What’s Triggering Your Headaches?

Friday, August 23, 2013 12:00 PM comments (0)

headachesHeadaches can be more than just a pain, interrupting your day-to-day life and making it difficult to concentrate on even the simplest tasks. The key to finding your way through the pain could be determining its type and trigger. 

There are many types of headaches and they vary in severity from person to person and type to type:

  1. Tension. Sometimes referred to as an “everyday” headache, they are the most common type and usually manifest as a constant ache around the head, at the temples or the back of the neck.
  2. Cluster. These are recurring headaches that come in cycles. They begin suddenly, and can be severe and often debilitating.
  3. Migraine. Migraines are severe headaches that can last between 4 and 72 hours. The pain is often exhibited on one side of the head. Migraine sufferers report sensitivity to light and sound, and often nausea and/or vomiting. 

What could be triggering your headaches? Steven Meyers, MD, Neurologist and Head of the Headache Program at NorthShore, discusses some common headache triggers:

  • Hormone level fluctuations. This most often occurs for women during menstruation. During menstruation, hormone levels can increase and drop dramatically, causing headache and migraine.
  • Sleep. When and how long you sleep can be very important. Disruption to your sleep pattern, irregular hours, too little or too much sleep can all cause headaches. Avoid changes in your sleep pattern when possible, and this includes oversleeping on the weekends.
  • Diet. Common foods, drinks and additives can cause headache pain. To determine your food sensitivities, keep a diary of your headaches and what you eat. By eliminating the food, you could decrease the frequency and severity of your headaches. If you suffer migraines, keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.
  • Caffeine. Small amounts of caffeine can help when you have a headache but frequent and excessive consumption can cause and even worsen headaches.
  • Stress. Stress levels can make a big impact on your health. Reducing stress levels can reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. Try exercise, stretching and relaxation techniques like meditation. 
  • Weather. Headaches can be triggered by changes in weather patterns in some particularly sensitive people. There is not much that can be done when it comes to weather but anticipating these changes and taking preventative measures could help.

Do you suffer from headaches? Do you know your headache triggers?

Short on Time? Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Workouts

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 5:01 PM comments (0)

exerciseSchedules fill up quickly, days are busy and sometimes it feels like there are just not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on our to-do lists. And, unfortunately, it’s often our exercise regimens that are the first to fall by the wayside. But don’t give up! Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health and well-being. 

Thomas Hudgins, MD, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at NorthShore, shares some effective ways to maximize the time you have for exercise: 

  • Incorporate interval training into your cardio workout. Shift between periods of high intensity to low intensity to rev up your workout. The frequent change in resting heart rate will boost your metabolism and the toggling between intensities will increase your endurance.
  • Include exercise throughout the day. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day. You can work this into your daily routine by taking the stairs or parking at the farthest point from your destination in a parking lot.
  • Divide your workout equally between cardio and strength training. You’ll burn lots of calories but also improve your strength. Building muscle helps boost stamina for endurance sports and revs up your metabolism. Strength training also improves bone density, range of motion, and stability and balance. It’s a great exercise to explore now and as you age. 
  • Do full body exercises. If you are short on time focus on exercises that target your largest muscle groups, like squats, plank rows and lunges. Lunges can be conducted in all planes, meaning forward, backward, sideways and diagonal. Include weights with these exercises to get even more bang for your minutes. These exercises also work multiple muscle groups and are a safe, efficient way to build more muscle. 
  • Stretch thoroughly. Stretching after a workout, and sometimes even the next morning, will help reduce soreness and risk of injury. Don’t put your exercise at risk; injury could derail the healthy routine you’ve worked so hard to develop.
  • Work your core. Core stability and strength is important for any activity or sport. Planks will contract your abdominal, back and buttock muscles at the same time. It's easy to pull double duty too because core exercises can be conducted while you're watching TV or reading a book.

What is your go-to workout plan when you’re short on time?

Get Your Head in the Game: Concussion Fact vs. Fiction

Thursday, August 15, 2013 4:29 PM comments (0)

concussionPlaying a sport, whether contact or not, puts you at increased risk for injury. This includes many of the activities and sports kids and teens participate in during or after school. With any injury, especially head injuries, it’s important to know the difference between fact and fiction.   

