Gramps Gets Night Cramps

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I not uncommonly fall asleep on the love seat in the front room at bedtime, especially if the wood stove is glowing and radiating sleepiness into the darkness.

As usual, last night I woke up after an hour or so, and proceeded to head off to bed, after undressing. I was down to my Carhartt work pants, and do not remember doing anything particularly unusual, movement-wise.

And at once my left leg locked in the most violent and unrelenting cramp I have ever had. The inability to break this spasm was due to two reasons: it was in a muscle that never in my life had cramped before, and worse, I was trapped with my pants around my ankles.

Vastus Medialis Muscle: How to do vastus medialis exercises
Yes, these are my legs! The vastus is the “teardrop” shaped muscle near the knee.

The cramp was in my medial adductor–not in the rectus femoris of the quadriceps femoris that runs straight down the front of the leg to the knee. The rectus femoris is not an uncommon site for leg cramps–that and the gastric-soleus “calf muscle”. I think most everybody has these muscles seize up on them at least once in a lifetime–some of us more frequently than that, unfortunately, because the pain is like no other.

And so in the first seconds of the sudden out-of-the-blue cramp, even in my groggy state, it occurred to me that I should do a quad stretch for the rectus femoris. Since if lifts the knee, the stretch is to the opposite–to straighten the knee and move forward with the foot on the involved side firmly on the floor, putting tension across the front of the thigh. Or if possible, do the runner’s stretch by bending the knee and pulling the heel towards your butt.

Vastus Medialis Stretches. Approved use

But the vastus (sometimes referred to as the VMO–vastus medialis obliqus) works to adduct (pull the leg toward the midline) and flex (bend) the thigh. To stretch it requires the opposite motions: abduction and extension. Move the leg out away from the body and back.

That is very helpful knowledge, but worthless is you have pants around your ankles. I would have certainly tried the runner’s stretch, but was miserably hobbled, wanting to scream, with Ann sleeping blissfully unaware in the next room.

I braced myself on two pieces of furniture in the dark room. Nothing I could do would stop the agony. It seemed to last for 15 minutes, but might have been 10. Even so, the pain over this vast eternity of suffering was sufficient to make me diaphoretic–breaking out in a cold sweat, feeling like I might pass out.

The spasm cascade finally burned itself out and I finally was able to wobble into bed, and lie there for an hour, in fear of more spasms. I shook uncontrollably, as if I had the chills–which I think was a kind of mild shock, that at last abated and I slept through the night.

In the midst of this torture I tried to explain why such spasms, and came up with the first conclusion that I had come down with Lyme disease, sure enough, from the recently embedded tick I’d found a few days earlier. Now, I think it was due to dehydration from spending four hours with the surveyors walking hard terrain and not drinking the water I took with me.

So, given the extreme unpleasantness of my experience, I truly hope than no one I know ever has a severe, sustained cramp in their vastus medialis muscle. But if you’re going to do this anyway, take off your pants first.

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Butt wait: There’s More!

Seems I am not the only one in the world to experience what is described universally by my fellow sufferers as “almost unbearable pain that made me scream and think I was going to pass out.”

You can read the testimonials here:

Inner thigh cramps that make me pass out | Undiagnosed Abdominal Pain discussions | Body & Health Conditions center |

And so in addition to getting your pants off before cramping, according to these victims:

[su_list icon=”icon: retweet” icon_color=”#2950bc”]1) chew an aspirin
2) use moist heat (hot bath)
3) take a potassium pill
4) drink tonic water (that contains quinine)
5) drink pickle juice
6) and don’t eat gummy bears[/su_list]

To Mask or Not to Mask

Facing the Enemy: Cover yours

If you don’t already have a supply of facemasks, it might not be the right decision to even bother to find them. But if you have them on hand (say, from previous work in health care) then I’m starting to think it makes sense–especially in those instances when you might not be able to control social distancing or might have contaminated hands that go to your face–to wear the cussed things.

They may not be fashionable; and they may not be attractive; but they sure as heck are an unavoidable, uncomfortable, inconvenient necessity just now, if you happen to have one.

