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It’s a Grand Opening & Remodel!

We’ve gotten our store open in record time and we want to celebrate with you by giving big discounts for our Grand Opening. From now until December 1, use our exclusive code to get 25% off every order! Just read on to get your code and visit the store. First, we’ve got a wee bit of business to cover and we hope you’ll read on to learn more about what the Zebra Pit Shop is all about and our plans for it!

You've relied on us for years for innovative and accurate health and wellness information for EDS, MCAS, POTS, Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS and more. Now we have a shop! Learn what it's all about, how we plan on growing our products and why we decided to start with a line of our own especially branded products perfect to help you raise awareness the way you choose!

Why Open a Shop?

The easiest answer to this question is that it helps us to keep doing what we love to do, and that’s bring health and wellness information and resources to help people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders and/or their common comorbid syndromes and conditions. This includes ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia and other soft tissue pain disorders, MCAS and other MCADs, POTS or other forms of dysautonomia, gastroparesis, IBS, Chiari, CCI and other cranio-cervical junction disorders, migraine, degenerative disc disease and related disorders, arthritis, costochondritis, and so much more we could spend all day listing them. Here are a few more reasons we opened our shop:

  1. To provide products that raise awareness and help build a sense of community in ways unique to a variety of personalities and that are reflective of the times and spoonie life. It’s our mission to make EDS and all of its comorbid conditions well known across the world and these products help us serve that mission both literally and figuratively.
  2. To display and sell some of the wonderful items we’ve found that truly help with some of our most difficult to solve symptoms. While we could just continue to act as an affiliate for some of the products we’ll be adding, this means the Zebra Pit gets a little more of the cut and has more control over what we can do with those funds.
  3. So we can support the organizations that are making the biggest impact on these conditions. [UPDATE: 11/20/19] We planned on doing a dedicated retail giving program, but as it turns out, several states require you to register to do so. The cost to do so is in upwards of $10K! Obviously, that isn’t possible. We will definitely still be supporting the charities that matter to us, but we cannot do it by donating a percentage of our proceeds at this time due to legal/financial constraints. This won’t stop us from giving, but it will stop us from advertising it and allowing you to designate a specific program.
  4. So we can better support the community we serve by getting the best prices possible and ensuring you always have a place to get the things you need to help you achieve your best health. Whether it’s a product we’re recommending or a post about promising therapy techniques, you know it’s all vetted by people who share these conditions, Understand how it works and whether it needs to be modified. We always want you to check with your doctor before taking any of our advice, but it can be reassuring to know that something works for similar people before investing the money on it.

Want to be notified about new products, posts and happenings at the Pit? Subscribe to our Mailing List!

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Shop Goals

In addition to the plan to add on as many of our recommended health and wellness products, we have several goals we hope to attain as we grow:

  1. Adjust pricing as we grow. We may not get the bigger discounts to begin with, but as we grow and they come along, rest assured the Zebra Pit will be sharing any decreases we see with our community. We understand the financial toll of chronic illness because we also live with chronic illness.
  2. To provide a comprehensive specialty shop exclusively for spoonies and medical zebras that include supplements, therapy devices, health and fitness gear, a whole slew of over-the-counter remedies, CBD products, books both informational and entertaining, self care and personal care products, mobility devices, and more.
  3. To provide products which are ideal for most people with sensitivities to use. For example, while I couldn’t find tagless shirts for our printed products, everything we’ve selected has tear away tags for easy removal so those of us living with any level of sensory overload can feel good in our clothing.
  4. To work toward creating and offering some of our own products.
  5. To source our products as ethically as possible.
  6. To support our community and customers by implementing fair practices and providing good quality products.
You've relied on us for years for innovative and accurate health and wellness information for EDS, MCAS, POTS, Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS and more. Now we have a shop! Learn what it's all about, how we plan on growing our products and why we decided to start with a line of our own especially branded products perfect to help you raise awareness the way you choose!

Shop with Confidence

  1. In regards to our awareness products, if the item you receive arrives damaged or is not printed perfectly, you simply need to send us a photo and we’ll send you a replacement that’s printed just for you.
  2. If your order isn’t right, we’ll do our best to make it right as quickly as possible.
  3. If you’re unsatisfied with your purchase, ordered the wrong item or size, you can return it to us for a refund of the product price or exchange within 30 days, provided it’s returned in brand new condition.
  4. As we grow, these policies may change, but our commitment to quality will always remain. To view our shipping and return policies, click here: Shipping and Return Policy.

