Knee Pain Got You Down?

Knee Pain Got You Down?

You’re not alone. Knee pain is the most common joint affliction among us all. But there’s no need to continue suffering. Orthopedic surgeons say options abound for relieving and deterring knee pain.

You step off the curb, and, BANG, you get a shot of pain from your knee. Or you start that trendy new exercise program and, POP, your knee twinges and spasms. Maybe you don’t think anymore about that initial knee pain. But should you?

RICE to the rescue. As soon as you know you’ve hurt your knee, follow the RICE rule: Rest, Ice, Compression (wrap it), and Elevation. “But if you’re unable to bear any weight on the knee, if it feels unstable, or you’re unable to move it, then seek medical attention,” says James V. Worthen, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with St. Vincent’s Orthopedics in Birmingham.

Before you change your routine.
Knee pain usually pops up when people start some new activity, especially in those over 50. “Especially if there’s a preexisting injury to your knee, it’s important to understand the injury, so you don’t aggravate it,” says Dr. Worthen. Get a professional opinion before trying any new dance moves, exercise routines, or hobbies. Even gardening creates potential risks to the knee. Professional knowledge is your best armor.

One pound equals three. The best thing you can do for your knees is stay trim. “Keep the weight off and keep moving,” says Dr. Worthen. “Just with walking, each pound of body weight means about three to five pounds gets transmitted through your knee with every step.”

Age is your enemy.
Not a surprising statement, perhaps, but worth mentioning because those over 50 have a less flexible meniscus — the cartilage padding between the end of your thigh and the shin bone. “That tears with lesser energy now, so even rising up from bending over while twisting during yard work can damage it,” says Dr. Worthen. Just be aware, he says, and that’s your best prevention.

What’s the cure? Most knee pain can be helped with time, therapy or medication from your physician. But many can require a specialist’s touch from an orthopedic surgeon. “Generally, in an orthopedic practice, knee pain is the number one thing we see,” says Dr. Worthen. But even then, only about 10% end up requiring knee surgery as the first option.

“There’s no magic bullet as far as prevention of knee pain,” says Dr. Worthen. But there’s no need to suffer with it when a visit to your physician or a knee specialist, like an orthopedic surgeon, could repair it or at least relieve it. “That’s what we’re here for,” he says.

by Jane Ehrhardt

To read more about Dr. James V. Worthen, click here.
For more on St. Vincent’s Orthopedics, click here.

This article written and brought to you by

Don’t Hit the Mall for Your Anti-Aging Regime

Don’t Hit the Mall for Your Anti-Aging Regime

You want to fight Father Time? Then bring in the true professionals. With a dermatologist in your corner, even your make-up becomes your skin’s ally.

Sure, you know a dermatologist can help with moles and acne, but did you know they can be your best beauty consultant? “Going to a dermatologist instead of a beauty counter at a store means you get more potent procedures and physician-grade products,” says Jenny Sobera, MD, a board certified dermatologist with Village Dermatology in Birmingham. You also get skincare know-how based on years of medical school and specialized training.

The best of both worlds. When it comes to skin, “so many people are procedure-oriented and miss the boat on good skincare,” says Dr. Sobera. “Anti-aging is not just about beauty but about the health of the skin in general. You have your skin for life.”

You won’t hear this at the beauty counter.
“A good key ingredient in adulthood is vitamin C on the skin. It prevents sun damage and skin cancer,” says Dr. Sobera. “The other thing is sunscreen with zinc or titanium; they’re a physical blocker.”

Powerful stuff.
“Department stores offer really great products, but they can’t offer you physician-grade skin care, such as prescription-level retin-A,” explains Dr. Sobera. T

The same with spas. Dermatologists can offer you a higher potency in procedures like chemical peels, because they have physicians on staff. And that can mean more type of anti-aging treatment options as well, including laser hair removal, chemical peels, radio frequency skin toning, pulsed light to fight brown spots and redness, and light treatments for broken capillaries and cherry angiomas.

“But you get more flexibility and customization for your skin with us, because there’s an MD present,” emphasizes Dr. Sobera.

Why would you not go to a dermatologist for makeup?
“We use products that treat the skin rather than cover it,” says Dr. Sobera. She uses mineral make-ups at a quality not found in department stores. “The minerals are anti-inflammatory and don’t close up your pores, so they’re good for acne and also naturally sun protective without chemicals.” That means make-up made for those suffering from rosacea, sun damage, and acne. “In fact,” adds Dr. Sobera. “Higher quality companies often only sell their lines through dermatologists, so we have a lot more superior products available for you.”

by Jane Ehrhardt

To read more about Dr. Jenny Sobera, click here.
For more on Village Dermatology, click here.

