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Reading Room

The reading room includes articles and videos of potential interest to consumers and medical professionals. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the NC Medical Board, its members and staff. Note: Some links may require subscriptions.

From BQ.1.1 to XBB and beyond: How the splintering of Omicron variants could shape Covid’s next phase

October 6, 2022
The United States is in a (relative) Covid-19 lull, with cases and hospitalizations falling as the wave driven by the BA.5 lineage of the Omicron variant recedes. But as if we needed a portent of an anticipated fall and winter wave, Covid is on the rise in some European countries.

What’s different, at least for now, is that there’s not one variant pushing the wave. Rather, scientists are tracking a bevy of new forms of Omicron, which are jockeying with each other as they compete to become the next dominant strain. Scientists are monitoring more than 300 sublineages of Omicron, World Health Organization officials said this week.

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What happens when we sleep?

The Economist
Sleep is central to maintaining your physical and mental health, but many people don’t sleep enough. We all do it, but what happens to us when we sleep?

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4 exercises that can prevent (and relieve!) pain from computer slouching and more

September 1, 2022
What if there was a way to stop chronic pain in your body before it strikes?

That’s the concept behind Vinh Pham’s new book, Sit Up Straight: Futureproof Your Body Against Chronic Pain with 12 Simple Movements. Pham, a physical therapist with over a decade of experience, shares a set of exercises aimed at helping to prevent bodily pain that lasts for over three months due to injury, exercise, bad posture or other factors — and relieve it, too. Practicing these movements consistently, he says, can extend your range of motion and increase your flexibility.

There’s research to support the decrease in the incidence of chronic pain with the addition of exercise,” says Christipher Bise, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences who researches lower back pain and is not affiliated with Pham’s book. “Exercises that are going to balance the body front to back [such as mobility training] are really going to be the ones that help over time.”

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Coronavirus FAQ: Does a faint line on a self-test mean I’m barely contagious?

August 26, 2022
Ah, the start of a new school year. Maybe you’re one of millions of Americans who have started mingling with peers in the dorms and suddenly find yourself sniffling and wondering if you have COVID-19.

Or you’re just getting back from your summer vacation and the back of your throat has a worrisome itch.

You consider taking an at-home rapid test, but you have lots of questions. With new FDA recommendations on testing, how many times should you test for a definitive result? And, how infectious are you if the positive line is faint? And what if the test turns positive — but only after an hour?

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There’s nothing simple about chronic conditions. A complexity researcher has some ideas to improve care

August 26, 2022
Having a chronic disease can feel like a full-time job. There are the symptoms, the flare-ups, the medications and therapies and appointments. And there are tiny adjustments to be made all the time — to a sitting position, a meal, a plan, an expectation.

And, just like in any job, a person’s ability to do the work required of their chronic disease (or, more likely, their two or more chronic conditions) fluctuates. University of Minnesota researcher Nathan Shippee creates tools that can help providers understand and navigate patient complexity. “How we deliver health care can really either make it a little easier for a person to manage things or a little more difficult,” said Shippee, an associate professor of health policy and management at the university’s public health school.

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Which COVID boosters to take and when: a guide for the perplexed

August 19, 2022
The next generation of COVID-19 vaccines is on its way, but those shots will be looking to take a seat at an already crowded table.

On the menu in some countries this autumn will be the familiar standards — mRNA and protein vaccines based on the spike protein from the ancestral version of SARS-CoV-2, which ushered in the pandemic. Alongside them will be a smattering of new specials, including mRNA vaccines with spike sequences both from ancestral virus and from Omicron variants.

It is a luxury of choice that many countries don’t have. But the range of options, which will be available at different times, has left people wondering which vaccines to take, and when. “These are hard questions, and there are no real right answers,” says Kathryn Edwards, a pediatrician and director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

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