New Treatments
for Back Pain

For many years, back surgery meant
invasive surgeries that required...

read more

Reserve Your Spot Now -
Care Begins With Me
is Coming!

The "must attend" women's event of
the year is back and better than ever...

read more

Make Your Summer
A Memorable One

For most school-age kids, summer
vacation is here! And while this...

read more

Know the Facts
About Migraines

Migraine is a common and disabling
condition. The burden of migraines...

read more

Supporting a Friend
Through Cancer

Whether it is a loved one, a friend
or a coworker - it can be one of the...

read more

New Treatments for Back Pain

By Jennifer Jennings, MD - Capital Neurological Surgeons

For many years, back surgery meant invasive surgeries that required lengthy and challenging recoveries. Now, we are fortunate to have new, less invasive surgical options that can treat a variety of back and neck problems.

The term Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery brings about many questions and as someone who practices this, I have been graciously asked to offer my input. In the most basic of perspectives, I think of this approach as similar to the progression from large open incisions to remove an appendix or gallbladder to laparoscopic surgeries and now even robotic surgeries. The general objective of a minimally invasive approach is to disrupt the least amount of normal tissue (muscle, bone, ligament), but still address the surgical problem.

These approaches require a special set of surgical skills in combination with modified, and often complex, surgical equipment. I was fortunate to complete my residency four years ago when I felt the technology had reached an excellent level and had the opportunity to work with a pioneer of these procedures, Dr. Reginald Knight, at a branch of Columbia University in New York.

Minimally invasive surgery has many benefits for patients, including:

  • Less blood loss
  • Less muscle retraction
  • Smaller incision(s)
  • Shorter hospital stay

After having converted most of my practice to minimally invasive techniques, it is difficult to approach a case in an open manner again, but I am glad I have this skill set as well, especially as I plan to conduct more overseas volunteer work where I will work with what is available.

I use minimally invasive spine surgery to address back pain, leg pain which originates from nerve root compression in the back, affecting the sciatic nerve. I also treat neck pain and arm pain caused by compression of nerves in the neck. I do recommend conservative treatment first, such as physical therapy or injections if surgery is not urgent. If you have weakness in your legs, loss of control of your bowel or bladder accompanied by back pain, this would be a case appropriate for emergent surgery. Also, compression of the spinal cord in the neck can manifest itself as difficulty with fine finger movements such as buttoning shirts, or dropping objects as well as balance difficulties.

My philosophy is that elective spine surgery should be a last resort unless you have an acute neurological deficit, and if I do operate, I want to fix the problem surgically, while leaving as much of your normal anatomy intact, to prevent the need for any further surgeries.

Thank you for welcoming me back into your community from my Stanford days. I welcome climatic respite from New York.

To learn more about Dr. Jennings and the innovative procedures she offers patients, attend her June 10 seminar on neck and back pain. Register for free today.

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Know the Facts about Migraines

Asad Chaudhary, MD - Dignity Health Neurological Institute

Migraine is a common and disabling condition. The burden of migraines is greatest for those most severely affected. Migraines can cause substantial personal, social and economic burden. Despite improvements, migraine remains an under diagnosed and under treated disorder. There are estimated 30 million Americans that suffer from migraines, with one in four US households having at least one migraine sufferer.

How can you know if you have migraines or some other headache type, such as tension, cluster headache, trigeminal cephalgias or other secondary headaches? Migraine is typically associated with an "aura" of positive visual phenomenon like seeing spots, flashes of light or zig zag lines - although not everyone has an aura. The sufferers experience throbbing, moderate to severe pain on one or both sides of the head with associated nausea or vomiting or sensitivity to light, sound or smells. It is usually aggravated by normal physical activity and can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours or longer.

Some people get occasional episodic headaches while others suffer from chronic migraines with daily or nearly daily headaches.

Migraines are more common among:

  • Ages of 15 to 55
  • Family history of migraines
  • Women

There is typically a genetic tendency to have headaches as well as personal triggers. These triggers are variable and can include: hormone changes as during menstrual cycle, puberty, or menopause; stress and anxiety; changes in sleep; bright lights, loud noises or strong odors; skipped meals; alcohol (often red wine); caffeine; foods that contain nitrates, such as hot dogs or lunch meats; foods that contain MSG; sugar substitutes like Aspartame; and/or weather changes.

It is important to seek early medical attention to differentiate migraines from tension type headaches and other headaches.

