Connecting The Medical Dots

Connecting the MEdical Dots SartellMedicine today has become fractured. Primary care does basic analysis of a problem and basic care of that problem, while specialists have become such experts that they often can not see past their own rabbit hole. Few doctors are willing to look at the whole picture, analyze the patient as a person and all the problems presented. When someone takes the time and connects the dots, something special happens, and a path to the future can be found. For many patients, finding the doctor that has the experience to listen, to ask the right questions and to find the source of the problem can take years.

One Patient’s Dots Become Connected

Being a patient can be very frustrating. The other day I had a new patient with back pain, which is a pretty normal complaint for a referral. The patient was referred from an orthopedic spine surgeon who felt the patient was not a candidate for surgery. She was in her mid-30’s and had neck and upper back pain. She also has had longstanding scoliosis, a prominent curvature of the spine, and she had been to a number of previous providers for the problems and wants answers and a solution.

I usually work with a scribe. When I started my visit with the woman with scoliosis, she was fascinated. Within in a couple minutes and a few choice questions, my scribe saw a light in my brain go on and the discovery of the unifying diagnosis that no one in the past had a clue about. The patient had scoliosis, but had been double jointed, had shoulder and knee joint issues, had heartburn, and cardiac problems. She also had siblings that were double jointed. The unifying theme was a genetic-based connective tissue disorder, probably a form of Ehlers Danlos syndrome or Marfan’s disease. This will need to be confirmed by further testing and probably genetic testing.

Finding a diagnosis that connects the dots changes the whole picture of a problem. It no longer is a set of random of events causing pain. Now there is a reason and a pathway to follow to manage the problems. There is also knowledge about the course of the disease and a way to anticipate future medical issues.

Unfortunately, most patients never can connect the dots. Primary care physicians often do not have the time to address more than one problem at a visit. Specialists are only interested in their small corner of the world. My world often consists of looking at odd medical issues. Many times helping a patient means having to analyze the past, ask a few questions, closely listen to what a patient says, and bringing together the story to develop a pathway to the future.

The best patient care is provided by those providers who can see the big picture. Medicine has been fractured by the pressures to see as many patients as possible if providing primary care, or staying in your specialty only for others. Seeing the big picture and connecting the dots is a lost art. Changing lives for a patient means being able to go beyond the ordinary and really trying to answer the all their questions to uncover a long-term solution.

Desk Workers Have High Rates of Lower Back Pain

Desk Back Pain MinneapolisA three-month study that examined back problems of sedentary and active workers found that desk workers were more likely to end up in the doctor’s office with back pain.

The study examined employment data from 1,300 people who said they deal with spine-related pain. Researchers said that desk workers outnumbered field workers by a rate of 4 to 1. Additionally, one in four participants with a desk job had more than  one spine-related problem, like neck and back pain, or shoulder pain and finger numbness.

“Our data shows that half the patients with sedentary jobs had lower back pain,” said Dr. Garima Anandani of Qi Spine, the clinic that conducted the survey.

Growing Epidemic

According to the World Health Organization’s Global Burden of Diseases study, which was conducted in 2010, lower back pain caused by a person’s job is a growing problem. Lower back pain was the leading cause of absenteeism from work in 2010.

“People sit on chairs for 10 to 12 hours,” said Dr. Anandani. “Moreover, they tilt their heads to cradle a phone while typing. These factors affect the biomechanics of the body.”

Dr. Anandani said the best way to combat back pain during your time at the office is to focus on your posture. Some tips to keep in mind while working your desk job include:

  • Stand up for five minute every 30 minutes
  • Keep your back straight, don’t hunch over your computer
  • Consider a stand up desk
  • Keep your head positioned over your spine, not out in front of you
  • Consider a headset for phone calls, so your neck isn’t torqued to the side when you’re on a call
  • Exercise each day when you get home from the office.

If pain persists and exercise and anti-inflammatory medications aren’t working, consider visiting a back specialist. They’ll be able to diagnose the underlying problem and help chart a course of recovery.

3 Exercises To Help Alleviate Back Pain

Back Stretches St. Paul PainOutside of the common cold, more Americans head to their local clinic with problematic back pain than for any other health condition. In fact, back pain affects between 80 and 90 percent of people at some point in their lives.

The issue with back pain is that we do so much to make the condition worse. We sit on our butts too often. We have poor posture. We’re always hunched over on our phones. All of these things can contribute to back problems, but the good news is we can fight back. One of the best ways to combat back pain is through regular exercise and strength training. Here’s a quick look at three exercises you can preform to help prevent and counter back pain.

Blast Away Back Pain

Here are three exercises you can do in the comfort of your home to help prevent back pain.

