Taking Your Medication While On Vacation
Keeping up with medication needs while away from home can present some challenges. If your summer plans include a vacation, for instance, you’ll likely have concerns about how to safely take your medication with you. Doing some advance planning and keeping certain precautions and tips in mind can provide confidence that you are traveling with your medication correctly.
Only Take What You Need
Some medications are meant to be taken every day and others are only used on an “as-needed” basis. Keep your use in check when on vacation by only taking what you need. Another way to do this is by counting out the pills you’ll need for each day of your vacation. Bring a few extras for emergencies, such as losing a pill or two. Get any refills you may need before leaving.
Secure Medications Left at Home
Even if there won’t be any family members left at home as you go on vacation, it never hurts to err on the side of caution. Place any prescriptions you’ll leave at home while away in a lock box or safe. Another option is to place meds in a safe deposit box at your local bank until you get back.
Take Your Medication as Directed
It’s never a good idea to double-up on dosages or take an extra pill now and then, especially with controlled substances. However, you also don’t want to skip doses because you don’t have any pain or because you simply forget. Since it can be easy to get distracted by your vacation activities, using medication reminders can help you stick to your regular dosage schedule.
Bring a List of Medications
Keep careful track of any medications you bring on vacation by making a list of everything you’ll be taking and what each medication treats. If you’ll be traveling overseas, ask your doctor for a letter stating that you take such medications for pain management purposes. This is a step that could minimize issues with airport security or officials in foreign countries.
Be just as cautious about planning your vacation-related activities. If you know you have chronic low back pain, for example, avoid kayaking in rough waters or hiking for hours with a heavy backpack. Also, avoid combining alcoholic beverages with some pain medications since doing so can enhance dangerous side effects like drowsiness.
Surgical Spine Pain Options
Spine pain can go from being a minor inconvenience to a constant disruption to your daily life. If you’ve reached a point where pain medications, physical therapy exercises, modification of activities, chiropractic manipulations, and other non-surgical treatments no longer provide sufficient relief, you may benefit from laser spine surgery. Typically performed with minimally invasive surgical techniques, many laser spine treatments can be performed as outpatient procedures.
Laser Spine Surgery Procedures
Laser spine procedures can be performed to decompress nerves being irritated by protruding disc material, bone spurs, or conditions like spinal stenosis, an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal. Some procedures are done to restore stability to the backbone.
Pain from a compressed nerve is often related to damage to a spinal disc. These discs provide cushioning between individual bones of the spine (vertebrae). One way to relieve nerve irritation is with a minimally invasive discectomy. During the procedure, the part of the disc that’s bulging or protruding outward onto a nerve root is removed.
Patients with nerve compression caused by a pinched nerve, bone spurs (osteophytes), herniated discs, or degeneration due to arthritis of the spine may experience relief after having a minimally invasive laminotomy procedure. A small bone on the back of a vertebra (lamina) is removed during this type of surgery to provide more space for nerves.
Anything that’s compressing a nerve in a narrow passageway that carries nerve roots to the other parts of the body (foramina) can be removed with a foraminotomy. It’s a procedure that may be recommended for patients with a narrowing of the spine affecting nerve roots in the foramina (foraminal stenosis).
Patients with facet joint arthritis may have chronic pain and limited mobility in the lower back or neck. A possible treatment is facet thermal ablation. During the procedure, a laser is used to target the arthritis in the spinal joints by creating a small incision in the affected part of the joint. The laser application deadens compressed nerves.
Bulging discs, degenerative disc disease, sciatica, spinal stenosis, and pinched nerves are just some of the possible sources of back or neck pain or radiating nerve pain that may be treated with laser spine surgery. The techniques used can precisely target affected discs, tissues, and nerves in a way that’s not as disruptive to nearby muscles and other structures.
Laser spine surgery can be an elective procedure performed when patients aren’t experiencing the desired results with conservative treatments. Some patients also benefit from less invasive surgery with failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS), a term used to describe continued pain after back surgery. In some cases, the reason for FBSS is because a proper diagnosis wasn’t made before the first procedure.
