Wellness Resources

Health Benefits of Yoga

yoga class

Developed in India thousands of years ago, yoga has become an incredibly popular form of exercise in the United States. There are more than one hundred different types of yoga, and most focus on three core elements: breathing exercises, meditation, and assuming poses (or postures) that stretch and flex various muscle groups.

You’ve probably heard yoga is good for you. Maybe you’ve even tried it and found that you walked away feeling better than when you came in. Yoga not only feels great but it’s also great for you, providing instant gratification and lasting transformation (if you stick with it!). But while you probably know that yoga can help you become more flexible, you may be surprised by the wide range of health benefits—both physical and mental—that yoga can help you achieve.

Physical Benefits

  • Builds Muscle Strength – Many yoga poses require you to support the weight of your own body in new ways, including balancing on one leg or supporting yourself with your arms. Poses such as downward dog, upward dog, and the plank pose, build upper-body strength. The standing poses, especially if you hold them for several long breaths, build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abs. Poses that strengthen the lower back include upward dog and the chair pose.
  • Improved Flexibility – Typically the first and most obvious benefit of yoga, improved flexibility tends to be clearly evident, even to beginners. Moving and stretching in new ways helps to increase the range of motion and lubrication, especially if you have pain in your joints and spine, which is key to performing everyday activities with ease as you continue to age.
  • Posture – When you’re stronger and more flexible, your posture improves. Most of the standing and sitting poses develop core strength because your abdominal muscles are needed to help support and maintain each pose. With a stronger core, you’re more likely to sit and stand tall.
  • Bone and Joint Health – It’s well known that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis, and many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. Yoga also can have a significant effect on healthy joint function as certain poses promote the release of fluids while strengthening the muscles supporting vital joint systems.
  • Heart Healthy – When you regularly get your heart rate into the aerobic range, you lower your risk of heart attack. While not all yoga is aerobic, if you do it vigorously or take certain classes (like Ashtanga), it can boost your heart rate into the aerobic range.
  • Breathing – Most of us take shallow breaths and don’t give much thought to how we breathe. Because most forms of yoga involve deep breathing and attention to our breath, lung capacity often improves. This, in turn, can improve sports performance and endurance.

Mental Benefits

Aside from the array of physical benefits, yoga also has some great mental benefits. Unlike more traditional forms of exercise, yoga’s incorporation of meditation and breathing help a person improve their mental well-being.

  • Stress Reduction – One of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps a person manage the devastating effects of stress. Physical activity is good for relieving stress, and this is particularly true of yoga. Yoga’s quiet, precise movements and emphasis on being in the moment can also help by taking the focus off external stressors. Many people leave yoga classes feeling less stressed than when they came in.
  • Body Awareness – Doing yoga will give you an increased awareness of your own body, as you are often called upon to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body, which can help with early detection of physical problems or ailments and allow for early preventive action.
  • Mental Calmness – Many of the breathing exercises practiced in yoga have been developed to calm and tame our seemingly endless stream of thoughts. This leads to greater concentration as you work your way through each pose—and, in most cases, a calmness that lasts the rest of the day.

If one or many of these benefits appeal to you, you should look into the various schools of yoga and determine which is right for you. The great news is that just about everyone can do it, too — body type and fitness levels do not matter because there are modifications for every yoga pose and beginner classes in every style.

The Wellness Center at Emory Decatur Hospital offers yoga classes and programs that help you live in the healthiest manner possible!

Emory Healthcare

Staying healthy is important and at Emory Healthcare, we’re here to help you find the care you need when you need it. With more than 2,800 doctors and 300 locations, including 11 hospitals, as well as primary care offices, urgent cares and MinuteClinics, we’re delivering specialized care across the region. Find a doctor near you to help you get and stay healthy.

 

 

Need help finding a location or specialist that’s right for you? Registered nurses at Emory HealthConnection are here to help. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).

Social Wellness: Your Relationships Impact Your Health

social wellnessThere’s a lot of talk these days about your emotional, physical and mental wellness, but what about your social health? After all, your relationships with family and friends certainly impact your overall well-being. Think about the last time you had an argument with a loved one or were on the outs with a friend: It can make your blood pressure rise and release stress hormones in your body. All relationships have their ups and downs. But with strong communication, open-mindedness and empathy, healthy relationships will stand the test of time — and add great value to your life.

