Tag Archives: CDC

Chronic Back Pain

My Healthy Journey: Chronic Back Pain

The Opioid Epidemic and Chronic Back Pain

Over the last year, the leading news story in health care has been the opioid epidemic. And chronic pain, particularly chronic back pain, has been at the top of the list of reasons why people use opioids long term. 

Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks, and for many, it’s pain that can last the rest of their lives. Chronic pain can happen because of a genetic problem or disorder or an injury or accident. Many people who survive serious car accidents or workplace accidents deal with chronic pain for the rest of their lives. 

And back injuries are a leading cause of chronic pain. Business Insider took a look at a study that dug into the relationship between chronic back pain and opioid use disorder:

Amino - Chronic Back Pain and Opioid Use Disorder

Having back surgery increases your chances of relying on opioids to manage pain by over 7 times! Other back problems raise your chances by over 2 times. 

Obviously, these are also people who are likely to get long-term opioid prescriptions from their doctors.

How Doctors Treat Chronic Pain

For decades, the standard for doctors has been to treat this kind of ongoing pain with opioids. Now, with opioid drug overdoses skyrocketing, doctors are making changes.

Early estimates show that opioids took 53,000 American lives in 2016, more than those killed in car accidents.

Opioids don’t just turn off your pain receptors. They also let your brain release more dopamine, which can help relieve stress and anxiety and make you happier.

But when you take an opioid permanently, you can build a tolerance to it, which means you need more and more to manage your pain and to feel good. Both the pain relief for chronic sufferers and the way it makes you feel can become addictive.

Not to mention, opioids can change how often certain neurons in your brain fire, which means that when you’re not on opioids, you actually get more anxious and unhappy until you take more, causing serious withdrawals. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised their guidelines to help doctors try other treatments first, and doctors are hard at work to find new ways to treat pain.

Waiting for Chronic Back Pain

So why is this part of my healthy journey? I have my own chronic back pain.

I’m lucky. I’ve never taken opioids for my back pain, so I’ve avoided those issues, but I do understand what it’s like to live with pain as a part of your daily life and why people would be willing to take opioids to stop it.

My father has had a slipped disc in his back my entire life. I’ve always known what back pain looks like. I also always thought it might happen to me. Not only can these issues be hereditary, but I also take after my father physically.

Combine that with the slouch of someone who hated always being the tallest in her class as a child and now sits in front of a computer all day, and I always suspected that back problems were coming for me.

My Chronic Back Pain

The pain started for me in college, when I was no longer playing sports or working out in P.E. every day. One year, I chose to live in the loop in Chicago instead of by my campus, so as part of my daily commute, I walked about an hour and a half. That was when I really started to throw out my back once in a while.

But it wasn’t until I worked at Starbucks after college that I really started to have serious problems regularly. Being on my feet all day and bending up and down with milk jugs all the time really started to take a toll on my back.

I’ll get building back pain on one side of my lower back. It can switch sides, and one side is usually worse than the other. And when it fully goes out, my knee on that side can sometimes buckle, which if I’m not ready for it, can actually knock me down. And sometimes it’s so bad that getting out of bed, getting up and down, or just falling asleep, is a challenge. 

Getting Help

I’ve always known this pain might hit me one day, and when it started, I talked to my dad a lot about what was going on. My symptoms match his exactly.

Since I knew what the issue was from my father’s medical history, I wasn’t really worried about getting an official diagnosis.

I also already knew that I didn’t want to take opioids or painkillers long term. I’m one of those people who rarely takes even Tylenol. And when I had serious opioids after I had my wisdom teeth removed, they made me feel disoriented and nauseous.

My older brother had a serious workplace injury when I was in high school. He broke his pelvis and some of his spine. He’d seen a chiropractor, among many other specialists, when he was recovering, and he still sees one sometimes to cope with his own chronic pain.

I decided to explore that as a treatment option instead. My new chiropractor ran some X-rays and told me that my pelvis is tilted, which lets my disc slip back and forth instead of holding it in place. 

Through a series of adjustments, he worked to bring my pelvis back in line, and brought me some real relief. 

Unfortunately, I’ve done some state-hopping since then, and while I’m still in better shape than I used to be, I haven’t had time to find a new chiropractor yet. 

Starting to Deal with Your Pain

So what can you do to tackle your chronic pain? 

  1. First and foremost, go see your doctor, especially if you’ve been injured or don’t have a family history of back issues. You might need surgery or other serious help.

  2. Consider your treatment options. Surgery can be an option for many chronic back problems, but it has costs. It’s expensive and can cause its own set of pain problems. Opioids are highly addictive. Talk to your doctor about other options, like chiropractic treatment or acupuncture.

