Tag Archives: expectations

Understanding Prescription Details

Long View: Safety in the Details

Some people say I get into details too much. To some, paying attention to details is a strength. To others, it may be irritating. However, specific details make a difference, depending on the situation.

I remember an incident where a friend was going to meet me after I got off work. The friend called me to ask what time I was getting off work. I told them the time and asked them to meet me after. Well, I assumed they knew where to meet me since we had met before at the same place.

Instead, this person met me at the right time but at the wrong place. I was in front of my house. But they were in front of my workplace. The biggest issue was that at the time, I was commuting to work about 40 miles away, so I had to sit and wait until they traveled back. Time, money, and patience were wasted all due to an assumption, lack of clarification, and lack of details.

Earlier this year, I gave a presentation on health advocacy to a Parkinson’s disease support group. One of the important points was that it’s important for patients to speak up to their healthcare provider. It’s important to speak up about concerns, needs, and expectations. One of the things patients are encouraged to speak up about is their prescription medications. Some questions you should be asking your provider during an appointment included:

  1. What will the medication you’re prescribing do?
  2. How do I take it?
  3. What are the side effects?

There was a point made in the open discussion at this presentation on instructions about how often and when to take a particular prescription commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease. An instruction on the medication label said to take it 4 times a day. Being familiar with this medication, the person knew the instructions usually said to take 4 times a day during waking hours. The person inquired about it and found that those details had been omitted by the pharmacist. But the doctor’s intent was for it to be taken during waking hours. This was an important detail for treating a Parkinson’s patient.

I’m not sure what adverse effect may have happened if the medication had not been taken during waking hours. But any risk is too much of a risk to take when it concerns taking medication and your good health. Following the directions of prescription medication labels can help you avoid the risk of having adverse reactions. It can also help you gain the full intended benefit of the drug. And it’s also important to ask clarifying, detailed questions before taking medication.

We want you to be your best and to take charge of your health. When it comes to your health and wellness, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. There is safety in the details.

 

Sherry Gordon-Harris is a community liaison at Health Alliance. She is a wife and mother of 2 boys and enjoys traveling, collecting dolls, and hosting princess parties and princess pageants.

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.

Organzing Against Stress

Chasing Health: Finding Out You’re Far from Perfect

Having gone through grad school while working in a Division I college athletics department, I thought I was a pro at dealing with stress.

Oh, you need game recaps, live scoring, social media coverage, and postgame interviews for four sporting events tonight? Cool, I’m on it. I’ll pencil in my critical analysis paper for my 20-page reading assignment for about 4 o’clock tomorrow morning, right after I finish my 5-page response to my other 20-page reading assignment.

That was once pretty much my life. And with a little Mountain Dew here and there (and more than a few post-midnight candy binges), I made it work and even enjoyed it from time to time. I mean, I was doing my dream job. It just happened to be at an extremely busy and stressful point in my life.

To understand how I deal with stress, you have to know a little bit about how I deal with anything. I’m not exactly laid back, and I’ve probably never done anything casually or halfway in my entire life. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. You know, go big or go home.

Growing up, I never wanted to be any teacher’s second-favorite. I was the annoying teacher’s pet, cares-way-too-much-about-everything type. Any error on any assignment bothered me way longer than it should have, and a minus sign at the end of a letter grade on a report card caused physical pain.

I participated in nearly every high school extracurricular activity, from cheerleading and dance to the ecology team and Student Council. (I stayed away from competitive sports, though. Per my all-or-nothing attitude, if I wasn’t good at something, “go big or go home” meant go home.)

I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I think too much, worry too much, and let other people’s opinions get to me. Looking back now and knowing how I still am, I realize I don’t actually deal well with stress at all. And that busy grad-school schedule I stuck to wasn’t actually impressive. It was just busy and lacked the portion of life that’s meant for sleeping.

Although perfectionism sometimes leads to positive results, like good report cards, accuracy at work, and being everyone’s favorite group project member, it’s not as pleasant as it sounds. Nobody is perfect, so no matter what, perfectionists fall short of their own impossible expectations. Believe me. It happens to me nearly every day.