This article written and brought to you by


Every Step You Take Need Not Hurt

Are your tootsies giving you twinges of pain? Don’t suffer. Podiatrists know how to pinpoint that foot pain and offer you sweet relief.

The sexes finally rule equally in something. Unfortunately, that something is foot pain. Women do tend to suffer more, because they put fashion before comfort. But the most common causes of foot pain, like plantar fasciitis, bunions, and high arches, assault both sexes equally.

It’s on the bottom.
The most common cause of foot pain — well, it’s on your heel actually — is from plantar fasciitis. It hits you underneath or just behind your heel where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone.

But I’m so young. “People in their mid 30s and 40s are still very active. But that’s when you begin to lose elasticity in the Achilles tendon. That tightness means you’re susceptible to plantar fasciitis,” says Todd Falls, DPM, with Montclair Podiatry in Birmingham.

You may never know.
“You can also injure your foot and not realize you’ve done it, like a slight slip as you’re walking or you step off the curb incorrectly. You can be suffering from things that aren’t obvious, like stress fractures, enlarged nerve of foot, gout or tendinitis,” says Dr. Falls.

It’s time!
“If you have any kind of foot or heel pain that lasts longer than five days and is not relieved by rest or taking anti-inflammatories, then it could be something more serious,” says Dr. Falls. So call your podiatrist. You don’t need to hurt.

Comfort is actually a preventative. “If people would think about using the truly appropriate shoe for their activity and not worry about the style so much, there’d be much less pain out there,” says Dr. Falls.

Try switching shoes throughout the day.
Not that you have to give up your look to keep your feet healthy, but maybe choose to wear walking shoes to and from meetings, the office and even inside your office. Then slip on those dressy, less supportive shoes only when hit a meeting, show a house, or enter the courthouse.

You can’t blame high heels. “Wearing high heels does not cause any condition,” says Dr. Falls. “But they don’t help. If you have foot or heel problems, than higher heels can cause more symptoms.”

The job doesn’t help.
“Policemen, hairstylists, delivery men, real estate agents, even paralegals lugging boxes to and from courtrooms. Any professional on their feet for most of the day, if you’re hurting, see a podiatrist,” says Dr. Falls. “Custom foot supports for your shoes or simple stretching exercises can treat a lot of different foot pains. We can help.”

by Jane Ehrhardt

To read more about Dr. Falls, click here.
For more on Montclair Podiatry, click here.

This article written and brought to you by

But the Baby Teeth Aren’t Gone Yet!

But the Baby Teeth Aren’t Gone Yet!

You’ll be surprised at what age your child should be seeing an orthodontist. But having your child’s teeth assessed early can mean cheaper and easier corrections while their bones are still growing.

When you think kids and orthodontists, you think braces. If so, you’re thinking about orthodontists too late.

About the time they start school. By 7 years old, some molars have begun to show and baby teeth are dropping out. So things are shifting in the mouth and that’s when kids should be seen by an orthodontist to have their bite evaluated. “We’re looking for habits, like thumb sucking or mouth breathing in asthma sufferers, and for protrusive teeth or bad bite alignment,” says Stephanie B. Whitehead, DMD, MS, an orthodontist since 1988 in Birmingham.

The bones are in motion. “Certain things correct more easily while children’s bones are still forming,” says Dr. Whitehead. “It lessens the severity of the correction later if you catch some problems early.” For instance, a child who tongue thrusts while swallowing can drastically deform their tooth alignment and form speech impediments.

Parents! Listen to this.
“I think what most parents ignore about their children’s teeth is the potential for skeletal problems,” says Dr. Whitehead. “If you catch a bite problem in a girl by age 10 or 11, before her growth spurt, you have a much better chance of correcting it permanently and without surgery, than if you wait until 13, when most girls are done growing.” The CDC has growth charts here.

It’s free!
Most orthodontists don’t charge for that initial assessment visit. “We want to get a baseline for the child,” says Dr. Whitehead. “So isn’t it better to eliminate any possibility that there’s a problem forming rather than assume it’s all normal and then face serious corrections in the future?”

They’re wrong about orthodontists. Dr. Whitehead says the one piece of advice she wishes parents would hear is that “orthodontists are more about perfecting the bite of their child for functional purposes rather than about their pretty smile.”

I feel good. “Another reason to bring your children in early to see an orthodontist is for their self-confidence,” says Dr. Whitehead. “If they’re very embarrassed about their teeth, it can affect their whole psyche.” Protruding teeth, funny chewing habits, and gaps will mean teasing. A better bite early on means another area of themselves you’ve given your child to feel good about. And a healthy, confident child is what every parent strives for.

by Jane Ehrhardt

To read more about Dr. Whitehead, click here.
For more on her practice in Birmingham, click here.

