Ask the Doctor: Winter 2019

Q. I sit at a desk all day, and I’ve noticed my back starting to hurt a lot. What can I do?

A. Frequently, patients will complain of lower back pain while they ride in the car or are seated at work. Lumbar disc degeneration is usually the source of this type of pain and is temporarily alleviated with standing. Other aggravating activities may be coughing, sneezing, or rolling in the bed from side to side.

For treatment, a core exercise program or supervised physical therapy is a good start. Beyond that, evaluation by a spine provider will help properly diagnose the root cause of the pain and offer additional options for treatment.

Nonsurgical treatment targets the painful areas with medicines such as steroids or radiofrequency ablation.

Surgical options vary depending on the areas of pain, amount of nerve compression, age, work factors, and X-rays and MRI findings. Many surgical procedures nowadays are outpatient or involve a short stay in the hospital.

Speak with your spine provider to learn more if your back pain is holding you back from life.

Jay Jolley, MD Spine Specialist and Surgeon Southeastern Spine & Neurosurgery


Q. I want to get my tattoo removed. What can I expect from the process?

A. Tattoo regret is common. If you feel that your tattoo is preventing you from getting the job you want, or if it reminds you of how much your life has changed, there is a laser treatment that can erase that tattoo once and for all.

PicoSure is an aesthetic laser that was developed for removing tattoos. Gone are the days when tattoo removal was more painful than getting a tattoo. And, because PicoSure is more efficient than older technologies, fewer sessions are required to remove your tattoo, which makes this method more affordable. For most tattoos, laser removal requires three to five treatments spaced four to six weeks apart. The removal of your tattoo may cause mild discomfort, similar to getting a tattoo, and it can also cause temporary blistering during the healing process.

Chad Deal, MD Cosmetic Surgeon Southern Surgical Arts

lime green tissue box with crumpled tissues

Q. How can you tell the difference between the flu and a cold?

A. Trying to distinguish if you have a cold or the flu can be tricky, since both illnesses are viral. In general, the symptoms of a cold are more gradual; sneezing, mild congestion, coughing, and sore throat may occur over a day or two. Symptoms of the flu tend to be more sudden and include body aches, fatigue, headache, weakness, and chills with or without fever. Different strains of the flu can act differently as well. Flu A strains tend to have more congestion, painful cough, and watery eyes, while flu B strains can mimic a stomach bug or present with only muscle aches. Both flu and cold viruses are usually self-limiting and require rest, fluids, and possibly over-the-counter medications for symptom control. Anyone wanting to be tested for the flu should do so in the first 24 to 48 hours of symptoms.

Natasha Ballard, MD Assistant Medical Director AFC Urgent Care

Q. I think it’s about time we move my mom to a nursing home, but she is adamant she doesn’t want to go. How can we open her up to the idea?

A. I think that it’s important to make visits to local nursing homes and assisted living facilities to let your mother see that they are not negative places. Let her see that there are fun activities that go on, and that people have a good quality of life when they are living at these facilities. Let her have a part in the decision-making process of choosing where she will live.

Andrea Bowers, MD On-site Physician Life Care Center of Cleveland

hand holding a TV remote turning up the volume

Q. My husband claims his hearing is fine, but I’ve noticed the volume on the television slowly creeping up. How can I convince him he needs to have it evaluated?

A. Through aging or noise exposure, many males have a loss of hearing in the high-frequency sounds. When someone has high-frequency hearing loss, it negatively affects flowing speech sounds. Therefore, listening to television becomes more difficult, as the consonant letters are not heard as well. This type of loss can be confusing, as some of the sounds remain in the normal range. It is always a good idea to have a baseline hearing evaluation by age 50. Encourage your husband to join you for a hearing evaluation.

Cheryl Ward, BC-HIS Hearing Instrument Specialist Audiology Services of Chattanooga

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