In fact, research supports the idea that people with strong social wellness (those who have healthy relationships and can successfully interact with others) enjoy many health benefits, including:

  • Boosted immune systems
  • Healthier hearts
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Longer lives
  • Stronger endocrine systems

Take the next step towards social wellness by discovering these simple ways to build healthy, lasting relationships.

1. Take Care of Yourself

It’s hard to build healthy, meaningful relationships when you feel tired or run down. That’s why the first step in boosting your social wellness is to take care of yourself. Be sure you:

Eat healthy

Proper nutrition is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. And instead of following the latest fad diet, get back to the basics with meals and snacks that include lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, healthy dairy and plenty of protein. Keep in mind all your protein doesn’t need to come from animals. Reach for nuts, beans, legumes or eggs for a well-rounded diet. Skip foods that are high in empty calories, sugar and saturated fats.

Get plenty of exercise

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults age 18-64 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, along with two days of weight-strengthening exercises.

Make time to head outdoors for a walk or run around the block or swim at a local community pool. Find something you enjoy and make exercise a habit. After all, regular physical activity can boost your energy, strengthen your muscles, boost brainpower and improve your cardiovascular health.

Make time for yourself

Self-care is more than a buzzword: It’s critical you take care of yourself first, so you can take care of others. Make room in your busy schedule for your favorite activities, whether that’s a weekly massage, a favorite show or reading a book. When you spend time doing the things you love, you’ll be better able to support others and nurture your relationships.

Disconnect from the screen

Today’s technology has put the answers to our most burning questions right at our fingertips. And social media has enabled us to connect with friends and family members around the country and even the globe. But, all that time staring at a screen can take away from relationships with your family, friends and people in your community.

It can also sometimes create feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression and eat into your productivity, which means you have less time to do the things you enjoy.

Instead of being a slave to your screen, set boundaries. Pledge to check social media only two or three times a day and keep your phone out of reach. After a few days, you’ll be surprised at how little you’ve missed.

Learn time-management skills

Time management is a great way to manage your stress and build healthy relationships with others. After all, when you’re not thinking about the to-do list that’s a mile long, you can better focus on your relationships and be present in the moment.

If you struggle with too much on your list, consider these “tried and true” time management tips:

  • Delegate tasks that others can complete.
  • Just say no. When you’re feeling overloaded, let others know. Tell them you can’t take on any more tasks right now, but ask them to check back in a day or two.
  • Prioritize your tasks by deadlines.
  • Write down all your tasks to help you stay focused.

2. Communicate

Open and respectful communication is the pillar that supports friendships. You can communicate effectively with your loved ones and friends by:

Sharing your feelings

Your support network is key to helping you through tough times. Let others know how you’re feeling or if something has upset you. Being honest about your feelings, instead of a quick “I’m fine,” can help you build meaningful relationships.

Being empathetic

A healthy relationship is a two-way street. Give your friends and family members your undivided attention and approach their problems, concerns and successes with empathy. Listen carefully to what they’re saying and ask how you can help instead of offering unsolicited advice.

3. Set Boundaries

Our social wellness isn’t measured by how many friends we have, but by meaningful connections and healthy relationships. Remember, a true friend is willing to listen to and support you, no matter what. Avoid abusive, violent or toxic people. Set boundaries with individuals that make you feel bad about yourself, and limit your interaction with negative friends, family members or neighbors.

4. Teach Your Children About Healthy Relationships

The first place your children will learn about healthy relationships is in your home. Nurture positive relationships with your children so they know the impact and value of feeling loved and appreciated, and are ready to build similar relationships with their friends and loved ones.

Let your children know you love them, offering plenty of praise and support. And when praising them, be specific. Instead of saying “Good job on your report card,” try saying “I’m so proud of how hard you worked in math. Your study habits and attention in class helped you pull your grade up.” Offer praise in times of failure, too. After all, we learn as much from our failures as we do from our successes.

