How backpacks contribute to back pain and what you can do to prevent it 

iStock/ThinkstockBY: DR. TIFFANY YEH

(NEW YORK) -- From kindergarten to high school to our first job or a big trip, we carry our lives in our backpacks. But while they’re meant for carrying everything we might need, too often, we include things we don’t. Over time, the strain caused by these items can lead to problems with the spine, and a new study illustrates just how easily it can happen.

What’s the problem with a heavy backpack?

Carrying excessive weight in a backpack can cause wear-and-tear on the joints, ligaments, and muscles across the entire back and in the hips. Oftentimes, these body parts work to compensate for the extra weight, but because they cannot sustain that strength for an extended period of time, they begin to degenerate, which can cause stiffness, a loss of range of motion and pain. These effects can spread to other parts of the body as other muscles work to compensate for the strain.

This gradual degeneration can lead to chronic back pain, compressed discs in the spine (herniated discs), neck pain, an altered posture and gait and even pain in the feet, according to Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, lead author of the study and a spinal and orthopedic surgeon at the New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine Center.

“People everywhere have struggled to assess the impact of objects in a backpack to the body in general, and the spine in particular,” Hansraj said in a press release.

How heavy can it really be?

Hansraj’s study used a computer model to determine the amount of stress that’s put on a spine when it’s made to carry a backpack ranging in weight from 1 to 100 pounds — a range the study noted can include everything from school books to hiking gear.

Based on the model, Hansraj and his colleagues found that the amount of force placed on a spine in a neutral position is about 7.2 times the weight of the backpack. If the spine is slumped forward about 20 degrees, the amount of force increases to 11.6 times the weight of the bag.

The reason the backpack causes so much strain? Even in a neutral position, the spine is not totally straight — it’s somewhat S-shaped if you look at it sideways. So, even though from the outside the backpack may seem like it only pulls downward, inside the spine, the weight causes different pressure forces depending on where on the spine it’s hitting.

The study was based on a “physiologically accurate” simulation of the human spine, so it’s unclear how much of the data can be applied to actual people. However, based on the analysis, a 50-pound child who is carrying a 5 pound backpack would be putting about 36 pounds of pressure on their spine if it was in a neutral position. If they were slumped forward 20 degrees, the bag would put more pressure on their spine than they weighed — 58 pounds.

What can I do to prevent these problems?

The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that children should never carry a backpack weighing more than 10 to 20 percent of their body weight. In the press release, Hansraj goes further, citing previous studies, to say that for young adults, backpacks shouldn’t be over 13 to 15 percent of their body weight and for college-aged adults, 15 to 20 percent of their body weight.

While the above might be the best way to prevent injuries and longer-term musculoskeletal problems, here are some other easy ways to carry your bag safely:

  • Pay attention to proper posture: Keep your ears above your shoulder, your shoulders back, your chest open, and make sure your back stays straight.
  • Lift your bag up from the ground by bending your knee. Don’t just bend over, as this will put more strain on the lower back.
  • Pack only what is necessary.
  • Wear and tighten both straps of the backpack to distribute weight evenly.
  • Use a waist or chest strap if your backpack has one.
  • Pack heavier items closer to the center of the back.
  • Use digital textbooks if your school has them.
  • Use lockers or available storage space at work or school to avoid carrying everything at once.
  • Make multiple trips if you have to carry several heavy objects.

If you are already experiencing pain and you think it’s from carrying a heavy backpack, see a doctor as soon as possible.

Dr. Tiffany Yeh completed pediatrics residency at Brown University, and is currently an endocrinology fellow at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Bystanders save man who has heart attack before entering voting booth

The Office Of Unified Communications (WASHINGTON) -- A poll worker and bystanders helped save a man's life on Tuesday as he waited to vote in the midterm elections in northwest Washington D.C.

The 75-year-old man, a custodian at his designated poll site, Barnard Elementary School, was about to enter a voting booth when he experienced cardiac arrest and collapsed, according to Doug Buchanan, chief communications officer of the DC Fire and EMS Department.

“Four bystanders jumped in and said he was having difficulty breathing. Then he lost his pulse,” Buchanan told ABC News.

Bystanders immediately called 911 then jumped in to provide assistance. The 911 operator, Jenee Wood, told them where to find an automated external defibrillator nearby.

