Despite the spread of chronic back pain, many people are reluctant to undergo surgery for relief. Instead, most have opted for other forms of therapy, from chiropractic treatment to homeopathic techniques, many of which provide only temporary relief.
This may change with the growing popularity of laser spine surgery, a minimally invasive procedure that promises long-term relief from back pain. Although lasers have been used in surgical procedures for decades, their effect in spine surgery has yet to be proven. But this hasn’t stemmed its popularity in the U.S., where many health practitioners now offer laser spine surgery.
But how does the procedure work? First, it’s important to understand that traditional surgery, which often involves opening up the back and requires up to a year of recovery, is designed for back pain caused by spinal problems. These procedures basically tweak the spine to fix displacements and other physical problems. Laser surgery, on the other hand, addresses the source of pain in the nerves by trimming off the ends and reducing the size of vertebral disks. This relieves the pressure on the spine and adjacent tissues, which causes the pain in conditions such as bone spurs, spinal stenosis, and herniated disks.
Traditionally, these procedures are done with a similar minimally invasive procedure that does not involve lasers. Unlike laser surgery, however, these have been proven effective and are widely used by practitioners in the U.S. Because it is a fairly new procedure, the success rate remains unproven, although many patients claim to feel much better after the procedure. Most people opt for laser spine surgery after having consulted several doctors and usually spent a good amount of money on treatments that have brought little or no relief.
So should you go for laser spine surgery, or opt for a more traditional procedure? There’s no black-and-white answer to this question, as each patient has a different set of needs. Several factors come into play: the type and source of your back pain, the treatments you’ve previously tried, and various aspects of your medical history. Laser surgery may work wonders for some people, but others may come out of it worse than they started off. That’s why it pays to do your homework, talk to your doctor, and make sure you’re making the right choice.
If you do decide to get laser spine treatment, it’s important to get it done by an experienced professional. It is a relatively new procedure, and you want to make sure you’re in good hands. The safest thing to do is consult your doctor and discuss your options, and ask about getting laser spine surgery. If it is an option, your doctor may even be able to refer you to a reputable practitioner in your area.Read More
Addiction is hard on the patient, but often it’s just as hard–or even harder–on the people around them. After all, they’re the ones who have to stand back and watch, knowing there’s only so much they can do. This is a problem most commonly faced by drug treatment centers: they can walk a patient through the program, but the effects of addiction take much longer to wear off.
The problem is often that the patient feels alone, even when there’s a whole team of professionals behind them. What they really need is a treatment where they’re guided every step of the way. They need encouragement, support, and constant reminders that they’re making progress. This personal touch is what many recovery centers lack. But it’s also what places like The Treatment Center offer their patients: a supportive environment coupled with a full range of professional services.
Patients at the Treatment Center have access to full detoxification programs, rehabilitation aid, diagnoses, help with multiple addictions, and partial hospitalization. The medical team is made up of psychiatrists and dependency experts with decades of experience between them, much of it in the field of chemical addiction and counseling. The center also offers outpatient services with quality that’s at par with the best in the country.
All these credentials are set off by a personalized approach to treatment. Rather than predetermined treatments, patients follow programs that address the root of the problem. For example, patients who have become dependent on prescription medication are usually treated first for their dependency, then for the cause, whether it’s an accident, mental trauma, or a chronic disease. Treatments can include massage, acupuncture, and oral medications, depending on the patient’s needs.
The environment is designed to take the fear out of the process, which is what keeps most patients from taking that first step. Detox plans are individualized based on full medical assessments, and include emotional and psychiatric support alongside medical procedures. This helps ease the mental strain that tends to come with detoxification, such as the fear of failure and the withdrawal symptoms.
Because the service is personalized, it’s not only the patient that doesn’t feel alone. Family and friends also feel that they’re getting real support beyond the medical treatments, and that they’re doing more to help the patient. After all, a good treatment center isn’t just about getting rid of the problem–it’s also about preparing people, and those around them, for life after addiction.Read More
Aspiring doctors put in countless hours and rack up thousands of dollars in student debt, but not all are aiming for prestigious fields like cancer research and cardiology. In the past few years, the most sought-after fields in medicine have been much more superficial: plastic surgery and dermatology.
Figures from the Association of American Medical Colleges show that last year, about half of medical students who put dermatology as their first choice for residency were rejected. In contrast, the acceptance rate for internal medicine was 98%, while that for family medicine was 99%.
And it’s not a matter of competence: many of those who failed to get dermatology residencies were top students in their respective classes. The reason is that dermatology continues to be a niche field, with less than 500 residencies up for grabs. Internal medicine offers over 5,000 residencies, while family medicine has about 2,500.
The demand is understandable considering the high price of aesthetic procedure. A Botox treatment can pay 20 times as much as a heart disease check on a per-hour basis, with the added perk of flexible hours and not being on call all the time. These work conditions are attracting the country’s best medical students, leaving primary-care fields to graduates of foreign medical schools. These doctors, although just as capable, seldom stay longer than a few years, choosing instead to practice in their home countries. This explains the growing shortage of practitioners in many other medical fields, which in turn contributes to the less-than-ideal state of American healthcare.
Current and would-be dermatologists see their specialty as more than skin-deep. According to them, because skin problems are more noticeable than, say, high blood pressure, they can cause psychological problems that can affect a patient’s overall well-being. And not all dermatology patients have superficial needs: plastic surgery is sometimes needed to restore facial features following an accident or when a tumor spreads to visible areas.
Another thing that lends credence to skin care is the rate at which technological developments and treatments are entering the market. Doctors have access to a wide range of tools to help diagnose and treat even the most difficult skin problems, and often, they don’t have to consult with other practitioners to reach a diagnosis.
