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Acute vs. chronic pain


Pain is a symptom indicating harm to the body. It involves both the mind, or central nervous system comprised of the brain and spinal cord, and the body, or peripheral nervous system made up of all the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. Your perceptions—beliefs, mood and attitudes—have an impact on your pain experiences.

Pain can be divided into two main categories: acute pain and chronic pain.

Acute pain is defined by the American Chronic Pain Association as pain that comes on quickly, can be severe, but lasts a relatively short time. The cause of acute pain is typically known; it may be physical trauma (cut, broken bones, sprained ankle) or inflammation to the tissues (overuse, infections, disease process).

Acute pain triggers your body to react with an action that would result in decreased pain. If you cut your finger, for example, the pain triggers you to quickly remove your finger away from the object you cut your finger on. Acute pain resolves once healing has occurred, which can vary from a couple of hours up to a few weeks depending on the cause. Treatment depends on the injury, but can include ice, resting the area, modifying the activity or medications.

Chronic pain is defined by the American Chronic Pain Association as ongoing or recurrent pain lasting beyond the usual course of acute illness or injury or more than three to six months. This kind of pain adversely affects an individual’s general well being. A simpler definition is pain that continues when it should not. Continue Reading »

Managing chronic pain with physical therapy


Approximately 100 million Americans suffer from pain lasting longer than six months. Chronic, long lasting pain can be due to an injury or conditions like fibromyalgia or arthritis. People with chronic pain can become less active because of their pain, resulting in decreased muscle flexibility and strength, decreased activity endurance and unbalanced postures. When someone has chronic pain, it can be difficult to know how to start an exercise program safely without aggravating the pain. Exercise should be an important part of everyone’s routine, especially if you have chronic pain. Exercise releases natural endorphins, or brain chemicals, that help improve your mood while also blocking pain signals into the blood stream. Exercise has another pain-reducing effect: it strengthens muscles, helping prevent re-injury and further pain.

This is where physical therapy within the Pain Management Program at Mercy Medical Center can help. Physical therapy starts with an individualized assessment to determine each person’s individual needs. Just as people have different body types, they have different patterns of movement, different alignments and different habits. Physical therapists monitor each individual and develop a program to correct what is causing pain. Most home exercise programs include gentle stretching, strengthening exercises, pain relief exercises and low-impact aerobic conditioning. If you want to learn about water exercise options or transition to a gym exercise routine, physical therapy can help with that, too. Continue Reading »

How occupational therapy helps manage chronic pain


Chronic or persistent pain as defined by the American Chronic Pain Association, can be ongoing or recurrent pain lasting beyond the usual course of acute illness or injury or more than 3 to 6 months, and which adversely affects the individual’s well being. A simpler definition for chronic or persistent pain is pain that continues when it should not. Chronic pain can interfere with a person’s ability to engage in meaningful activities each day. Pain can decrease a person’s strength, coordination, endurance and independence in addition to causing stress.

With the help of occupational therapy, people with chronic pain can learn to manage the physical and psychological effects and lead active and productive lives. Many people with chronic pain already have received treatment with medication, surgery, heat, cold, nerve stimulation and massage. Management of daily activities and lifestyle can contribute to a successful, long-term strategy to cope with chronic pain. Continue Reading »

Building your birth plan: what you need to know

It is exciting to get ready for the arrival of your baby. As you head toward that magical date, here are some suggestions that might help you have the best experience during your delivery:

  • Pick a provider you are comfortable with. He or she will be your guide for this wonderful journey you are about to embark on.
  • Feel comfortable with the facility you are delivering at. Take a tour of the birth place.
  • I suggest participating in a birthing class. They are informative, helpful and often include a tour. If attending a class conflicts with your schedule, or if you prefer to learn by other methods, there are plenty of online or print/video information available out there.
  • Your obstetrician can also guide you in the process of selecting a physician for the baby.

Pain management is a very important part of labor. Pain tolerance differs from person to person. Talk to your provider before delivery about what your expectation of pain management is. He or she will walk you through the scenarios that may occur during labor and options for treatment. Do you want medication or would you prefer natural methods for relaxation such as Jacuzzi, shower, rocking chair, or a birthing ball? Acupressure and hypnosis can also be incorporated into labor. Comfort items such as pillows, robes and music mixes are essential. They will often help you get through the sometimes painful and long hours early in labor.

Finally, decide who you want in the room during the delivery. These people are there to support you throughout labor. During labor, monitoring of the fetus can often be tailored to your needs as long as fetal well-being is assured. At delivery, decide on if you would like photos or videos to capture the special moment. Assign this to someone in the room. Who will cut the umbilical cord? Would you like the baby placed on your chest or taken to the warmer? If you are planning on breastfeeding, the nursing staff and lactation consultant can work with you on getting it started soon after birth. Take the time to enjoy those first precious moments with your new bundle of joy. Families waiting can visit when you are ready for them.

This is a special time. I want you to make it a personal experience for you and your baby.


The role of a medical oncologist

Medical oncologists and radiation oncologists work side by side to treat patients diagnosed with cancer and help them maintain the best quality of life possible throughout the treatment process.

The difference between radiation oncologists and medical oncologists can be boiled down to treatment of specific areas versus treatment of the entire body. Radiation oncologists focus on destroying cancerous cells in specific target areas on the body, mostly using radiation therapy. Medical oncologists, on the other hand, work at treating the entire body using whatever medicines are best deemed for that type of cancer depending on the stage it’s at.

As a medical oncologist, I start my work right away when it is discovered that a patient has cancer. Typically, I meet with a radiation oncologist and a surgeon and together we figure out which treatment plan will best attack the cancer. We also talk to the patient about his or her type of cancer, the different options that are available to fight it and how effective those methods are. Continue Reading »

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