5. Find New Ways to Connect

Deepen bonds with old friends and branch out to make new ones by:

  • Going for a walk together or exploring a new hiking trail
  • Joining a group that focuses on a favorite hobby, such as photography, painting or reading
  • Participating in community events
  • Signing up for a new class together
  • Trying a new restaurant
  • Volunteering in the community

Emory Healthcare

At Emory Healthcare, we’re here to help you find the care you need, when you need it. With more than 2,800 doctors and 300 locations, including 11 hospitals, and hundreds of primary care offices, urgent cares and MinuteClinics, we’re delivering specialized care across the region. If you have questions or concerns about your social wellness, find a doctor near you to help you get and stay healthy.

About Dr. Walton

Dr. Velair WaltonVelair Walton, M.D., is a an Internal Medicine Physician at Emory St. Joseph’s Primary Care. Dr. Walton’s clinical interests include Women’s Health and Lifestyle Medicine with a strong focus on diet, exercise, and living a holistically healthy life. She also has a strong interest in chronic disease, particularly empowering patients to navigate their diagnosis through health education.

Dr. Walton is a distinguished member of the American College of Physicians serving on the Wellness Committee for the Georgia Chapter of the American College of Physicians. In addition to her leadership roles in local community organizations such as the Athletic Fitness Association of America, she is a devoted student of the bible regularly serving in her local church.

Allergies: Know Where to Go to Get Relief This Season

For allergy and asthma sufferers in Atlanta, there are effectively three seasons: summer, winter and pollen.

With a warmer-than-average winter, high pollen counts have already been reported across the U.S. In Atlanta, this warmer-than-usual weather triggered an early release of tree pollen. As a result, pollen counts started rising in mid-February. This means allergy season is already here — which may seem unfair, considering we are still at the tail end of flu season.

Click here to learn more about pollen counts and what the numbers mean.

Respiratory allergies, such as asthma and allergic rhinitis (also called hay fever), flare up because of a heightened immune system response to pollen particles. Allergic rhinitis produces the typical sneezing and runny nose associated with pollen season, as well as itchy, watery eyes. You can also experience itching in your ears, nose and throat.

For some people, this is mildly irritating but can be handled by staying indoors when pollen counts are high. Symptoms are also treatable with over-the-counter or prescription medications. A primary care physician (PCP), nurse practitioner or physician assistant can help. Older adults, children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their health care provider before taking over-the-counter medications.

However, allergic rhinitis can set the stage for viral or bacterial infections to take hold in your sinuses, ears, throat and chest. If left untreated, these infections can develop into more serious conditions.

Tip: Not sure whether you have allergies or a sinus infection? If it’s allergies, your mucus will often be clear. Mucus that’s cloudy, white, yellow or greenish can indicate a sinus infection.

Pollen sensitivity can also trigger asthma or bronchitis, both of which are conditions that affect airways in our lungs and can cause shortness of breath and wheezing. Asthma is caused by muscles tightening around the airways, causing them to narrow and restrict the amount of air that gets in your lungs. Meanwhile, bronchitis occurs when the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and is usually caused by an infection. It’s possible to suffer from both at the same time, which is called asthmatic bronchitis.

Where to Get Relief for Your Allergies

Start with your primary care physician. Because your PCP knows your complete health history and how you respond to medication, he or she can develop the best course of treatment. If you have ongoing or severe allergy or asthma issues, your primary care physician can also refer you to a specialist.

MinuteClinics and urgent care centers are good alternatives if you need to see a health care provider sooner than you can see your PCP, or if you need care outside of your PCP’s normal office hours.

Emergency rooms are best for life-threatening health concerns, and a severe asthma attack can certainly require emergency care. Respiratory infections with high fevers that don’t respond to medicine are another example of a good time to visit the ER.

Know Where to Go

Knowing where to go when you’re ill or injured makes a big difference. But it can get confusing. Know where to go to get right care at the right time. Your primary care doctor knows your medical history best, but the Emory Healthcare Network also includes Peachtree Immediate Care urgent care and CVS MinuteClinics, hundreds of primary care locations and 6 ERs throughout metro Atlanta. Get the care you need wherever you need it. See our map to find the locations closest to you.

Talk to Our Nurses

If you’re not sure if a trip to the ER is needed, call your family doctor or the Emory HealthConnection where registered nurses can help you find a location or specialist that’s right for you. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).