And read the last article I pulled from–regarding reuse after UV decontamination. To research based on this: could hanging a mask after use on the clothes line in the SUN for a few hours help kill remaining viruses? I don’t see why not.

Blocks below are all pulled directly from articles referenced. FF

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â–º More Americans Should Probably Wear Masks for Protection – The New York Times

There is very little data showing that flat surgical masks, in particular, have a protective effect for the general public. Masks work by stopping infected droplets spewing from the wearer’s nose or mouth, rather than stopping the acquisition of virus from others.

But studies of influenza pandemics have shown that when high-grade N95 masks are not available, surgical masks do protect people a bit more than not wearing masks at all. And when masks are combined with hand hygiene, they help reduce the transmission of infections.

they found that washing hands more than 10 times daily was 55 percent effective in stopping virus transmission, while wearing a mask was actually more effective – at about 68 percent. Wearing gloves offered about the same amount of protection as frequent hand-washing, and combining all measures – hand-washing, masks, gloves and a protective gown – increased the intervention effectiveness to 91 percent.

Classified data from the Chinese government that was reported in the South China Morning Post indicated that up to a third of all people who tested positive for the coronavirus could have been silent carriers.

What we do know is that individuals can shed virus about 48 hours before they develop symptoms and masking can prevent transmission from those individuals.”

Wearing a mask can also reduce the likelihood that people will touch their face,

In many Asian countries, everyone is encouraged to wear masks, and the approach is about crowd psychology and protection. If everyone wears a mask, individuals protect each other, reducing overall community transmission.

Masks are also an important signal that it’s not business as usual during a pandemic. They serve as a visual reminder to improve hand hygiene and social distancing. They may also serve as an act of solidarity

â–º Live Coronavirus News and Updates – The New York Times

The World Health Organization asserts that masks should only be worn by people who are sick and those who are caring for them, and that there is little data showing that they protect the general public in everyday life. But some experts and government officials say they could offer some protection.

some places that adopted nearly universal mask-wearing and intensive social distancing early on, like Hong Kong, were able to contain their outbreaks. George Gao, the director-general of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has called not wearing face masks “the big mistake in the U.S. and Europe.”

â–º As Coronavirus Looms, Mask Shortage Gives Rise to Promising Approach – The New York Times

Masks are certified for one-time use only. But on Thursday, the center began an experimental procedure to decontaminate its masks with ultraviolet light and reuse them. Administrators plan to use each mask for a week or longer.

That change would seem to mean it is now acceptable for hospitals to decontaminate and reuse masks during the coronavirus pandemic, said Shawn Gibbs, a professor of environmental health at Indiana University.

Doctors and administrators at the University of Nebraska Medical Center calculated that if they continued to use masks only once, they would run out of masks in just weeks.

“The data is very clear that you can kill and inactivate viruses with UV germicidal irradiation,” he said. “It is also very clear that you will not damage the respirators.”

Researchers have tested a variety of methods – ultraviolet light, bleach, ethylene oxide gas, moist heat – and have concluded in published papers that decontamination can work.

UV light was the Nebraska hospital’s choice because it is effective and convenient. Hospitals already use UV light to decontaminate rooms after patients with dangerous infections, like C. difficile, are moved.

“We bring in large UV lamps, hit ‘start’ and leave the room,” Dr. Lowe said. “We let it shine for three to five minutes. It disinfects anywhere it can shine.”

the protocol Dr. Lowe designed uses three times the concentration of UV light needed to kill coronaviruses.

For now, staff members will use each mask for a week before disposing of it. But the medical center may decide to keep using the masks for 10 days, or even two weeks, Dr. Rupp said.

Contagion: Contained?

As a biologist, I’ve always been interested in epidemiology of disease, and as a zoologist, particular those that originate in wild or domestic animals. And so there has been quite a bit to keep up with regarding the zoonoses of the past few decades.