It is helpful to keep a headache diary that you can share when you go see a doctor. The following notes might be helpful:

  • Day and time the headache started
  • Where you were and what you were doing when the migraine began
  • What you ate and drank for 24 hours prior to the episode
  • Where you were in your menstrual cycle

Treatment for migraine headaches includes preventive medications like Topiramate, Amitriptyline, Depakote, & Propranolol that help decrease the frequency, severity and intensity of headaches. People who have chronic migraines might benefit from Botox. On the other hand abortive medications can get rid of a headache attack. Medications like Ibuprofen, Naprosyn, Tylenol and Excedrin Migraine can be helpful but there are more specific medications called "Triptans" like Sumatriptan, Rizatriptan, Zolmitriptan and Elmotriptan. It is important to avoid overusing these abortive medications as people can develop medication overuse headaches.

If you have a headache affecting your daily living and quality of life, please talk to your doctor.

To learn more about the services offered by the Dignity Health Neurological Institute, including diagnosis of and treatment for various headache disorders, visit their website.

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Reserve Your Spot Now - Care Begins With Me is Coming!

Mark your calendars now - the "must attend" women's event of the year is back and better than ever! Registration for Dignity Health's Care Begins with Me - Sacramento's premier health and lifestyle event for women - is now open. As a valued member of our Care Begins With Me community, we wanted you to be the first to get the details on this year's big night.

This year's event is scheduled for Thursday, October 2. This year, like last year, if you register early (before August 15) you will be treated to preferred seating, getting you even closer to the fun and excitement.

If you've attended Care Begins With Me before, you know this night is the whole package - an evening of friends, laughter and inspiration. If you haven't been before, this is the year you need to check it out! Treat yourself to delicious hors d'oeuvres and sample some of the region's great wines. Unwind with a relaxing chair massage. Stroll through the Marketplace Expo and check out local boutique vendors and the latest in skincare and beauty products. You can explore a variety of health topics important to you as you attend our Care Chats, informal sessions led by Dignity Health physicians that touch on diagnosis, treatment and management of health issues affecting women like you.

Of course, the highlight of the evening is hearing from our always incredible keynote speaker. This year we know you will be entertained and inspired by our friend, Kelly Corrigan! Kelly is a New York Times best-selling author who touches on topics near and dear to all of us, including family, parenting, health, illness and being a mom, daughter, wife, sister and woman - all at the same time. Her books include The Middle Place, Lift and the brand new best seller Glitter and Glue. Kelly approaches life with humor and optimism, uplifting all of us with her eloquence and spirit.

Invite your girlfriends, your mom, your coworkers - and share the gift of this amazing evening. It all happens Thursday, October 2, 2013 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. Tickets are $25 in advance. Care Begins With Me members will receive a $5 discount. And remember, register before August 15 and you will receive preferred seating.

Register today for this fall's biggest night and you can qualify for priority seating!

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Supporting a Friend Through Cancer

Whether it is a loved one, a friend or a coworker - it can be one of the toughest conversations to have: What to say and what to do when someone you care about shares that they have been diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, most of us, at some point in our lives, will have to face this situation. And while simply being present and listening are the most important things you can do, there are other simple actions that can help your friend or loved one navigate this new journey.

First and foremost - know that it is completely normal to feel overwhelmed and at a loss for what to say to someone facing a life-threatening illness. A health crisis brings with it many deep emotions, not only for the person experiencing it but also for everyone who cares about her. However, do not let that feeling prevent you from being present and offering your support. Overcome your own fears and anxiety about doing or saying the wrong thing and just focus on supporting your friend the best you can. "Just being there as a friend like you normally would be is so important," says Rachel McConachie, RN, Oncology Nurse Navigator at the Mercy Cancer Center.

If you want to help your friend in a concrete way, be specific when making the offer. Rather than saying, "Let me know if I can do anything..." say "I'd like to drive you to your appointment - would that be ok?" or "I'd like to make you a meal - would next Tuesday be good for you?" or "We'd love to have your kids over for a day - what day next week would be best?" Most people will not follow up on an open-ended offer of help but when the offer is direct and includes a day and time, they are much more likely to take you up on it. Other specific things that someone may need help with include, mowing the lawn, doing laundry, grocery shopping, light cleaning, etc... "You can offer to attend doctor's appointments or support groups with your friend," says Rachel. "At the Mercy Cancer Center, we offer our yoga classes for our patients and we always welcome friends to join as well. Find fun things you can do together."