About Dr. Colovos

Nick Colovos, MD, received his degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1993 and completed his residency in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo Ohio in 1996. His work experiences in the academic, public and private sectors of medical care have allowed him to develop a unique perspective on the business of healthcare and its delivery to patients. He currently serves as Medical Director for the Emory Healthcare Urgent Care and MinuteClinic Strategy and Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

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What Is A PCP and Why Do I Need One?

Primary Care ProviderA primary care provider, or PCP, is your main point of contact for healthcare in non-emergency situations. Think of this type of health care provider as the quarterback of your entire health care team, the central point person whose role it is to coordinate your overall patient care, treatment and education.

Overall, your PCP is key to:

  • Providing preventive care and guidance on how to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
  • Diagnosing and treating acute common medical conditions, such as cold, flu, infections, etc.
  • Treatment and management of chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Determining the severity of your medical problems, so he or she can direct you to the most appropriate care provider.
  • Referring you to medical specialists when conditions require more targeted treatment.

In addition, a PCP ensures prescribed medications will not adversely affect other medications or supplements you may already be taking. Over time, your PCP learns your health history and what is most important to you and your long-term wellness. This high-level oversight ensures all of the treatments, medications, therapies and recommendations from various providers are as effective as possible.

Even if you are relatively healthy right now, things can and do change. This is especially true of millennials (the segment of the population born between the early ’80s and the early 2000s), who are in the perfect position to establish health and wellness baselines with a dedicated primary care provider.

PCPs are usually physicians; however, physician assistants and nurse practitioners (collectively referred to as advance practice providers) who work under a qualified physician can also be your PCP. There are also different types of primary care physicians, some of which you may need at different points in your life, depending on your health care needs.

This chart identifies the different types of primary care physicians and can help you pinpoint which can help you most, depending on your health care needs.

Primary Care Physician

Know Where to Go

Knowing where to go when you’re ill or injured makes a big difference. But it can get confusing. Know where to go to get the right care at the right time. Your primary care doctor knows your medical history best, but the Emory Healthcare Network also includes Peachtree Immediate Care Urgent Care and CVS MinuteClinics, hundreds of primary care locations and 6 ERs throughout metro Atlanta. Get the care you need wherever you need it. See our map to find the locations closest to you.

Talk to Our Nurses

If you’re not sure if a trip to the ER is needed, call your family doctor or the Emory HealthConnection, where registered nurses can help you find a location or specialist that’s right for you. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).

About Dr. Colovos

Nick Colovos, MD, received his degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1993 and completed his residency in emergency medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Toledo Ohio in 1996. His work experiences in the academic, public and private sectors of medical care have allowed him to develop a unique perspective on the business of healthcare and its delivery to patients. He currently serves as Medical Director for the Emory Healthcare Urgent Care and MinuteClinic Strategy and Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Know Where To Go: A List for the Right Care at the Right Time

Knowing where to go when you’re ill or injured makes a big difference. But it can get confusing. So here’s a breakdown of where to get the right care at the right time.

Primary Care

Your primary care provider is your health care home base and should be your first call for any non-immediate issue.

  • Routine check ups
  • Preventative care and sick visits
  • Treatment for non-urgent, long-term health issues managing high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Prescribes and manages medications
  • Specialist referrals

Features List:
– Focus on health and well-being
– Coordinates with your specialists

MinuteClinic

If you can’t see your primary care doctor right away, use a MinuteClinic for minor, common ailments or injuries, such as:

  • Minor illnesses, injuries or skin conditions
  • Vaccinations or shots
  • Health screening and monitoring
  • Smoking cessation and weight-loss programs
  • Physicals for sports camps, school, DOT, etc.

Features List:
– Open 7 days a week
– Seen by certified providers
– Sends visit summary to PCP with your permission
– Can prescribe medications
– In-store pharmacies

We partner with MinuteClinic at select Atlanta CVS and Target locations.

