Thursday, February 17, 2011


When pain interferes with your quality of life, it may be time to see a specialist
By Nicole Connor 

(February 17, 2011) Pinellas Park, Fla. — Imagine being in pain for months or even years, unable to get relief no matter what you try. Normally, pain is simply the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. When we break a bone or fall sick with the flu, it’s perfectly normal to feel pain and discomfort until our body heals. But for millions of Americans who suffer from chronic pain, the discomfort simply doesn’t go away. For these sufferers, a more specific approach is needed to treat the pain. So how do you know when the pain is normal and when it may be time to visit a specialist?

Acute vs. Chronic Pain
“Before considering a visit to a pain specialist, you have to consider the kind of pain you have,” says Charles Friedman, D.O., pain specialist at Pain Relief Centers in Pinellas Par. “Acute pain is perfectly normal. This is the pain that comes with an injury, starts suddenly and often goes away quickly. It can be managed fairly easily and will get better on its own as your body starts to heal.” For those with acute pain, an over-the-counter pain reliever or visit to a primary care physician can generally help alleviate the pain.

Chronic pain, however, is much more complex. It can come and go, range in severity and ultimately become a disease itself. “Chronic pain can last for months or even years,” says Friedman. “It can take an emotional toll on the sufferer and can even change the nervous system, causing more sensitivity to pain and making the condition worse. When the pain is to this level, it may be time to talk to your doctor about being referred to a pain specialist.”

Why A Pain Specialist
Pain management specialists are experts in diagnosing and treating chronic pain. They do a complete physical exam to determine what is causing the pain, then design the best plan for you to alleviate your pain and give you back your quality of life. The specialist works closely with your primary care and referring physician to help you return to everyday activities without significant reliance on medication or a need for surgical measures.

“Pain management specialists are trained to recognize the complex nature of pain,” says Friedman. “We approach the problem from multiple directions and focus on the whole person, not just one area of the body, in order to assess and treat those suffering from pain.” 

When to Transition to a Specialist   
Friedman suggests considering a specialist if you have suffered from pain for longer than what is reasonably expected, or if other treatment options have failed to alleviate your pain, as these symptoms may suggest you suffer from chronic pain. Certain conditions may also require further care to manage the pain, including arthritis, back/ neck pain, nerve pain and migraine headaches. A patient suffering from chronic pain or other pain-causing condition would need to consult their primary care doctor or other physician in order to be referred to a pain specialist.

Talk to your primary care or other physician about a referral if:
    • You’ve had mild to severe pain lasting three or more months, but are unsure why.
    • You feel depressed and unable to enjoy the activities you love.
    • You still suffer pain even though a previous illness or injury has healed.
    • The pain makes it difficult for you to sleep.
    • Other treatment options have stopped working or the pain worsens despite them.

While treatment by a pain specialist may not be appropriate for everyone, for those suffering from chronic pain, it may be the best way to improving your quality of life. So talk to your doctor and start on the road to a better, more comfortable life.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Meditation May Change the Brain

By Laura Koster

A new study in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging suggests that meditation actually changes the makeup of the brain – parts of the brain that are associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress, according to a recent piece in The New York Times

Nina Smiley, Ph.D. leads at Mohonk Mountain House called Never Diet Again, a 3-day program that teaches participants how to make mindful choices based on meditation and visualization.  Building Mental Muscle™ through mini-meditations that focus and hone new neural paths, each person leaves the program with life-changing skills – and new responses to old situations – already in place

Meditation expert Nina Smiley, Ph.D., leads the program which progresses from Friday evening through Monday mid-day. Smiley is also co-author of the popular book "The Three Minute Meditator" and its companion CD.  2011 dates are April 8-11, July 15-18 and November 4-7.

Psychiatry Research:
New York Times:
Press Release, Never Diet Again:
YouTube Meditation from Nina Smiley, Ph.D.:

End World Hunger By Ending Factory Farms

The struggle to feed the world has created frustration with its failure for the ones who are hungry and especially because we live in a time where food production is at its highest. Government and big-industries have been trying to make factory farming and GMOs the answer to world hunger. But as time goes on, the futility and damage from their efforts is painfully clear. According to the Worldwatch Institute's "2011 State of the World" report, it's time for "big" farms and engineered foods to step aside and give way to small-scale farming.

Malibu Surfer Says "Just Chill" After Reading Study On Energy Drinks and Kids

By Ashley Kraynak

A Miami University study dominated the health news cycle yesterday concluding that energy drinks could be potentially harmful to children's health.  Beverages such as Red Bull, Energy and 180 have up to five times more caffeine than a can of cola, and contain herbal supplements that supply no health benefits to children (or adults).

With this new information, it's no surprise that players in the relaxation beverage category are taking center stage.  CNN Health and the Washington Post have shown interest, but the latest debate is on whether or not the new relaxation drinks are accompanied by side effects similar to those felt after taking Ambien or even marijuana—especially with names like Canna Cola and Mary Jane's Relaxing Soda.  While most in the relaxation category bill themselves as alternatives to energy drinks, it seems as though many of these products might be as or more harmful to children than Red Bull. 

Robert Young, co-founder of the beverage company behind the new stress relieving drink Just Chill says: "Read the label before you believe the claims the companies behind these products are making." 