“One of the bystanders went to go retrieve the AED while they had the 911 operator on speakerphone,” Buchanan said.

Wood, an employee of the Office of Unified Communications, told the bystanders how to perform CPR on the man and gave directions on using the AED as they waited for an ambulance to arrive, Buchanan said.

As they continued to perform CPR on the man, Wood advised them to give two shocks from the AED. With the second shock, "the patient's pulse was returned, at which point

“They continued to perform CPR, then they advised two shocks and [with] the second shock, the patient's pulse was returned, at which point he began gasping,” Buchanan told ABC News.

Now conscious, the man was sent to the hospital to receive further medical attention.

He was "even talking in the back of the ambulance on the way to the hospital,” Buchanan said.

In a tweet later on in the day, DC Fire and EMS pointed out the man's greatest privilege on Election Day, saying, "He didn't get to vote, but he got to live."

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Gluten-free fix? What to know about an experimental treatment that could let celiac disease sufferers eat gluten

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- People who suffer from celiac disease must eat a strict, gluten-free diet but a new treatment currently being tested could, if clinical trials work and it's approved, change that.

The treatment, called Nexvax2, could change people's immune response to gluten so that it no longer triggers a damaging, inflammatory reaction in the body.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine when gluten is ingested.

Nexvax2 hopes to help people with specific immune recognition genes that make up around 90 percent of the celiac patient population, according to ImmusanT, Inc., the Massachusetts company behind the vaccine.

Nexvax2 is currently being tested in a phase 2 clinical trial in Australia that includes patients from the United States.

A phase 2 clinical trial typically lasts around two years. Nexvax2 would then have the be tested in a phase 3 clinical trial that needs to demonstrate that the treatment is at least as safe and effective as existing treatment options.

If it is successful in the phase 3 trial, then it would have to apply for FDA approval to become available to consumers in the U.S. The cost of the treatment is unknown.

If it is approved, Nexvax2 could give hope to the nearly 1 percent of Americans who have celiac disease and currently have no treatment option other than following a strict gluten-free diet.

"Further research and results are awaited, but if the therapy does work, it has the potential to enable patients to return to a normal diet and improved health," said Dr. Dean Railey, a gastroenterologist in Sunrise, Florida, who is not affiliated with Nexvax2. "It’s really tough to go gluten-free, you have to read every label and know exactly what you’re eating at restaurants.”

Here are five questions about celiac disease answered by Dr. Johanna Kreafle, an emergency medicine physician at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

1. What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a hereditary autoimmune disease that causes the body to mount an immune response against gluten, which is a combination of proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. This response causes damage to the small intestine and when this happens, nutrients cannot be adsorbed properly into the body.

2. Do all people with "gluten intolerance" have celiac disease?

No. Some people have non-celiac wheat sensitivity, which has similar symptoms to celiac disease but they do not test positive for celiac disease. And it is not confirmed that gluten is the culprit triggering the immune reaction in these people -- it may be another protein or antigen.

3. What are the symptoms of celiac disease?

There are many symptoms but the most common are abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain and chronic fatigue.

4. How are people diagnosed with celiac disease?

Two steps: screening and diagnosis. You should always consult a physician to ensure proper diagnosis.

Screening: Blood tests to screen for celiac disease antibodies. If the blood tests suggest celiac disease, your physician will recommend a biopsy of your small intestine to confirm the diagnosis.

Diagnosis: Biopsy of your small intestine during an endoscopy looks for damage to your small intestine consistent with celiac disease.

5. What treatments are available for celiac disease?

Currently, the only treatment available for celiac disease is lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. This means avoiding foods with wheat, barley and rye.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Mississippi ranks as 'America's Fattest State'

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Mississippi tips the scales in a ranking of "America's Fattest States" from the number crunchers at WalletHub.

The list is based on data relating to three factors: obesity and overweight prevalence, health consequences, and food and fitness.

ABC News affiliate KSAT-TV reports that the Magnolia State topped West Virginia and a host of others -- including Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee, which rounded out the top five.

Here are the top 10 fattest states in America:

 1. Mississippi
 2. West Virginia
 3. Arkansas
 4. Kentucky
 5. Tennessee
 6. Louisiana
 7. Alabama
 8. South Carolina
 9. Oklahoma
10. Texas

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How a mirror could transform working out

Mirror(NEW YORK) -- Remember the days when you needed to go to the gym to get a workout?