This article written and brought to you by


Moles: Beauty Marks or Time Bombs?

Moles are unpredictable. Some lay like glorified exclamation points on the creamy skin of models and others grow into grotesque mini-mounds of tissue better suited to an ogre. But do you know which ones are dangerous?

Yes, Cindy Crawford and Marilyn Monroe made moles into beauty marks. But looks can be deceiving. Since most all moles grow, can you tell which ones just look like they’re trying to kill you and which ones mean you’re facing a real health danger?

What is that thing? Moles are pigment cells, called melanocytes, that grew in a cluster instead of spreading out. “These types of cells continue to grow,” says Retna Billano, MD, a dermatologist at Montclair Dermatology & Aesthetic Center in Birmingham. Most moles appear by the time you hit 20, with the average person having 10 to 40 moles by adulthood. Some grow slowly, some fast, some change color, many get lighter, and some may even disappear.

It all means something. And those changes can tell you, or more importantly, a dermatologist, if or when to do something about them. “The growing mole is not a concern unless it changes in character, like shape or texture or darkens in color,” says Dr. Billano. “Growing larger, but the same, is fine.” Otherwise, go see your dermatologist.

The sun, it burns!
“Nothing can inhibit the growth of a mole, but changes can be triggered by sunlight or some hormones, such as during pregnancy,” says Dr. Billano.

You can even get moles there. “The scalp and the bottom of the feet are places people don’t think to look for moles,” says Dr. Billano. Moles on the sole of your foot are most likely melanoma (skin cancer), so head right to your dermatologist.

Get it off me! If your dermatologist suspects the mole is cancerous, they will likely numb the area and cut the whole thing out, leaving you with some stitches. If they think it’s precancerous or it’s a mole that’s simply irritating to you, such as rubbing against your clothing, they will use a scalpel to “shave” it down to skin depth or freeze it off.

Young women are the worst. Because moles are so unpredictable, get a full body check of your moles every year. Start as early as 20 years old, because melanoma is the most common cancer in women ages 25-29. “Catch it early,” emphasizes Dr. Billano. “It’s curable if you catch it early.”

Remember that if you’re looking for certainty, look to your dermatologist. They can always tell whether that mole you’ve got is a burgeoning beauty mark or a little time bomb that needs defusing.

by Jane Ehrhardt

To read more about Dr. Billano, click here.
For more on Montclair Dermatology & Aesthetic Center, click here.

This article written and brought to you by

Acute pain in a neck at the young women

Ouch! Hey, There’s a Doctor for That.

The treatment of pain has become a specialty in medicine, like neurosurgery and podiatry.

You’re hurting. You’ve been hurting for a bit. So why not see a pain doctor. “Aren’t all doctors ‘pain doctors’?,” you ask. Actually, no. The treatment of pain has become its own specialty.

“Seeing a pain physician comes after seeing your primary care physician and usually before seeing a surgeon as a way to treat pain. And often after having surgery too,” says Kenneth Varley, MD, an interventional pain physician with Southern Pain Specialists in Birmingham.

When pain becomes the disease. “When the primary cause of your pain is as good as it’s going to get, then now the pain is the disease,” says Dr. Varley. That’s chronic pain, and that’s what pain doctors excel at treating. He says 70% of his patients come to him suffering from back pain.

Interventional what?
Interventional pain physicians (IPP) focus on treatments that don’t rely solely on narcotics, including psychological and behavioral methods, along with medical approaches.

Where does it hurt?
”Our primary function is diagnosis. That seems obvious, right?,” says Dr. Varley, a diplomate of the American Board of Pain Medicine. But IPPs focus on discovering the exact source of the pain, such as a nerve or disk tissue. “Then to prove our diagnosis, we inject an anesthetic into that nerve or area,” he says. “If we’re right, the pain goes away.” If not, they keep looking.

Make it go away.
“The first line of pain treatment is usually an injection of steroids, because 80% of pain is caused by inflammation,” says Dr. Varley. He also uses radio frequency to stop nerves from sending pain signals, prescribes medications, and utilizes techniques ranging from intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET) to laser discectomies.

Isn’t there a pill for that? Possibly. And some types of pain physicians focus on narcotics as their treatment. “But our ideal is to get patients off narcotics,” says Dr. Varley. “Even better is to let us see you before you start on a downward spiral of more and more pain medications.”

Time is not your friend.
“A lot of chronic pain is from a failure to treat it early,” stresses Dr. Varley. He says 50% to 60% of the patients he sees could have prevented their chronic pain with early intervention.