And so the Wuhan Coronavirus is something I’m following daily, more to see how the medical staff inside the ambulance are dealing with the patient than to chase the ambulance. This is a study, more than ever, of how national medical systems around the world communicate and cooperate, as well as a revelation of how a generally science-illiterate world populace adjusts their thinking and their behavior in light of the level of risk where they live.

And towards the end of keeping up, no great surprise, I have a “ledger” of facts and opinions worth noting, in my digital clipboards (plural, since I use several methods of grabbing and organizing stuff.)

Recently I’ve become interested in spaced repetition learning and tools that make that so much easier than distant-yesterday’s “flash cards.” And one tool of note is still in fairly early development. I had a video call a month or so ago with the very young and helpful developer of RemNote (take a look) and am hoping to interest the rising students in our family in this (or this kind of) tool.

I only this morning poked the button that tells me I can share the “narrative” version of my notes. I could share the “testing’ version as well, in which case every phrase on either side of : becomes question (on side one) and answer (on side two) of a “rem” card for periodic study.

So click on the Blue Button below for my “pertinent facts” gleaned from a very current very informative NYT article that you can consume in 90 seconds. You’re welcome.

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One Word, Benjamin: Plastics

This advice was innocent enough, in a smarmy and ominously-prescient sort of way when the “the graduate” got this insider tip so many decades ago. It was certainly the way the world of profit and growth were going, even then, on our way to a shrink-wrapped future.

And woe to us, the tsunami of plastic has continued unabated ever since. From where you sit to read this, how many seconds does it take for you to find five objects made partly or entirely of plastic?

And now we have reaped the whirlwind of hormonal and other poorly-considered health issues from the biochemical to the biosphere level, as a consequence of so many Benjamins grabbing for the golden ring of plastics-for-profit.

It has been a wonderful-terrible answer to our problems of packaging and fabricating the temporary conveniences of our lives the last half of the last century. But by the middle of the present century, we must have broken our plastics addiction, for a vast number of reasons.

So now we can’t hope for a carbon-free future if it is not also plastics-free. We are overdue to find a replacement, while dedicating all manufacturing to “redesign plastics without harmful pollutants, reform regulation to account for low doses that may have harm, and recharge health advocates.”

If you have questions about what impact plastics are having on human and marine and any-other-biology or about what alternatives are currently being researched to help us break our plastics habit, you’re in luck.

The first Plastic Health Summit was held this year.

Saved by The MetaGenomics of Dirt

Below are some annotated bits from an article in Wired that describe the early successes in the battle to find weapons against the increasingly numerous and increasingly virulent microbes that are resistant to all known antibiotics.

We worry about the Russians or the Chinese or the North Koreans or Dr Strangeloves in power around the world, when all along, if the human population suffers the Malthusian reduction many fear, it will most likely come from invaders far too small to see.


The culprit, pan-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, is not the only superbug overpowering humanity’s defenses; it is part of a family known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae. The carpabenems are drugs of last resort, and the CDC considers organisms that evade these antibiotics to be nightmare bacteria.

So it’s difficult to envision a future that resembles the pre-antibiotic past–an era of untreatable staph, strep, tuberculosis, leprosy, pneumonia, cholera, diphtheria, scarlet and puerperal fevers, dysentery, typhoid, meningitis, gas gangrene, and gonorrhea.

But that’s the future we are headed for.

This is not the coming plague. It’s already upon us, and it spells the end of medicine as we know it.

That’s why Brady and others turned to metagenomics–the study of all the genetic information extracted from a given environment.

Brady came to realize that he did not need to trek to some pristine or remote ecosystem to explore the world’s biodiversity. The requisite material for building new drugs could be found much closer to home.

The more we use antibiotics, the less effective they become; the more selective pressures we apply, the more likely resistant strains will emerge.

Think about this the next time you stand quietly in the park or in the forest or meadow near your house. Reach down and gather a teaspoon full of everyday soil in your palm, and realize there are likely to be some 3000 different microbes nestled in the hollow of your hand.

Here is enough genetic information to solve many of humanity’s problems–if only we ask the right questions. And move with sufficient speed to do the work in advance of the inevitable and urgent need.