fact, our human spines are a walking disaster, looking for somewhere to
happen. It is estimated that 50 to 80 percent of adults have had back pain at
some time and that 10 percent of the population will experience back pain in
any given year.
Medically we tend to lump back pain into three baskets –
Acute, Sub-acute and Chronic. The pain itself is also graded as mild, moderate
Acute back pain is the most common (around 80 percent), and
often comes on after an accident or injury. This type of pain is usually
severe, but does not last more than seven days. Typical of this, is the pain
after lifting and twisting. Immediate pain, severe in intensity, but settles
quickly with bed rest. Sub-acute back pain drags on and on for a few weeks.
Generally the intensity is not severe, but the pain is always there. Chronic
back pain on the other hand, grinds on for months, and months and months. The
pain can be anything from an annoying niggle, all the way through to
One reason for the spine’s problems, as I stated before,
is the incredible complexity of engineering of the spine itself. Made up of 24
bones (vertebrae), with ‘springy’ (intervertebral) discs in between, there
is a ‘hole’ down the back through which the spinal cord runs, and between
each vertebra, off-shoots from the spinal cord go out to supply nerve
connections to the body. Keeping the spine together are a complex series of
ligaments and muscles, without which the whole shooting match would just fall
apart. The vertebrae also ‘lock’ together if weight is placed on the back,
but only with the spine parallel to the ground, like a horse! However, the
vertebrae become unstable and unlocked when the spine is bent forwards from
the vertical position and you try and lift something from the floor.
Now whilst we would be much better off walking around on
our hands and feet, or crawling as we did as babies, it is probably too late
to change the habits of the last umpteen million years!
Unfortunately, the causes of back pain are numerous.
Anything that puts pressure on your back muscles or nerves can cause pain. Any
illness or damage to your spine also can cause pain. The cause of most acute
back pain is unknown, but
is probably due to minor strains, sprains and overuse.
Other causes include ruptured intervertebral discs. This
does produce severe pain, and comes from the nucleus of the disc popping
through the outside and pressing on the spinal nerves. CT and MRI scans have
made it easier to pin-point the exact disc, and also assist in deciding
whether surgery or traction is required.
Another is spinal stenosis, where the spinal canal becomes
narrowed. This squeezes the nerves and puts pressure on them, causing the back
pain (similar to the ruptured disc physical pressure). Numbness, pain and
weakness in the legs also can occur.
Osteoarthritis is just one form of arthritis that can also
cause back pain. It breaks down the spinal joints and other joints and often
produces lower back pain in the elderly, or those who have been manual
laborers all their lives.
There are many more causes, but if your back pain is
accompanied by any of the following, see your doctor today:
Weakness or numbness in one or both legs.
Pain going down one leg below the knee.
Pain from a fall or injury.
Pain accompanied by fever without flu-like aches.
Pain that continues to interrupt sleep after three nights.
Pain that remains after six weeks of home treatment.
I came back, (not to Brylcream), but to Chiangmai, and to the best Country
on Earth. Hillary whenever I walk around cities in England and Australia
everyone seems to be dressed quite normally, but when I walk around here
the Chiangmai farang seem to be dressed anything but normally.
Do you think I should start a Pedestrian Police Force? I could send all
these strangely dressed farangs to the nearest circus, where it appears
they must have escaped from!
Seriously though, I’m lucky enough to be a volunteer teachers assistant
at Anubaan Chiangmai, but I notice a large percentage of the children
aren’t really interested in learning English. Do you think it could be
that the Farang they see around town puts them off?
Glad to see you are back in Thailand, and enjoying it as much as ever.
Probably the reason that the children aren’t interested in English
communications is they’re not old enough to know how to use an ATM yet.
Give them a couple of years. Teach them “Herro sexy man!”, “Sit dow
pleez”, “Wun moah beeyah?” and they’re ready for a long and
fruitful association on the economic front with farangs, no matter how
they are dressed. Don’t start a Pedestrian Police Force, we’ve got too
many boys in brown already!
I have once again had the privilege of visiting your great and
wonderful city. It was a fine time for me, no Baht Bus Barbarians, no rip
offs, no trouble, a great time.