Urgent Care

If you need care immediately, urgent care can provide similar services to a MinuteClinic, as well as treatments for non life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

  • Burns
  • Suspected broken bones
  • Cuts requiring stitches
  • Infections, flu and strep throat

Features List:
– IV drips
– Onsite lab services, X-ray & EKG
– Open 7 days a week most of the year
– Staffed with doctors & other care providers
– Can prescribe medications

We partner with Peachtree Immediate Care providers for easy access to care.

Emergency Room

When you have a life-threatening condition, severe pain or injury, go to the emergency room or call 911.

  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain
  • Fainting, dizziness, weakness or lack mobility
  • Changes in vision
  • Confusion or changes in mental status
  • Sudden or severe pain
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Broken bones that break through skin
  • Severe or persistent diarrhea or vomiting
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings
  • Poisoning
  • Head or neck injury
  • Suspected concussion

Features List:
– Open 24/7 all year
– Staffed with emergency medicine experts
– Treats most serious and severe conditions

Emory Healthcare

At Emory Healthcare, we’re here to help you find the care you need, when you need it. With more than 2,800 doctors and 300 locations, including 11 hospitals, primary care offices, urgent cares and MinuteClinics, we’re delivering specialized care across the region. Find a doctor near you to schedule your annual screenings and exams.

Know Where to Go

Knowing where to go when you’re ill or injured makes a big difference. But it can get confusing. Know where to go to get right care at the right time. Your pediatrician or primary care doctor knows your medical history best, but the Emory Healthcare Network also includes Peachtree Immediate Care Urgent Care and CVS MinuteClinics, hundreds of primary care locations and 6 ERs throughout metro Atlanta. Get the care you need wherever you need it. See our map to find the locations closest to you.

Talk to Our Nurses

If you’re not sure if a trip to the ER is needed, call your family doctor or the Emory HealthConnection where registered nurses can help you find a location or specialist that’s right for you. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).

5 Things to Take to Your Doctor’s Appointment

A doctor’s appointment can be overwhelming and intimidating. To take the ease off the appointment process, make sure that you have all the essentials for a doctor’s visit. Read this list of things to bring to your next appointment to make sure your visit goes a little smoother.

Your ID cards.

This includes both your driver’s license and medical insurance card. This will give the staff at your doctor’s office all the information they need to know about you and your health insurance. An electronic version of your insurance card is a good option too.

Changes to your medical record.

From new diagnoses to recent lab test to current medications (i.e., vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter drugs), let your doctor know what is going on with you. I suggest that you make a list of the medications you take and bring a copy of any recent lab test results to your doctor’s appointment. This will ensure that your physician has a complete picture of your health.

A log of your symptoms.

Try to go one step further from just a list of your symptoms, and instead create a log. This means take note of the types of symptoms you have, when these symptoms occur, and ways you treat your symptoms at home.

A list of questions to ask.

Prior to your doctor’s appointment, think about questions you want answered by your doctor. Do not rely on memorizing these questions. Instead, write them down to make sure they are all covered doing your appointment.

Entertainment.

Unfortunately, a doctor’s appointment at 2pm usually means not being taken back until 2:30pm. To make sure your time in the waiting room does not pass by too slowly, bring some entertainment. This can be a book to read, a snack to eat, or work to do.

Foot Care for Seniors: 10 Important Tips

Proper foot care is essential for older adults to help prevent injuries, falls and complications from chronic conditions like diabetes.Proper foot care is essential for older adults because it can help prevent injuries, falls and complications from chronic diseases like diabetes. Learn how to properly care for your feet so they can continue to take you wherever you need to go.

1. Be good to your soles. As you age, the muscle tissue in your feet can thin and your nerves may not work effectively. This can lead to loss of feeling in your feet (neuropathy). Use a long-handled mirror – it will extend your reach several inches – to see what you may not feel. Examine the soles of your feet and in-between your toes every day for cuts, blisters, sores or any areas of skin breakdown from moisture. This is especially important if you have diabetes.

2. Choose the right footwear. Wearing the right footwear can help you keep your balance, prevent falls and reduce the risk of blisters and other injuries. Never purchase shoes that rub or slide around on your heel as you walk – this is a common way to develop blisters that can become more serious sores. Also avoid shoes that are too tight, slick on the bottom, have high heels or pointy toes.

