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Health Q&A

Posted September 05, 2012 in Adel, Advice Column

Q: Must I endure low back pain?

A: Chronic pain of any kind can be very demoralizing for some, which is understandable. It is estimated that up to 80 percent of all North Americans suffer from lower back pain at one time or another. But did you know you may not need to depend on medication for relief?

Low back pain is often chronic, and can affect your daily routine and sleep patterns. Activities such as moving furniture, lifting heavy objects, gardening, or raking can lead to pain and/or injury to the lower back. Back pain can also occur without overexertion such as staying in the same position for too long, inactivity and poor posture, and in some cases, low back pain increases with stress. It is common knowledge that stretching and exercising are great ways to  improve flexibility, strength and posture, but did you know that a physical therapist can teach you the  proper techniques to encourage healing of low back pain and prevent further injury?

If you are suffering with low back pain and are looking for relief you should consider physical therapy as physical therapy treatments can empower you, the patient, to over come chronic low back pain. Along with the treatments given at a clinic you will be given a home exercise program to help you maintain gains made in the clinic. Did you know that the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work here in the United States is low back pain and that we spend at least $50 billion each year treating this condition? With concerns regarding sky rocketing health insurance costs it’s good to know that physical therapy is a much less expensive treatment for low back pain.

Information provided by Mike Burggraaf, PT, MS, LAT, Core Physical Therapy, Inc., 102 S. Seventh St., Adel, phone 993-5599.

Q: How can I avoid self-care mistakes?

A: Treating common illnesses at home isn’t complicated. Even so, doing it safely requires knowledge and a willingness to follow the rules. You don’t want to call your doctor over every little fever or sniffle. But when you’re calling the shots, you want to be confident you’re making wise health care decisions. Here are steps to take to avoid some common self-care mistakes.

    • Watch the dose. Don’t take more medication than the label recommends. Some people think if one dose of medication is good for them, then two must be even better. But the dosage recommendations on the package are there to protect you.
    • Treat the cause. Don’t treat symptoms without treating their cause. One danger of self-treating is you may confuse symptom relief with a cure — meaning your underlying problem may continue or worsen even as you start feeling better.
   • Don’t borrow meds. Don’t use someone else’s prescription medications. It’s not safe for several reasons.
 • Look for good information. Don’t consult just any health book or Internet site. If a book or website promises a magical cure or makes outspoken claims against the conventional medical approach, that’s a good clue to be wary of its advice. Seek out help from your health care professionals, such as your pharmacist.
    • Call your doctor. Don’t treat too long before calling your doctor. You don’t always save money by not seeing the doctor. Often the reverse is true. How do you know when it’s time to stop self-treating a health problem? An important clue: Are you getting better, or is the problem getting worse?

Information provided by Jane Clausen, Adel Health Mart, 113 N. Ninth St., 993-3644.

Q: Will the virus strains in the flu vaccine be the same this year?

A: Influenza vaccines for the 2012-2013-season were approved by the FDA in August. The vaccines contain three viruses, two of which are new this year.

The 2009 pandemic virus, H1N1, is contained in this year’s vaccine as it was last year. The 2009 flu season resulted in more adults between 19 and 64 years getting severe complications of the flu than is typical in a season. This year’s influenza H3N2 and influenza B viruses differ from those in the 2011-2012 influenza vaccines. The choice to include these strains is based on worldwide experience.

The flu vaccine is the primary way to prevent becoming ill with influenza, which is caused by virus strains that infect the throat, nose and lungs. The very young and elderly are most susceptible to development of flu complications, which include pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus infections. In the United States, death from flu complications typically ranges from a low of 3,000 deaths to a high of 49,000 deaths in one season. Because two of the predicted strains to be circulating this year are new, it is especially important for people to get vaccinated between now and mid-October. The 2009 pandemic flu peaked in late October demonstrating the need to get vaccinated early in the fall. There are six manufacturers making flu vaccine this year and supply is predicted to be plentiful. The inactivated injectable vaccine is recommended for all persons aged 6 months or older. A nasal vaccine, which is a live-attenuated form, is approved for persons between the ages of 2 and 49 who are otherwise healthy and not pregnant. They are considered equally effective at stimulating a good immune response.

Information provided by Toni Sumpter, Medicap Pharmacy, 628 Nile Kinnick Drive South, Suite A, 993-1119.

Q: Carpal tunnel… or not?

A: The median nerve begins as nerve fibers exit the neck, branch from the brachial plexus in the shoulder girdle and travel down the arm. It provides sensation to the palm side of the hand and motor impulses to the muscles at the base of the thumb.

Most people are familiar with “carpal tunnel” as an aching, tingling or weakness in the hand/forearm and assume the problem is caused by compression of the nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. This may be correct, however, there are more likely other areas where the nerve may be compressed to create these symptoms. Misalignments and muscle dysfunction of the neck, shoulder, elbow and wrist can compress and irritate the nerve on its path to the hand. Ergonomic strain and repetitive use of the hand/arm can cause structural misalignments, muscle irritation and swelling that crowd the nerve and interfere with its proper function leading to pain and dysfunction. This would render surgical tunnel release ineffective at correcting the problem and create scar tissue that further compromises the nerve. Surgery and drugs are options that address the symptoms but do not correct the biomechanical faults that are causing the compression. Chiropractors are trained to assess and correct dysfunctions of all the joints in the body and can effectively treat the compression of the median nerve at various sites from the neck to the hand without the side effects of surgery or drugs.  “Carpal tunnel” is caused by compression of one of the many nerves in the body. If you have these symptoms in any region of the body, schedule a chiropractic appointment to see if nerve interference is limiting your body from functioning at its highest potential.

Information provided by Jodi K. Kuhse D.C., D.I.C.C.P., Luellen Chiropractic, 608 Greene St., Suite C, 993-1117.

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