TIME Innovation

A Code of Conduct for the Supreme Court

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Does the Supreme Court need a code of conduct?

By Lincoln Caplan in the New Yorker

2. Could the genes of real-life superheroes help find new pain drugs?

By Caroline Chen in Bloomberg Business

3. Here’s how scientists made solar power 30 percent more efficient.

By Iqbal Pittalwala at University of California Riverside

4. With privatized space travel, returning to the moon just got a lot cheaper.

By Elizabeth Howell in Space.com

5. Micropayments for news stories might be making a comeback.

By Matt Carroll in MediaShift

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME psychology

How to Relieve Pain Using Psychology: 10 Tips From Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Some insights on how to relieve pain using psychology, with links to the studies:

  • Look at a photo of a loved one.
  • Better yet, get a massage from a loved one.

Join over 195,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Pain

You Asked: Do High Heels Actually Damage My Feet?

You Asked: Do High Heels Actually Damage My Feet?
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Yep. And the damage doesn’t end at your toes.

High heels hurt. If you’ve worn them (I have not) then you probably know this already. But are high heels also bad for you? A 2014 survey from the American Podiatric Medical Association—composed of the nation’s top foot and lower-leg docs—found heels were far and away the most common cause of foot pain among women.

Unsurprisingly, much of that pain comes from contorting your foot into a steep “plantarflexed” position, concludes a study from the Journal of Applied Physiology. Like standing on your tiptoes for hours, that high-heeled posture may lead to painful muscle fatigue and strain injuries, the authors of that study say.

Calluses, blisters, bunions, and ingrown nails are all common among high heel wearers, adds Dr. Rodney Stuck, division director of podiatry at Loyola University Chicago. The higher the heel, the more trouble you’re likely to run (or walk) into, Stuck says.

But the most significant risks of your high-heel habit may begin higher up your leg. According to research from the U.K. and Austria, lots of time spent walking in heels actually changes the structure of the muscles and tendons in your calves—and not for the better.

High heels lead to shorter muscle fibers and a toughening of the Achilles tendon, says Dr. Marco Narici, a professor of clinical physiology at the University of Nottingham (and coauthor of that study). Narici says these muscle changes reduce your ankle’s range of motion, and contribute to your risk for strains and sprains. Stuck says these sorts of muscle adaptations may also up your risk for other lower-body injuries. A sore ankle or leg you blamed on running may actually have more to do with your high heels, he says.

More research shows walking in heels puts a great deal of force on your kneecaps. This force can lead to the early onset of osteoarthritis, says Dr. Constance Chu, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford.

Chu says this risk increases among heavier women. “Combining walking in very high heels for long periods of time every day with obesity and aging would be a perfect storm for knee osteoarthritis, as well as foot, back, and other joint problems,” she says.

Of course, tossing your stilettos is the one surefire way to dodge all these potential health hazards. But if you’re not willing to part with your pumps, Chu says lower heels lowers your risk. For formal or work events when you feel heels are a must, she recommends wearing flats beforehand and changing into your heels only when you’ve arrived at your destination. “Taking time to sit and move the knees through a full range of motion may also be helpful,” she says.

Loyola University’s Stuck also suggests standing against a wall or with one foot on a step and stretching your feet for a few minutes every day.

But don’t swap your heels for flip-flops. An Auburn University study found the way those loose summer sandals shorten your gait and force you to grip with your toes may lead to all sorts of heel, ankle, and sole problems.

Feet sure don’t have it easy.

Read next: These High-Tech High Heels Change Color With the Click of an App

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

4 Surprising Tricks to Beat Pain

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Give acupressure a try

You’ve slammed your finger in the door (ouch!), and in that first minute, well, you pretty much think you’re going to die. But don’t freak: Instead, stay calm and cross your fingers. That simple move may be enough to numb the pain a bit, according to a recent study study published in Current Biology.

Really.

After inducing a harmless burning sensation in the fingers of volunteers, researchers found that it’s possible to lessen the feeling by crossing one finger over the other. Why? Turns out how you feel pain is related to where you feel it. By crossing your fingers, you change where your fingers are in relation to one another, and that confuses your brain (in a good way).