If you have diabetes or neuropathy, talk with your doctor about prescription orthodics (supports or devices worn in your shoes). You may be eligible for custom othodics partially covered by Medicare.

3. Get the right fit. Here are a few suggestions:
• Visit the shoe store in the afternoon when your feet are slightly swollen from daily activities.
• Have a sales associate measure your feet so you can select the correct size. It’s normal for your feet to change sizes slightly as you age.
• Choose the shoe size that fits your larger foot (it’s common to have one foot that’s bigger than the other).
• Always try on shoes before you buy them to make sure they fit. A good rule of thumb: your toes should be half an inch from the tips of your shoes when you are standing.

4. Barefoot isn’t better. When going outdoors, always wear shoes (preferably closed-toe shoes) to prevent cuts, scrapes and falls. It’s also best to wear shoes as much as possible while indoors to protect your feet.

5. Keep your toenails in tip-top shape. Trimming your toenails correctly (straight across and no shorter than the tip of your toe) is key for preventing ingrown toenails. If you have diabetes or trouble reaching your feet, see a podiatrist (a physician who specializes in foot care), not a nail salon technician, for regular medical pedicures and nail trimming.

6. Get the blood flowing. As you age, you may have decreased blood circulation to your feet. To promote healthy circulation:
• Prop up your feet on a stool or couch when sitting down
• Wiggle your toes when you sit for long periods of time
• Stretch daily
• Give yourself regular foot massages
And, if you smoke, now’s the time to quit. Smoking can affect good circulation in the body.

7. Keep your feet dry. Change your socks regularly and make sure your feet aren’t damp from sweat or a shower before putting on your shoes.

8. …But not too dry. Keep your feet moisturized to prevent cracking, itching and calluses. Stick with gentle soap and apply cream or lotion daily after your shower or bath.

9. Fight fungal infections. Prevent athlete’s foot by wearing shoes that fit properly, changing your socks or stockings daily (or whenever they become damp) and applying foot powder each day. If you experience itching or burning, see your podiatrist for treatment.

10. Visit your podiatrist regularly for foot checks. Your podiatrist can catch problems like bone spurs, hammertoe, neuromas, bunions, warts, ingrown toenails or wounds before they cause more serious problems.

Would you like to find a podiatrist near you? Yes, I’d like to find one now. 

Five Myths about Pain

5-pain-myths-250x250September is Pain Awareness Month, and Emory Pain Center is raising awareness around the issues of pain and pain management. Did you know that nearly 100 million Americans experience chronic pain where chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts longer than six months? That’s more than those who have diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined! Living with pain can be debilitating and adversely affect everyday life. Understanding more about the underlying cause of pain can help improve treatment and alleviate suffering. The Emory Pain Center wants to debunk the five most common myths about pain in order to help you get back to living actively again.

Myth 1: I have to live with the pain.

Many people feel that they have to live with pain even when no cause for their pain is found. The lack of a reason why you have pain does not mean your pain is any less real; instead, this pain needs to be treated by a specialist. Pain physicians have specialized training in the treatment of pain and will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan. In addition to medications tailored to the type of pain you are having, there are also pain injections and more advanced treatments that can isolate and treat the source of your pain. Almost always something can be done to improve most painful conditions, and a pain physician may be able to help.

Myth 2: Pain medication = narcotics or opioids.

Pain medications can range from over the counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or creams, to prescription-strength medications recommended by your doctor. While narcotics (opioids) may relieve pain temporarily, these medications are not recommended for long-term use due to decreased effectiveness and side effects, such as constipation, drowsiness and hormone suppression. A pain physician will work with you to identify and provide a combination of therapies that may include medication, physical therapy or more advanced medical interventions that will allow safe, long-term relief.

Myth 3: All back pain is the same.

There are many different causes of back pain. It is important to identify which type of back pain you have, so your pain specialist can target the correct area for treatment. Back pain that stays around the muscles in your lower back is different from pain that starts in your back and moves to your hips and legs. There are some signs and symptoms associated with back pain that may be serious and require further evaluation and possibly surgery. If you or a family member is experiencing back pain with any of these symptoms, consult your physician immediately:

  • loss of control of bowel or bladder function
  • history of cancer
  • weight loss
  • recent infection, fever
  • leg weakness or loss of control of legs

Myth 4: All headaches originate in the head.