There were a few things though that “itched” me a little, such as the
constant ding dong every time you enter one of the country’s two most
famous supermarkets. Does this constant ding dong not also make the
friendly workers there also a bit ding dong?
Another thing that interested me, or more to say it annoyed me, was the
“would you like to buy a suit sir” line. Everywhere I went, morning,
noon, night I got the same old scam. People trying to block the footpaths
with the old “have suit for you sir”. Sometimes there were five of
these so called shops, one after the other, with salesmen trying to shake
hands with the innocent tourists.
Dear Mr. Dorf,
I have to agree about the ding-dong supermarkets, but with now one every
50 meters, the ding-dong is firmly entrenched as part of the national
music scene, and probably of more musical merit than the local hip-hop
heroes. As far as the sartorial splendor situation, perhaps you are
dressed in the garb that Delboy is alluding to in the letter above yours,
so the tailors are only trying to improve your dress sense, to make you
even more desirable. Are they saying, “Herro sexy man!”, “Sit dow
pleez” and “Wun moah beeyah?”
There seems to be a severe local shortage of sturdy knicker elastic!
Dear old Pater requires a piece for his catapult and wonders where he can
lay his hands on some.
Words fail me, my pubescent Petal. As large as life and twice as lively,
up you bob again, as if we are close confidants. Nothing could be further
from the truth, other than your good self, who is so far removed from what
is truthful, that I doubt if you could even lie straight in bed. With or
without your Isaanette twins Nit and Ying to act as nocturnal splints,
which I am sure would be needed in your case. Anyone who reads this column
regularly, knows of your hollow, empty promises, complete with incessant
excuses. Take a leaf out of Delboy’s book and you won’t have to spend
your time running around trying to look after your father’s knicker
elastic needs. In fact, if you really were the dutiful son you claim to
be, you could buy your father a complete new catapult, which comes with
knicker elastic Grade A, and will last longer than the knickers from the
chrome pole palaces.
One of my close friends is worrying me a lot. He has dark moods and
gets depressed very easily. When he is down, everything is “wrong”,
but when he is not depressed he is really a great person. He is only in
his forties, but I worry that he will get worse as he gets older. Have you
any suggestions, Hillary, as I like this man and would like to help him.
Would psychoanalysis help?
First, Hillary is not an analyst, but what you are describing is very
common. When people get depressed, they naturally think that the world is
dark and gloomy. This is not something that you should tackle on your own,
as skilled help will be required. When your friend is in one of his happy
times, you can try and discuss whether he thinks he would like to see
someone professionally, but don’t try and fix the problem yourself. It
will end up in tragedy if you do. Be careful, Petal!
Camera Class: Now even Kodak has deserted film
by Harry Flashman
For a second year, Kodak leads in US digital camera market,
reports Ben Dobbin, the AP Business Writer. Eastman Kodak, the company that
brought photography to the masses, and have undoubtedly been one of the prime
movers for the acceptance of film processing at the corner store, entered the
digital market in 2001, in a move that many said would be the end of the
company. By being in the digital market, Kodak was killing its own film cash
cow, was the popular opinion.
What popular opinion had got totally wrong, was the fact that
digital photography was going to take over the popular market, at least.
Kodak’s move was made at the right time, and with their now ‘digital’
corner store has successfully combined both film and digital photography. After
all, despite the ease of digital cameras, you still want to send a print to
mother-in-law of the new baby.
Digital cameras began outselling film cameras in the United
States in 2003. And in 2005, Kodak generated more annual sales from digital
imaging than from film-based photography for the first time. A few weeks ago, I
wrote “film is dead” and it seems Kodak has the numbers to back me up.
The size of the market in the US is just staggering. While
Kodak is king, Japan is not far behind with Canon Inc. and Sony Corp second and
third. Domestic sales of digital cameras surged 21 percent to 28 million in
2005, and Kodak’s market share leaped to 24.9 percent from 21 percent in 2004,
according to data released
by IDC, a research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Look at these numbers, Kodak shipped 7.05 million digital
cameras to US retailers last year, 43 percent more than in 2004. Tokyo-based
Canon moved ahead of Sony into the No. 2 spot with 5 million shipments, a 16
percent increase, but its market slice still shrunk from 18.3 percent to 17.7
percent, IDC said.
