Knowing More About Injections for Low Back Pain

Dealing with lower back pain can be tough for some patients. At times, the pain is hard to manage, and painkillers might not be the right solution. Depending on the facts of the case, doctors may use epidural steroid injections. In this post, we will discuss some of the aspects of such injections in detail.

What’s an epidural steroid injection?

The use of injections for low back pain is limited to certain cases, but this is certainly one of the many ways to treat chronic pain. An epidural steroid injection essentially contains an anesthetic drug for pain relief with a corticosteroid. For the uninitiated, corticosteroid is a form of steroids known to have anti-inflammatory benefits. The injection helps in reducing the pressure from the nerves and surrounding areas and muscles, which can offer considerable respite, while the painkiller ensures immediate relief. Corticosteroids may work independently for pain relief, but since most patients want immediate effects, an anesthetic medicine is used.

Knowing the procedure

Please note that you cannot ask your doctor for epidural steroid injections. Unless the patient has stopped responding to nonsurgical treatments, doctors don’t try ESIs. In most cases, certain imaging tests are done, so as to find the right spot where the nerve roots at pressed or have a problem. In some cases, a x-ray machine may be used by the doctor, just to find the right point where the needle must be placed.

The need for epidural steroid injections

Typically, epidural steroid injections are used as the last resort to offer pain relief, especially in cases of extreme pain, often related to a condition known as “lumbar spinal stenosis”. This condition mainly starts from the lower spine and often spreads to the legs. There is limited information on how these injections may work in the long run, but like most steroid injections, this too offers relief for the next few weeks. It is always best to talk to your doctor, who can suggest more details in this regard. However, in cases of lumbar spinal stenosis, other treatments are tried and used as well.

What are the side effects?

There can be a few side effects with ESIs, but that varies from case to case. In most cases, the focus is on reducing the pain, so the minimal adverse effects are ignored. However, if you have issues with breathing or have swelling on your facial area, do contact your doctor immediately. There can be some pain at the injection site, but if that doesn’t subside in the next couple of days, check with your doctor. For immediate swelling at the injection site, you can use ice, which will also offer some relief from the associated pain.

Pain management clinics have a lot of information on epidural steroid injections. If you need to know more about lumbar spinal stenosis, you should consult a doctor at the earliest. With early intervention, other treatments may work more effectively for you, but it also depends on how you respond to the standard treatment plans.

There is Health in Wellness

Let’s talk about wellness. It may seem odd for an insurance professional to talk about wellness, but if you give some consideration it makes perfect sense. My main job is to keep your insurance dollars down to a minimum while providing you with your best options for your situation.

Wellness will be a big issue in the State of Alabama in 2010. According to NAHU (National Association of Health Underwriters), Alabama state employees will face financial ramifications for obesity and poor health practices. With benefits for most state employees are low in premium dollar cost, this new mandate will require all employees to “get with the program” and get healthy or see an increase in their insurance costs.

Wellness is also an issue that the new US Administration will be encouraging as they try to figure out the health care for the U.S. With wellness programs in place, the U.S. Government sees a substantial savings as more people stay well and less need medical care.

Wellness is nothing new. We learned it in school through P.E. and our general nutrition classes. We all just tend to migrate toward ease and relaxing and spend less time “Sweatin’ To the Oldies”. The older we get, the slower we seems to want to move. The next time you are out, look for a few things: (1) How many tobacco users do you see? (2) How many people do you see who could be borderline overweight or even obese? (3) What did the people sitting around you get to eat? Things like this, should you choose to notice them will shock you. Then ask yourself why the state of Alabama currently ranks 2nd in the nation for obesity.

A wellness program in your place of employment could be the jump-start you and your people need to be more productive, lead healthier lives, and finally take control of their potential longevity.

Misuse of Medical Equipment

When doctors order tests like x-rays and CAT scans they usually only need a simple reason for doing so. Unfortunately, in many cases these types of health care equipment is misused or ordered when it is not really necessary. When this happens a patient ends up paying for a service they should not have had to. The costs alone from misuse of health care equipment is staggering. Not only is it putting a dent in the pockets of patients, but it is also part of the reason for rising health care costs.

