June 2014

Back pain lasting more than three months is considered a chronic condition.

Eight in 10 Americans experience back pain at some point in their lives, and lower back pain is the most common form. The discomfort can range from a steady, dull ache to sudden, sharp sensation, and finding relief usually depends on the source of the pain. 
 
Our backs are made of the spine (consisting of 30 vertebrae and discs), nerves, muscles and tendons, which means the exact cause of the pain isn't always obvious, even to the person experiencing it.
 
While some types of back pain may come and go for some, others may require medical treatment to find relief. Once back pain lasts for more than 3 months, it is considered a chronic condition, and it definitely merits contacting your primary care provider.  Several of the most common causes of chronic back pain include: 
•    Herniated disc: the shock-absorbing cushions (discs) between the spine's vertebrae can rupture through the disk's tough exterior.
•    Degenerative disc disease: wear and tear on discs that occur with age and cause cracks, small tears and loss of fluid in the discs.
•    Muscle spasms: spontaneous muscle contractions occurring around the spin, which can cause sudden pain which increases with movement. Spasms may result from swollen or tender muscles.
•    Spinal stenosis: narrowing of spaces within the spine, which may compress the spinal cord and nerves. This can result in pain or leg cramping when walking or standing for long periods. 

There are many other possible causes of back pain, ranging from osteoarthritis to spinal fracture. While back pain is often quite treatable, treatment varies according to the cause. Therefore, back pain sufferers should start by discussing their issues with their primary care provider to work toward a diagnosis. From physical therapy to medication to surgery, there are many options that may lead to a life without back pain.

"Certain conditions can grow more serious and debilitating with time, so medical attention is imperative for those suffering from chronic back pain," said Dr. CJ Smith, a family practice physician with Monroe Clinic. "Allowing untreated back pain to decrease your mobility and independence only feeds the problem in some cases, as our backs require regular use to remain strong." 

If you are looking for simple ways you can improve your back health at home, keep these tips in mind:
•    quit smoking. It can further disc degeneration
•    stay mindful of your posture throughout the day, whether sitting or standing
•    lift with your knees, and keep heavy objects close to your body
•    maintain a healthy weight
•    include exercises to strengthen your core, including your abdominals, hips, back, and pelvic area
•    see your doctor early on when experiencing back pain, so you can remain safely active, especially if the pain lasts longer than 4 weeks

Is Your Student Athlete at Risk? Monroe Clinic now conducting free cardiac screenings.

Whether you know of a victim personally or have just heard stories, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (sudden death) cases are usually unpredictable. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a condition that affects 1 in 500 people and is typically asymptomatic.

Even though this is a common disorder, most athletes do not receive proper testing. “This service of cardiac screenings that Monroe Clinic provides to local athletes is invaluable,” stated Tod Santiago, Director of Cardiology Services at Monroe Clinic. “Teens with this unique condition may be active and have no symptoms, but still are at risk. Many cases of sudden cardiac death may be prevented with early detection through a heart screening.” Monroe Clinic is now offering the service of a free Cardiac Echocardiogram (Echo) Screening to any high school athlete.

What does the Cardiac Echo Screening look for?
The Cardiac Echo Screening is utilized to detect the initial signs of a Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. This inherited condition causes the heart muscle to thicken, making it harder for the heart to effectively pump blood. When the heart is not receiving enough blood and oxygen during times of physical activity, the individual is at risk for cardiac arrest or death. The Echo allows the physician to clearly see two of the four valves and chamber sizes to detect these symptoms.

Test components
In addition to the Echo, an ECG (Electrocardiogram) is used to measure electrical activity in the heart to detect conduction abnormalities and rhythms that can be life threatening. Electrodes are attached to the individual’s chest, and then the machine painlessly translates heart activity into waveforms that can show abnormalities.

Why participate in the cardiac screening?
The heart of an athlete goes through certain changes that distinguish it from non-exercising individuals. This ‘gold standard’ of screening includes both an Echocardiogram and ECG to provide a comprehensive screening for heart defects. If issues are detected, it is recommended that the students follow through with further care and consultation.

How to participate
Cardiac Screening will be done at the Freeport, Brodhead, and Monroe clinics. Students will need a parent to sign a waiver of liability. This is a 30 minute screening, and results will be mailed to the individual within 1-2 weeks. Call to make a screening appointment at 608-324-1424 and visit monroeclinic.org for a full screening schedule.