Q: I told my family no digital games or computer stuff for Christmas. Instead, let’s go with real-life games, printed books and creative toys. They’re pretty angry. Have I gone off the deep end? — Phillip A., Charleston, South Carolina
A: Tough question. There are wonderful aspects to digital games, readers and other devices. Research has shown that digital devices can increase learning and engagement in significant ways. However, there’s emerging research that shows the WAY information enters your brain — whether from a digital source, virtual reality or the real world — makes a difference in how the brain creates memories and maps out spaces (or doesn’t).
Clearly, there are pluses and minuses to digital and non-digital learning and experiences. For example, if you walk into a new room, your brain (neurons in the hippocampus, to be precise) creates a cognitive map of the environment. That doesn’t happen in the same way or to the same brain cells when you “enter” a virtual reality space, so that’s a minus. However, doctors can learn new surgical techniques using virtual simulations. Pilots learn to fly complex aircraft with virtual programs. That’s a plus.
However, because of the repetitive, intense, even stressful demands created by many digital interactions, the experience can be damaging. Your brain gets rewarded for jumping from task to task instead of focusing on one thing. And everything from “Fruit Ninja” to “Grand Theft Auto” seems to imbed patterns into the brain that persist even when you’re not using a digital device. That can make classroom learning seem boring.
The tactile experience of reading on paper or playing a board game on a coffee table is calmer because of the relationship you have to incoming info and how you navigate through it and recall it.
So what’s the bottom line? Moderation: No to endless digital game-playing or obsessive tweeting. Yes to well-designed educational digital games. Yes to e-readers. And yes, yes, yes, to page-turning, paper lovin’ books and nondigital board games like chess — especially for new readers.
Q: I have chronic lower-back pain, and it’s become a roadblock to marital relations. Any suggestions on how to ease the discomfort and have more fun? — Gladys G., Kansas City, Missouri
A: You and tens of millions of North Americans contend with chronic lower-back pain, a disability that interferes with work, play and, oh yes, romance. So here’s some info on how to get back into the swing of things!
In the past, women often were told the least uncomfortable position for intimacy is spooning! But guess what? Researchers analyzed the biomechanical movement of the spine and surrounding muscles during intercourse and discovered that it actually makes back pain worse.
A new set of guidelines was just released for women with lower-back pain on the optimal positions for intimate relations. Published in the European Spine Journal, they come on the heels of guidelines for men that were released earlier this year in Spine. The findings?: If you’re a woman and have lower-back pain, limit the amount of flex you bring to the activity and stick with No. 1, the missionary position or No. 2, on your knees and elbows. Guys? Spooning isn’t optimal for you, either. You’ll do better with No. 1, on knees and elbows or No. 2, the missionary position.
But the best way to restart your romance is to find out what causes your lower back pain. Tobacco, poor food choices and obesity aggravate inflammation and are major triggers (not to mention a bedroom turn-off). So avoid things that promote inflammation, like red and processed meats, simple sugars and syrups, too-large portion sizes, lack of physical exercise, stress, poor sleeping habits and/or a poor mattress. And check with your doc about starting a walking program, heading for 10,000 steps a day. Eat nine daily servings of fruits and veggies; meditate for 10 minutes every day; take advantage of holiday mattress deals; and get seven to eight hours of sleep nightly.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily(at sign)sharecare.com.