Other Changes Around the Pit

I’m sure you’ve noticed that our menus and structure has changed recently to accommodate our store. We like our new design quite well, but it may take some a bit of time to get used to it. Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Our Shop is located at https://zebrapit.com/shop. This URL may be used if you prefer to bypass the opening screen.
  • Our Blog is located at https://zebrapit.com/blog and works just like the one above.
  • Our Blog page looks quite different, but it now has 3 different ways you can view our posts. My hope is that it offers something to suit every browser.
    • The first is a 20 post carousel that shows the featured image, title, date and brief description. It always begins with the most recent post.
    • The second section is an image catalog of our sections, so you can view posts by subject.
    • Finally, our last 100 posts are listed at the bottom so you can scroll through them much like our old page, but they only include titles, dates and descriptions.
  • Finally, we have everything arranged in convenient drop down menus in our header (the upper purple section) you can access both on a computer or smart phone. To go to the blog, simply click the word “blog.” To visit a specific section page, choose it from the drop down menu.
  • Search Boxes: As always, we have a search box near the top of the side menu so you can search for anything you may be looking for. If it’s an item from the shop you seek, use the search box in the purple header instead.

Now finally…. the news you’ve waited so patiently for…..

Now that we’re done with the boring stuff, why not take a tour of our shop? Be sure to take this code with you:

ZPgrand25

The code is good for 25% off your entire purchase on anything in our shop. Want to shop more than once? Use it as many times as you’d like! The best part? While everyone else is having “Black Friday,” “Small Business Saturday,” or “Cyber Monday,” sales, our grand opening sale will last two weeks! From today through Sunday, December 1, 2019.

Can’t afford to shop right now? If you reside in the U.S. you can enter to win 1 of 3 prizes in our Name Our Mascot Contest between now and November 25, 2019.

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Spine Health: What You Need to Know

Spine Conditions

October 16th is World Spine Day. World Spine Day is part of Bone and Joint Decade Action Week. The day was formally launched by the World Federation of Chiropractic in 2012, with the goal to raise awareness about spinal health and spine disorders.

World Spine Day will be celebrated on every continent, with health professionals, exercise and rehabilitation experts, public health advocates, schoolchildren and patients all taking part.

If you’ve ever experienced back pain before, you know how much it hurts. Often the problem is muscular, but occasionally the problem is directly related to the spine.

On World Spine Day, we're discussing spine health, what types of problems can develop, risk factors for spinal conditions along with their diagnosis and treatment. Spine Health is important to maintaining good mobility throughout old age. Learn what you can do to prevent these common problems.

Common Types of Spinal Conditions

Spinal Conditions

Degenerative spine and disc conditions:

Other spine conditions and disorders can include:

This link to the website Spine Universe gives you a complete list of all the various spinal conditions and information about them.

Causes of Spine Disorders

Spine disorders have a wide variety of causes depending on the particular condition. For some conditions, the causes are unknown. Common causes include:

  • Abnormal Bone Growth
  • Accidents or falls
  • Cancer
  • Congenital disorders (present since birth)
  • Degenerative wear and tear that comes with ageing
  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Inherited disorders
  • Injuries ranging from minor to traumatic

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Risk Factors for Spine Disorders

Factors that can increase the risk of developing a spine disorder include:

  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Improper lifting techniques
  • Nutrition and lifestyle habits such as sedentary lifestyle, low calcium intake, or smoking
  • Other conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or thyroid disease
  • Overuse from exercise or occupational movement
  • Poor posture
  • Repetitive strenuous activities

Symptoms of Spine Disorders

Signs and symptoms depend on the specific spine disorder and often affect other parts of the body, depending on the area of the spine or spinal cord that is affected. Common symptoms include:

  • Abnormally rounded shoulders or back
  • Back or neck pain that can be sharp and stabbing, dull and aching, or burning
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Pain radiating in the arms or legs
  • Stiffness or tightness
  • Uneven appearance, such as one shoulder or hip being higher than the other
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in the arms or legs
back pain and spinal conditions

Diagnosis of Spine Disorders

Spine experts will conduct a thorough evaluation, including:

  • Physical exam
  • Discussion of personal and family medical history
  • Discussion of symptoms and risk factors
  • Neurological exam, if a nerve injury or disorder is suspected

Depending on each patient’s individual case, your doctors might recommend one or more tests, such as:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnet to produce detailed images of the spine. MRI is useful in detecting injuries and disorders in soft tissue such as muscles, ligaments, tendons, spinal cord, and nerves.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: CT uses specialized X-rays with or without a contrast agent to produce cross-sectional, 3D images of the spine. CT provides images that are more detailed than plain X-rays for evaluating bone injuries or disorders.
  • X-ray: X-rays of the neck or different areas of the back to check for bone problems such as fractures, other injuries, and chronic disorders.
  • Biopsy: If cancer is suspected, neurosurgeons can take a small tissue sample for analysis under a microscope.
  • Electromyography (EMG): Electrodiagnostic examinations measure electrical activity generated by muscles and nerves. They generally involve seeing how different parts of the body react to stimuli.