Japan’s Sony, which lost its front-runner position in the
US market to Kodak for the first time in 2004, was third in 2005. It shipped
4.78 million cameras, up 10 percent from 2004, but its share of the US market
slumped to 16.9 percent from 18.5 percent, IDC said.
Do the maths – that is 17 million digital cameras in one
year. And there is also the digitals from other manufacturers, to add in as
well. Behind the top trio in the U.S. ranks in 2005 were Nikon Corp. with an 8.2
percent share and Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard Co. with 7.5
percent. Next in line were Olympus Corp. with 6.9 percent and Fuji Photo Film
Co. with 6.3 percent, IDC said.
However, this is small bikkies compared to the world market.
In the global digital camera race, Kodak was third in 2004 with an 11.8 percent
market share to Canon’s 17.1 percent and Sony’s 16.7 percent. While the 2005
rankings are still a few weeks away, “we don’t expect any big changes” but
Kodak will likely make up some ground, said IDC analyst Christopher Chute.
It is even more interesting to break down Canon’s 17.1
percent too. Canon benefited from robust sales of digital single-lens reflex
cameras, IDC said, showing that the more serious amateurs are abandoning their
SLR film cameras and replacing them with digital SLR’s. There is also a strong
group who have started with digital compacts, and now want a little more. It is
reported that Kodak is now increasingly shifting its focus (nice pun) toward
boosting sales of higher-end models. Its new pocket-sized EasyShare V570 couples
two lenses - a 3x optical zoom lens and a specialized lens for ultrawide-angle
Even on the local front, I have noticed the inexorable move
towards the higher end digital SLRs too. My photographic friend Ernie Kuhnelt, a
man who has been true to film, has just purchased a Nikon D50 as a starter kit,
and so far is delighted with it, and the results are excellent. As I have
written before, there is no substitute for a good piece of glass up front, no
matter what way you capture the image in the back of the camera.
Dogs - Man’s best friend: General Health Care: External Parasites Control – part III
a walk and bath at the foot of Doi Suthep.
In the two preceding articles in this column I wrote
about the most common external parasites and their effects on their hosts,
our dogs and cats. I continue with the control methods you can use to free
the animal of its complaints.
Fleas are very resistant; they can do without food for
months, fairly easily withstand scratching and biting by their host and
reproduction and biting-activities are strongly increased under warm
conditions. They can even survive one year being frozen! Luckily, there are
many effective insecticides on the market that easily kill them, which is
probably one of the reasons why I hardly ever find fleas on our (guest) dogs
and cats but mainly on strays and neglected pet animals. Most anti-flea
products are safe, but application should be done with care and moderation.
Not only the affected animal should be treated, but also the other animals
in the household, plus their living quarters where they sleep, eat and play
should be carefully sprayed and vacuum-cleaned. It is advisable to provide
the animal/s with tape-worm treatment as fleas can transmit this intestinal
worm (see the article on this subject in the Mail’s Vol.V. No. II).
Lice infested dogs and cats should receive a thorough
bath followed by a few treatments with a regular insecticide, which will be
enough to clear the animal of these pests. The infected bedding is best
destroyed and the animal’s living quarters disinfected.
For ticks there are only a few really effective powders,
sprays and Spot-on products on the market, and then only when it concerns a
few ticks on the animal. Despite these precautions, ticks sometimes still
attach to their host and can infect it with one of the tick-borne diseases.
It is advisable to have your animal checked for anti-bodies against
Erlichiosis canis every six months to catch this disease in its acute phase
where treatment is still possible. As ticks thrive very well under hot and
humid conditions and one female can lay over 500 eggs, they accumulate
quickly. The only way I know of in controlling these pests is to call in a
professional pest-control company (if anyone knows any environmental
friendly method that works, please let me know!) and have your house
sprayed, preferably two to four times in succession, two weeks apart. Make
sure they spray not only the ground but every crack in the walls, under the
roof and on top of the ceilings, under the chairs tables or cage where your
animal sleeps, and all the trees and scrubs in the garden. However, be
prepared for an enormous mess to clean up after the treatment!