With laser spine surgery, patients with FBSS may see better results with a minimally invasive procedure performed after a correct diagnosis has been made with tests that may include X-rays, MRI scans, CT scans, and nerve conduction studies. Symptoms that suggest previous attempts at back surgery have failed may include:
- Pain that’s the same as it was prior to surgery
- Discomfort felt above or below the surgical site
- Increased reliance on pain medications
- Appearance of different symptoms that are also chronic in nature
Preferred Candidates and Possible Benefits
Ideal candidates for laser spine surgery are otherwise healthy except for their back, neck, or nerve pain. As with any type of spine surgery, a specific source of spine pain has to be identified before lase spine surgery becomes an option. Patients often undergo a physical examination that includes a review of medical history and discussion of symptoms experienced. Minimally invasive spine surgery may also benefit patients having difficulty with daily activities due to persistent pain and those who have had open surgery to tried various non-surgical options without success. Patients opting for laser spine surgery frequently benefit from:
- Smaller incisions and no cutting of muscles
- An ability to return to normal activities within a few weeks for most common procedures
- Lower infection rates
- An ability to target specific problem areas with greater accuracy
- Less blood loss, which also means a reduced need for a transfusion or plasma replacement
Recovery from laser spine surgery is usually shorter than what’s typical with more invasive procedures. However, post-operative physical therapy can still be beneficial for most patients to restore full function of back-supporting muscles. Since surgical pain isn’t as severe, many patients are less dependent on medications normally prescribed after spine surgery. Being mindful of diet and exercise habits can also minimize the risk of experiencing spine-related pain in the future.
Diabetes & Fracture Risk in Seniors
Researchers at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research in Boston think they may have discovered why seniors with type 2 diabetes appear to be at an increased risk for fractures. Fractures in the older population, especially those with osteoporosis (loss of bone density), can lead to disability, decreased quality of life, high health care costs, and even death.
During the study, the researchers used medical scans to assess more than 1,000 patients over a three-year period. The results indicated that older adults with type 2 diabetes had bone weakness that could contribute to fracture risk. This weakness is not able to be measured by typical bone density testing.
In the study, participants with type 2 diabetes had a 40 to 50 percent increased risk of hip fracture. This was true even in participants with normal or higher bone density than peers without type 2 diabetes. The study was published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Samelson, the study’s author, the findings could help contribute to new approaches that can improve prevention and treatment of fractures due to osteoporosis. Dr. Samelson also mentioned that fractures in older adults is a public health problem that is likely to increase with the aging population and growing diabetes rates.
Treating & Preventing Stress Injuries
Your daily routine may take its toll on your body. After so many hours and days of walking, bending, typing, lifting, or carrying out other everyday tasks, you may develop aches and pains that are not easily relieved with rest or over-the-counter pain medications. You can protect your health and avoid unnecessary discomfort and pain by learning about the most common stress injuries.
Tendinitis, as its name implies, is the irritation and swelling of a tendon in your body. Some of the most common types of tendinitis are found in athletes who participate in sports like:
- Baseball or softball
- Track and field
However, it can also affect anyone who repeatedly uses their arms, legs, and other joints to lift, twist, bend, and carry out other types of motions. This condition requires the complete rest of the affected tendon and may require more extensive treatment like cortisone injections or physical therapy.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
People who work in jobs that require the frequent and repeated use of their hands, wrists, and fingers are an at increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition has symptoms that range from stiffness and numbness in the fingers, wrists, and hands to intense and sharp pain in the middle parts of the lower arm.
Carpal tunnel syndrome gets its name from the narrowing of the carpal tunnel in the arms, which results in the nerves being pinched and damaged. Doctors can perform laser surgery to increase the opening of the carpal tunnel and relieve pain. People with less severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome may find relief by wearing hand and wrist braces while they work.
