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  • January 20, 2021

    By Dr. James Houston, Director of Pain Management at MedStar Health

    When you have chronic pain that gets in the way of everyday activities, you may benefit from pain management treatment. Not all pain management clinics offer the same options that can improve your quality of life and offer long-lasting pain relief. Here’s what you need to know about your pain management options.

    You don’t have to live with chronic #BackPain, #SpinePain, or #NeckPain. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, pain management expert Dr. Houston shares what you need to know when seeking treatment: https://bit.ly/3izUh1J.

    Click to Tweet

    What is pain management?

    When people think of pain management, they often think of anesthesia services offered during surgery or other inpatient procedures. Pain management experts are also highly skilled at using a variety of techniques and technology to relieve chronic pain in outpatient settings.

    There are many effective and safe ways to minimize your pain, restore function, and improve your quality of life while limiting the use of opioid medications. Typically, this combines advanced pain management treatments aimed at addressing the root of your pain with other forms of care. For example:

    Who could benefit from pain management services?

    Acute pain that emerges suddenly after an injury, such as a broken bone, should be treated by a primary care or urgent care provider. Chronic pain is pain that doesn’t resolve on its own past a normal period of healing. Typically, this means pain lasting over 90 days.

    If you have persistent pain that’s interfering with your ability to live the life you want, you may benefit from seeing a pain management specialist. Just as other types of injuries and illnesses require the attention of a medical specialist, such as a neurologist or shoulder surgeon, our pain management specialists primarily treat chronic pain using the latest techniques and tools to relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life.

    A customized pain management plan may be right for you if you have chronic pain related to:

    • Arthritis
    • Back pain
    • Cancer pain
    • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD)
    • Joint pain
    • Migraines
    • Musculoskeletal pain
    • Neck pain
    • Neuralgia
    • Sciatica
    • Spine pain

    … and more.

    Request an appointment.

    The most effective pain relief starts with an accurate diagnosis.

    Medication may relieve your pain temporarily. But for pain relief that lasts, you need an expert to find the root of your pain. At MedStar Health, we believe an accurate diagnosis is the best way to ensure effective treatment that relieves your pain. We’re able to correctly identify the source of your pain and design customized treatment plans to manage your pain by collecting comprehensive information about your condition through a combination of the following:

    • A review of your medical history
    • A physical exam
    • Analysis of blood or lab work
    • Examination of imaging tests, such as CT scans, MRIs, or x-rays
    • Performing diagnostic nerve blocks

    A diagnostic nerve block is a procedure that uses a needle to inject a local anesthetic into a nerve to block the pain signals to the brain. If it’s successful, we know the source of the pain. A diagnostic nerve block may be used for joint pain. For example, knee pain, or in the spine for back and neck pain. Similarly, a sympathetic nerve block targets a group of nerves, helping to diagnose CRPS or RSD.

    Long-lasting chronic pain relief requires advanced therapies that extend beyond medication.

    Once we identify the source of your pain, our first approach typically involves interventions to manage your pain while limiting the need for opioids. Together, we’ll develop a treatment plan that uses a variety of techniques to meet your individual needs and goals.

    Unfortunately, evidence suggests that long-term chronic opioid therapy is ineffective in most situations due to well-established side effects. This includes immunosuppression, endocrine abnormalities, constipation, sedation, and worsening pain from opioid-induced hyperalgesia. While we will prescribe opioids in certain situations when clinically necessary—and in combination with other treatment modalities—we extensively evaluate our patients, keep dosages low, and seek other ways to control pain.

    Pain management treatment options at MedStar Health.

    Advanced pain management techniques offer a variety of benefits with fewer risks than most medications. Your doctor will take into consideration your unique condition and goals before designing a pain management treatment plan that will work best for you. Your treatment will vary based on the source and location of your pain but may include:

    Radiofrequency nerve ablations.

    This uses a needle to deliver controlled and precise heat to reduce or stop affected nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. Radiofrequency nerve ablations may be used for pain in the knee, hip, sacroiliac joint, and shoulder, as well as the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. Nearly two-thirds to 90 percent of patients report pain relief following the procedure.

    Steroid injections and epidural steroid injections.

    During this method, a pain management specialist injects local anesthetics near nerves near inflamed tissue or the spine to reduce pain and inflammation caused by herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, arthritis, and more. Many patients experience pain relief within three to seven days after the procedure.

    Neuromodulation.

    Neuromodulation includes:

    • Peripheral nerve stimulation, which uses temporary or permanent nerve implants to block pain signals, thereby reducing lower back pain, shoulder pain, post-amputation pain, chronic pain, and more.
    • Spinal cord stimulation, which provides pain relief by electrically stimulating the spinal cord to block pain signals. You may or may not even feel the stimulation, and you are given a remote control for the implanted device.

    Intrathecal pump implants.

    Also called pain pumps, these are used to inject medications directly into the spinal fluid via a catheter. This is typically effective in relieving pain for patients living with cancer.

    Trigger point injections.

    This involves injecting medication directly into myofascial trigger points, or sensitive fibers within a muscle. These injections offer immediate pain relief for patients experiencing chronic muscle pain and other issues affecting the musculoskeletal system.

    Ketamine and lidocaine infusions.