Besides the financial side of misuse of health care equipment, there is the health concerns to consider. X-rays, for example, are known to be dangerous. A person is being subjected to radiation which can be profoundly damaging to the body. There is a limit on the recommended number of X-rays a person should receive, but many times when a doctor orders a x-ray, they are unaware of the person s history with getting x-rays. Additionally, x-rays are harmful for pregnant women and for reproductive organs, in general. Too many x-rays can lead to many health problems.

The misuse of health care equipment is something that is likely to go unnoticed. More and more insurance companies, though, are requiring further validation for such uses which may help to end misuse. However, most of the time as long as a doctor deems it necessary, the procedure will continue.

When it comes to medical equipment, x-rays are probably the most used type of health care equipment. In emergency rooms around the country, doctors usually are quick to order an x-ray if the diagnosis is not immediately recognizable. The misuse of health care equipment can lead to many problems for the patient.

Health Starters

When the thought of a working out comes up in the attempt to create a perfect body, beginners jump right into it but do not hold the correct information to achieve those results.

A lot people go about building muscle absolutely the wrong way. Because of this, they end up giving up even after one week. Some end up hurting themselves because they do not hold the correct knowledge at hand. In return, you see people training with absolutely no results and that is why they fail at building muscles correctly and end up with no results.

If you are going to get in to muscle building, you have to know what it entails. I think the number one thing that people over look is dieting. What I am referring to is what you eat and when you eat. Most people don’t understand that building muscle and achieving that perfect body is just one big science project. What I mean is successful people monitor what they eat and how much they eat. Also, 75% of getting results relies on proper dieting.

There are also many other factors including intake of protein, rest, etc. So if one thinks he or she can just go the gym and work out for 2 hours a day and expect results without proper dieting, forget it!

Also, there has to be some motivation in store. Sure going to the gym can be dreadful and be long hours, but what if you had goals? Setting goals for yourself in whatever it is that you want to accomplish is very important! without goals, you will have no point that you are trying to reach and thus working out will get very boring really quick.

If you are considering going to a gym rather than working out at home, make sure you choose one that fits you. There are plenty of gyms out there and many gyms offer activities that some don’t. For instance there could be a gym that has a kick boxing class and another one that simply has a swimming pool.

Whatever aerobic activities excites you, make sure you pick a gym that has those accessible.

Muscle building can be very exciting once you have the knowledge of how to achieve the body you want. You might train for looks or for performance.

Whatever it may be just remember, information is the biggest commodity in the world!

Healthcare MVNO, Weight Loss or Health Mangement Solution?

Can the MVNO phenomena really extend to healthcare? Qualcomm thinks so, as in May 2007 they announced plans to create LifeComm a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) with a healthcare focus. What’s important in Qualcomm’s plans and what will perhaps be the most important factor in determining the long term success of LifeComm is their plans to integrate some of the core health care monitoring functions in to a range of custom handsets coupled with network based services.

It is not farfetched to imagine a mobile phone (cell phone) based solution that encourages the improvement of ones diet and to encourage weight loss. For example it is suggested that the mobile device could monitor a number of body functions and parameters. A patient’s clinician could remotely monitor such data from the web, setting the patient new targets, send text messages of encouragement or indeed warnings of deviation from the health care program. Such proactive healthcare technology could have a revolutionary effect on diet and weight-loss programs.

Critical to the success of healthcare MVNOs is a range of clever biometric sensors linked to the web via the patients mobile phone (cell phone), all integrated with a proven clinical program.

Whether or not one really needs a MVNO to deliver these services is unclear. Could the airtime service be provided using the patients existing mobile (cellular) provider? Or, are these applications strong enough to force the consumer to switch providers, bringing over their mobile spend? In Piran Partners experience this very much depends on the attitude of consumers in a particular target segment, whether that be by geographic region or interest group.

Health Travel to Mexico Growing Due to Availability of Safe, Affordable, High-Quality Options

With the skyrocketing costs of health care, the issue of health travel or “medical tourism” has been generating lots of buzz in the media. Within the last few weeks, stories about health travel have hit the pages of publications like US News & World, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, detailing how health travel offers people high quality health care at a price far more affordable than the US. It’s a benefit without boundaries – meaning, the cost savings are for anyone who wants them, including the thousands of insured who are nevertheless facing higher premiums, reduced coverage, and higher out-of-pocket deductibles and co-payments.