  3. Talk to your insurance company. Insurance companies want to stop the opioid epidemic too, and more plans are covering alternative therapies like chiropractic visits than ever before.

  4. Talk to your employer. If you have insurance through your employer, talk to them about making sure other therapies are covered on your group plan.

  5. Work with your care team on a treatment plan to cope with and manage your pain.

Learning to Manage Pain

So how do I manage my chronic back pain without drugs?

  • Set expectations. Knowing I would probably grow up to develop chronic back pain means I’ve always been ready for it. Accepting that pain will be a part of my life helps me feel in control.

  • Find a treatment that helps. For me, this has been regular chiropractic adjustments that help relieve tension and keep my disc in place. 

  • Get massages. I get the occasional massage to help relieve tension in the muscles in my back too. Many people with back pain get regular massages and swear by them.

  • Exercise and eat right. Even just a few extra pounds can put enormous stress on your spine if you already have back problems. And exercise can strengthen the muscles in your back. Focus on low-impact activities and strengthen your core if you’re already in pain.

    And choose your cardio wisely. Running outdoors or on inclines can be really hard on your back and pelvis. Try running on a treadmill, walking, or biking instead.

  • Try yoga, pilates, or tai chi. Yes, these are technically forms of exercise, but they’re more than that too. A new study found that yoga can actually help relieve back pain itself, but recommends gentle poses. And the routine they used is free online. I find it highly relaxing and a nice way to stretch and wind down, and you can do it as often as you want.

  • Get plenty of sleep. You’d be surprised how sleep affects other parts of your life. When I’m sleep deprived, my back is much more likely to go out. And since I struggle to sleep once my back’s out, it makes for a long sleepless week in that situation.

  • Try little treatments and tricks. I ice my back and use heating pads. I also take over-the-counter pain meds before bed if my back feels like it will go out during the night. If my back’s already out, lying on the floor (if I have someone handy to help me get up later) can help. Putting a pillow between my knees can also help while I’m trying to fall asleep.

  • Meditate. Meditation can help you clear your mind and refocus, and mindfulness can be surprisingly helpful in overcoming pain. There are easy apps you can try to get started too.

  • Talk to someone or journal. Chronic pain can be emotional. You hurt. You can’t escape it, and it can feel hopeless. Talk to a close loved one, journal about what’s happening, or visit a therapist. It can help you blow off steam, lighten your mental load, feel heard, and document your pain’s progression.

  • Practice self-care. Stress and tension can tighten up everything in your back. Find ways to reduce and fight stress in your life. And find little pleasures that you can focus on each day, like your favorite coffee, trading back rubs with your significant other, or cuddling your pet.

Most importantly, get help when you need it. Never let your pain push you so far that you can’t handle it or you fall into depression. Talk to your doctor to keep your mind and body healthy, even in the face of chronic pain.

Preventing High Blood Pressure

Stroke Awareness Month and High Blood Pressure Education Month

It’s National Stroke Awareness Month and National High Blood Pressure Education Month. Learn more about managing your blood pressure.

Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Resources

Stroke is 1 of the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S., but it doesn’t have to be. For Stroke Month, learn how you can treat and prevent stroke with tools from the CDC.

Preventing Strokes

 

On average, 1 American dies from a stroke every 4 minutes. But there is good news; up to 80% of strokes are preventable. Take action to lower your risk for stroke with these resources from Million Hearts.

Lower Stroke Risk

 

Can you spot the signs and symptoms of a stroke? Knowing how to spot a stroke and respond quickly could potentially save a life. Put your stroke knowledge to the test with this quiz.

Stroke Signs Symptoms

 

Time lost is brain lost. Every minute counts! If you or someone you know shows symptoms of a stroke, call 911 right away.

Act FAST to Spot a Stroke

 

From the first symptoms of stroke to recovery at home, here’s how the CDC Coverdell Program connects healthcare professionals across the system of care to save lives and improve care.

Stroke Awareness Month

 

High blood pressure can increase your risk for stroke. This Stroke Month, make blood pressure control your goal with tips from Million Hearts.

Lowering Your Blood Pressure

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Surviving the Sandwich Generation

Vantage Point: The Importance of Support While in the Sandwich Generation

My husband and I are starting to talk about future property purchases, which has led to many conversations about what we would want in a house or property. I want land. He wants something that he doesn’t have to fix up. Our conversations have swung from a giant, ridiculous wish list to then coming back to reality about what’s on that wish list.

One theme that I’ve been consistent with in all of our talks is that I want a place to take care of my parents when they get older in the future. This is so true for my mother, as her family has often lived into their 90s.