Elizabeth Pieroth, PsyD, ABPP, the Associate Director of NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Sports Concussion Program, helps distinguish the facts from the fictions when it comes to concussion:

  • Fiction: You need to be “knocked out” to have a concussion.
    Fact: The majority of concussion episodes do not leave someone unconscious. In fact, only about one in every 10 concussions result in loss of consciousness.  
  • Fiction: Men suffer from concussions more than women.
    Fact: Women are just as prone to concussion as men. Some of the highest rates of concussions occur in women who play soccer, basketball or do cheerleading.  
  • Fiction: If you’re feeling fine, you probably don’t have a concussion and can continue to play.
    Fact: If you suspect that you or someone on your team has suffered a concussion, it’s important to stop play immediately. Symptoms don’t always surface right away, and it’s best to get examined by a trainer or team/family physician before going back to the game.
  • Fiction: The use of helmets and mouth guards can prevent and reduce your risk of concussion.
    Fact: While wearing a helmet can protect the head from fracture, it doesn’t guarantee reduced instances of concussion. As for mouth guards, there isn’t sufficient evidence to support the claim that head injuries can be reduced. Safety equipment in any sport is important, even if it doesn’t always protect from concussions.
  • Fiction: If someone has a concussion, they must avoid any and all stimulation until they are symptom-free.
    Fact: Most newly concussed patients will feel better if they avoid loud noises, bright lights and busy environments. However, there is no scientific evidence to support prolonged avoidance of stimulation. In fact, it may be counterproductive. It is more important to examine what triggers a person’s symptoms to better manage their environment.  
  • Fiction: It takes months to recover from a concussion.
    Fact: Most people who suffer a concussion recover in 1-2 weeks, although some have symptoms that persist. There are, however, treatments to treat lingering symptoms.

Have you ever suffered a concussion? 

Am I Allergic? Common Food Allergies

Friday, August 09, 2013 10:00 AM comments (0)

food allergies

Food allergy is a reaction by the immune system that occurs quickly after eating a food. Symptoms occur with ingestion of even a tiny amount of a food and can range from rash or mild itching of the mouth and tongue to life-threatening and life-ending reactions. Many people who think they have a food allergy actually have food intolerance. Food allergy is estimated to affect six to eight percent of children under five, and three to four percent of adults. 

Intolerances to food will affect most people at some point in their lives. For example, lactose intolerance occurs when your body can’t break down milk sugar leading to bloating, cramping and diarrhea. While food intolerances can be uncomfortable they are less serious than food allergy and are not life-threatening. 

Common food allergies for adults:

  • Shellfish--shrimp, crab, lobster
  • Peanuts and tree nuts--walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, almonds

Common food allergies in children:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts and tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish and shellfish

How do you determine if you have a food allergy to a specific food? Understanding the symptoms of an allergic reaction is important. In allergic reactions, symptoms develop within seconds to a few hours of ingesting the food. Symptoms occur each time you ingest the food allergen. In fact, 85% of food allergic reactions occur have ingesting the same eight foods: milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanut/tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Symptoms can range from mild to severe—itching in the mouth; hives or eczema; swelling lips, face or tongue; trouble breathing; diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain; dizziness and fainting are all symptoms of allergic reactions. Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to foods. 

Rachel Story, MD, Allergist at NorthShore, highlights some approaches your physician might take to determine if you suffer from a more mild food allergy and what might be triggering your reactions:

  • History. A thorough history of reactions and the foods ingested in 2-3 hours prior to the reaction is important in diagnosis of food allergy.
  • Food diary. Your physician might ask you to start keeping a food diary for a period of time. Your diary will track what you eat, when you eat it and how you feel after eating certain foods.
  • Skin test. In a skin test, purified extracts of the suspected food will be placed on your back or arm and then the skin will be pricked with a skin-testing device to allow a small amount of the food to penetrate your skin. If you react with a raised bump you may have an allergy to that food. 
  • Blood tests. Blood tests can be performed to see if you have allergic antibodies to specific foods in your blood. These are often used with a skin test to identify food allergies.  

Food allergy can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis.  Symptoms of anaphylaxis include swelling of the airways with throat closing or difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse and fainting. This type of reaction must be treated immediately as it could result in death. All people with suspected food allergy should be evaluated by a physician as they may need to carry medications to treat accidental ingestions of food allergens. Over-the-counter antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and cetrizine (Zyrtec) are used to treat mild reactions. Severe reactions are treated with an injection of epinephrine that can be administered using an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, AuviQ).

There are currently no FDA-approved treatments for food allergy. However, much promising research is ongoing and there is hope for a treatment for food allergy in the next 5 to 10 years. 

Are you allergic to a food? How did you discover your food allergy?