While much of the press has focused on exotic locales like India, Mexico is actually the most common destination for Americans traveling for health care. Last year alone more than 50,000 Americans traveled to Mexico seeking everything from heart surgery, hip replacement, cosmetic dentistry, cosmetic surgery procedures, preventive screenings and even homeopathic health treatments. Mexico is widely recognized for its number of leading gastroenterology (weight loss) surgeons.

In its study Medical Tourism: Consumers In Search of Value, Deloitte estimates the number of medical travelers is expected to reach 6 million per year in 2009. The growth is not surprising – the typical medical traveler receive outstanding quality health care at significantly lower cost over U.S. pricing.

For example, in Mexico, weight loss surgery ranges from $6,000-$11,500 vs. the $25-35,000 price tag in the U.S. Hip replacement is $10,000-$12,000, compared to $60,000+ in the U.S. A $100,000 angioplasty in the U.S. is $25,000 in Mexico – featuring a surgeon who regularly spends at least three months of his operating time in the U.S.

Mexico offers the additional benefit of having direct flights from many U.S cities, and most surgeons are fluent in English as well as Spanish. The hospitals that welcome medical tourists are sleek, modern affairs featuring amenities such as patient suites, sushi restaurants and a medical traveler concierge, while even newer, more sophisticated hospitals continue to be built.

Do your research to find the medical tourism company that best suits your needs. There are companies that guide patients through the process of getting medical treatment abroad, handling every detail of your trip – from insurance to financing, arranging for air travel, accommodations, appointments, transportation to and from your procedure and even keeping you in touch with friends and family.

Primary Care Physicians Pay Disparity Gap Widens

Acronyms have always dominated the practice of medicine and one of the older ones is RVS or Relative Value Scale. Simply stated, although far more complicated in reality, the RVS sets the fee structure that physicians will be paid by insurance companies and agencies such as Medicare and Medicaid. A lesser known acronym is RUC which represents the real power behind the RVS. This entity, the Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC), evaluates physician’s procedures and makes recommendations to the CMS or better known at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These reimbursement recommendations are almost always followed, i.e., ninety percent of the time. More alarmingly, they almost always favor dramatic increases for specialists rather than primary care physicians…six times more frequently.

Why is this disparity so important one might ask? It is terribly important for a whole host of reasons. These include:

The compensation disparity between specialist and primary care docs widens geometrically. Specialists now earn $135,000 per year and $3.5 million during a career more than a primary care doctor;

  • Clearly, with this type of incentive, many more docs are becoming specialists and eschewing the field of primary care;
  • The PCP base is shrinking at exactly the time we need it most;
  • The new Health Care legislation is heaping 37 million more Americans into the health care system and they all need a PCP

Income disparities shape medical student specialty choice Specialty and geographic distribution of the physician workforce: what influences medical student and resident choices? March 2009. Accessed January 4, 2010

It is not just “Houston” that has a problem…it is the American health care system and all Americans. Soon the waiting time for a PCP appointment will lengthen to dangerous intervals. Overworked and underpaid docs will be the norm and that isn’t good for anyone.

One solution is concierge medicine or often referred to as Direct Care. A Direct Care practice denotes an experienced primary care physician who limits his or her practices to 300 to 400 patients and works for an annual fee rather than accepting insurance payments. This allows patients to receive the care they need and deserve and PCP to practice medicine in a thorough and safe manner while achieving a reasonable earnings level.

Some Doctors Object to Discussing Controversial Care

Some alarming statistics based on a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine should lead to more awareness on the part of the public.

“If physicians’ ideas translate into their practices, then 14 percent of patients – more than 40 million Americans – may be cared for by physicians who do not believe they are obligated to disclose information about medically available treatments which they consider objectionable,” wrote Dr. Farr Curlin of the University of Chicago and his colleagues.

“In addition, 29 percent of patients — or nearly 100 million Americans — may be cared for by physicians who do not believe they have an obligation to refer the patient to another provider for such treatments.”

