Ask The Doctor: New Year 2016

Commonly asked questions answered by local health and wellness professionals.

Q: My elderly mother is getting a hip replacement. How can I help her have a positive and safe recovery?

A: Two important predictors for successful hip replacement surgery are:

1) A person’s overall health

2) Her current activity level.

An exercise regimen can be very helpful in preparing for hip surgery. Encourage her to focus on activities less stressful to joints, such as pool exercises that also strengthen the upper body. The better toned the arms, trunk, and leg muscles, the quicker the return to full function. Many experts believe this type of surgery is best done sooner rather than later. If, for example, your mother is experiencing pain and some limitations in movement, and she’s tried injections or medicine, it may be better to have the surgery now rather than wait until she can’t get around anymore.

Another concern is the type and quantity of pain medications being taken, which may aggravate symptoms already experienced by elderly persons. In general, good health, starting with a fairly high level of function, and a proactive attitude can greatly influence the recovery outcome.

David N. Bowers

Medical Director, Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation

Q: What’s the best thing to do if you have chest pain and you’re not sure what’s causing it?

A: You should never ignore chest pain. The first thing to do is let someone know right away – either contact your physician or seek immediate medical attention. A variety of things cause chest pain, and these range from self-limiting conditions (like heartburn) to life-threatening cardiac events (like heart attacks).

To receive an accurate and timely diagnosis, you will need to see a physician for a thorough evaluation. During an evaluation, your physician will take an in-depth history, conduct a physical examination, and may order diagnostic and laboratory testing.

After reviewing your symptoms and medical history, your physician can determine the best course of action.

Susan Owensby, DO

Staff Physician, AFC Urgent Care/Family Care

Q: I’m uncomfortably top heavy and having a lot of pain when I exercise. Would a breast reduction help me?

A: If the weight of your breast causes you pain when you work out, a breast reduction is likely to greatly improve your comfort level and ability to have an active lifestyle. A breast reduction can also make your breasts more proportional or symmetrical, ease back and shoulder pain, and boost body confidence.

Keep in mind that a breast reduction should both improve quality of life and be aesthetically pleasing. If you decide to pursue this procedure, you should choose a board-certified cosmetic or plastic surgeon who has significant artistic as well as surgical skill.

Ask to see “before and after” photos of previous breast reduction surgeries. Enlisting an experienced surgeon will ensure a safe surgery and recovery, with as beautiful results —including minimal scarring—as possible.

Chad Deal, MD

Cosmetic Surgeon, Southern Surgical Arts

Q: I have really bad back pain when I sit at my computer. What can I do?

A: It’s likely your pain is caused by a degenerative spinal disc. This means that one of your spinal discs, due to fluid loss and tissue breakdown over time, is no longer able to act as a “shock absorber” between your vertebrae.

Of course, one of the most obvious solutions is to try and stand more often; many people in your situation will consider using a standing desk while at work. However, if your pain is constant, you’ll also want to begin focusing on core exercises and consider beginning physical therapy and inversion therapy. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like Advil and Tylenol can also help.

Treating sitting-related back pain typically won’t require surgical intervention. However, if your pain hinders your ability to function in everyday life, or an MRI reveals a procedure could be helpful, your physician may discuss various treatment options with you. Newer technologies such as artificial disc replacement show great promise for treating degenerative disc-related back pain.

Jay Jolley, MD

Spine Specialist & Surgeon, Southeastern Spine

Q: What are the common allergens in the Chattanooga area?

A: The Scenic City is home to a plethora of seasonal and year-round allergens and ranks yearly in the Top 5 “most allergenic” cities. Here is a breakdown of common allergens in our area by season.

Spring: Spring is the most allergenic time of the year in Chattanooga. Beginning in February and peaking in April, enormous amounts of microscopic tree pollens – including poplar, sweetgum, hickory, pecan, pine, and oak – are released into the air. When these invade our nasal and sinus cavities, it can trigger allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, which leads to sneezing, itching, and a running nose.

Summer: Just as the spring season dies down, summer grass pollen rears its ugly head. Allergy-inducing grasses include Bermuda, bluegrass, fescue, and various species of hay grasses. Overall, though, the summer grass season is our weakest season with lower pollen counts.

Fall: Fall is ragweed season in Tennessee. From August through the first frost, the prolific ragweed grows in wooded areas and along roads – often alongside its non-allergenic friend goldenrod. For years, the bright yellow goldenrod had been blamed for fall allergy sufferers’ misery; however, this weed isn’t actually an allergen!

Winter: As winter takes over and the cold weather kills the last ragweed and weed plants, allergens move inside. Our biggest indoor allergens are mold spores, pets, cockroaches, and house dust mites.

If seasonal or year-round allergies are making you miserable, help is around the corner. Don’t wait to call an allergist for an appointment. An allergist can do allergy testing to determine which allergens are causing your symptoms and the best course of treatment for your needs. For many, allergy shots (immunotherapy) can help end suffering as a natural cure and means to getting off medication.

Marc W. Cromie, MD

Allergist, Chattanooga Allergy Clinic

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