Managing your health care

Treating pain after opioid addiction: A personal story

Peter Grinspoon, MD
Peter Grinspoon, MD, Contributing Editor

What happens when a person who was addicted to opiates is injured and needs pain medication? A doctor who is in recovery has firsthand experience.

If you have low back pain try these steps first

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

The American College of Physicians has released revised guidelines for the treatment of low back pain, and their recommendations for the most common types of pain do not include medications.These forms of low back pain usually get better over time and treatment should begin with therapies like heat and massage.

Why the AHCA would have been bad for children — and an unavoidable truth moving forward

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Regardless of whether the government eventually creates a suitable replacement for the Affordable Care Act, providing adequate health insurance to as many children as possible is crucial to healthy development. Regular health care can help ensure that nothing gets missed — like a high lead level, serious allergy, a smoldering infection, autism — because left unrecognized, the effects can be lifelong, or even deadly.

Home remedies that may be worth a try

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Sometimes a home remedy (one making use of inexpensive items already on hand or easy to obtain) can be as effective as a medical treatment, and far less costly. Because seemingly benign home remedies can have dangerous side effects you may want to check with your doctor to see if there are any risks involved.

Can you virtually improve your knee pain?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

A study of people with osteoarthritis of the knee found that at the end of the study period, those participants who received more personalized attention via the web (including physical therapy sessions and information about pain management) had less pain and better movement function.

How good is my doctor? Awards, acronyms, and anecdotes…Oh my

Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS

It’s already hard enough to pick the right doctor for yourself without all these awards and designations to pull apart. Which ones actually mean something and which ones don’t? These awards and the acronyms following a doctor’s name might be easier to interpret than you think. Just make sure not to judge a book by its cover – or a doctor by his or her labels.

Making health social: Friends and family as part of the health care team

David Scales, MPhil, MD, PhD

Healthy choices can be hard to make, but it becomes much easier when your entire social circle helps you keep up with it. According to a recent study, engaging your friends and family in your lifestyle changes will hold you accountable, and you will be more likely to stick with those changes. Making them a regular part of your “health care team” could go a long way to maintaining your health.

What’s the evidence for evidence-based medicine?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

The history of medicine is filled with remedies that were relied upon for hundreds of years until they were eventually proven ineffective or possibly even dangerous, while legitimate practices and treatments were disregarded or ridiculed until evidence outweighed skepticism. The bottom line is that medical interventions — from tests to treatments — should neither be recommended nor condemned without considering and weighing the evidence. A future post will discuss what physicians look for when evaluating “the evidence.”

White coat syndrome or white coat logo syndrome? The pitfalls of doctor shopping by “brand”

Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS

Branding has the power to influence people, but it should not necessarily be a significant, or the only, factor when it comes to health care. Picking a physician based on the name of their hospital does not always correlate with quality of care, and it could even cost you a larger copay.

Taking medications correctly requires clear communication

David Scales, MPhil, MD, PhD

Taking medications incorrectly means that patients don’t get the full benefit of the drugs and may experience unnecessary (or unnecessarily severe) side effects. The result can even cause a simple ailment to turn into a hospital stay. It’s essential that patients understand when to take their medications, and why they’re taking them in the first place. This understanding relies heavily on successful communication between patients and their doctors. Gaps, such as language barriers, can be bridged in a number of ways.