    These are anesthetics delivered intravenously that can treat pain caused by nerve injury or chronic pain. Ketamine is most commonly known as an effective way to treat depression, and the FDA-approved infusion formulation offers those mood-boosting benefits to patients receiving the infusion for pain. MedStar Health offers one of the only pain management programs under which ketamine and lidocaine infusions are covered by insurance.

    Pain management services.

    We’re one of the only comprehensive pain management clinics in the area.

    Some pain management clinics focus on interventional services that provide pain relief but don’t necessarily address the root of your pain. Others emphasize medication, managing your use of opioids or other controlled substances, which are unfortunately proven to be ineffective and risky over time.

    At MedStar Health, we offer comprehensive and integrated pain management options using a holistic approach to relieving pain, while minimizing opioid use when possible. And, we offer outpatient pain management services within hospitals or multi-specialty care centers. This allows many of our patients to benefit from sedation options that keep them comfortable during the procedure while still being able to return home the same day.

    Pain management services near you in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region.

    There are few other pain management programs in the region that offer a full spectrum of services aimed to treat the source of your pain. At MedStar Health, you can expect care from pain management experts who are all fellowship-trained by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). And, you’ll reap the benefits of our academic program, which offers access to the most advanced medical technologies, innovative treatments, the latest research, clinical trials, and more.

    We accept most major insurances, and, with more than 10 locations throughout region, you won’t have to travel far.

    You don’t have to live with chronic pain. Talk to your doctor about a referral today.


    Ready to get back to a life without pain?
    MedStar Health is here to help. Call 877-313-3605 or click below to learn more and request an appointment.

    Pain Management Services

All Blogs

  • January 20, 2021

    By Dr. James Houston, Director of Pain Management at MedStar Health

    When you have chronic pain that gets in the way of everyday activities, you may benefit from pain management treatment. Not all pain management clinics offer the same options that can improve your quality of life and offer long-lasting pain relief. Here’s what you need to know about your pain management options.

    You don’t have to live with chronic #BackPain, #SpinePain, or #NeckPain. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, pain management expert Dr. Houston shares what you need to know when seeking treatment: https://bit.ly/3izUh1J.

    Click to Tweet

    What is pain management?

    When people think of pain management, they often think of anesthesia services offered during surgery or other inpatient procedures. Pain management experts are also highly skilled at using a variety of techniques and technology to relieve chronic pain in outpatient settings.

    There are many effective and safe ways to minimize your pain, restore function, and improve your quality of life while limiting the use of opioid medications. Typically, this combines advanced pain management treatments aimed at addressing the root of your pain with other forms of care. For example:

    Who could benefit from pain management services?

    Acute pain that emerges suddenly after an injury, such as a broken bone, should be treated by a primary care or urgent care provider. Chronic pain is pain that doesn’t resolve on its own past a normal period of healing. Typically, this means pain lasting over 90 days.

    If you have persistent pain that’s interfering with your ability to live the life you want, you may benefit from seeing a pain management specialist. Just as other types of injuries and illnesses require the attention of a medical specialist, such as a neurologist or shoulder surgeon, our pain management specialists primarily treat chronic pain using the latest techniques and tools to relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life.

    A customized pain management plan may be right for you if you have chronic pain related to:

    • Arthritis
    • Back pain
    • Cancer pain
    • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD)
    • Joint pain
    • Migraines
    • Musculoskeletal pain
    • Neck pain
    • Neuralgia
    • Sciatica
    • Spine pain

    … and more.

    Request an appointment.

    The most effective pain relief starts with an accurate diagnosis.

    Medication may relieve your pain temporarily. But for pain relief that lasts, you need an expert to find the root of your pain. At MedStar Health, we believe an accurate diagnosis is the best way to ensure effective treatment that relieves your pain. We’re able to correctly identify the source of your pain and design customized treatment plans to manage your pain by collecting comprehensive information about your condition through a combination of the following:

    • A review of your medical history
    • A physical exam
    • Analysis of blood or lab work
    • Examination of imaging tests, such as CT scans, MRIs, or x-rays
    • Performing diagnostic nerve blocks

    A diagnostic nerve block is a procedure that uses a needle to inject a local anesthetic into a nerve to block the pain signals to the brain. If it’s successful, we know the source of the pain. A diagnostic nerve block may be used for joint pain. For example, knee pain, or in the spine for back and neck pain. Similarly, a sympathetic nerve block targets a group of nerves, helping to diagnose CRPS or RSD.

    Long-lasting chronic pain relief requires advanced therapies that extend beyond medication.

    Once we identify the source of your pain, our first approach typically involves interventions to manage your pain while limiting the need for opioids. Together, we’ll develop a treatment plan that uses a variety of techniques to meet your individual needs and goals.

    Unfortunately, evidence suggests that long-term chronic opioid therapy is ineffective in most situations due to well-established side effects. This includes immunosuppression, endocrine abnormalities, constipation, sedation, and worsening pain from opioid-induced hyperalgesia. While we will prescribe opioids in certain situations when clinically necessary—and in combination with other treatment modalities—we extensively evaluate our patients, keep dosages low, and seek other ways to control pain.

    Pain management treatment options at MedStar Health.

    Advanced pain management techniques offer a variety of benefits with fewer risks than most medications. Your doctor will take into consideration your unique condition and goals before designing a pain management treatment plan that will work best for you. Your treatment will vary based on the source and location of your pain but may include:

    Radiofrequency nerve ablations.