Treatment for Spine Disorders

Spine specialists often use one or more treatments, depending on the specific condition or injury. Treatments offered include:

  • Back bracing
  • Cancer treatment such as surgery to remove tumors, radiation therapy, radiosurgery, and chemotherapy
  • Chiropractic Care
  • Ice or heat therapy for injuries
  • Injections, such as corticosteroids or nerve blocks, for pain
  • Massage for relief of back pain
  • Medications such as anti-inflammatories, pain relievers, or muscle relaxers
  • Rehabilitation using physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the back and abdominal muscles
  • Surgery to replace discs, fuse (connect) vertebrae, open up the spinal canal, or repair nerves
healthy spine

Lifestyle Is Important

It’s important to pay attention to your lifestyle when it comes to spine problems. If you are overweight, it puts added pressure on your spine and can cause issues like arthritis to become even more painful. Exercise on a regular basis and do spine strengthening moves such as stretches and yoga.

Be aware of your surroundings in order to avoid accidents and falls. Use proper safety equipment at all times, especially if you are working at heights such as roofs or trees.

Lift properly, using your legs and not your back. Even a minor change in your lifting habits will help to protect you. Engage your core muscles and using lifting straps for heavier items.

Quitting smoking is always good as it helps to increase blood circulation which is always good for the body including the spine.

Conclusion

A healthy spine is a happy spine. If you are experiencing problems with your back, see your Family Physician first to rule out any serious problems. Massage or Chiropractic care may be the first step to healing, or you may need to see a specialist. The important thing is to seek treatment early so you have the best chance of gaining full recovery.


Pamela Jessen lives in Langford, BC Canada. She is a blogger who writes about Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness at pamelajessen.com.  She also writes for The Mighty,  PainResource.com and various independent publications. Pamela is also a Patient Advocate with the Patient Voices Network in BC.  She sits on 4 committees and one Provincial working group and has also been involved in advocacy work at the Canadian National level as well. Pamela is married to her amazing husband Ray and they have one cat named Dorie. 

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Living With Forestier’s Disease, aka DISH

spine_general_DISH_intro01Forestier’s Disease is a rare form of degenerative arthritis. More commonly known as diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH), this disease attacks the ligaments of the body and turns them to bone.

The process is caused by the buildup of calcium salts in the ligaments and tendons, creating abnormal new bone growth (ossification). Doctors are unsure what causes this process to occur, but some suspect there is a genetic component. The hardening of the ligaments leads to joint stiffness and eventual loss of mobility.

DISH can occur in any part of the body, but most commonly affects the spine and lower back. Some people have DISH in their neck ligaments, which can make swallowing difficult. Other areas affected include the shoulders, elbows, ribs, knees, feet and ankles.

When it attacks the ligaments of the feet and ankles, DISH results in heel spurs, small sharp growths of bone that appear along the heel. DISH can be progressive. As it worsens, it can cause serious complications.

Causes of DISH

  • Sex. Men are more likely to develop DISH than women.
  • Age. DISH is most common in older adults, especially in people older than 50.
  • Diabetes and other conditions. People with type 2 diabetes might be more likely to develop DISH than are those who don’t have diabetes. Other conditions that can raise insulin levels in your body may also increase your risk, including hyperinsulinemia, prediabetes and obesity.
  • Certain medications. Long-term use of medications called retinoids, such as isotretinoin (Amnesteem, Claravis, others), which are used to treat skin conditions such as acne, can increase your risk.

Symptoms of DISH

DISH does not initially produce symptoms. As it progresses, you might experience:

  • pain and stiffness in your joints, especially in the morningSymptoms of DISH
  • loss of motion in your feet, lower back and other affected areas
  • inability to stretch fully
  • pain in your back, knee or heel
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Tingling, numbness, and/or weakness in the legs
  • Spinal fractures and increased risk of breaking other affected bones
  • Compressed or pinched nerves (radiculopathy)
  • Compressed spinal cord (myelopathy) which can lead to partial or complete paralysis of the legs and/or arms (paraparesis, tetraparesis)
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Hoarse voice or difficulty speaking (dysphonia)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Decreased lung capacity (if DISH affects the ribs)
  • Difficulty breathing possibly due to airway obstruction

You should always consult a doctor if you’re experiencing pain and stiffness or if you have bone spurs.