“[The burning] feels painful because of a three-way interaction between the nerve pathways that tell the brain about warmth, cold, and pain,” study co-author Elisa Raffaella Ferrè, a research student at the University College London, explained to Health. Having volunteers cross their fingers helped them feel better, suggesting that “changing body posture might trick the brain” in a way that reduces pain, Ferrè added.

But what about all your other aches and pains? There are plenty of other surprising natural tricks to try when you’re hurting. Here are three more science-backed tactics to fight back.

Listen up

Putting on some tunes you love can help soothe your aches, according to a recent study in the journal Plos One. Researchers applied heat to people’s skin in order to cause discomfort. Those who got to jam to their favorite songs reported less pain than those who listened to other sounds or silence, even when the researchers controlled for the placebo effect.

Press here

After giving people with recurring headaches a chance to try either muscle relaxants or acupressure, researchers in a 2010 study found that those in the acupressure group had less pain than those treated with pills. Try it: When you feel a head pounder coming on, apply steady pressure with both thumbs at the base of your head on either side of your spine on and off until you feel better.

Fantasize about food

Next time you have killer menstrual cramps, try imagining chocolate ice cream or your mom’s perfectly buttery mashed potatoes—a 2008 study found that food visualization worked better for pain relief than other imagery, like scenery, or walking around.

Additional reporting by Amelia Harnish

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

More from Health.com:

TIME medicine

This Is a Baby’s Brain on Pain

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For the first time, scientists map newborn babies’ brains on pain, and the results are surprising

In a first, researchers at Oxford University have watched infants as young as a day old as their brains process a light prodding of their feet. The results confirm that yes, babies do indeed feel pain, and that they process it similarly to adults. Until as recently as the 1980s, researchers assumed newborns did not have fully developed pain receptors, and believed that any responses babies had to pokes or pricks were merely muscular reactions. But new research published Tuesday morning changes that.

Taking advantage of the fact that newborns less than a week old tend to sleep through anything, Rebeccah Slater, an associate professor of pediatric neuroimaging at Oxford, and her colleagues placed 10 infants who were 1-6 days old in an fMRI machine. The researchers, who reported their findings in eLife, observed which areas of the infants’ brains became more active, or consumed more oxygen, as the scientists lightly poked their feet. They did the same for adults and compared the brain images.

In adult brains, 20 regions were activated by the painful stimulus, and the newborns shared 18 of these. “The infant’s brain is much more developed than I was expecting,” says Slater. “I might have thought that some information might have gone to the sensory areas of the brain — telling the baby something was happening on the foot, for example — but I didn’t necessarily think it would go to areas more commonly involved in emotional processing such as the anterior cingular cortex, which is thought be involved in the unpleasantness associated with an experience.”

Even at birth, then, a baby’s brain possesses the foundation for quickly evaluating anything he or she experiences, including painful stimuli. “I hope this provides incentive to more researchers to find better ways of measuring pain in babies, and prioritize the importance of providing the best pain relief possible in children,” says Slater.

Slater found that newborn brains are still immature in some ways, however. Any stimulus, whether it’s a painful one or a sensory one such as a smell, tends to activate widespread regions of the brain. That signals that the baby’s brain is still trying to learn what’s what and distinguish different stimuli. The poking triggered even the newborns’ olfactory system, for example, even though the sensation had nothing to do with smell.

Second, babies tend to register all stimuli as having the same intensity. Even light pokes “feel” the same as harder ones, reflecting their still inexperienced system in distinguishing levels of activation.

But the fact that they are experiencing pain in almost the same ways as adults do is very revealing. Now that there’s evidence that the brains of babies do indeed process pain, that may change the way doctors treat newborns, especially those who are premature or need extra medical attention in the neonatal intensive care unit. In a recent study, scientists tallied an average of a dozen procedures including needle sticks that babies experienced every day; more than 60% of those infants did not receive any pain medication, either in the form of a topical numbing cream or other pain relief. Having these experiences may make these babies more sensitive to pain later in life, says Slater. A study of circumcised baby boys, for example, found that those who received pain relief felt less pain when getting vaccinations three months later than those who didn’t receive any pain medication.