    This uses a needle to deliver controlled and precise heat to reduce or stop affected nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. Radiofrequency nerve ablations may be used for pain in the knee, hip, sacroiliac joint, and shoulder, as well as the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. Nearly two-thirds to 90 percent of patients report pain relief following the procedure.

    Steroid injections and epidural steroid injections.

    During this method, a pain management specialist injects local anesthetics near nerves near inflamed tissue or the spine to reduce pain and inflammation caused by herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, arthritis, and more. Many patients experience pain relief within three to seven days after the procedure.

    Neuromodulation.

    Neuromodulation includes:

    • Peripheral nerve stimulation, which uses temporary or permanent nerve implants to block pain signals, thereby reducing lower back pain, shoulder pain, post-amputation pain, chronic pain, and more.
    • Spinal cord stimulation, which provides pain relief by electrically stimulating the spinal cord to block pain signals. You may or may not even feel the stimulation, and you are given a remote control for the implanted device.

    Intrathecal pump implants.

    Also called pain pumps, these are used to inject medications directly into the spinal fluid via a catheter. This is typically effective in relieving pain for patients living with cancer.

    Trigger point injections.

    This involves injecting medication directly into myofascial trigger points, or sensitive fibers within a muscle. These injections offer immediate pain relief for patients experiencing chronic muscle pain and other issues affecting the musculoskeletal system.

    Ketamine and lidocaine infusions.

    These are anesthetics delivered intravenously that can treat pain caused by nerve injury or chronic pain. Ketamine is most commonly known as an effective way to treat depression, and the FDA-approved infusion formulation offers those mood-boosting benefits to patients receiving the infusion for pain. MedStar Health offers one of the only pain management programs under which ketamine and lidocaine infusions are covered by insurance.

    Pain management services.

    We’re one of the only comprehensive pain management clinics in the area.

    Some pain management clinics focus on interventional services that provide pain relief but don’t necessarily address the root of your pain. Others emphasize medication, managing your use of opioids or other controlled substances, which are unfortunately proven to be ineffective and risky over time.

    At MedStar Health, we offer comprehensive and integrated pain management options using a holistic approach to relieving pain, while minimizing opioid use when possible. And, we offer outpatient pain management services within hospitals or multi-specialty care centers. This allows many of our patients to benefit from sedation options that keep them comfortable during the procedure while still being able to return home the same day.

    Pain management services near you in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region.

    There are few other pain management programs in the region that offer a full spectrum of services aimed to treat the source of your pain. At MedStar Health, you can expect care from pain management experts who are all fellowship-trained by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). And, you’ll reap the benefits of our academic program, which offers access to the most advanced medical technologies, innovative treatments, the latest research, clinical trials, and more.

    We accept most major insurances, and, with more than 10 locations throughout region, you won’t have to travel far.

    You don’t have to live with chronic pain. Talk to your doctor about a referral today.


    Ready to get back to a life without pain?
    MedStar Health is here to help. Call 877-313-3605 or click below to learn more and request an appointment.

    Pain Management Services

  • September 16, 2020

    By John A. Kuri II, MD, Orthopedic surgeon at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital

    We use our shoulders to do just about everything, from pushing and pulling to lifting and carrying. That’s why it’s common to feel tension—or even pain—in our shoulder joints, especially after doing the same motions over and over again.

    While shoulder pain caused by an injury or trauma should be treated by a doctor specializing in orthopedics, there are stretches and exercises you can do at home to get rid of shoulder pain. Exercises that target the shoulders and surrounding muscles can strengthen and stabilize the joint, helping to relieve tightness, improve range of motion, and prevent injury.

    Do you have #ShoulderPain? On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, Dr. Kuri shares 5 stretches and 7 exercises to relieve tightness, strengthen and stabilize your shoulder, and prevent injury: https://bit.ly/33zhfin.

    Click to Tweet

    Common causes of shoulder pain.

    Proper shoulder movement requires supporting muscle groups to work together in a coordinated fashion. While shoulder pain can be caused by direct trauma to the shoulder, if the muscles and soft tissues that support the shoulder weaken, become stiff, or are injured, our shoulders become susceptible to injury.

    There are a variety of causes of shoulder pain, but most conditions can be broken down into the following categories:

    • Degenerative conditions that occur gradually over time as a result of wear and tear, such as arthritis.
    • Chronic or overuse conditions that result from repetitive overhead motion such as throwing a baseball or painting the walls of a house.
    • Acute injury and trauma after a direct blow to the shoulder or sudden forceful stretch during a fall, car accident, or other unexpected event.

     

    Request an Appointment

     

    Why it’s important to stretch your shoulders.

    Stretching gets your blood flow circulating so you can safely and gradually improve motion and perform shoulder exercises. Shoulder exercises strengthen your shoulder muscles and encourage proper shoulder function, which helps you to:

    • Improve flexibility
    • Increase range of motion
    • Stabilize the joint
    • Prevent future injury
    • Reduce muscle soreness

    Exercises and stretches that can relieve shoulder pain.

    These five easy shoulder stretches, along with a few exercises, can help you relieve shoulder pain at home with minimal equipment. Consider performing these stretches and exercises three to four days a week to maintain and improve shoulder motion, and gradually progress to the strengthening exercises to improve function. If you feel pain, stop the exercise and call a doctor specializing in orthopedics.