I can turn something that’s supposed to be fun and innocent, like baking sugar cookies, creating a Halloween costume, or choosing a new series to watch on Netflix, into a needlessly dramatic situation.

I’m a great example of how NOT to handle stress. Here are a few tips I’ve learned (but don’t always use) along the way.

  • Don’t stay up all night for work. I was a champ at pulling all-nighters during my college years, but now, not so much. And even if you can do it, it’s not exactly good for you.
  • Don’t load up on caffeine (especially if caffeinated drinks are normally not your thing). A few nights of extreme restlessness and extra anxiety were enough for me to stop my caffeine-bingeing in its tracks.
  • Don’t skip lunch to later eat your weight in candy corn. This is always a bad idea. Don’t skip lunch for any reason (unless you’re too sick to eat or something), and never eat your weight in anything.
  • Don’t cut back on exercise. Working out is not only good for your physical health but also your mental health, especially when dealing with stress.
  • Don’t focus on the possibility of failure, which in addition to strokes and snakes, is one of my biggest fears. Thinking too much about failure only slows down your success.
  • Don’t do it all alone. Some perfectionists, including me, are pretty good at keeping up their calm appearances on the outside. Don’t try to handle all your stress alone, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. (If you’re a perfectionist, asking for help is one of the hardest things to do.)

Perfectionism isn’t healthy. On top of the bad eating, sleeping, and exercise habits, it can come with loads of anxiety, and it’s probably not good for my blood pressure or migraine-prone head, either. My late nights fueled by soda are never my most productive nights anyway (although they led to some dramatic reflection papers in college).

Here are some ways I deal with stress that actually work for me.

  • Taking outdoor walks (I recommend literally stopping to smell the roses and glancing at the beautiful fall trees. I did both this week. That’s about as close as I get to living in the moment.)
  • Going to PiYo classes (a Pilates-yoga combo)
  • Dancing in the kitchen, living room, bathroom, parking lots, anywhere really (except during important meetings and such)
  • Cleaning my apartment (It helps me feel an instant sense of accomplishment.)
  • Visiting the holiday aisles of my favorite craft stores (If thinking about the holidays stresses you out even more, I wouldn’t recommend this one. Just go to your version of a happy place.)
  • Listening to my favorite jams (For me, this consists of a lot of ‘90s boyband stuff, Broadway hits, and Taylor Swift. Don’t judge.)

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try your hardest or take pride in your work. I’m just encouraging you to try to put everything into perspective, realize you can ask for help, and know that sometimes, things won’t be perfect.

Take this blog post for instance. In some not-so-surprising twist, I’ve toyed around with it off and on for nearly a week. I’m sure I could pull it apart more, but I think there is sometimes a point when good enough is good enough. (Thank goodness I’m usually on deadline.) And in the case of this perfectionist’s blog post, I think I’m there.

Try living in the moment (responsibly) rather than stressing out about everything. I’ve never really done it, but I’ve heard good things.

Brain Awareness and Communication

Brain Awareness Week

It was Brain Awareness Week this week which is sponsored by the Society for Neuroscience to teach students all about the amazing power of the brain. We will be giving you interesting info about your brain each day this week.

First up is a TED talk all about how one team is mapping how your brain works.

Mapping Your Brain

 

Ever wondered why that song is stuck in your head? It’s called an earworm! Learn more about this interesting brain phenomenon.

Dancing Earworms

 

When you hit your thumb, that’s where you think the pain is. But actually, it’s in your brain. Listen to this NPR story about how pain is really in your head.

Hammer and Thumb

 

Smell has a huge impact on your life. It’s even the number one sense that triggers memories. But how does it really work? It’s all about your brain.

Homemade Smell

 

The power of expectations makes the placebo effect possible. Learn more about this power of your brain.

The Power of Placebo

 

How does your brain use chemicals to communicate? Scientists have unlocked the process of neurotransmitters.

What actually happens to you on a sugar rush? This podcast tells you all about your brain on sugar.

Your Brain on Sugar

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