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QUICK STUDY : A weekly digest of new research on major health topics

THIS STUDY randomly assigned 386 pregnant women with pelvic girdle pain to receive standard treatment alone or with the addition of acupuncture or specialized exercises. The standard-treatment group was given a pelvic belt for support, advice on daily activities and information on exercises to increase muscle strength. In addition, the acupuncture group received 30-minute treatments twice weekly, and the exercise group worked individually with a physiotherapist for an hour weekly on exercises to improve mobility, strength and endurance, repeating the movements at home. After six weeks, pain had declined in both the acupuncture and exercise groups but remained constant in the standard-treatment group, according to the participants' diaries. Standardized pain tests indicated the greatest drop in pain was among those given acupuncture.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? Pregnant women with pelvic girdle pain, which may be caused by a surge in hormones that affects muscles.

CAVEATS Women in the exercise group also were given weekly massages, which may have affected the outcome. The diary reports may have been influenced by a belief that acupuncture or exercises would be beneficial.

BOTTOM LINE Pregnant women may want to ask a doctor about acupuncture or exercises for pelvic pain.

FIND THIS STUDY March 18 online issue of the British Medical Journal; abstract available at www.bmj.com (click "Online first").

LEARN MORE ABOUT pelvic and back pain during pregnancy at www.spine.org (search for "pregnancy") and www.mayoclinic.com (search for "back pain").


Elevated white blood cell counts may be indicators of future risk.

THE QUESTION Medical researchers increasingly believe that inflammation plays a role in the development of heart disease. Might white blood cell counts -- which increase with inflammation -- help predict heart problems?

THIS STUDY correlated white blood cell counts with the occurrence of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes in 66,261 post-menopausal women who participated in the Women's Health Initiative study. None of the women, who were 50 to 79 years old, had heart disease or cancer at the start of the study. Those with the highest white blood cell counts were twice as likely to have died from heart disease during the six-year study as those with the lowest counts. Cardiovascular disease affected about 4 percent of the women who had high white counts, vs. 2 percent of those with low counts.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? Women. Heart disease accounts for about 40 percent of all deaths in U.S. women.

CAVEATS The study did not determine whether lowering white blood cell counts would lower the risk of heart disease and death. The study was not randomized.

BOTTOM LINE Women concerned about heart disease may want to inquire about having their white blood cells count checked.

FIND THIS STUDY March 14 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine; abstract available online at www.archinternmed.com.

LEARN MORE ABOUT white blood cells at www.labtestsonline.org (search for "white blood cell") and www.americasblood.org (click "The ABC's of Blood," then "What Is Blood?").

-- Linda Searing

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