There is a subset of headaches that come from the upper part of your neck. They often start in the back of your head and may move to the top of your head or behind your eye. These headaches, often aggravated by movement of your head from side to side or up and down, are often mistaken as migraine headaches. Be sure to discuss your symptoms with your physician to ensure the most effective treatment.

Myth 5: I can’t exercise if I am in pain.

This is a common misconception regarding pain, particularly because patients are afraid of making things worse. Lack of exercise can actually contribute to increased pain. Exercise promotes the release of the body’s natural endorphins, also known as “happy hormones,” which can have both pain-relieving and mood-boosting effects. For certain types of pain, some activities should be limited, but this does not mean ending all exercise. For example, it is generally not a good idea to lift heavy weights; however, light aerobic activity, such as walking, swimming or stretching exercises, including tai chi or yoga, are often beneficial. These low-impact activities help to strengthen muscles and ligaments and take strain off of painful joints. It is better to participate in light physical activity than no activity. If you are unsure what exercises are best for your condition, be sure to consult your physician or physical therapist.

Our interventional pain specialist at Emory Pain Center are dedicated to finding answers for chronic pain through research, diagnosis and treatment using the latest therapies and technologies. Emory Pain Center approaches each case with an individualized diagnosis and treatment plan based on the patient’s medical history, life circumstances and specific needs. If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic pain, contact Emory Pain Center at 404-686-2410 to schedule an appointment.

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Build your Own First Aid Kit with These 16 Items

first-aid250x250It’s a new year, and a good time to think about getting a fresh start on your family’s health.

Creating a first aid kit for your home – and even your car – helps keep first-aid items in one easy place. It’s also fairly easy to do and low cost.

You can either start your first-aid kit scratch, or purchase one from a local drug store and tailor it to your family’s needs.

Either way, be sure to include the following:

  • Contact list: Keep a list of emergency contacts, including those of close friends, neighbors and family members. Make sure you include contact information for your primary care physician and, if you have children, their pediatrician.
  • Copies of insurance and medical records
  • List of prescribed medications and known allergies: Having this information readily available helps paramedics and other medical professionals treat you more effectively. Even though there are a number of apps available to help you track meds, a printed list is easy for everyone to access.
  • Prescriptions: Make sure you stock any medications prescribed by your physician, such insulin, epinephrine injectors (EpiPens), heart medication, asthma inhalers, etc.
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Allergy and anti-itch medications
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Aspirin
  • Antacid
  • Burn ointment
  • Eye wash solution: In addition to rinsing irritants out of your eyes, eye wash can be used a s a general decontaminant
  • Laxative
  • Petroleum jelly or other lubricant
  • Scissors
  • Thermometer
  • Tweezers

Store your kit in a cool dry place and periodically check it for items that need to be restocked. Also be sure to check expiration dates on any medications. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the kit is located, and encourage everyone to put it back where they found it. That way your set for the next time you need it.

Takeaways from Dr. Bergquist’s Live Chat on Stress Management

stress-cil-638Thanks to everyone who attended our live chat, “Managing Your Stress,” Tuesday, Dec. 22, with Sharon Horesh Bergquist, MD, who serves as Emory Healthcare Network primary care physician and associate professor with the Emory University School of Medicine.

Dr. Bergquist fielded some great questions on a range of topics, including:

  • Stress and its relationship to autoimmune disorders
  • Stress effects on aging
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Best stress-relieving activities
  • Managing grief during the holidays
  • Good stress and how to make stress work for you
  • The effects of stress on migraines
  • How your primary care physician can help you manage stress

If you didn’t get a chance to join us, read the full transcript from “Managing Your Stress” here.

Two questions didn’t get answered during the live chat, so we’re sharing them here, along with Dr. Bergquist’s responses:

Question: Are other SSRIs as effective as fluoxetine for treating SAD?

Answer: SAD can stand for social anxiety disorder as well as seasonal affective disorder, so I wasn’t sure which one is being asked here.

For social anxiety disorder, the SSRI paroxetine and the SNRI venlafaxine are effective. Older drugs from a family called MAO inhibitors, such as phenelzine can also be used.