    Stretches.

    1. Pendulum

    • Lean forward, placing your right hand on a counter or table for support. Allow your left arm to hang relaxed at your side.
    • Gently swing your left arm forward and backward, side-to-side, and in a circular motion. Repeat the motion 10 times.
    • Switch arms and repeat the sequence.

    Repetitions: 2 sets of 10 on each side
    Tip: Keep your back straight and your knees slightly bent.

    2. Crossover arm stretch

    • With relaxed shoulders, gently pull your left arm across your chest.
    • Hold your upper left arm using your right hand, pulling it until you feel the stretch at the back of your shoulder.
    • Hold it for 30 seconds and then release it for 30 seconds.
    • Perform the stretch three more times.
    • Repeat with the opposite arm.

    Repetitions: 4 on each side
    Tip: Avoid putting pressure on your elbow.

    3. Table and wall slides

    • Place both hands on a long table in front of you while sitting down and upright.
    • Slide your hands together forwards along the table to gently stretch overhead as you lean forward.
    • Hold the movement for 5 seconds once you reach your maximum stretch, then slowly return to the upright position.
    • As you progress, move to a wall and try the overhead stretch while standing, using the wall to slide your hands along.

    Repetitions: 3 sets of 10 slides
    Tip: To make sliding easier, hold a towel or walk your fingers along the surface.

    4. Passive internal and external rotation stretch

    Internal rotation

    • Hold a yardstick, golf club, or other light stick behind your back with your left hand.
    • Lightly grasp the end of the stick with your right hand.
    • Gently pull the stick horizontally with your right hand until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulder.
    • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Release for 30 seconds.
    • Repeat on the opposite side.

    External rotation

    • Grasp a broomstick, yardstick, golf club, or other light stick with your left hand in front of your body and the other end of the stick with your right hand.
    • Push the stick horizontally with your right hand until you feel the stretch in the back of your shoulder.
    • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds.
    • Repeat on the other side.

    Repetitions: 4 of each on both sides
    Tip: Keep hips facing forward and avoid leaning or twisting while pushing or pulling the stick.

    5. Sleeper stretch

    • Lie down on your left side on a flat, firm surface.
    • With your shoulder under you, bend your left arm at a 90-degree angle.
    • Use your right arm to push your left arm down until you feel a stretch in the back of your left shoulder.
    • Hold the movement for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds.
    • Switch sides and repeat.

    Repetitions: 4 on each side
    Tip: Avoiding pressing down on or bending your wrist.

    Strengthening exercises.

    For each exercise, use light dumbbells that allow you to perform the minimum number of eight repetitions in a set. As the exercise gets easier, progress to three sets of 12 repetitions. Add weight in one-pound increments up to five pounds. Each time you increase weight, begin with three sets of eight repetitions before progressing to 12 repetitions.

    1. Scapular retraction/protraction

    • Lie down on a table or bed on your stomach. Let your arm hang over the side with a light dumbbell in your hand..
    • Keep your elbow straight and squeeze your shoulder blade toward the opposite side of your body.
    • Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
    • Switch sides.

    Repetitions: 2 sets of 10 on each side
    Tip: Be careful not to shrug your shoulder toward your ear.

    2. Forward elevation strength

    • Hold light dumbbells in both hands with arms outstretched in front of you.
    • Slowly raise both hands to a slightly overhead position at the same time.
    • Slowly return to a resting position and repeat.
    • As you get stronger, increase your weight while lowering the number of repetitions.

    Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions on each side
    Tip: As you get stronger, widen your hand position so they are raised approximately 6 to 12 inches outside of your shoulders.

    3. Trapezius strengthening

    • Place your right knee on a bench, leaning forward to support your body with your right hand on the bench.
    • With your left hand palm facing your body, slowly raise your left arm and rotate your hand to the thumbs-up position.
    • Stop when your left hand reaches shoulder height and your arm is parallel to the floor.
    • Count to five as you lower your left arm to the original position.
    • Repeat on the opposite side.

    Repetitions: 3 sets of 20 on each side
    Tip: You can add light weight (2 to 3 lbs) to increase the difficulty as the exercise gets easier.

    4. Internal and external rotation strength

    Internal rotation

    • Make a loop with a 3-foot-long exercise band, tying the ends together. Attach the loop to a doorknob or other stable object.
    • Hold the band with the hand closest to the loop with your elbow at your side and bent at a 90-degree angle.
    • Keeping your elbow tight by your side, bring your arm across your body.
    • Slowly return to the start position and repeat.
    • Switch sides.

    External rotation

    • Using the same 3-foot-long loop attached to a doorknob or stable object, grasp the loop with the hand furthest from the loop.
    • Keep your elbow tight by your side and bend it at a 90-degree angle.
    • Slowly rotate your arm outward.
    • Return to the start position and repeat.
    • Switch sides.

    Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 on each side
    Tip: Keep your elbow pressed into your side. You can also do this exercise laying on your side, using light dumbbells to perform a similar motion as when using the bands.

    5. Bent-over horizontal abduction

    • Lie down on a table or bed on your stomach. Let your arm hang over the side with a light dumbbell in your hand..
    • Keep your arm straight and slowly raise the dumbbell to eye level.
    • Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
    • Switch sides.

    Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 on each side
    Tip: Use slow and controlled movement when lowering the weight.

    6. Elbow flexion

    • Stand tall with light dumbbells in each hand.
    • Keeping your elbows close to your sides, bring the weight toward your shoulders.
    • Hold for two seconds and slowly lower to the starting position.
    • Repeat.
    • Increase weight by 1-pound increments as the exercise gets easier.

    Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 to 12 on each side
    Tip: Use slow and controlled movement when lowering the weight.

    7. Elbow extension

    • Stand tall with a light dumbbell in your left hand.
    • Raise your left arm, bending your elbow behind your head. Support your left arm by grasping your upper arm with your right hand.
    • Slowly straighten your elbow, bringing the weight overhead.
    • Hold for two seconds and slowly lower to the starting position.
    • Repeat.
    • Increase weight by 1-pound increments as the exercise gets easier.

    Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 to 12 on each side
    Tip: Avoid arching your back by tightening your abdominal muscles.

    When to see a doctor for shoulder pain.

    If you experienced a sudden injury or trauma to your shoulder, or your shoulder pain is worsening and affecting your sleep or quality of life, don’t wait to visit an experienced orthopedic expert.

    A highly trained doctor specializing in orthopedics can accurately diagnose your shoulder pain and determine the best course of treatment. From non-invasive treatment options, such as icing, biologic injections, and physical therapy, to minimally invasive or complex surgery, you can count on the fellowship-trained orthopedic experts at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital to get you back to the activities you enjoy without shoulder pain.

    Is your shoulder pain getting worse? We can help.
    Visit our orthopedic experts at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute in Leonardtown.

    Learn More

  • August 21, 2020

    By Carissa Colangelo, MS, ATC/LAT, PTA, CSCS, MedStar Sports Medicine

    In a world where it seems everything in our normal daily life has changed in a very short period, it can feel like we are out of control. It is important at times like this that we stop and be mindful of creating or maintaining healthy habits with focus on controlling those things that we can. Here are a few tips to consider.

    It’s important in times like these that we be mindful about creating or maintaining healthy habits in our daily lives. Carissa Colangelo, MS, gives tips on how to do this during #COVID19 on the #LiveWellHealthy blog: https://bit.ly/34nrAjM.

    Click to Tweet

     

    Have a good sleep schedule.

    Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, particularly during times of high stress, is vital to our physical and mental health. Sleep helps boost your immune function, improve focus, control your mood, and increase resistance to stress. If you don’t usually get 7-8 hours of sleep, now is a great time to start making it a habit!

    Maintain healthy eating habits and stay hydrated.

    Having healthy eating habits is crucial, but can be especially difficult when the refrigerator is only a few steps away. Try to stay on a normal eating schedule and avoid unnecessary snacking. You might be someone that is used to constantly being on the go, so now is a great time to slow down, try that new recipe, and get creative. Don’t forget about getting adequate hydration throughout the day.

    Create boundaries for yourself.

    Many of us are in situations where you find your work life and home life have morphed into one. It’s important to create or continue work life balance and create boundaries. This includes both physical and mental boundaries. Your workspace should not be in the same place you sleep. You should try to adhere to clear set start and stop work times (as much as you can control) to allow yourself time to refresh, reboot and separate yourself from your work day.

    Keep a daily routine.

    Your normal daily routine may look completely different from your current one. Regardless, having a schedule and routine is great for creating better focus on tasks and allowing for better management of your time. It also helps maintain self-discipline, and creates self-accountability.

    Socialize.

    It’s common to feel isolated during these times. That’s why now more than ever, it’s important to continue communication with friends and family. There are several different virtual options to accomplish this. You can schedule daily or weekly phone calls, or if you have access to a smartphone or computer, use video chat services like FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype. Maintaining your normal social infrastructure and staying connected with friends and family is vital to your mental health.

    Take time for positive reflection.

    Honest reflection is important in times like this. When things feel heavy it is important to focus on continued successes, find things that bring you joy and reward yourself. Remember, sometimes success is in the small things in life!

    Manage stress and anxiety.

    It’s important to allow yourself time to recognize these feelings and deal with them in a healthy manner. If you are feeling stressed or have anxiety about what is going on around you, take time for yourself to calm those feelings. Suggestions for managing stress include practicing progressive relaxation techniques, meditation, and deep breathing.

    Stay physically active.

    Physical activity may take some creativity as your usual team sports and gym routines are put on pause. Look to replace them with a body weight or exercise band strengthening program you can do at home. Remember, it is still okay to get outside and get some fresh air during a run, walk, or hike if social distancing is maintained.

    If you already follow these recommendations, keep up the good work and stay focused! But if not, try starting with one of these simple suggestions, and make healthy habits part of your new normal.

    Click below for more information from MedStar Health on COVID-19.

    COVID-19 Information

  • July 22, 2020

    By Jasmeet Singh Bhogal, MD, MBA

    Whether you’re heading off to vacation or enjoying the long days of summer at home, the warm months are a great opportunity to get outside for some fun. The following summer safety tips can help ensure you spend most of your time outside rather than inside a hospital getting treated for an accidental summer injury.

    Headed for an adventure or enjoying the warm months at home? On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, read Dr. Bhogal’s summer safety tips to ensure you spend your time outside rather than bedside in a hospital: https://bit.ly/2CFIgHF.