For more information on pet health, dog and cat boarding, dog training
and behavior, please visit www.luckydogs.info or contact LuckyDogs: 09 99 78
Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums
by Dr Byte, Citec Asia
Many people ask me how to manage the ever increasing
amount of spam they receive every day. I share your unhappiness as my
various business email addresses receive around 70 to 90 spam messages
everyday. That’s a lot of checking even if my Spam Checker does most of
the work. I organised Outlook Express and later Thunderbird and maintained a
list of known spammers, and tried all the tricks I could find. But still
some spam got through. The people behind Spam use different addresses every
time as well as different methods to hide words in the subject and text, and
that’s how they keep deceiving the software.
So decided if it’s time for more drastic action. Here
are some simple steps you could follow:
1. Change your email address. Your ISP account may allow
you to have several addresses, or if not they may allow you to change your
account. Ask them. When you are choosing the new one bear in mind that
dictionary searches are used by spammers to try and guess real accounts. Now
you can’t change the part that comes after the “@” so put thought into
the first part. Perhaps choose a compound word like “[email protected]”. Or
disguise the word with numbers in place of letters, but remember that unlike
passwords, email addresses are not case-sensitive. If you do choose
disguise, remember that you might have to spell your new address over the
telephone so you shouldn’t make it too obscure!
2. Then send your new email address to your regular
correspondents, and updated all the accounts you use online, including
internet banking for example. Yes it will be painful, but do it. For the
personal contacts you only have to send a couple of emails: each one to
yourself with the list of addressees in the “bcc” field. This maintains
the privacy of your correspondents. Send a couple because many servers now
limit the number of recipients an email can go to.
3. Ongoing! “Never (yes NEVER) give the primary email
address to anyone who is remotely suspect... never, never, never!
4. Never put your primary email address on any
web-readable forum including your own web pages, anyone else’s web pages
and newsgroup postings. This is a well-known avoidance measure but there are
still plenty of people happily giving their addresses away for free!
5. If you really want to be directly contactable from web
pages or newsgroup postings then disguise your email in the posting, putting
something like “REMOVE-
THIS” before and after the “@” sign, but think carefully about it
because spammers are smart and they write clever scanning programs. Or use
an image of your email address instead of text. Alternatively give your
(ALT) web mail account (see next step) but I’d still recommend disguising
6. Many times internet users are asked to supply a valid
email address. For this, open and use one or two free web mail accounts
(hotmail/yahoo). These (lets call them ALT - alternative) accounts have good
spam catching algorithms and I find getting spammed on these accounts
doesn’t hurt because it’s not really “me”! I have one for these
purposes and check this web mail account once a week or so and find that
7. Just to repeat... never, never, never reveal your
primary email address unless you’re confident the recipient is
trustworthy. In my experience serious websites are trustworthy: the people
who use spam are the “bottom feeders”; you can tell that from the emails
8. One last thing in case you missed it... I never,
never, never give out my primary email account unless I trust the recipient!
Think of your primary email address as gold. It’s worth gold to spammers;
sure not a lot of gold per address, but it all adds up. They don’t do it
out of charity; they do it because they get paid. And I am not giving them
my gold, however small the amount!
9. And do you know what? It works. I have no spam on my
primary account. None. Nil. Not a sausage. Just emails from people I know
and trust. Mind you I haven’t received any great offers to order herbal
impotence cures or sign up for organ enlargement either... but heck,
there’s plenty of time for me to find out for myself!
In the next column, I will have some more interesting web
destinations to travel
to. Don’t forget to keep your preferred anti-virus and spysweepers up to
date. Do a full hard disc scan and sweep at least once a week. Don’t open
e-mails with funny attachments if you are not expecting them and last but
not least, make sure your firewall is on. Dr Byte appears in Chiangmai Mail
every 2 weeks and if you have any questions or suggestions you would like to
make, you can contact me at Dr Byte, Chiangmai Mail.
Money Matters: Conclusions that we draw
MBMG International Ltd.