Just Chill seeks to answer a new generation in consumer demand: healthy, natural and functional.  A lightly-carbonated, tasty beverage that provides natural stress relief without sedation, it features 7 essential vitamins and minerals, gingko, ginseng, and L-theanine, with only 12g of sugar and 50 calories per can, allowing consumers to keep their cool and live above the noise.  

Just Chill is the brain child of Max Baumann, a 21 year old surfer from Malibu, who while at college noticed that his peers weren't in need of more energy, but instead needed to, well.....just chill out.  From here Max partnered up with Young to develop the beverage, which packs as much L-theanine as 10 cups of green tea into just one can.

"I really just wanted to create a drink that would help people remain calm and focused instead of making them feel jittery and out of control," said Baumann, the 21-year-old CEO.

"While we strongly believe that achieving stress relief through exercise and a diet focused on natural ingredients is the way to go, some of the so-called 'relaxation' beverages are not healthy.  Consumers should avoid anything that promotes drowsiness.  And some of these drinks, unfortunately, certainly do.  Is the drink heavy on natural ingredients or preservatives?  Is there a high count of sugar, carbs, fat or sodium?  If the answers to these questions are yes, that probably means what you're holding is not that good for you,"  added Young.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Couple of Kids (With Cancer) In Love

Local cancer survivor shares her love story while her oncologist offers advice to couples battling cancer together
(February 11, 2011) Pinellas Park, Fla. — Some are tragic, some are triumphant but every love story is worth hearing and worth telling. Whether you've experienced it first-hand or have only heard the tales, here is a couple who endured love and strength, even after being changed forever by cancer.

Two years ago, 76-year-old Fred Kries took on a supportive role for the third time. Not the kind of role you see in the movies, however. This support was for his wife, Donna, a speech pathologist, who was ironically diagnosed with tongue cancer for the third time since 1997. Donna's cancer came back rapidly, requiring multiple surgeries on her tongue, jaw and surrounding tissue, followed by extensive care to help in her recovery.

Through it all, Kries stood by his wife and has been her primary caretaker during her battle with cancer, putting her bed in his office and caring for her around the clock. He, along with her doctors at Wellspring Oncology in Pinellas Park, has helped her make the difficult decisions about her health. And, above all, he does what he can to be an encouragement and overall support for his wife.

Fred and Donna are enduring a challenge faced by many couples today - the challenge of battling cancer together. "Cancer not only affects those diagnosed, but also the partners who love and care for them," says Robert Miller, M.D., radiation oncologist at Wellspring Oncology. "Thousands of people are diagnosed with cancer every day, and thousands more step into a new supportive role."

However, there is no handbook to guide those in taking on this supportive position, leaving many spouses feeling frustrated and confused. "For many people living with cancer, support from their spouse is extremely important in helping them battle the disease," says Miller. "Often, however, partners feel unsure of the best way to offer that support. They know that they want to support their spouse, but they just aren't quite sure how to go about it."

How, then, does one face this role head-on and help the one they love most in their fight against cancer? Miller offers some advice to help spouses provide the support their partners need.

Communication Is Key
One of the best ways to offer support to your partner is through communication. Discuss what you are both thinking and feeling on a regular basis, and allow your spouse to talk for as long as he or she needs. Also, encourage your partner to express their true feelings, both good and bad. Understanding your spouse's thoughts and emotions is key to supporting them.

"It's so important that a couple communicate with one another during such a difficult time," says Miller. "In order to effectively support your partner, you have to know what he or she needs from you. There's no better way to find out than to ask."

Miller also reminds supporting partners that these needs may change often. For those living with cancer, emotions and the needs that come with them can differ from one day to the next, so being in tune with those is essential to providing the best support you can.

Let Them Decide
During this journey, your spouse may have to make some difficult decisions regarding his or her health. Be supportive of these decisions, even if they aren't the ones you may have made. While the two of you are on this journey together, it's important to remember that it's your partner who is living with the disease. Offer your input and discuss your fears, but allow your spouse to decide what he or she thinks is the best choice.

Don't Forget Yourself
The best way to make sure you have the physical and emotional ability to continue caring for the one you love is by keeping yourself healthy. When your partner is living with cancer, it can be difficult to focus on your own needs. However, it's important to remember self care, as well. Taking a moment away will not only allow you time to focus on yourself, it will also make you a better caregiver for your spouse.

"It's common to spend less time on yourself when you're caring for a spouse with cancer," says Miller, "but if you don't take care of yourself, it will be much more difficult to care for your partner. Taking time for yourself will be beneficial for both of you."

So spend a little time on yourself. Take short breaks and do something active, like going for a walk or spending an hour at the gym, and try to maintain a healthy diet, as well. Exercise and eating well may seem like the least of your worries, but it's important for the well-being of both you and your spouse.

Remember Your Relationship
Even though you've taken on this new supportive role, it's important to remember that you are also a spouse. While your partner may need a caregiver, he or she also needs that relationship that was there before the cancer diagnosis. "It's easy to get caught up in the caregiver role, but don't forget to also be a spouse," says Miller. "Even during such a difficult time, couples should still continue being couples."

So spend some time together focusing on one another, not cancer. If your partner is feeling well enough, go out for a date night. Or if your spouse isn't feeling up to a night out, just enjoy time with one another at home.  No matter how you go about it, spend time together as a couple and continue to be a spouse to your partner.

Living with cancer can be one of the most difficult times a couple can face. However, as a partner, you have the ability to give the support, love and encouragement that your spouse needs the most to battle this disease.