The study showed that men, Christian doctors and physicians with the strongest religious beliefs were most likely to say it is permissible to withhold information and not refer a patient to another source of controversial care.

The survey also found that a lot of doctors object to some forms of treatment. As stated by Curlin’s team, “For example, 52 percent of the physicians in this study reported objections to abortion for failed contraception, and 42 percent reported objections to contraception for adolescents without parental consent.”

They found that 86 percent of the doctors believed in presenting all options and 71 percent would refer patients to another doctor who does not object to the requested procedure.

The authors recommended that patients should ask their doctors outright about various options, since the survey showed that many doctors accommodate patients even when they have moral objections to certain situations. For example, of the 42 percent of respondents who reported objections to contraception for adolescents without parental consent, only 22 percent said physicians are not obligated to disclose all possible options to teenagers.

And regarding giving information to patients about terminal sedation, a practice that only 17 percent of the doctors found objectionable, only 11 percent of those doctors whose objections were based on moral reservations said doctors can withhold information.

“When we train doctors we encourage them to try to be ethical, and to practice ethically they must first make judgments in any situation about what is good for the patient,” Curlin said.

“They also have to have the will to do what they judge to be good. And in our culture, where there are so many possible uses of medical technology, people will disagree at times on what is permissible.”

An Appreciation of Adolf Just’s Return to Nature

Alternative health care doctors often share the message of people who love nature. Nature lover Adolph Just (1859-1936) wrote the book Return to Nature that became a best seller, It went through many editions and eventually was translated into many languages worldwide bringing millions of people a message of health and happiness.

Just believed nature held the answer to happiness, health and the Jungborn (the fountain of youth.) Just’s naturopathic retreat in the Hartz Mountains of Germany sold the following self help products to help get close to nature:
o Porous clothing
o Air Shoes
o Clay Packs
o Jungborn Bread

Just had suffered from repeated bouts of neurasthenia (fatigue, loss of memory, aches and pains) that allopathic medicine did not relieve. He tried several nature cures from various nature cure doctors that helped some, and then he added his own version that included:
o A light and air hut
o Long barefoot hikes into the mountains
o Baths in a babbling brook

Just improved and his health was regained.

Condemned by Just were things not in accordance with a natural life as:
o Polluting automobiles
o Closed in modern housing
o Deforming styles of dress
o Modern chemical agriculture

Just believed that too much time was spent talking, disputing, writing, studying, meditating, and investigating, etc and those activities should be discontinued. He recommended that we should be a part of nature and devote ourselves to the pleasure nature offers, with brotherly love as the focus.

His greatest contempt was directed against medical science, especially vivisection and vaccination. His nature cure philosophy brought him fame. Adolph Just was a teacher, humanitarian, and living example to follow. His simplicity, sincerity, and love for his work are still remembered. His sun and air cure, advocacy of nude living, and natural raw food diet live into modern times.

How Neurotechnology Is Helping Blindness

Integration of technology and neuroscience has now made it possible to impart vision to individuals suffering from blindness. Scientists around the world are trying to use the principles of neurotechnology and other fields of sciences in order to develop devices that can mimic the human eye so that blind people can be benefited.

Described below are some important innovations that have been made in this area and how neurotechnology is helping blindness.

1. Eye-pod: This is a device that has been developed by Neurotech, a Rhode Island based biotech firm. Using their proprietary Encapsulated Cell Technology, scientists and engineers at this institute have come out with a porous membrane that is filled with genetically modified human retinal cells capable of secreting a protein called as ciliary neurotrophic factor. This protein is known to protect the eye. This device has to be surgically implanted into the eye.

2. Another major innovation developed by engineers and scientists at Optobionics, Illinois, is a sensory device or a chip that can be surgically implanted into the eye. This device is based on the thought of integrating electronic devices directly into the human body. Known as Artificial Silicon Retina (ASR), this device is actually a 2mm wide silicon chip containing thousand of photovoltaic solar cells. These cells are capable of converting external light into electric currents that are capable of stimulating retinal cells in the eye.

3. Second Sight is another biotech firm based in California. Scientists at this organization have developed an electrode array that when implanted in the eye captures images by means of its small camera. These images are then processed and transferred to the electronic implant device present in the eye. This device then electronically stimulates the retina.