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Health Q&A

Posted November 14, 2012 in Advice Column, Grimes

Q: What else can I do for my headache?

A: The International Headache Society has identified 14 different types and sub-classifications of headaches. The most common types of headaches are migraine, cluster, tension and cervicogenic. It is estimated that 47 percent of the global population suffers from a headache, and 15 to 20 percent of those headaches are cervicogenic in nature*.

Cervicogenic headaches are caused by dysfunction of bony and soft tissue structures of the cervical spine, such as the upper cervical facet joints, upper cervical disc segments, muscles and ligaments. Physical therapy has proven effective in treating patients who suffer from cervicogenic headaches, so it is necessary to have general knowledge of different types of headaches in order to determine if the patient is appropriate for physical therapy. A comprehensive physical therapy evaluation is performed to determine the specific symptom-generating structure. Treatment may consist of specific manual therapy techniques, neuro re-education, cervical stabilization exercises and cervical proprioception as well as other postural training. Success of physical therapy treatment for cervicogenic headaches depends on the thorough physical therapy exam and the successful execution of the patient-specific comprehensive treatment plan.

If you have a headache that won’t go away, contact Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers in Grimes (515-986-5190) to schedule a complimentary evaluation and determine if physical therapy can help you.

*Page, P. Cervicogenic headaches: an evidence led approach to clinical management. The international journal of sports physical therapy.  Sept 2011. 6 (3): 254-66.

Information provided by Meghan Mueller, PT, DPT, Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers, 1451 Gateway Circle, Suite 500, 986-5190.

Q: What are the winter blues?

A: The “winter blues” is a true medical phenomenon known as season affective disorder.  Season affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Symptoms include loss of energy, feeling down or depressed, anxiety, social withdrawal, fatigue, weight gain, difficulty concentrating, loss of energy and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. Symptom may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses. Treatment for seasonal affective disorder may include light therapy, medications and counseling. In light therapy, also called phototherapy, you sit a few feet from a specialized light therapy box so that you’re exposed to bright light. Light therapy mimics outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. Light therapy is the first line treatment for season affective disorder. Medications used to treat seasonal affective disorder are classic antidepressants. You may ask, when to see a doctor? It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t seem to get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is particularly important if you notice that your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you feel hopeless, think about suicide or find yourself turning to alcohol for comfort or relaxation.

Information provided by Grimes Family Physicians, 101 S.E. Destination Drive, 986-4524.

Q: What ear problems can I treat myself?

A: Many people will have issues with their ears at some point in their lives. There are two common problems that can be self-treated with over-the-counter medications. One issue is ear wax impaction. Ear wax can become impacted in the ear and cause reduced hearing, a feeling of fullness in the ears and itching or ringing in the ear. It is important to remember that the only way to clean your ear canal should be with a moist wash cloth over a finger. Using items like cotton swabs actually just removes the outer soft ear wax and can make you more likely to suffer from  ear wax impaction. If you do need to remove impacted ear wax, there is a product available without a prescription. Carbamide peroxide (Debrox or Murine for Ear Wax Removal System) can be placed into the affected ear(s) which will help loosen the ear wax. Then an ear syringe can be used to flush out the wax with warm water.

The other problem that may be self-treated is water-clogged ears. You may suffer from reduced hearing, a feeling of fullness and hear water movement in the ear(s). Isopropyl alchohol 95 percent (Swim-Ear, Auro-Dri) can safely be used right after swimming  or bathing to help dry out water from the ears. With any ear problem, if there is pain or discharge you should see your physician immediately.

Answer provided by Hy-Vee Drugstore, 1541 S.E. Third St., Suite 100, 986-4527.

Q: How does end-of -year dental insurance work with flex/health savings accounts?

A: This time of the year is a great time to visit the dentist and begin or complete needed dental work. The main reason is the calendar year set up by the employer and dental insurance company. Most insurance companies renew benefits Jan. 1.

So, if a person is in need of restorative or major work, using the months of December and January to maximize benefits truly helps a person’s out-of-pocket expense. And with the economy we face today, saving money is a necessity.

In conjunction, most flex or health savings accounts renew Jan. 1 with the strict rule of “use it or lose it.” By using your maximum allowed dental insurance benefits and flex/health savings account, patients will truly benefit with the cost savings. And when you are saving money, it is always fun to come to the dentist.

Information provided by Grove & Platt Dental Associates, PLC, 1541 S. Third St., Suite 300, 986-4001 and American Dental Association.

Q: What are some ways I can identify sciatica, and how can chiropractic care treat it?

A: Sciatica is defined as pain that radiates from the lower back into the buttocks and down the back of one or both legs, caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerves, the largest nerves of the body. It usually begins as an acute pain in the lower back and then radiates down the back of either or both legs. There are five pairs of nerves that exit the spine in the lower back. These nerves make up what we know as the sciatic nerves. If the vertebrae or bones in the lower back are misaligned or out of place, or the disc between the vertebrae are swollen, bulged or herniated, the result is pressure on those nearby nerves. This can cause tremendous pain and normal daily activities become almost impossible.

Symptoms: Sensation changes on the back of the calf or the sole of the foot, numbness, tingling, burning, pain in back of calf or the sole of the foot, weakness of the knee or foot, difficulty walking, innability to move the foot (in severe cases) and nability to bend the knee (in severe cases).

Treatment: Chiropractic care works on correcting misaligned or out of place vertebrae and can remove the pressure placed on the sciatic nerve, reducing pain and improving flexibility and function. To see if chiropractic may be able to help you, call today for an appointment.

Information provided by Williamson Chiropractic, 206 S. Main St., 986-9189.

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