We don’t either, and the latest option for an at-home workout is one right out of "The Jetsons."

Hannah Bronfman and Sara and Erin Foster are among the influencers and celebrities already using the $1,495 mirror that turns into an interactive gym with the switch of a button.

The aptly-named Mirror was created by Brynn Putnam, a professional ballerina-turned-boutique fitness studio owner who saw that people, particularly millennials, used to working out in boutique fitness studios now wanted an at-home option that was just as challenging and motivating.

Mirror was also created to solve a problem faced by Putnam, a mom and full-time fitness entrepreneur, and so many others: Time.

"About two years ago I found myself, a gym owner, struggling to get to my own gyms," she said. "To me, a workout at home had always been sacrificing quality for convenience. You were putting a large treadmill or bike into your living room or struggling to watch a small screen on your phone while you watched a video on YouTube."

The light bulb moment for Putnam came when she installed mirrors in her New York City-area boutique fitness studios, Refine Method, and saw how much clients liked working out in front of them.

"I realized that we could build a nearly invisible home gym using a mirror," she said.

The result is an experience where you're working out at home but can see yourself, your instructor and your classmates in the mirror. The instructor gives personalized tips and motivating shout-outs during the workout, like he or she is right there with you.

A smartphone app controls the workouts and Mirror also pairs with a heart rate monitor to provide target heart rate zones and customized exercises.

"As the longtime owner of a boutique fitness studio, I’m really proud to say that using the mirror provides a more personalized experience than I can offer in my own gyms," Putnam said. "The first thing most people say when they see the Mirror is, 'This is the future.'"

In addition to the nearly $1,500 price tag, Mirror requires a $39 monthly subscription to access its live and on-demand classes -- about the cost of a single class at a boutique studio in most major cities.

The Peloton bike, another popular at-home workout device that streams live classes, starts at $2,245 for just the bike and also requires a $39 per month subscription. AKT On Demand, a streaming option from New York City-based celebrity trainer Anna Kaiser, costs $34.99 per month for the classes, which can be viewed on a smartphone or computer.

Mirror requires the space of a yoga mat for its workouts, which include everything from cardio and strength -- the most popular so far -- to boxing, yoga, barre and Pilates, according to Putnam.

Putnam is also continuing to innovate the first-of-its-kind piece of fitness equipment, which launched in September.

"Up next for Mirror is one-on-one personal training that allows a user to communicate directly with a trainer," she said. "And also the ability to shop your workout so you can take home your favorite gear and accessories."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Paralyzed woman completes NYC Marathon on crutches for others 'who aren't able to take steps'

Courtesy NYRR(NEW YORK) -- After 11 grueling hours, Hannah Gavios crossed the finish line of the New York City Marathon, completing the entire race on crutches. But the 25-year-old said she didn't do it for the medal.

"One of the biggest motivators on the 26-mile journey was just thinking, 'I'm not just doing this for myself, I'm taking steps for others, people who aren't able to take steps,'" Gavios told ABC News' Good Morning America. "It means a lot to give back to my community, my city and motivate other people."

Gavios ran the race Sunday to raise money for spinal cord research as part of Team Reeve after an accident left her paralyzed in 2016. While lost in Thailand, she said she was assaulted by a man who offered to direct her back to her hotel. While trying to run away from him, she fell 150 feet off a cliff and "landed with a broken back, unable to move anything," she wrote on her Team Reeve fundraising page.

"Amazingly, even after further assault, and more than eight hours later, I was rescued and thus begun my long road to recovery," Gavios wrote.

That situation might have broken most people, but Gavios, a native New Yorker, kept going. She completed the 26.2-mile marathon on Sunday supported by her father, her sister and her "hero," Amanda Sullivan, the woman who taught her how to "crutch." She was also cheered on by thousands of fans.

Since she crossed the finish line, Gavios said it hasn't just been other people living with paralysis who have reached out to her with their congratulations. Even family members struggling in other areas of their own lives have thanked her for sharing her story.

"It's just been so great and so positive to hear that kind of feedback," she said.

Gavios told GMA that during the marathon on Sunday, it was the crowds and her fellow marathoners that kept her going.