Bursitis is a repetitive stress injury that stems from the inflammation of the bursa, or liquid-filled sac around one of your joints, bones, or muscles. This condition results from repeated stress of the area as well as minor to severe injuries. People are also at risk of bursitis as they get older and their muscles and bones weaken.
Doctors typically recommend that sufferers rest the affected areas and take pain relievers like ibuprofen until the swelling dissipates. People who suffer from bursitis more frequently may need cortisone injections or physical therapy to help strengthen their joints, bones, and muscles.
Avoiding Stress Injuries
Some types of stress injuries are almost impossible to avoid as you get older. However, you can still take preventative measures by getting enough exercise and by eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of protein, calcium, and iron.
You should also maintain a healthy weight and see your doctor regularly if you take medications that deprive your muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons of nutrients and put them at an increased risk of damage. You may even need to wear orthopedic braces as needed to help stabilize vulnerable areas like your knees, wrists, or ankles.
NSAIDs Could Increase Blood Pressure in Arthritis Patients
A new study published in the European Heart Journal indicates that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, might raise blood pressure in patients with arthritis. According to the study, 30 million Americans have osteoarthritis. Of those patients, 40 percent also have high blood pressure.
By managing high blood pressure in patients with arthritis, more than 70,000 stroke deaths and more than 60,000 heart disease deaths could be prevented each year.
The researchers in the study looked at the effects of celecoxib with NSAIDs naproxen and ibuprofen. At 60 different locations in the United States, a total of 444 patients were randomly assigned to receive one dose of celecoxib twice per day, one dose of ibuprofen three times per day, naproxen twice per day, or matching placebos.
Of these patients, 92 percent had osteoarthritis and 8 percent had rheumatoid arthritis. All had symptoms of heart disease or were at an increased risk. After four months, researchers noted that celecoxib lowered blood pressure slightly, while ibuprofen and naproxen raised it. In fact, 23 percent of patients with previously normal blood pressure developed high blood pressure with ibuprofen, compared with 19 percent with naproxen and only 10 percent for celecoxib.
NSAIDs are among the most common medications used in the world. Almost 19 percent of Americans routinely use at least one. While the labels on NSAIDs warn patients about possible increases in blood pressure, there is not much evidence on how specific drugs affect blood pressure.
Dr. Frank Ruschitzka, the lead researcher and co-head of the Department of Cardiology at the University Heart Centre in Zurich, stated that elevated cardiovascular risk involved with NSAIDs may be due in part to drug-specific increases in blood pressure. Dr. Ruschitzka added that patients with arthritis and osteoarthritis should talk to their doctors before taking NSAIDs, and weigh the potential risks.
New Study Looks at Gene Therapy and Broken Bones
Researchers have found that a combination of gene therapy, stem cells, and ultrasound have healed significantly broken bones in lab animals. The technique is in its early stages, but it repaired large bone gaps during the testing period and may be able to heal badly broken bones in humans in the future.
In small breaks and fractures, the bone is able to repair itself over time and with casting. But severe breaks can leave large gaps in the bone that are not able to heal on their own. Typically, bone grafting is used to heal these breaks. This treatment involves taking bone tissue (either from elsewhere on the body or a donor) and then using it to repair the broken bone.
Dan Gazit, a senior researcher on the study and a professor of surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, indicated that there is a need for an alternative to bone grafting. Since bone grafting often involves an additional surgery, it can mean more pain and added risks for patients. Bone tissue taken from donors often does not integrate with the patient’s existing bone very well.
During the study, which was published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers implanted a collagen matrix into the bone gap and then attracted the bone’s resident stem cells. Once those cells populated, a mixture of “microbubbles” and genetic material for bone protein was injected into the site. An ultrasound wand was used to get the stem cell membranes to allow the DNA fragments in. Eventually, new bone tissue was formed.
This approach healed bone breaks in all of the lab animals that were treated. In the control group of untreated animals, the breaks did not heal.
More research—and human testing—is needed. The study was funded by private grants and the government.