    Click to Tweet

    Summer safety tips.

    1. Cover your skin in sunscreen and bug spray.

    Whether you’re swimming at the beach or hiking in the mountains, it’s important to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and bug bites. Too much sun exposure can lead to sunburn—or even skin cancer. Likewise, ticks can carry infection-causing bacteria, such as Lyme disease.

    To protect your skin in the sun, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher. Be sure to reapply frequently, especially if you’re sweating or in the water. Other sun precautions include wearing protective clothing, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat—all of which can minimize your skin’s exposure to the sun.

    Before choosing a location for hiking or camping, do your research to make sure you’re avoiding tick-infected areas. While there, consider wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants and using an insect repellent containing DEET to minimize the likelihood of getting bitten. After your hike, a thorough bath is a great way to get rid of any ticks that may be lingering on your skin but haven’t latched on. You should also carefully check for ticks on your body and remove them promptly.

    2. Drink water…and then drink some more.

    Drinking lots of water is the best way to prevent heat-related illnesses because it helps your body stay hydrated and regulate its temperature. Heat-related illnesses can range from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion and stroke, all of which can come on quickly after too much time in the sun.

    To avoid dehydration, take breaks when outside and carry water with you wherever you go. Minimize your sun exposure by seeking shade, when possible, and wearing appropriate clothing. If your clothes become soaked in sweat, be sure to change clothing because wet clothes will make it harder for your body to cool down. When hiking or participating in another outdoor activity with a group of people, make sure you know the signs of heat-related illnesses. If someone shows symptoms, everyone should stop the activity because chances are high that others have it, too.

    3. Keep a first aid kit nearby.

    On top of heat exhaustion, summer recreation can bring on unexpected injuries that range from cuts and scrapes on the skin to muscle-related accidents, like sprains and fractures. As an urgent care physician, I’ve seen my fair share of bike accident injuries and fishhooks lodged in fingers from boating trips.

    There are safety precautions you can take to minimize your risk of both of those things from happening. But if an accident occurs, it’s good to be prepared with a stocked first aid kit. A simple first aid kit should include:

    • 1 bottle of saline solution
    • 5 antibiotic ointment packets
    • 5 sterile gauze pads
    • 25 adhesive bandages, 1 roller bandage, 1 adhesive cloth tape
    • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
    • 2 adhesive compress dressings
    • Tweezers
    • 1 oral thermometer
    • 1 instant cold compress

    Learn more about common summer injuries and how to avoid them.

    4. Be proactive about water safety.

    Did you know drowning is one of the top causes of accidental deaths in the country? The good news is that drowning is almost always preventable with the proper precautions.

    Adults should practice water safety for themselves, and kids will follow their lead. If you’re in or around water, avoid using alcohol or illicit drugs, which can impair your judgment. If you’re on a boat, wear a lifejacket.

    Pools, lakes, and other large bodies of water aren’t the only places where kids can drown. Toilets and buckets with even just a few inches of water pose risks to babies and toddlers. That’s why children should always be actively monitored by an adult who is within an arm’s reach anytime they’re near water.

    The best way to minimize drowning accidents is to ensure that kids can’t access water without help. Pools should be protected with a proper fence on all four sides. Families with young children should make sure bathrooms are secured so little ones can’t accidentally access the tub or toilet.

    Learn more about preventing water injuries and drowning.

    5. Exercise caution around grills and campfires.

    From s’mores to barbecue, some of the best summertime food is tastiest when cooked over a fire. But, the dangers associated with grills and campfires aren’t to be taken lightly.

    Adults and children alike are at risk of severe burns caused by getting too close to a hot grill or fire. To minimize the risk of burns and other fire-related injuries, make sure kids are closely supervised at barbecues and around a campfire. And, never leave either unattended.

    In addition, both campfires and grills should be placed in an open area away from anything that could be flammable. All grill equipment should be properly inspected and maintained to prevent any malfunction, including the gas tank. Consider using fireproof mitts and long-handled utensils when cooking food over a fire to avoid skin exposure to flames. Wearing form-fitting clothing with short sleeves can also ensure you don’t accidentally catch your clothes on fire.

    Get the care you need, now.

    It’s important that you don’t delay your medical needs or ignore symptoms that would typically make you seek care. Early detection and treatment improve our ability to provide the most comprehensive and effective care.

    Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached our region, MedStar Health has made innovations to ensure we are still the best and safest place to receive care.

    We have worked hard to make sure we can provide the care you need in the most appropriate and safe setting. MedStar Health Video Visits are still options for a variety of appointment needs, but in some cases, an in-person visit may be best. We’re here to help you get the right care that reflects your needs and comfort level.

    We’re open and prepared to safely offer the same high-quality care you expect from MedStar Health, when you are ready to see us.

    Find care now.
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  • July 15, 2020

    By Dr. Dionne Hawkins, MPT, Clinic Director at MedStar Health Physical Therapy at Leisure World

    Social restrictions caused by COVID-19 continue to affect us all, and the senior community is no exception. With a higher risk for infection, our senior population is taking extra precautions to stay home, self isolate, and avoid exposure to the virus.

    Keeping your mind and body active is so important while you’re staying home, and we’re here to help with these simple tips and exercises.