"All the cheering just brought so much joy and fulfillment and power inside me, just gave me so much fuel to get through it and get it done," she said.

Gavios added that she wasn't focused on her time in the race, but just truly enjoying the journey. She was met by her father at mile 13, and walked on crutches the entire way with Sullivan, a woman who had been severely injured years back in a car accident and crutched the 2017 marathon in honor of her mother, a cancer survivor.

Gavios also said it was Sullivan who gave her the motivation she needed to compete in the race this year.

"I had no idea I would do the whole thing with her," Gavios said with excitement about crutching with Sullivan. "There were just so many memories that were made Sunday night to look back on. That wouldn't have happened if I accomplished this in a shorter time. It was truly an amazing experience."

She continued, laughing, "Don't get me wrong, there were def moments that sucked."

Gavios said Sullivan tried to tell her that when she crossed the finish line, she would feel no more pain.

"I'm definitely not going to forget this pain," Gavios said, laughing again. "Everything hurts, but you have to keep telling your self to go and go."

As for what's next for Gavios, she has upped her fundraising goal for Team Reeve to $30,000 and wants to continue to work with the organization to raise awareness for those living with paralysis.

"This research will give us answers on ways we can connect the damaged telephone cord, so that messages will seamlessly transfer from the brain to the rest of the body," she wrote on her Team Reeve page. "This year I am crutching the marathon, but soon you’ll see me running it."

Gavios told GMA that she wants to "give everybody that hope -- it's all about what you do with your pain."

"I was very inspired by Amanda Sullivan, she said, 'Your pain can bring others down, or you can use it to lift other people up!'" Gavios explained. "We can't always control what happens to us, but we can control the way we react to that."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


What to know about Salmonella after recent outbreaks have made hundreds ill

iStock/ThinkstockBY: DR. TAMBETTA OJONG

(NEW YORK) -- Conagra Brands, the company that makes Duncan Hines desserts, has recalled four types of cake mix after the Centers for Disease Control found salmonella samples in their “Classic White” mix. Five people who contracted salmonella are part of an investigation by the CDC. Conagra is also voluntarily recalling three other cake varieties, all with expiration dates in March 2019.

It's the latest in a string Salmonella outbreaks that have been reported over the past few months. In October, at least 57 people in 16 states were reported with Salmonella infections after consuming some of the more than 6.5 million pounds of contaminated beef produced by an Arizona company, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Services said.

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that a multistate outbreak linked to eggs from an Alabama farm was even larger than expected, with 135 people infected across 36 states. As a result, Gravel Ridge Farms in Alabama recalled its cage-free large eggs. In another outbreak, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks was recalled and production of the cereal was stopped.

This is not unusual. Salmonella bacteria are some of the more common causes of food-borne illnesses, commonly called food poisoning. It’s responsible for about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to CDC estimates. Most people infected develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps within six to 48 hours.

Below are some of the answers to common questions about Salmonella infection, also called salmonellosis.

What is Salmonella and is it dangerous?

The name of the bacteria comes from Daniel E. Salmon, an American veterinarian who first isolated Salmonella Choleraesuis from pigs in 1884. It is one of the causes of food-borne illness more colloquially known as food poisoning. Most often, the infection results in illness, but it can require hospitalization or even lead to death.

How is Salmonella infection spread?

Salmonella infections usually begin with consumption of contaminated foods. Most common sources include beef, poultry and eggs. However, improperly prepared fruits, vegetables, dairy products and shellfish have also been implicated as sources of Salmonella.

How can Salmonella infection be avoided?

According to the CDC, there are four quick steps that can help keep people safe from food poisoning at home: “clean, separate, cook and chill.” Washing hands and surfaces often and rinsing fresh fruits and vegetables under running water helps. Using separate cutting boards for different foods can help prevent cross-contamination from one food to another.

Placing foods that are more prone to carry Salmonella bacteria, like raw meat, poultry and seafood, in separate drawers or spaces in the fridge can also help.

Cook foods to the correct, recommended temperatures, as well. Use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the cooked food is high enough to kill germs.

The last step is refrigerating food promptly, ensuring that the fridge temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and knowing when to throw food out.

What are the symptoms of Salmonella infection?

Signs that a Salmonella infection is present will usually begin six to 48 hours after ingesting a contaminated food. People who are infected will often report abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, vomiting and even bloody stool.