This notion of caring for them on my property has been solidified even further with how unsure Medicare is, how expensive the healthcare system is, and the fact that I want them to have the best care while staying close to family. I figure I can achieve this by buying a property that’s big enough to parcel out a place for my parents.

I haven’t really thought of all the logistics, but the plan is stuck in my mind, and it’s framing what kind of property and home I want. This type of thinking has also led to conversations with my father about what he thinks they would like and need, if and when the time comes for them to sell their home and live with us.

When this happens, if not a little before, I’ll officially be smack dab in the classification of the sandwich generation, the people who are responsible for not only caring for their own kids, but also for their aging parents. According to the CDC, as of 2008, there were 34 million unpaid family caregivers in the United States. I’m sure that figure is much higher now.

I saw my mother do this with her mother, so I’m not afraid of the season when it comes; I just want to be prepared. Being prepared means thinking now about what will make life easier for all of us in the future.

It’s also about knowing and looking out for the pitfalls. I’ve heard from many others that this season of life can be so rewarding while you’re in it, but it can also be very taxing, so it’s important to be extra vigilant in taking care of yourself. In order to keep loving others, we have to keep loving ourselves.

This means that sometimes you need a break! This break could be a spa day, a long walk, a furious cardio kickboxing session, or just talking to others who are in similar situations. It takes a village, right?!

I’ve compiled a list of some support groups for those who are in this situation. Some support groups are local, and some are virtual, but they are all there as resources for support. And if you want something more local that fits what you’re going through, you can always start your own support group. There are tons of advice and tips online on how to make a new group successful. I think the best advice I saw when researching this article was to keep it simple and to feel accomplished even if only 1 or 2 people show up.

Local Support Groups

Memorial Hospital’s support groups

Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Support Groups

Granger – For Spanish-Speaking Caregivers – Starting Soon
Estela Ochoa
Call 206-529-3877 before attending for location, time, and further details.

Yakima – For Caregivers
Location: St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church
4105 Richey Rd.
Yakima, WA 98908
Meeting Time: 2nd Thursday of the month, 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Contact Elaine Krump at 509-969-3615 before attending.

Yakima – For Spanish-Speaking Families
Call Manuel at 509-833-3334 before attending for location, time, and further details.

Online Support Groups

Caring.com has a broad list of caregiving groups for you to choose from. Access to these groups requires a free member account.

AgingCare.com has some groups for you to choose from, and you don’t have to become a member to access these groups.

Caregiving.com has online caregiving support groups, daily caregiving chats, and blogs written by family caregivers.

 

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance Northwest, serving Yakima County. She is a homegrown girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 2 kids who are her world. When not attending community events or providing Medicare education throughout the Valley, she can be found indulging in her hobbies of homesteading, pioneer cooking, and learning new survival techniques. She also has a strong love for all things Halloween.

Beat the Flu Before It Starts

The Importance of Getting That Flu Shot

Each year, you see reminders that you should get your flu shots everywhere you go. But only about 42.1 million people in the U.S. do, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Less than half of adults under the age of 65 got the shot during the 2014 to 2015 flu season.

But the flu is still dangerous, and people can and do die from it each year. And we don’t know how serious the flu will be each year. From 1976 to 2007, the number of people who’ve died each year has ranged from 3,000 to 49,000.

And in recent years, 80 to 90% of those deaths have been in the 65-or-older population.

So while you may not have thought the flu was a danger before, make sure you get the facts and get protected this year.

What is the Flu Season?

Flu season in the United States can start as early as October and last until as late as May. The most serious period of outbreaks usually peaks in January.

The flu makes its way through the American people during this time, and a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and those around you each year.

Who Needs to Get the Flu Shot?

Everyone over 6 months old should get the flu shot, but it’s especially important for kids, pregnant women, and those over 65. The flu can be more dangerous for these people and for others at high risk.

Even if you may not be in one of these groups, you should still get the shot. While you never want to get sick, it’s important to get your shot to help your community and those most at risk around you.

Like with all vaccines, the more people who get protected, the less likely the flu will appear in your community at all. The more people who aren’t protected, the more likely it is that lots of people will get sick, even those who did get protected, because it can get stronger passing between people.

Who Should Not Get the Shot?

Different flu vaccines work for different people, so your age, current or past health, and allergies can all affect if you should get the shot. Some people shouldn’t get the shot, and some people are at risk and should talk to their doctor first.

When Should I Get the the Shot?

You should get vaccinated as early as you can, usually before or in October. It takes about 2 weeks for your body to build antibodies to the flu from the vaccines, so it’s best to get it before the flu starts to spread in your community. However, it’s better to get it early or late rather than never.

How Does the Flu Shot Work?