    With a higher risk for infection, our senior population is taking extra precautions to stay home and avoid exposure to #COVID19. Read the #LiveWellHealthy blog for tips on how seniors can keep their mind and body active while at home: https://bit.ly/38YYvew

    Click to Tweet

    General tips for staying active.

    • Get up and move at least once every 30 to 60 minutes. Set a timer if you need to!
    • Drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated.
    • Try to do a little exercise every day. A total of at least 30 minutes a day is a good goal.
    • Stretching is just as important as strengthening. Do both!

    6 strengthening exercises you can do at home.

    Keeping your body active is not only beneficial for your physical and overall health, but it is also a great way to occupy your time if you’re feeling bored or restless in the house. These exercises are simple, and only require three things so they can easily be done at home.

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    • Sturdy chair
    • Clear kitchen counter space
    • Clear wall space

    Each exercise should be done at least 10 times.

    1. Chair sit-stand.

    Purpose: strengthens hip and thigh muscles.

    • Scoot to the edge of a sturdy chair (kitchen or dining room chair).
    • Make sure feet are flat on the floor and spread hip-width apart.
    • Lean forward (“get your nose over your toes”).
    • Squeeze buttocks to help you stand.

    2. Wall push-ups.

    Purpose: strengthens chest and arms.

    • Stand facing a clear wall space.
    • Place your palms flat against the wall.
    • Bend your elbows to bring your face as close to the wall as you can without losing your balance.
    • Straighten your elbows to return to standing position.

    3. Standing marches.

    Purpose: strengthens hips and is good for general hip mobility.

    • Hold on to a sturdy chair or the kitchen counter.
    • Raise your knee up towards your chest, then put your foot back down.
    • Repeat, raising the opposite knee.
    • Continue to march in place, lifting the knee as high as you can.

    4. Standing heel-toe raises.

    Purpose: strengthens the calf muscles and helps reduce leg swelling.

    • Hold on to a sturdy chair or the kitchen counter.
    • Raise your heels off the floor as high as you can, standing on tiptoes and then return to starting position.
    • Now lift your toes off the floor and then return to starting position.

    5. Standing hamstring curls.

    Purpose: strengthens thigh muscles and is good for general knee mobility.

    • Hold on to a sturdy chair or the kitchen counter.
    • Lift your foot off the ground backwards, towards your buttocks.
    • Alternate and lift the other foot off the ground towards your buttocks.

    6. Bicep curls.

    Purpose: strengthens arms.

    • Sit in sturdy chair.
    • With a small weight in the hand, bend your elbow
      to raise your hand towards your face.
    • Relax and straighten your elbow to bring the weight back down.

    Tip: If you don’t have dumbbells, you can use a bag of rice or a small can of soup for a weight.

    5 stretching exercises.

    Stretching your muscles is also key when it comes to your physical health. If you are doing strengthening exercises, you should be making sure to stretch as well. And even if you aren’t, stretching is still beneficial to your health, and can be a great way to start your morning. Here are a few you can start out with.

    All stretches should be held for no less than 30 seconds and done twice. Remember, you should only feel a stretch in the muscle, not pain. Ease up if you feel any pain.

    1. Calf stretch.

    • Stand against a clear wall space.
    • Place your palms flat against the wall.
    • Place one foot in front of the other.
    • Lean against the wall, bending the front knee, but keeping the back knee straight.
    • Keep heels on the ground.
    • Stretch should be felt in the back of your leg.
    • Switch legs and repeat.

    2. Hamstring stretch.

    • Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair.
    • Straighten one leg out in front of you, keep the other knee bent.
    • Lean forward from your hips; keep your chest up tall.
    • Stretch should be felt in the back of your thigh.
    • Switch legs and repeat.

    3. Low back stretch #1.

    • Sit in a sturdy chair.
    • Slowly bend forward, reaching to the floor between your knees.
    • Slowly return from bent position to sitting upright.
    • Stretch should be felt across both sides of the low back.

    4. Low back stretch #2.

    • Sit in a sturdy chair.
    • Raise one arm over your head.
    • Bend to the opposite side of the arm that’s raised.
    • Stretch should be felt on one side of your low back.
    • Switch arms and repeat.

    5. Neck stretch.

    • Sit in a sturdy chair.
    • Tip your head to the side, leaning your ear over your shoulder.
    • Stretch should be felt along the side of your neck.

    Exercises for your mind.

    Keeping up with your mental health is just as important as keeping up with your physical health. Being stuck at home with social restrictions due to COVID-19 can be tough on your mental health, but there are plenty of ways to help it. Here are a few activities that can help occupy your time and keep your mind active.

    Go for a walk.

    It’s ok to leave the house and walk outside. Sunshine and fresh air are necessary for general health, boosting your mood, and overall well-being. Be sure to maintain proper physical distancing (six feet) and wear a mask. Make a date to meet your friend or neighbor and take a walk at the same time from opposite sides of the street.

    Stay connected with family and friends.

    Schedule a regular weekly or daily call. This will give you something positive to look forward to and stay connected. If you live nearby, invite them for a visit. Sit on the porch or in front of your house, while they visit from the driveway or sidewalk. If you live further away and everyone has access to a computer or smartphone, schedule virtual meetups using platforms like Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, or Zoom.

    Keep your mind sharp.