When to seek medical help

If more severe symptoms are present, a trip to the doctor is recommended, including severe stomach pain or cramping, inability to eat or drink or the presence of blood in vomit or bowel movements.

A fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two or three days also warrants medical attention.

Is there a test for Salmonella infection?

Yes, but not everyone needs to be tested. If symptoms are not severe, there is little need for a test. Some people are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from Salmonella infection, including those with weak immune systems, babies under 1 year old and adults older than 50.

Results of Salmonella test can take two or three days to be returned, so doctors may prescribe antibiotics right away if an infection is suspected.

What is the treatment?

Most patients with Salmonella are monitored carefully and told to drink lots of fluids first, before antibiotics are used. The drugs are reserved only for those who become very ill with severe diarrhea, high fever or some signs of systemic illness.

Dr. Tambetta Ojong is a family medicine resident at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and a part of the ABC News Medical Unit

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Identical twins in California give birth to daughters hours apart

KFSN(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Identical twin sisters Bao Nhia Julia Yang and Bao Kou Julie Yang have shared a lot over the years, and now their daughters will share the same birthday.

The sisters gave birth hours apart on Sunday night, ABC San Francisco station KFSN reported.

But even though they grew up doing everything together, including dressing alike, the twins told KFSN they did not plan on having babies at the same time.

"I found out I was pregnant first and then I told her. She told me she might be pregnant too," Bao Kou Julie Yang told KFSN.

The sisters' due dates were actually two days apart, but both women went into labor around the same time at the Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, California.

They welcomed their daughters Kendra Thao and Natalie Xiong about two hours apart. Bao Kou gave birth to baby Natalie first at 6:59 p.m., while Bao Nhia welcomed baby Kendra at 8:48 p.m., KFSN reported.

Bao Nhia, who already has children, shared her advice for her sister, who is a first-time mom.

"She's going to need a lot of rest because the baby will be crying," Bao Nhia told KFSN.

The hospital also offered the twins the opportunity to share a room after giving birth, according to KFSN.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Conagra recalls Duncan Hines cake mixes after salmonella detected in sample

FDA(CHICAGO) -- Conagra Brands, the company behind Duncan Hines desserts, is voluntarily recalling four kinds of its cake mixes after health officials found salmonella in a sample of Duncan Hines Classic White cake mix.

The contaminated sample may be linked to a salmonella outbreak currently being investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Both agencies are looking into five cases of illnesses due to salmonella. According to the FDA, “Several of the individuals reported consuming a cake mix at some point prior to becoming ill, and some may have also consumed these products raw and not baked.”

In addition to recalling the Classic White cake mix, Conagra is also recalling three other Duncan Hines products -- Classic Butter Golden Cake, Signature Confetti Cake and Classic Yellow Cake -- out of an abundance of caution. All four cake mixes were made during the same time period.


Consumers are advised not to consume the cake mixes and return them to where they were purchased.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Researchers say computer model better at discovering foodborne disease

iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Each year, one in 10 people experience foodborne illness. Now researchers believe there's a faster way to pinpoint outbreaks.

Known commonly as food poisoning, foodborne illness is the occurrence of two or more similar illnesses resulting from ingestion of the same food. Health professionals primarily determine outbreaks based on consumer complaints and routine inspections by the health department. But these lengthy processes often result in delayed responses and further spread of foodborne illness.

To address this issue, Google researchers and researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health developed a machine-learned model tested in Chicago and Las Vegas to more quickly and accurately identify restaurants that were the source of foodborne illnesses.
The model works by first classifying search queries that may indicate foodborne illness, such as “diarrhea,” “vomiting,” or “stomach cramps.” It then uses anonymous aggregated location history data from the phones of people who had opted to share their location data to determine which restaurants these people had recently visited. The restaurants are flagged as potential sources of foodborne illness, and health inspectors are sent to each city to visit the flagged locations.

Researchers found that the rate of identifying unsafe restaurants using this model was more precise and faster, compared to traditional complaint-based methods.

Though the study was only conducted in two cities and included only people who use smartphones and Google, it is believed the study is likely generalizable to the entire population. By using this newer, machine-based model, researchers believe it could help reduce the spread of foodborne illness in the general population.

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