So now you know these medical experts exist who focus only on pain relief, find yourself one. Patience is not a virtue when it comes to chronic pain.

by Jane Ehrhardt

To read more about Dr. Varley, click here.
For more on Southern Pain Specialists, click here.

This article written and brought to you by

It Takes More than Heart

It Takes More than Heart

Where your heart health is concerned, coronary artery disease Is actually the big threat.

Oh sure, the heart gets all the publicity. People say, “What a big heart!” and “She’s so strong-hearted.” And it was, after all, the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes that day that saved Christmas.

But it’s the tiny coronary arteries that keep that all-important pump filled with oxygen-rich blood. So if something goes wrong with those tiny vessels, then your one-and-only heart truly suffers.

But they’re just little tubes. Coronary artery disease (CAD), also called coronary heart disease, is the leading cause of death in the U.S. in both men and women. Unfortunately, these delicate vessels easily fall prey to blockages from plaque build-up that narrows their width. “But fortunately, you’re born with a heart that pumps more blood than you need. You have reserves,” says Clifton Lewis, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon with Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons in Birmingham.

Surely I’ll know when there’s trouble. “Some people need only a little blockage in one area to disable them with symptoms, while another person has almost everything closed off, and their first symptom is a heart attack. It’s all variable,” says Dr. Lewis, who’s been a board certified cardiothoracic surgeon for 22 years.

The two symptoms people ignore. “Fatigue and shortness of breath, particularly in women,” says Dr. Lewis. “Their energy and breath consistently give out quickly when they’re exerting themselves. In diabetics, they’re usually just tired.”

Oil your arteries. “Most people stumble into poor health,” says Dr. Lewis. “But if you’re eating fish, you may be stumbling into good health.” Some cold-water fish, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, known to help reduce the build-up of plaque in arteries.

There’s no cure, so pay attention. “Coronary artery disease is a chronic, progressive, incurable disease. We don’t cure it; we make people live longer and relieve the disease,” says Dr. Lewis. “It’s a big unpleasant experience to get a bypass, so your goal is to not ever need me.”

He adds that to increase your odds of avoiding CAD, lead a healthy lifestyle: no smoking (even smokeless tobacco), stay lean, make exercise a religious endeavor, and eat a healthy diet. Otherwise, you may find yourself literally “broken-hearted”.

by Jane Ehrhardt

To read more about Dr. Lewis, click here.
For more on Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons PC, click here.

This article written and brought to you by

A Talk with Dr. Mia Cowan

A Talk with Dr. Mia Cowan

“I like to fix problems,” says Mia Cowan, MD, FACOG, MA, MBA. “I loved surgery, but I also love educating people on their health and disease prevention.”

By her third year at the Medical College of Wisconsin, she knew she had found how she could best serve patients with her trifecta of healing skills — gynecology.

Her mother, a nurse, first implanted the idea of Mia becoming a doctor by taking her along on home visits. “I remember in the seventh grade telling my mom that I wanted to be a doctor,” she says.

After her gynecological residency in Wisconsin — where she also met and married her husband — Dr. Mia Cowan returned to Birmingham and spent four years serving the indigent in Jefferson County.

Then in the fall of 2010, she stepped out on her own to open her dream practice. It revolves around making women feel both healthy and beautiful. “I want my patients to look good and feel good about themselves,” she says.

MiBella Wellness Center now includes not only her thriving gynecological practice, but a weight loss program. For this component, Dr. Cowan completed extensive training at the Center for Medical Weight Loss, which is the largest network of physicians focused on bariatric medicine in the country.

“Weight loss can be a very emotional thing, so we have a very encouraging staff,” she says. Weight problems, she says, contribute to so many chronic health conditions, like osteoarthritis, back pain, hypertension and diabetes, that it deserves special attention from physicians. “It’s something I’ve struggled with myself,” she adds.

To further fulfill MiBella Wellness’ mission of “a beautiful approach to health,” Dr. Cowan recently began offering cosmetic procedures. The first one, called Smartlipo, uses a laser to melt and destroy fat cells, which are then easily removed.

In every aspect of her practice, Dr. Cowan has instilled the call of service. “We do almost a concierge kind of service here. I even give my patients my cell phone number. But we educate them so well on any health issues that I rarely get a call,” she says. “I’ve been able to build my practice on referral alone because of our strong belief in service.”

Having attended both University of Alabama for her undergraduate and master’s degrees and Auburn University for her MBA, her allegiance to Birmingham couldn’t be stronger. She and her husband Joseph live in Hoover with their daughter Marley (named after Bob Marley). Not surprisingly, she loves Jamaica and hopes to travel more frequently soon.

by Jane Ehrhardt

To read more about Dr. Mia Cowan, click here.
For more on MiBella Wellness Center, click here.

This article written and brought to you by