Over the last couple of months we’ve
looked at the history of equities and equity markets and the current global
economic background. The conclusions that WE draw from this are:
- The twin deficits are about to derail the US economy
and any dissenting arguments proposed so far do not appear to hold water as
far as we’re concerned.
- If the US economy is derailed then almost all the
global economy will suffer, particularly other Western economies.
- If there is economic slowdown then equity prices will
fall sharply as they are currently priced assuming that earnings will grow
at a far faster rate than the historic average of 6% and once it’s
apparent that they can’t achieve that let alone exceed it, share prices
will have to be adjusted downwards.
- This is all to be expected in terms of the long term
- Japan is out of kilter with the cycle.
So it’s clear to us that in general Western equities
should be avoided. Certainly any investment that replicates the main equity
indices in the US and almost all Western equity markets doesn’t seem to us
to offer good value right now. So we would avoid index funds, ETFs and
growth funds. We’d definitely avoid tech and smaller company funds.
We believe that value funds might offer some prospects,
as they will benefit from a rotation away from the general market into
defensives and for this reason defensive stocks will also relatively
outperform the market. However, if things get as bad as they could then even
these defensives may turn negative (although still nowhere near as bad as
the general market).
Oil and commodity stocks are interesting. However, for
oil we would far rather own the commodity itself and for gold the balance
between bullion and gold stocks requires careful managing. We’ll actually
cover both of these when we look at commodities as an investment class.
So it seems like we’re not touching equities right now?
Yes and no. There are alternative methodologies for equity investing that
remain attractive right now and there are also still a couple of
possibilities for traditional long equity investment that look attractive.
We’ll deal with this latter first - Japan is, as
we’ve said, out of synch. It operates
to the same seasonal cy-cles, but its cycles aren’t synchronised to those
in the West. Right now the Japanese consumer is awash with cash and Japanese
companies have completed re-structuring. Japanese society and government is
slowly modernising and having been in a winter cycle for over 20 years, the
Japanese economy should now be ready to emerge from this.
While longer term the impact of an increasingly dominant
China may cause structural changes to the Japanese economy, in the shorter
term there is every possibility of a domestic spending driven recovery. This
will have its mettle tested by recession in the West and won’t be plain
sailing but we believe that we will see improvement in economic conditions
in Japan. This will ultimately bring some relief to the Nikkei which has
been in the doldrums for many years (let us not forget that the Nikkei is
still around 70% below its 1989 levels!).
We expect the Nikkei to fall back (maybe around 15% or
so) from current levels when the Western economies slow but then to quickly
decouple and to move back strongly higher as the roots of a domestic
recovery are apparent. Trying to time this could be difficult. So some
portfolio managers are taking small allocations to Japan right now and
looking to increase these on any signs of weakness.
Alternatively, buying a balanced blend of smaller
companies, growth and blue chips in Japan every month through a regular
savings/investment programme looks a pretty good call right now. To us the
right way to buy Japanese equities has always been through the leading fund
managers (unlike the US markets where the majority of funds don’t add or
detract value). In Japan it seems pretty clear that active management is
essential and the differences between the top and the bottom performances
The long-only Japanese funds that we currently use are:
Fidelity’s Japan/Japan Smaller and Japan Spec Sits, GAM
Japan, Gartmore Japan, Invesco Japan Smlr Cos/ Invesco Japan Discovery,
Schroder Japan/Tokyo, Merrill Lynch Japanese Opportunities, Thames River
Japan, JPMF Japan Smaller Companies/OTC, and our personal favourites Odey
Japan, Polar Capital Ja-pan and Atlantis Japanese Growth.
It may be that Asia in general also benefits from
Japanese recovery, but we’re negative on Korea, cautious about Thailand
(too much money being borrowed too fast) and we’d avoid the Chinese equity
markets. Again Asian exposure through regular purchase might not be the
worst investment call right now.
As for the alternative equity methodologies, we’ll discuss that soon,
once we have the latest market news, and then we’ll bombard you with the
esoteric details of market neutral, long/short, split strike and a whole
bunch of other good stuff.