Sometimes just listening - without judgment and without offering any solutions or comments - is what people in crisis need most from friends.

The American Cancer Society offers these tips for communicating with someone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer:

  • Tell the person you care about them.
  • Offer your support.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Watch for cues that can let you know they want to talk about their cancer. If they don't want to talk, respect it. (But continue to watch for and follow cues.)
  • Do the same things together you used to before the cancer diagnosis if you can. Most people want to be treated the same as always, but check with them about how they feel and don't press to do anything they don't feel up to doing.
  • Try to be OK with silence. Sometimes the person just needs a little time to focus her thoughts. Constantly talking because you are nervous can be irritating. A period of silence can allow someone the chance to express more thoughts and feelings.
  • Touching, smiling, and warm looks are important ways to communicate also. Remember to use them.
  • Try to maintain eye contact to demonstrate you are fully present and listening carefully.
  • People with cancer don't always want to think or talk about their disease. It can make them feel like their only identity is as "cancer patient." Laughing and talking about other things are often welcome distractions.

Finally, know that supporting a friend through cancer can be difficult. Know when to seek out help or support for yourself - talk to a family member, a counselor or your clergy about the feelings you are experiencing. By working through your emotions with someone else, you will be a better support to your friend.

For more information on the Mercy Cancer Center and the services it provides, visit their website.

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Make Your Summer a Memorable One

For most school-age kids, summer vacation is here! And while this can be the most highly anticipated time of the year for children, sometimes for parents it can be a little overwhelming. How will you keep your kids occupied all day? Where will you go? What will you do? How will you keep them from tearing your house - and each other! - apart?!

First, take a deep breath and know that summer vacation is meant to be a relaxing, restoring time for children. They do not need to be entertained every hour of the day and they do not need to make incredible memories every moment. That said, it can be helpful to plan out your summer and strategically schedule some "memorable" moments in with a bit of the "occupied" moments (camps, playdates, etc.). It can also be helpful to give some thought to how you plan to keep your child "engaged" mentally - tactics aimed at keeping their minds sharp despite the lack of classroom instruction and daily homework. With those three strategies in mind, here are some ideas for making the most of your child's summer vacation...

Memorable Moments

As parents, we all want our kids to return to school in the fall with stories to share about the fun and exciting things they did over summer vacation. Of course, planning those fun and exciting things isn't always easy. But while we parents stress about vacations and road trips, it is often the smaller, random activities that stick with kids and create the memories that last for them. Things like the night their parents let them stay up way past their bedtime playing flashlight tag with the neighbors... Or the time their mom actually said yes to an impromptu sleepover with their buddies... Or the unplanned "girls only" shopping trip with mom that made her feel special and grown up.

When looking for those memorable moments, know that sometimes they happen just because you say "yes" to something that would typically be a "no." It doesn't have to be an elaborate, expensive or well-planned activity - it can just be something out of the norm enough that it leaves your child feeling incredibly special and like they just scored a major coup. So this summer, vow to say yes more often!

Occupied Moments

As much fun as the lazy, laidback days of summer can be, for most moms and kids there comes a time when having some place to go and something to do becomes critical. Chances are, you still have work (either job-related or house- or family-related) to get done and for most kids, there comes a time when they are ready to get up off the couch and do something. That's where summer camps, playdates, and childcare swaps come in!

For most children, a week or two at a summer camp involving something of interest to them (soccer camp? Art camp? Science camp? Let them pick!) will come as a welcome diversion when timed correctly. Look at your calendar and plan ahead. After a couple weeks of schedule-free time, book something fun to keep your kids occupied for a week. And if you need another day or two of activity to keep them occupied, talk to a friend with similarly aged children and plan a playdate or a childcare swap. The key though is to plan ahead - camps fill up and people's schedules can get crazy, so get your "occupied" moments on the calendar now!

Engaged Moments

Finally, give some thought to how you plan to keep your children mentally engaged over the summer. This can be as easy as a workbook that they can do a page or two in every few days... A reading list of fun books that they can choose from... Writing in a summer journal to document their adventures... Or even a few fun science projects that you can do together on those quiet days at home. Whatever you choose, be sure to plan your goals at the beginning of the summer ("read three new books" or "complete half of the workbook," etc.) so that your children are accountable and can work on it a little at a time.

Nothing beats summer fun that is FREE and open to the whole family! Check out the free summer concert series at the Palladio at Broadstone in Folsom, every Wednesday through August from 7-9pm.

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