.The Scoop

Weird Science

By Bob Harris

IT TURNS OUT that being poor can be a genuine pain in the rear. A new study from the University of Manchester and some other English school called the University of Keele in Stoke on Trent says that dissatisfaction with your economic situation can actually double or even triple your likelihood of lower back pain.

(And isn’t that “Keele in Stoke on Trent” deal just so preciously Scepter’d Isle you could squeal? Whenever I watch the BBC evening news via http://news.bbc.co.uk/, the best part is usually the closing credits of the preceding movie, invariably listing actors with names like Sir Ian Nigel Clive Percy Ian Finch Ian Maneater of Bratwurst on Sourdough. The other cool part is you can also hear the same BBC report translated into Welsh, which is like hearing the evening news done by a chorus of gargling gerbils. But I digress.)

The results of the new study are in the current issue of the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, which I mostly read for the centerfold.

It turns out it’s not necessarily whether or not you have a job that’s the key factor–just whether or not you enjoy what you’re doing and feel economically secure while doing it.

Quoting: “Regardless of employment status, perception of income as inadequate is associated with a threefold risk … of back pain.”

Which means if you’re a boss and your workers are complaining about their backs, the answer probably isn’t to invest in new office furniture, but to invest in the workers themselves.

Support their lumbar regions all you want, but their hip pocket is where the support really counts.

That’s not a political view, it’s a medical fact–now supported by hard research done by Lord Ian Cecil Tracy Ian Robin Ian Ian McNugget of Flipturn on Backstroke, the Third, at the University of Hedgehog in Wheelbarrow.

I PROMISE YOU, people–this is an actual headline from a genuine Reuters news story: “Sleep Deprivation Affects Surgical Skill.”

Dateline: Planet Obvious. According to British investigators at the Imperial College School of Medicine at St. Mary’s in London, “Lack of sleep may affect performance in the operating theatre.”

I assume they mean for the surgeon. Although if you’re a patient, not getting to sleep would seem like just as big a problem. The research was done by messing with a bunch of doctors’ sleep schedules and then having them do a virtual-reality simulation of a surgical procedure called “laparoscopic cholecystectomy.”

I’m not sure what that is either, but if I remember my Latin prefixes, it has something to do with grafting a rabbit onto your buttocks. And–ta-da! –surgeons who had no sleep the night before made 20 percent more errors than the rested ones. Not to mention all the deep grooves they cut in the operating table itself.

So why waste this time documenting the self-evident? It turns out there’s actually a sane reason for doing research into whether complete exhaustion might be a bad idea when playing mumblety-peg with somebody’s innards.

Thanks to the demands of both government and private managed-care programs in the United Kingdom and the United States, surgeons are being required to work longer and longer shifts.

Which patients don’t like much, seeing how they usually like to survive and all. Picky, picky.

However, before some bureaucrat can decide that maybe Night of the Living Dead doesn’t belong in the operating theater, he needs something on paper to show his idiot boss and shareholders.

So there you are. Conclusive proof that doctors are, indeed, human. Great.

Now if only I can get someone to remove this rabbit.

From the October 22-28, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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