1. Supermans – For this exercise, you’ll start by lying on your stomach with your arms positioned directly in front of you. When you’re ready, lift your arms and your legs off the ground as if you are flying through the air like Superman. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, then relax. Repeat this process until you’ve completed 10-20 Superman exercises. This is helpful for people suffering from low back pain.

2. Knee Hugs – Once you’re done with Supermans, roll over on your back for the next exercise. For this one, lie on your back with both your legs straight ahead of you. Bring one knee up to your chest and hug it for 10 seconds. You’ll naturally notice that the small of your back will be pressed into the floor. This will help strengthen your back muscles and keep it loose. Repeat the exercise five times with each leg.

3. Bridges – For the last exercise, remain lying on the ground on your back. Instead of placing your feet straight forward, bend your knees and position your feet flat on the ground near your buttock. When ready, thrust your pelvis forward, creating a diagonally straight line from your knees down to your shoulder blades. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then bring your butt back to the ground. Repeat this exercise 5-10 times. When done correctly, you’ll feel this exercise strengthening and loosening your upper back.

Could Your Child’s Backpack Be Causing Chronic Pain?

Backpack PainSummer is still in full swing, but if you’ve been to the store lately, you’ve probably noticed that the shelves are starting to fill up with back to school supplies. Soon enough it will be time to fill your child’s backpack with crayons, folders and textbooks, which can weigh heavy on your child’s back. If your not careful, that heavy backpack could be causing your child some pain. Today, we examine if your child’s backpack is a health risk, and how you can pick out the best backpack for your child.

Back Pack Pain

Just two years ago, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that emergency rooms treated 5,415 patients with backpack-related injuries. The injuries ranged from acute back pain to chronic discomfort, and researchers noted that heavy backpacks were contributing to the problem.

“Wearing a backpack incorrectly or wearing one that’s too heavy can be a contributing risk factor for discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness, and pain, especially in the lower back,” said Karen Jacobs, EdD, OTR/L, CPE, a clinical professor of occupational therapy at Boston University. Physical Therapist Samantha Dutrow added to Jacobs’ comments, noting that heavy loads can also cause neck and shoulder problems. “Injury can occur when a child is trying to adapt to the heavy load by using improper postures, such as leaning forward, arching the back, and leaning to one side.”

The problem, however, is that with active children, it’s often difficult to determine if the backpack is actually the problem. Backpacks are designed to adequately disperse weight to regions that can handle extra weight, and school-aged children are often involved in numerous activities on a daily basis, which can all contribute to back pain.

Lighten The Load

Here are three tips for picking out a good backpack for your child.

Avoid Rolling Backpacks – Some children like the option of rolling their backpacks around the halls, and yes, it can take some of the load of their back, but the constant picking up and setting down in class and on any stairs will be bad on your child’s back.

Double Strap It – Despite Channing Tatum’s assurances in 21 Jump Street that “one strapping it” is the cool way to wear a backpack, only wearing your backpack over one shoulder can put excess stress on parts of your body. Find a backpack with two straps so its weight is evenly distributed over both shoulders.

Look for Quality – We’re not saying that you need to shell out big coin for a backpack, but don’t just buy the cheapest one off the rack. Look for a quality made backpack with a padded back and a plastic frame sheet, which will help with weight distribution.

If your child complains of back pain, consider looking at their backpack habits, but if problems persist, swing on in to our clinic!

Signs of a Bad Disc In Your Back

Back pain affects 80 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. Whether it’s a twinge in the lower back or pain near the top of your spine, back pain comes in all different shapes and sizes.

One of the more common back injuries stems from a problematic disc. Often referred to as a herniated or slipped disc, painful disc injuries have numerous symptoms, including:

  • Pain in the buttock that travels down the leg while walking or while putting pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Tingling or numbness in your lower back, thighs, legs or feet.
  • Weakness in your legs while walking.
  • Pain in the thighs and hips.
  • Significant deep tissue pain.
  • Muscle spasms in your lower body.

Back Disc Pain

Causes of Disc Pain

Disc pain can be triggered by any number of events, but more often than not they occur by three main types of injuries:

Improper lifting – Whether you’re lifting weights or trying to pick up a box while moving into a new house, lifting a heavy object with a poor technique can throw your back out of whack.

Repetitive action – Even if you’re using good form, repetitive action will put excess wear and tear on your back. Repetitive action disc problems often occur in older individuals who have worked physical labor for the majority of their lives.

Age – Even without poor form or repetitive action, over time our bodies start to wear down.

If You’re In Pain

If you’re experiencing disc pain, the first thing you’ll want to do is visit a physical pain medicine physician. Using advanced imaging techniques, your doctor will be able to determine the root cause of your problem and plan a course of action to alleviate the pain. Some common methods to quell bothersome back pain include:

  • Injections
  • Massages
  • Prescription Medication
  • Referral to a chiropractor or physical therapist.