The Healing Power of Music

Tuesday, August 06, 2013 11:24 AM comments (0)

music therapyMusic can improve mood, decrease pain and anxiety, and stimulate emotional expression. Music therapy has a long history but the first formal use of music therapy began in World War II, when hospitals used music to help soldiers suffering from “shell shock” or what would later be diagnosed as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Music therapy can and is being used by board certified music therapists to enhance conventional treatment for a variety of illnesses and disease processes – from anxiety, depression and stress to the management of pain and enhancement of functioning after degenerative neurologic disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and Parkinson’s disease. 

Heather Hodorowski, MS, MT-BC, LPC, Music Therapy Coordinator at NorthShore, highlights some of the benefits music has on health and well-being:

  • It’s heart healthy. Research has shown that blood flows more easily when music is played. This increase in blood flow is similar to the increased blood flow caused by aerobic activity. Music can also reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and increase serotonin and endorphin levels in the blood. 
  • It elevates mood. Music can boost the brain’s production of the hormone dopamine. This increased dopamine production helps relieve feelings of anxiety and depression. Music is processed directly by the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in mood and emotions. 
  • It stimulates memories. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia but music therapy has been shown to relieve some of its symptoms. Music therapy can relax an agitated patient, improve the mood and open communication in a previously uncommunicative patient by stimulating a memory associated with a song.  
  • It manages pain. By reducing stress levels and providing a strong competing stimulus to the pain signals that enter the brain, music therapy can assist in pain management. 

Has music therapy benefited you or someone in your family?

Simple Parenting Tips for a Happy, Healthy Family

Friday, August 02, 2013 12:00 PM comments (0)

parentingParenting may be one of the most rewarding jobs but it can also be the most demanding and difficult. Parents have a big impact on their growing children, influencing their attitudes, behaviors and habits. As parents, you are your child's first teacher.

While there isn’t a user manual on how to be a parent, there are things you can do to help. Susan Roth, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, outlines some ideas and rules parents can consider incorporating:

  • Set a good example. You are your child’s biggest fan, and in many cases he or she will watch your every move. Make smart choices when it comes to exercise and nutrition. Manage your stress, anger and emotions as best as you can.
  • Be consistent with discipline. Treat bad behavior the same way every time. It’s important that both parents are on the same page and approach discipline as a team. 
  • Make the most of your shared time. Schedules get busy and it may be difficult to find time together as a family. Set aside part of each day for family activities that don’t include technology—cell phones, computers, television, etc. If this shared time can involve active play, you’ll be staying fit as a family and encouraging healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Encourage conversation and keep lines of communication open. If your schedule allows, try to eat at least one meal a day as a family. This is the perfect opportunity to have open discussions about your child’s day-to-day activities and any potential issues. If you can’t eat as a family, find time each day to check in with your child to see how everything is going.
  • Set a bedtime schedule. No matter his or her age, having an established bedtime and routine is very important. Children of all ages need a good night’s rest to be able to perform their best at school.
  • Volunteer at school. Volunteer at your child’s school, chaperone after-school activities or help organize activities after practice. This is an easy and natural way to get to know your child’s friends, teachers and the other parents. 

What tips or recommendations have helped you most as a parent?

Health Benefits of Biking and Bike Safety Tips [Infographic]

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 9:26 AM comments (0)

Whether it's part of your daily commute to work or simply your prefered mode of transportion for weekend errands, cycling is a great alternative to driving. When done safely, it's an easy way to include a little extra exercise each day and also do your part to help protect the environment.

The health benefits of biking are many, from boosting your immune system to lowering your risk of heart disease, but it's important to wear proper safety gear and always follow the rules of the road. Our latest NorthShore infographic covers the basics of two-wheel travel: health benefits, bike safety statistics and more. Click on the image below to view the full infographic.

bike safety

Part of the Team: Steven Levin, MD, Travels to Japan with the US Rugby Team

Friday, July 26, 2013 11:02 AM comments (0)

drlevinSteven Levin, MD, Sports Medicine at NorthShore, has been a team physician with the US Rugby Team for ten years, acting as their head physician during the Rugby World Cup in France in 2007. He has travelled with the team all over Canada, England, Wales, France and now Japan. He shares what it’s like to care for these daring athletes at the top of their game during a recent tournament in Japan.