Complications

In most cases, DISH causes mild discomfort, allowing patients who have it to live with the symptoms through a combination of pain relievers, stretching exercises, other interventions and in rare cases, surgery to remove bone growth.

For others, the disease may continue to progress which can result in a complete loss of mobility in the affected joints. For instance, if you have DISH in your shoulder, it can make it difficult to raise your arm or move it in all its natural positions.

Fractures are a serious complication of DISH because the stiffness of your tendons makes your bones more likely to fracture if you’re injured.

One huge drawback with DISH is that the pain and stiffness can mimic many other conditions, so proper diagnosis and treatment is essential.

Diagnosis and Treatment

DISH Thoracic_spine_AP
An xray shows the skeletal changes of a DISH patient in the Thoracic Spine.

A diagnosis of diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) is often suspected by the signs and symptoms a person has. X-rays can confirm the diagnosis. In some cases, a computed tomography (CT scan) and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be ordered to rule out other diseases that cause the same symptoms.  All three types of imaging studies may be used to see which other areas of the skeleton are affected by DISH.

There is no cure for DISH, but you can

  • Treat underlying conditions. If you have diabetes or another condition associated with insulin resistance, getting that condition under control will help minimize the symptoms of DISH. Maintaining a healthy weight will also help.
  • Get pain relief. Ask a podiatrist for pain relievers that can treat joint stiffness in your legs, feet, and ankles. Your doctor might prescribe corticosteroid injections for more severe pain.
  • Increase mobility. Gentle stretching exercises can keep your ligaments from becoming overly stiff and brittle. Ask your doctor to recommend a regimen for your joints that will keep them moving. Walking, bicycling, and Aqua exercises are all excellent ways to stay mobile.

My Personal Experience

I was diagnosed with DISH in 2014 after going to the Emergency Room for chest pain. After a number of tests were done, including a CT Scan, the doctor informed me that they had discovered I had DISH in my Thoracic Spine (after ruling out heart problems for the chest pain).

I had always had pain and stiffness in my spine but assumed it was “regular” arthritis, as I have Osteoarthritis throughout my body. Finding out it was something different came as a surprise to me. I discovered that because I have Diabetes Type 2, it was likely a contributing factor. In the years since the diagnosis, I have developed bone spurs in my left ankle, and the DISH has spread to include my Lumbar spine as well as the Thoracic spine. The bone spurs on my spine look more like melted candle wax than actual spurs which is typical for this disease.

I find the stiffness is the most difficult part of having DISH. The sensation is like trying to stretch, but never quite getting enough range of motion, so you’re left feeling “incomplete.” It’s almost like one good “pop” would make things better. I do stretching exercises and use a foam roller to help minimize the stiffness, and I’m conscious of my voice as well. I’ve developed some hoarseness over the years which could indicate that the DISH has affected my cervical spine.

I don’t take any additional medication for DISH with the exception of an occasional muscle relaxant if my back is particularly stiff. By relaxing the muscles around the spine, I get some relief from the stiffness that is part of DISH. I find that my stretching exercises are usually effective enough to bring relief. Heat sometimes helps with the stiffness as well, and a good muscle rub or magnesium rub can make a difference in pain levels as well.

activity-fitness-leisure-374589

Conclusion

If you are experiencing pain and stiffness in the spine or noticing that you are developing bone spurs on your feet (or hands), consult with your doctor and ask about whether DISH could be causing your problems. X-rays and/or other imaging tests can help to determine if there are problems with the ligaments or if there is increased bone growth.

Discovering DISH early can help you get a treatment plan in place to provide relief. Although DISH is considered “rare”, it seems like it’s becoming more predominant than in the past so the sooner you get a diagnosis, the better.

Resources and Further Reading

Pamela Jessen lives in Langford, BC Canada. She is a blogger who writes about Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness at pamelajessen.com.  She also writes for The Mighty,  PainResource.com and various independent publications. Pamela is also a Patient Advocate with the Patient Voices Network in BC.  She sits on 4 committees and one Provincial working group and has also been involved in advocacy work at the Canadian National level as well. Pamela is married to her amazing husband Ray and they have one cat named Dorie. 


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