To make vaccines, scientists and drug makers study what strains of the flu virus happen in the lower half of the world during its flu season, June, July, and August, and use this to build flu shots for our flu season.

Depending on how well that vaccine matches the flu virus in our flu season, it can reduce the overall risk of flu by 50 to 60%.

While it helps you build your resistance to the flu, flu shots can’t actually give you the flu because the virus is dead before it’s put in the shot.

For the next flu season, shots will include 3 or 4 strains, but the nasal vaccine shouldn’t be used this year, according the CDC. Recent studies have shown it wasn’t effective in the past few flu seasons.

You need a new shot every year because your protection fades over time, and because the shot could be made up of different strains from year to year.

Get your flu shot at covered pharmacies and protect your family and community this flu season.

Protecting Your Eyes for Contact Lens Health Week

Contact Lens Health Week

It was Contact Lens Health Week, and healthy habits = healthy eyes.

Contact Lens Health Week

 

Avoid eye infections with these smart tips.

Changing Your Contacts

 

Start early with healthy contact lens habits.

Caring for Your Contacts and Eyes

 

Have kids who wear contacts? Teach them how to keep their eyes healthy.

Your Contacts and Handwashing

 

Don’t forget to replace your case!

Contact Case Safety

 

Water and contacts don’t mix!

Water and Your Contacts

 

Even contacts made for it can be bad to sleep in.

Sleeping in Your Contacts

 

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National High Blood Pressure Education Month

National High Blood Pressure Education Month

It’s National High Blood Pressure Education Month. High blood pressure increases your stroke risk, and every 40 seconds, an American has a stroke. Learn more.

High Blood Pressure's Risk

 

The Dangers of Strokes for Women

Do you understand your blood pressure? Learn more now.

Understanding Blood Pressure

 

High Blood Pressure's Risk

Break down your risk of high blood pressure to understand it better.

Breaking Down Why Your Blood Pressure’s High

 

Your Age and Strokes

Learn to eat right and exercise to fight high blood pressure.

Learn to Eat Right and Exercise for Your Heart

 

 High Blood Pressure's Risk

Tobacco takes a toll on your blood pressure. Learn more and get help quitting.

Tobacco and Your Heart

 

Learn About High Blood Pressure

This handy guide helps break down the info around your blood pressure meds.

Your Meds and Your Heart

 

High Blood Pressure's Risk

We’ve got quick tips to help you cut back on salt for your blood pressure without losing flavor:

Cutting Back on Salt for Your Heart

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Vaccines for a Healthy Grandchild

Long View: 3 Things Grandparents Should Know About Vaccines

There are few things more exciting in this world than the arrival of a grandchild. The anticipation to see if the baby has your son’s eyes, the enjoyment of picking out all of those adorable baby clothes, and those precious weekends at grandmas!

New grandparents should also remember the importance of protecting their grandchild from preventable illnesses by understanding vaccines. Vaccines are not just important for the newborn, but also for you.

  1. Vaccines Are Safe and Effective

The medical community is in agreement that vaccines are safe, effective, and do not cause serious harm to children. Vaccines are the single most important method to prevent diseases like polio, whooping cough, and the measles. Vaccines go through rigorous testing, and children are far more likely to be harmed by illnesses, like whooping cough and the flu, than by the vaccine itself. The World Health Organization has a useful website debunking myths about vaccines.

  1. Whooping Cough’s On the Rise

Do you think whooping cough is an extinct illness from your childhood? Sadly, because people haven’t been vaccinating their kids, illnesses that were once very rare thanks to high vaccination rates are now reappearing. Whooping cough (pertussis) is one illness that is especially dangerous to newborns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2014, there were 32,971 reported cases of whooping cough, a 15% increase compared to 2013!

  1. Time for a Booster?

You may be thinking, “Wait! I was already vaccinated against whooping cough when I was a child.” But the CDC recommends you get a Tdap shot, the vaccine that protects against whooping cough, every 10 years or if you’re 65 or older and in close contact with infants. Don’t forget about your annual flu shot either.

Dr. John Beck, Health Alliance vice president and senior medical director, puts the importance of vaccines into perspective. “Most adults were vaccinated as children against pertussis, but protection wears off over time. Babies are able to catch pertussis from family members, including grandparents, who may not know they have it. Grandparents should consider getting a Tdap booster after discussion with their physician,” he said.

Don’t forget to take steps to protect the health of you and your grandbaby. Making precious memories with your new grandchild will be more enjoyable with that peace of mind.

Chris Maxeiner is a community liaison with Health Alliance. His background is in the fields of healthcare and government programs. His favorite superhero is Batman, and he is an avid Chicago sports fan (Bears, Bulls, and White Sox).