Not all aspiring dermatologists are after the job conditions, although it’s definitely a welcome perk. Some are more interested in research, going after new treatments and crafting new procedures for diseases like skin cancer. In any case, if you’re ever in need of a capable doctor in the next few years, you’ll know where to look.Read More
Scientists at a Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Iran have turned to Facebook to help them track the spread of viruses and infections. Researchers Nir Ben-Tal and Gal Almogy at the university’s Faculty of Life Sciences developed an app dubbed PiggyDemic, in which users can pass a simulated virus onto their friends or vice versa. Their plan is to see how social interaction affects where a virus spreads and how many people it infects.
The method challenges the current system of tracking virus spread through mathematical algorithms. The latter’s flaw is that it assumes that every virus is equally spread from one population to another, which is hardly ever the case–social interaction always comes into play and throws the pattern off track. For example, according to Almogy, Africa has a high concentration of HIV while Asia and North America have the largest share of some flu strains. This is proof that viral infections are in part a social phenomenon.
By adding (digital) human interaction into the mix, the researchers expect to get a more realistic look at viral interaction. Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 800 million active users, is an ideal place for such a study. Once a user installs PiggyDemic, the app follows his or her news feed to see which people they interact with. Uninfected users are given risk rankings such as “immune” or “susceptible” based on their interactions with infected contacts. A network visualization tool allows them to see how the viruses are passed on from one person to another.
Besides tracking, PiggyDemic also doubles as a health guide for users who install it, offering tips to help users make healthy choices. It can also be used as a game, with people trying to “infect” as many of their friends as they can. Perhaps most importantly, the app has also been designed to track real-life virus outbreaks in real time by allowing people to report when they are actually infected. Such a tracking method can alert people in the network of the added risk.
The initial findings already seem to challenge current beliefs about virus spread. For instance, although the app is not configured to incorporate seasonal changes, the flu “virus” has spread more in the winter, the usual peak period. This suggests that in addition to environmental factors, social patterns can account for the rise and fall of different viruses through the seasons.Read More
You’d think sleeping would be the easiest thing in the world, but the number of Americans diagnosed with sleep problems in the last few years suggests otherwise. Part of the reason is that so many myths have been passed around and become common knowledge. Here are some things you may have heard about sleep–and need to unlearn.
Myth #1: Older people need less sleep
Babies sleep a lot longer than the recommended 6-8 hours, but that progression doesn’t continue into late adulthood. Once you hit your teens, you’re going to need the same amount of sleep until you’re 60. You may have problems sleeping as you grow older, and that’s why many grandparents are up at dawn. Chances are they take lengthy naps around midday to make up for it.
Myth #2: Alcohol is a sleeping aid
That last glass of wine may make you feel drowsy, but you don’t get the same kind of sleep. Alcohol-induced sleep tends to be shallow and restless, which explains why you often wake up the morning after feeling more tired than last night. You’re also more likely to snore and have dreams that wake you up in the middle of the night.
Myth #3: Snoring is okay
Most of the time, snoring is just an annoying habit, but sometimes it points to a deeper problem. A common cause is obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that blocks your airways as you sleep. Some people simply snore, while others stop breathing for long periods. In any case, sleep apnea can make you extremely tired in the morning and heightens your risk of heart disease–and therefore needs medical attention.
Myth #4: You can train yourself to sleep less
Some people think they can get used to sleeping just four to five hours a day. And they do get by, but not without a price. Studies show that doing this results in even more sleepiness during the day, getting worse as the weeks go by. So the occasional all-nighter may be fine, but making a habit of it is never a good idea.
Myth #5: Napping is bad for you
It’s mostly a matter of how the nap affects your nighttime sleep–and it varies from person to person. If you already have sleep problems, napping can make you less sleepy at night and perpetuate the cycle. For most people, a 20-minute nap when you’re really drained can be helpful; any longer than that and you risk waking up with a headache.Read More
With the sun setting earlier and temperatures hitting freezing, it’s little surprise that activity levels drop in the winter. Add to that the cabin fever that most of us get at some point, which we try to fix by loading up on often calorie-rich comfort foods. What we get is a double-edged sword that compromises your immune system as much as your waistline. If you want to stay in shape when spring comes around, you’ll have to get over the winter blues and take charge of your health. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Get some sleep: Young people tend to stay up way past midnight and wake up later in the day, thinking they’re still getting their eight hours. But it’s not about meeting the quota; it’s about getting rest when your body needs it most. If you have trouble falling asleep, try a glass of warm milk just before going to bed.
Skip the hot chocolate: Next time you’re in the mood for a nice warm drink, reach for some herbal tea instead of coffee or cocoa. Not only are they lower in calories; they’re also better for your digestive system and give you more energy. Green tea is especially good in cold weather because it’s rich in anti-oxidants, which help fight off disease.
Opt for natural sugars: The sweet tooth is a lot more active in the winter, but don’t give in to every craving. White sugar, commonly found in candy, pastries and soda, can weaken your body’s defenses and make you vulnerable to whatever disease is going around (usually a cold or the flu). Fruits can satisfy your craving in a much healthier way; you can have them fresh or frozen.
Make some soup: Your body needs more vegetables in the winter, but if you’re not a fan of greens, soups are a great way to get some of that into your system. A hearty bowl of vegetable soup can contain two servings of vegetables (experts recommend five to six a day). Cream soups are also a good choice, but make sure to use low-fat cream and low-sodium broth.
Get out: You need your daily dose of sunshine, so head out for at least a few minutes a day. Indoor air with the added heating can be very dry and cause headaches and respiration problems. Take a short walk–wait for the warmest hour of the day if you have to–and take a moment to breathe in the fresh air. You’ll be a lot more energized and awake when you get back in.Read More