Seasonal affective disorder, a seasonal pattern of recurrent depression in fall or winter months, can affect 1.5% to 9% of people. It is typically treated with antidepressants, light therapy or psychotherapy.

There are actually very few high quality studies looking at the best anti-depressant for seasonal affective disorder, and there is virtually no data comparing SSRIs for treating SAD. The data is limited to studies on fluoxetine compared to placebo (in which fluoxetine shows a non-significant benefit) and fluoxetine compared to light therapy (it is nearly equivalent). Other SSRIs are commonly used in practice for SAD but there is little data to know if they are effective.

A recent review on the topic found bupropion XL to be an effective alternative for preventing recurrences of SAD (but even here it was effective at best in a small percent of people, around 20%).

Question: Due to psychoneuroimmunology, if a person has cancer, does distress increase the risk of cancer recurrence?

Answer: A relationship between stress and cancer progression has long been suspected. Recently, through animal cancer models, we are learning that the molecular link between the two may be through the beta-adrenergic signaling pathway which mediates the sympathetic nervous system induced fight-or-flight response.

Stress, through the beta-adrenergic pathway, may contribute to the progression and metastasis of a cancer . (Immune mediated macrophages can infiltrate some tumors such as breast cancer and, like a switch, induce pro-metastatic genes to be expressed.)

The stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine can attach and turn on receptors on tumor cells to control a variety of function involved in progression, such as proliferation, migration and invasion. Yet, little research is available to answer the question about whether distress can increase cancer recurrence.

Dr. Bergquist is an Emory Clinic Primary Care Physician and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. Her expertise includes healthy aging, heart disease prevention and management, women’s health, diabetes, nutrition and obesity counseling and treatment of mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. She has appeared in over a hundred health segments, including Good Morning America, Fox New Network, CNN and Fox 5, has served as an editorial consultant for WebMD and wrote the TED Ed Lesson, “How Stress Affects Your Body.”

Below we have also highlighted some questions that were asked during our live chat.

Question: It’s been said that a certain amount of stress is good. How does a person maintain a good level of stress without tipping over into chronic debilitating stress?”

Short-term stress is advantageous—not only can it help us perform our best but even supports resilience at a cellular level. Stress becomes debilitating or “toxic” when it is prolonged or recurrent, such as worrying about a sick child or finances. The interaction between stress hormones and the hormones and immune cells, among others, throughout our bodies are responsible for both the good and adverse effects.

Question: How does stress affect aging?

Stress has been associated with decreasing longevity and shortened telomeres. These are the shoelace tips at the ends of chromosomes that allow DNA to get copied every time a cell divides without damaging the cell’s genetic code. With each cell division , telomeres shorten until a cell eventually dies. Stress accelerates this process.

In one study done on mothers who were either caregivers of healthy children or children who were chronically ill, the women who felt the most perceived stress had telomeres that were shorter on average by the equivalent of a decade of aging compared to mothers that felt the least stressed.
How much does exercise really help with stress?

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to manage stress. Exercise can reduce cortisol, which is otherwise known as the “stress hormone”. Exercise can also improve other neuroendocrine changes that take place from chronic stress, and it can reduce the immune system mediated damaging inflammation that occurs from chronic stress.

Question: Mindfulness- what does this mean and what role does in play in stress management?

Mindfulness is actively focusing on the present, and observing your moment to moment thoughts and emotions without passing judgment on them. It’s the opposite of being mindless. Mindfulness has become a widely used way of reducing stress, helping with concentration and focus, increasing compassion and self-awareness, and controlling emotions.

Question: Can a certain diet affect your stress levels?

Omega 3 fatty acids are vital for proper nerve function. A diet that is high in omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids can exacerbate the chronic inflammation that can be triggered by chronic stress and can adversely affect brain function. . Refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, can cause a spike and then a drop in your blood sugar level. People can feel irritable when their blood sugar drops. B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium are necessary in sufficient amount to support our brain chemicals. There is also a lot of research linking gut bacterial balance and brain health. Fiber rich foods support a healthy gut while sugar, fat, and processed food can disrupt gut bacterial balance.

To view the entire chat transcript click here.