    Puzzles are a great way to keep your mind active and keep you occupied during the day. If you want to include your family and friends in on the fun, you can even do a puzzle exchange with them. Crossword puzzles and word searches are also great for your mind. There are plenty of word and number puzzles available on your smartphone or computer, as well as in magazines and newspapers. You can also try reading a new book or listening to an audio book instead of watching television.

    Listen to your body.

    Always pay attention to how your body is feeling when doing any sort of physical activity. Be mindful of any aches and pains you may feel, and remember to ease up or stop if you feel any pain. If you experience soreness or pain lasting longer than a few days after activity, you may benefit from physical therapy. Ask your physician if physical therapy is right for you.

    Want to learn more about physical therapy services with MedStar Health?
    Click the button below.

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  • July 08, 2020

    By Dr. Kari Kindschi, MD, Sports Medicine Physician at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

    Summer is finally here, and the warm weather and longer days offer many reasons for families to get active outside.

    But along with all of the outdoor fun comes more opportunity for activity-related injury, especially if your kids have been less active while stay-at-home orders were in place. In addition to nature-related injuries and illnesses, such as tick bites and sunburn, summer activities present more chances for broken bones, concussions, and other bumps and bruises. As sports medicine physicians, here are some of the most common summer injuries we see in warm weather months and how you can help prevent them at home.

    Wearing a helmet while riding a #Bike can reduce your risk of head injury by up to 88%. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, sports medicine physicians share more tips for preventing 5 common #SummerInjuries: https://bit.ly/3gByXqu.

    Click to Tweet

     

    Common summer injuries.

    1. Bicycle injuries.

    Bike accidents are one of the most common summer injuries because the warmer weather presents more chances for you and your kids to ride together. But, a fall from a bike accident can be dangerous, resulting in cuts, scrapes, fractures, or concussions. If vehicles are involved, a bike crash could even be fatal.

    Tips to prevent bicycle injuries: You can prevent severe head injuries from bike crashes by wearing a helmet. In fact, the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute suggests that wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head and brain injury by up to 88% for both adults and children. Other protective gear, such as knee and elbow pads, can also help to minimize injury from falls. And, a properly-fitted helmet and padding can reduce your risk of injury from skateboard and scooter accidents as well.

    Related article: Bicycle safety: 6 ways to ride safer.

    2. Playground injuries.

    More free time on summer vacation means more time spent visiting the local park or backyard playground. Unfortunately, monkey bars, slides, and swings commonly cause fall-related fractures and head injuries over the summer, even if the equipment is properly maintained.

    Tips to prevent playground injuries: Playground falls are inevitable, but choosing a playground built over soft surfaces can minimize the risk of severe injury. Avoid playgrounds on concrete or gravel and instead look for playgrounds that hover soft surfaces, like rubber or wood chips. Active supervision is also important, as you may be able to help prevent a fall if you’re within arms reach.

    3. Trampoline injuries.

    Concussions and fractures are also common in the summer months as a result of jumping on a trampoline. Bloody noses, bumps, and bruises may not be as serious but they’re also a concern.

    Tips to prevent trampoline injuries: Many trampoline injuries involve a collision between two or more people, so one of the best ways to minimize the risk of injury is to only allow one person to use the trampoline at a time. It’s also a great idea to attach a net around the outside of the trampoline to minimize falls.

    4. Water injuries and drowning.

    Swimming in a pool, lake, or ocean is great exercise but water-related injuries can be fatal. Drowning is the second most common cause of death by unintentional injury from kids between the ages of one and four, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And, even good swimmers can get injured in and around water-related activities like diving, water sports, and boating.

    Tips to prevent water injuries and drowning: Adult supervision is the most effective way to prevent drowning accidents, whether you’re at the pool or in open water. Stay within arms reach when your kids are in or around the pool. If the pool is not fenced in, be sure to cover it when it is not being used. If your family is on a boat participating in or watching water sports, make sure everyone wears a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, even if you’re a good swimmer.

    5. Overuse injuries.

    While school sports may take a break from practices during the summer, travel teams or sports camps are in full swing. Overuse injuries, such as tendonitis or Osgood-Schlatter disease in the knee, can be painful and prevent your kids from fully participating in their sports. Shoulder and elbow overuse injuries are especially common in baseball players and pitchers because of the repetitive throwing motion.

    Tips to prevent overuse injuries: One of the best ways to minimize overuse injuries in kids and teenagers is to encourage them to play more than one sport. Cross-training can help prevent common ligament injuries in the knee, shoulder, and elbow. Additionally, if your child has been sedentary, it’s important to help them gradually return to their sports by slowly increasing the frequency and duration of their participation.

    When to see a doctor for a summer injury.

    If you suspect a head injury of any kind, call a medical professional to determine if they need additional care. It’s always better to seek care sooner rather than later.

    If your child had an activity-related fall, you should seek medical care if they are:

    • Limping
    • Unable to put use full range of motion in an extremity (e.g. arm or leg)
    • Experiencing pain or tenderness when pressure is applied to a joint
    • Having headaches or drowsy, as these could be signs of a concussion

    If you’re unsure if your child should see a doctor, a MedStar Health Video Visit may help you get the answers you need. During a video visit, you can talk to a physician about your child’s condition to find out if they need in-person care. If they do, your provider can direct you to the right orthopedic specialist, if necessary.

    Have a safe, injury-free summer!

    Does your child need medical care for a summer injury?
    Talk to a doctor today.

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