Smartphoning it in

There are a number of apps available for smartphones to help people with topics like dieting and fitness, blood pressure monitoring, stress management and reduction, first aid, and more. It's worth browsing through the health and medicine section of your phone's app store occasionally. If an app is free, you lose nothing by downloading it; you can always delete it. If it costs something, user reviews, which link to the product descriptions in your phone's app store, can help you decide whether to spend the money. Many app producers also offer free test runs. The following are a few examples of the highest-rated and most widely used apps for common health problems. Some are free; none cost more than a one-time charge of $5. More »

You've torn your ACL. Now what?

People with ACL injuries in the knee may want to consider physical therapy to see how well the knee heals before deciding on difficult and expensive reconstruction surgery. A study by researchers in Sweden and Denmark confirms this. The investigators followed 121 young, active adults with ACL tears, half of whom were randomly assigned to have physical therapy and surgery, while the others had physical therapy with surgery as an option later. The results suggest a wait-and-see approach may be right for some with torn ACLs and that more than half of expensive ACL reconstructions could be avoided "without adversely affecting outcomes." (Locked) More »

New caution about opioids

Abuse of prescription opioid medications has increased, resulting in overdoses and deaths. There is also evidence that long-term use of an opioid can affect the nervous system so people become more sensitive to painful stimuli and cause other side effects. For much of its history, methadone has been known as the drug used to treat heroin dependence. But methadone is also a powerful, long-acting painkiller. A small dose of methadone can provide pain relief for a long time. What makes methadone especially dangerous, even when it's being used legitimately, is that it lingers in the body long after its pain-killing effects have subsided. Taking more methadone than the body can metabolize at one time, or taking additional methadone before the previous dose has been eliminated, can slow respiration down so much that breathing stops. Methadone can also affect the heartbeat and lead to life-threatening arrhythmias. Treatment guidelines published in 2009 strongly recommended that methadone be used cautiously and only under the supervision of clinicians familiar with its risks. (Locked) More »