“Now that we have seen for the first time what is happening in babies’ brains while they experience something mildly painful,” says Slater, “there should be a big drive to try to treat pain in these children, especially those having a high number of procedures performed in their early days.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 12

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Protecting whistleblowers protects national security.

By Mike German at the Brennan Center for Justice

2. Could we treat pain by switching off the region of the brain controlling that feeling?

By the University of Oxford

3. Small businesses are booming in China, and it might save their economy.

By Steven Butler and Ben Halder in Ozy

4. Not so fast: Apps using Apple’s new health technology could require FDA approval. That doesn’t come quick.

By Jonathan M. Gitlin in Ars Technica

5. We might feel better about driving electric cars, but they’re still not good for the environment.

By Bobby Magill in Quartz

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Reasons to Exercise That Aren’t Weight Loss

Why you shouldn't give up the gym

Despite conventional calorie-burning wisdom, some people appear to not lose weight when they exercise, says a new study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In fact, some actually gain weight, and it’s not all muscle mass.

The study, by Arizona State University in Phoenix researchers, looked at 81 sedentary, overweight women who exercised three times a week for 30 minutes in a lab. After 12 weeks, the researchers found that some women lost weight while others gained weight. But when they tried to identify what was causing the differences, they couldn’t come to any conclusions. “In reality, most people do not achieve or sustain weight loss, no matter what method they try,” wrote New York Times writer Gretchen Reynolds on Wednesday.

Basically, major bummer. But there are many other reasons to exercise besides trying to shed a few pounds, and they’re equally important for your health:

1. Memory Loss: Chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalances are a couple of factors that can play a part in memory loss, and exercise can help both. Exercise promotes better blood flow through the body, and the brain works better with a healthy blood supply. For example, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that people who spent time on a stationary bike had better memory recall than those who were sedentary.

2. Stress: Exercise has long been prescribed as a way to burn off steam and relax. It’s even recommended as a way to fight depression. How? Exercise keeps the brain occupied, and keeps the stress hormone cortisol in check which can lower symptoms for anxiety and restlessness, according to The Exercise Cure, by sports medicine physician Dr. Jordan Metzl. After a rough day at work or before a big exam or interview, even just a walk around the block can ease nerves.

3. Fatigue: It may sound counterintuitive, but working out can actually make you less tired than skipping the gym. A 2007 University of Georgia study showed that sedentary people could lower their fatigue by 65% if they started engaging in regular low intensity exercise. Increasing energy through exercise is also a safer and cheaper alternative to turning to quick fixes like energy drinks.

4. Cardiovascular disease: Getting regular exercise does the heart some good. In a 2012 study, researchers found that people who partook in moderate intensity exercise like brisk walking compared to leisurely walking reduced their chances of developing risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. The effect might be related to exercise’s benefits on lowering inflammation in the body.

5. Lower back pain: Back pain is a very common ailment, and studies have shown that the right kind of exercises like strength training can lower pain. Exercise is also one of the simplest ways to protect your body from future injuries.

 

TIME Drugs

It’s Easy to Overdose on Tylenol, Study Warns

Tylenol Pills Spilling Out Of Bottle
Shelley Dennis—Getty Images

A new analysis from Consumer Reports calls out the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for inconsistent and potentially dangerous labeling of acetaminophen painkillers

The rise in prescriptions and non-prescription use of painkillers in the U.S. is no secret – in the past decade, prescriptions for opioids have skyrocketed by 300%, making them the most prescribed drugs in the country.

And the consequences of that spike can be deadly, according to the latest report from Consumer Reports: nearly 17,000 people die each year from overdosing on painkillers.

Equally alarming is the rise in other popular painkillers that also have over-the-counter (OTC) versions. Acetaminophen, which includes Tylenol and other generic brands, causes more than 80,000 emergency room visits each year because people often aren’t aware they’re taking too much. The drug is found in more than 600 over-the-counter and prescription medications, such as allergy and cold remedies and sleep aids.