We’re in Japan for the Pacific Cup, which includes teams like Canada and Tonga as well. We arrived in Nagoya, Japan after almost 20 hours of travel from Los Angeles. We played Tonga the night before we left LA and lost in a tough game 18-9. Luckily there were no major injuries on either side, although it looked like the Tongan team had several play stoppages for apparent injuries. In reality, it seemed as though the Tongans were mainly cramping up due to the physical game the US team played. Nonetheless we did lose a close game that we felt we were capable of winning.

Rugbyteam

Since I have been with USA Rugby I have gotten a bit of a reputation as a "rugby doc" and take care of many local and regional rugby players. I specialize in shoulders and knees and have operated on many of these players with shoulder and knee injuries. It is particularly rewarding to see so many get back in the game after recovering from surgery or rehab and then continue to play at such a high level.

During a game, the most common injuries that I see in rugby players are laceration, muscle, ligament and tendon strain, tears, concussions and occasionally fractures. There are no timeouts in rugby. As a physician I have to work fast, diagnose the problem and fix it quickly or the player must be substituted. If he is substituted then he can't return under the rules of the game, so there is a great deal of pressure to get the player back as quickly as possible if medically cleared. If the player has any type of bleeding injury, I have 10 minutes to get it under control (i.e. suture it) or the player is not allowed to return. It’s fast-paced and intense. But I enjoy it. 

I also really enjoy the camaraderie I have with the players. Rugby players are the toughest, purest, and most appreciative athletes I have had the pleasure to work with and treat.

From Home to the Classroom: Preparing Your Child for Preschool

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 1:49 PM comments (0)

preschoolSummer vacation is coming to a close, which means it’s time to start thinking about the approaching school year, especially if your little one is about to embark on preschool. The transition from home life to a classroom environment is an exciting time but it requires preparation for you and your child to be physically and emotionally ready.

Sharon Robinson, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, provides her recommendations and tips on how to ensure that your child will be ready for this brand new adventure:

  • Make an appointment with your pediatrician. Your child’s preschool will provide a list of vaccinations and health checks that are required and recommended before the first day of school.
  • Schedule an eye and hearing test. Most preschools will do an initial hearing and vision screening during the year. If there are abnormalities, schedule an appointment with you doctor for further evaluation.
  • Share your child’s special health needs with the school. Before the first day, make sure to notify the school of any medications, allergies or health concerns pertaining to your child. Make sure this information is shared with the school nurse.
  • Prepare an emergency card. This is also a good time to start helping your child memorize his or her home address and phone number.
  • Start talking about the change now. Preschool brings amazing experiences for your child but also new challenges. Children respond well to structure and routine, and preschools are designed to cater to these needs. Start talking about the expectations now—respecting peers and teachers, sharing, being good listeners. In addition, having a predictable daily routine, from set meal times to consistent bed times, will help to make the transition a smooth one.

What steps have you taken to prepare your child for preschool? 

Benefits of Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients

Friday, July 19, 2013 11:00 AM comments (0)

massage therapyMany think of a massage as a luxury, something you treat yourself to for stress relief after a particularly busy week at work or as a method of relief for the occasional shoulder twinge after a workout at the gym. And a massage can do exactly that but it can also be used for so much more.

Studies have shown that massage therapy can be beneficial for cancer patients both during and following treatment. Massage therapy can counteract many of the negative physical and emotional symptoms of cancer and side effects of cancer treatment for patients. More and more cancer patients are interested in finding ways to enhance their conventional treatment with complementary therapy options, including massage therapy.  

Charlotte Walker, Massage Therapist in NorthShore’s Department of Integrative Medicine, shares some of the potential benefits of massage therapy as a complementary treatment for cancer patients:

  • Reduces pain and relieves stress. Massage promotes relaxation and boosts the body’s production of endorphins, which can help relieve stress, reduce pain levels and swelling, and loosen aching, tense muscles.
  • Improves mood and quality of life. Increased anxiety and potential depression after a cancer diagnosis and during cancer treatment are not unusual for patients. Regular massage can reduce anxiety and help create a prolonged sense of well-being, improving a patient’s overall mood. Massage gives patients the time to breathe and relax, which can be the key to feeling your best during a difficult time.
  • Improves sleep patterns. Less pain and stress during the day means less pain and stress at night, which can help cancer patients sleep better and more soundly. 
  • Adds positive touch. Cancer treatments can be lifesaving but they are not always pleasant. The gentle, caring touch of massage therapy adds a positive touch in the midst of what might feel like the poking and prodding of treatment.

Join us on July 25th at 11 a.m. for our next online medical chat. Charlotte Walker will answer all questions related to massage therapy and pain management. Submit questions here: chat.

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