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News

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Hills man arrested on molestation charges

Gregory Helfrich

Santa Clara Sheriff’s detectives have arrested a Los Altos Hills man they suspect repeatedly molested a child decades ago.

Detectives arrested Gregory Helfrich, 54, on a warrant at his Old Page Mill Road home April 27 and...

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Schools

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students

Local AAUW gives gift of science to junior high students


Courtesy of Jessica Harell
Blach Intermediate School seventh-grader Paris Harrell, who loves science and animals, recently received a scholarship from the local branch of the AAUW to attend Tech Trek camp.

It’s not every day that a junior hig...

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Community

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner

At 98, former language teacher remains a lifelong learner


Federici

Longtime Los Altos resident Mario Federici, who turned 98 Feb. 24, is a man of many languages. He shared his knowledge with thousands of students during his long career as a teacher.

Federici was born and raised in Italy, where he stud...

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Comment

Attend an event, get involved, have fun: Editorial

You don’t have to run for city council to get involved in the community. Sometimes it can be as simple as attending a Los Altos event. You’ll have plenty of opportunities, as the May and June calendars are bustling with activity.

The Dow...

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Special Sections

Racing around Monterey

Racing around Monterey


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The easy handling of the VW Golf R, above, makes for an ideal ride along the Big Sur coast.

 

When automotive journalists are asked to list their favorite places in the world to drive, Monterey alway...

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Business

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations

'Steampunk' eatery toasts local libations


Courtesy of Eureka
Eureka, a new restaurant in downtown Mountain View, highlights local craft beer and whiskeys on a menu of food spanning from sea to farm.

Craft beer and fancy whiskeys headline the menu at Eureka, the new restaurant that opene...

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People

Stepping Out

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'

PA Players seek escape in 'Into the Woods'


Courtesy of Palo Alto Players
The Baker’s Wife, left, and Cinderella’s erstwhile Prince stand out in the Palo Alto Players production of “Into the Woods.”

Little Red Riding Hood sets forth at the outset of “Into the...

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Spiritual Life

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International

Los Altos United Methodist Church service salutes Heifer International


Courtesy of Los ALtos United Methodist Church
Hidden Villa will bring some of its farm animals to Los Altos United Methodist Church Sunday to support the nonprofit Heifer International.

Los Altos United Methodist Church is scheduled to salute th...

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Hitting a nerve: Experts weigh in on sciatica


From WEBMD.com
The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back to the foot. Sciatica symptoms often include numbness and tingling in the low back and typically occur on one side of the body.

Sciatica, a condition associated with pain in the hip that may include weakness, numbness or tingling, can start in the lower back and extend down the leg to the calf, foot or even toes. Symptoms usually occur on one side of the body only.

The sciatic nerve – the longest and widest nerve in the body – runs from the low back down the leg to the foot. It’s actually a collection of nerves that begins in the spine of the low back and later branches off to other nerves in the lower leg.

Medical professionals will offer a number of different opinions regarding the true cause of the symptoms. The most common diagnosis, however, is that sciatica results from a problem with the discs or vertebrae in the lumbar spine. Alternatively, muscle tightness or spasms in the low back and hip region can create radiating symptoms that present very much like nerve pain.

Sciatica may sometimes be caused by a contracture of the piriformis, a muscle deep in the buttocks. The sciatic nerve runs just below this muscle and, in some unlucky individuals, it runs through the piriformis.

Signs of actual nerve impingement include lack of sensation to touch (numb patch), loss of muscle function and sharp, shooting pains. Nerve pain is often described as feeling “electric” in nature.

Physicians usually confirm disc problems and changes to the spine with an MRI or X-ray. They are looking for bony changes in the spine that could cause compression on the nerve root.

When sciatica is the result of a lumbar disc herniation, most cases resolve spontaneously over weeks to months.

Course of action

How should someone suffering from sciatic pain decide whether to watch and wait versus seeking medical attention? And which intervention is best? I consulted several experts in the field to solicit their opinions and advice on how to correctly diagnose and treat sciatica.

• John Welsh, M.D., pain management specialist with a practice in Los Altos. Welsh recommends the following approach for treating sciatica: “Wait three to four weeks to see if (the pain) resolves on its own. If not or it worsens, then it might be time to consult a physician.”

In the early stages, Welsh suggests conservative treatments like physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and acupuncture. However, there are cases where symptoms may be of greater concern. If there is significant weakness, buckling of the knee or foot drop, Welsh advises immediate intervention, as it may be a sign of significant nerve impingement.

• Kristen Shadduck, physical therapist, owner of PT Works in Los Altos. According to Shadduck, sciatica is often the result of “abnormal stressors on the spine from poor posture or (incorrect) body mechanics.” In her practice, she uses therapies like traction, ice and electrical stimulation to relieve sciatica symptoms. Shadduck said there’s no substitute for “skilled, hands-on care” of the tissues and joints.

“I like to instruct my patients on proper posture, how to move correctly and ways to strengthen their cores so that they can take the load off their spines and allow healing to begin,” she said.

• Charmaine Tu, chiropractor with a practice in Los Altos. In cases of sciatica, Tu favors initial techniques like ice on the low back and stretching of the hamstrings and quad muscles.

“One myth I’d like to dispel is that you have to get ‘racked and cracked’ when you see a chiropractor. That’s not the case at all,” she said.

Tu said it’s important to find the root cause of the problem first, be it tight muscles, nerve root compression or bony changes in the spine.

“I first like to evaluate the pelvis and alignment of the spine before initiating treatment,” she said, adding that getting rid of inflammation is often the first step.

Acupuncture: A combined approach

In my clinic, I use acupuncture to improve circulation in the muscles of the low back and the hip, while treating trigger points to release muscle spasm. In addition, acupuncture can often calm irritated nerves by blocking some of the pain signals emanating from the brain.

Cupping is another therapy that works well to release muscle spasms in the low back and hip region.

As with any modality, there is no single best approach. In treating sciatica, I typically encourage people to start with a doctor or therapist they trust, and go from there.

Ted Ray is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist in private practice in Mountain View. For more information, call 564-9002 or visit peninsulaacupuncture.com.

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