The above data and research was compiled from sources
believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its
officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above
article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of
any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above
article. For more information please contact Alan Hall on
Life in the Laugh Lane: Nine Days of Pleasure and Pain: Part Two
by Scott Jones
felt twice this big.
Day Four is perfect motorcycle weather and
exquisite riding over the mountain passes from Pai to Chiang Dao. Lunch in the
Mae Sae valley is spicy delicious and enhanced by watching steamy backpackers
getting off packed local buses that only stop for lunch. Instead of reveling in
the fragrant smells of the forest, they get to experience the permeating odors
of regurgitated lunches from other passengers whose stomachs can’t take the
That night at Malee’s Nature Huts nestled next to Chiang
Dao mountain, we listen to an elderly Welsh backpacker tell his story about
walking from Soppong to Pai, some 45 kilometers, in the afternoon, then
evening, then night, until his feet were stubs and he nearly froze to death,
which made us understand why Wales didn’t replace England as ruler of the
In the morning, I have a throbbing jaw and a quarter of my
back tooth is missing, either taken by the aliens or swallowed during the
night. Luckily I’m traveling with a dentist for advice and a girlfriend with
a complete pharmacy in her purse. I eat soft yoghurt sprinkled with antibiotics
and ibuprofen for breakfast, climb on the bike and wait for the tooth to pass
out the other end and bite me in the ass.
It’s encouraging to ride with a dentist so if you have a
fatal accident, at least your teeth will be cavity-free in the casket. After a
stunning ride up and around Doi Ang Khang through some of the twistiest
mountain twisties in Thailand, which seems to take forever with a pounding jaw
echoing the pounding of the road, my new used Honda Super 4 decides not to
start. We charge the battery, pray to Buddha and head for the very Chinese,
very Akha village of Mae Salong which is full of tea plants, drying tea leaves
and every size of tea bag for sale. It’s a bit like entering a National
Geographic magazine. An ancient, hill tribe, hotel bell girl grabs all the bags
from my bike that I can barely lift and lugs them to my room on her head. I try
to carry one but she snatches it away from me. Jon the Dentist and Todd the Ice
Cream Maker cruise to the only place open after dark, a pounding karaoke bar,
while my head pounds me to sleep in my room.
Day Six: After an unsuccessful attempt to find a mechanic
who has worked on a bike larger than a 125cc Honda Dream, a young kid with
tools succeeds in blowing my main fuse, turning my bike into a dead heap of
assembled parts. After another unsuccessful attempt to find a new fuse in
prehistoric Mae Salong, another kid with tools repairs the fuse. I’m off to
Chiang Rai in search of a mechanic, a battery, a new fuse, a case of ibuprofen,
the Holy Grail and perhaps a local bus to Pai.
Riding back after scoring a new battery, fuse and drugs, I
hear a “clunk” as the battery vibrates off the bike. A guy loading bamboo
into a truck points to the side of the road and comes to help me find it. 10
minutes later, we discover it’s has rolled down the hill into a hill tribe
village, luckily avoiding women drying an array of leaves in the sun.
(Headlines could have read: Insane Farang Arrested for Assault with Battery.)
That evening I marvel at the Chronicles of Jon the Dentist
who took Girlfriend of Scott to the wrong destination and barely made it back
by nightfall through several other wrong destinations on remote routes
undiscovered by modern map makers, some of which almost end in Myanmar on roads
composed of dust, sharp gravel and bedrock. Quoth Jon the Dentist: “I was
really scared because it was really scary.” I listen with awe to the Tales of
Ice Cream Todd, currently the tallest person in Northern Thailand by a head and
a half, dressed in a high-tech, tight-fitting, padded safety jacket with
matching, hockey-type knee pads and space helmet which make him look like a
telephone pole impersonating a super hero, who has given rides to Akha ladies
twice his age and half his height, has evolved into Karaoke Todd though
possessing no previous musical skills, and has written new words to the tune of
Honolulu Baby called “Oh, My Akha Baby” which he recites to us since he
Oh, my Akha baby!
Where’d you get those teeth?
Better stop chewing betel nut,
Or I’ll be gone in a week.