To address the potential for accidental overdose of acetaminophen, the FDA asked physicians earlier this year to stop prescribing more than 325mg of acetaminophen to patients, noting that there isn’t evidence that higher doses provide any additional benefit for relieving pain and that high levels of the drug are linked to liver damage. But the warning did not apply to OTC versions of the drug, which account for 80% of acetaminophen use in the U.S., and are still available in higher doses.

MORE: Tylenol and Panadol Prove No Better Than Placebo at Helping Back Pain

The Consumer Report authors also say that OTC drugs have inconsistent advice about how much acetaminophen is too much for people to take in a day. “We found recommendations varying from 1,000mg per day in some nighttime pain relievers to 3,900 milligrams in some products that combine acetaminophen with allergy drugs or cold and flu drugs. We think the labeled daily limit should be no more than 3,250 milligrams,” they write.

Regarding opioids, the authors call for the FDA to reconsider its December 2013 approval of Zohydro ER, a long-acting version of hydrocodone, over concerns that longer-acting forms are more likely to be misused and abused and don’t show any clear pain-killing benefit over shorter-acting medications. They advise doctors to consider starting their patients who need pain relief with short-acting opioids first, to better gauge whether these forms can provide enough pain relief.

For consumers, the report urges people taking opioids or acetaminophen to ask for and expect regular monitoring of their pain and other symptoms. If the pain isn’t going away, then continuing to take the medications isn’t going to help, and will only expose you to potentially harmful side effects.

TIME Drugs

FDA Approves New Pain Pill Designed To Be Hard to Abuse

The FDA has been under growing pressure to fight the national epidemic of prescription opioid abuse

The Food and Drug Administration approved on Wednesday a new pain pill that was created to discourage abuse, the Associated Press reports.

The new pill, Targiniq ER, combines oxycodone, a potentially addictive opioid used in many pain medications, with naloxone, often used to trim the effects of opioids. The naloxone isn’t activated if the pill is swallowed as normal. If a would-be drug abuser crushes the pill to snort or inject it, however, the naloxone activates. That can potentially make Targiniq ER less attractive to abusers.

“Targiniq ER has properties that are expected to deter, but not totally prevent, abuse of the drug by snorting and injection,” FDA said in a statement.

TIME Pain

Achy Back? Don’t Blame the Weather

Changes in the weather don’t cause back pain, say researchers.

Some people insist they know when it’s going to rain because they can “feel” it in their bones. Or their knees start aching. Or their back. Their explanation? They’re more attuned to changes in air pressure, precipitation, and the like. But a new study reveals that might be nothing more than magical thinking.

Researchers in Australia put to the test the idea that weather triggers back pain. They recruited 993 people who saw doctors because of low back pain and matched those visits to national meteorological data on temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction and precipitation. They also checked the same weather parameters one week and one month before the patients reported their pain. It turns out there was no statistically significant correlation between weather changes and back pain.

MORE: This Is the No. 1 Cause of Disability Worldwide

“We had an open mind on the issue,” Daniel Steffens, from the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Syndey, told TIME in an email. “We had heard many patients attribute their worsening pain to the weather, but we also knew there was limited research. In our very rigorous study we found no evidence that weather is associated with an increased risk of back pain.”

One of the strengths of the study, published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, involved the fact that the same participants were evaluated during stable and changing weather, meaning that most of the other variables that could affect pain, such as people’s lifestyles, behaviors and genetics, remained the same.

MORE: Aching Back? Try Massage for Chronic Pain

So why do so many patients believe that weather affects their joints? Some studies have found an association between cold or humid conditions and people’s symptoms of chronic pain, but the reason for the link from a physiological point of view isn’t known.

Steffens and his colleagues aren’t discounting the potential role that weather could play. They admit that Sydney, where the study was conducted, is blessed with relatively temperate conditions.

But for now, it looks like back pain sufferers can’t blame the weather. Steffens notes that other factors, including the way people move and lift heavy objects, as well as stress and fatigue, may be more important for triggering aching backs.

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