Posted by: yourhealthradio | November 3, 2011

House Calls – Back Pain & Sleep Apnea

House Calls from the Carrboro Citizen 11.03.11

Dear House Calls, I have degenerative disc disease in my lower back and I am in constant pain. I am now seeing five different doctors; I am looking for some help in dealing with this chronic pain.
We are so sorry that you are suffering. Degenerative disc disease refers to the discs in between the vertebrae getting worn down over time. This is extremely common. It is the reason most of us lose about 1 inch of height in our later years. It is not well understood why some people with this condition will have a great deal of pain and others will not. Living with chronic pain can be really difficult. The good news is that for most people, it will not get worse and can be controlled to a tolerable level. Five doctors sure sounds like a lot. We won’t have a magic answer for you that all of these doctors could not give you. For most people, treatment of lower back pain includes staying as active as possible. Lying in bed or sitting on the couch is quite bad for your back, not to mention the rest of your health. We also would encourage you to work on strengthening your core, including your abdominal muscles, back muscles and oblique muscles. Swimming can be great core exercise. Physical therapy can help with core and back strengthening and stretching exercises. Medicines can help as well, especially anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen. We usually avoid stronger medicines, such as oxycodone (Percocet) and hydrocodone (vicodin), for long-term treatment of back pain. Over time, they don’t do much good and they cause many other problems. A team approach is important for you. That team should involve your primary-care doctor, probably a physical therapist, possibly a pain specialist and possibly a mental health specialist who can help with coping with chronic pain. Good luck, and we hope you get some relief.
Dear House Calls, I am currently losing weight and wondered if that is likely to help my sleep apnea.
Congratulations that you are working on losing weight. The good news is, yes! We talk about sleep apnea machines that help keep a relaxed airway open, but two of the most common reasons people get sleep apnea are excess weight and smoking. So working on either one of these problems, or both if they apply, can make a big difference. Not to mention that losing weight will improve your overall health and may, in and of itself, help with daytime sleepiness and fatigue. Congratulations again, and thanks for sharing your good news.

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