STDs aren’t the End of the World—How to Proceed

Establishing a new relationship is hard work: there’s the meet cute, the important first date, the essential first kiss, and then eventually moving to intercourse together. Unless at some point you both decide to break things off, the stress of increasing physical, emotional, and spiritual connectivity may only intensify from there.

So what do you do if an STD interferes with your intimate progress?

Stifle the Stigma

Why should it be any more shameful to catch an infection from sex than it is from shaking hands, a kiss or being coughed upon?” asks Dr. Jen Gunter — a California obstetrician and gynecologist. “No one is immune to an STI,” adds Emily Depasse, sexologist and founder of SexELDucation. “[They] are more common than most people realize and testing positive isn’t indicative of one’s character.”

Indeed, according to the CDC, one in five Americans have an STI, which is 20% of the population. (For context, only 2-6% of the United States’ population has naturally red hair.) Accepting this truth, and moving on to the requirements of treatment and healing is better for your own health, and that of your new partner.

Arm Yourself with Information

Knowledge is power, but knowledge is also empowering. Getting educated about the prevalence, symptoms, and easy treatments of STIs and STDs will help you get the right kind of treatment. The American Sexual Health Association provides a comprehensive guide of STDs and STIs (the infections that cause STDs) from chlamydia to trichomoniasis. This tool can equip you with all the necessary information about causes, symptoms, and treatments. Your doctor can also provide thorough information, and answer your personal questions directly.

Get Tested Regularly

Even when you know you have an STI or STD, it’s important to continue regular testing for additional infections. Keep in mind that many STDs and STIs may have no symptoms at all, which is why you should get thoroughly tested at least once a year.

Depending on your level of sexual activity, more frequent testing may be recommended. “If you have multiple partners, particularly if you’re not using [protection],” advises Dr. Edward W. Hook III, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and microbiology at the University of Alabama, “you should consider more frequent testing.” This means at least every six months, if not every four.

Why get tested if you don’t have any problematic or alarming symptoms? Depending on the type of STI or STD you have — and how long it has gone untreated — several serious medical issues can escalate, including increased risk of infertility, a weakened immune system, and increased risk for cancer.

Meanwhile, you could be harming those with whom you come in sexual contact.

Learn How To Talk About It

Just like knowledge, naming a thing is power. Being able to talk honestly with your new partner about your STD or STI status is important for many reasons. For one, it protects your partner’s health, and gives them agency regarding how to proceed. It also establishes clear and honest communication between the two of you — which is key to any successful relationship.

Sex therapist Rachel Needle gave CNN this advice about how to have the conversation: “First, make sure you tell them in person, face-to-face. Be prepared to educate your partner about the STI you have, including ways you can be sexually active and reduce the chance of transmission. If you feel comfortable, you can share with them how you contracted the STI and how, if at all, it has impacted you. Allow your partner to ask any questions they have and provide them with good resources to learn more on their own.”

Though it may seem scary and intimidating, taking control of an STD or STI diagnosis may actually be easier than coming up with creative ideas for your next awesome date.

If you are concerned about an STD, STI, or related health complications, our specialists can help. At United Physician Group, we are committed to your health, and we believe in prevention and intervention. Contact us online or call 833-523-0906 to make an appointment today.

How Pain Impacts Men and Women Differently

There’s been ongoing social debate for years about who withstands pain better: men or women. Perhaps you’ve even had such a discussion at your dinner table. Some believe women have an overall higher tolerance for pain, thanks in part to their experience with childbirth and menstrual periods. Others feel men are more adept at “muscling through” a painful experience.

But there’s an abundance of research establishing scientific reasons why men and women truly do experience pain differently. Here are some of the fascinating — and informative — findings.

Biological Differences

According to the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, “Women are more likely than men to develop [painful] conditions, especially of the musculoskeletal system . . . such as osteoarthritis, most inflammatory arthropathies, fibromyalgia, and low back pain.” This is because of a variety of factors, including differences in anatomy, sex-hormone levels, and responses to inflammation.

Researcher and psychologist Roger Fillingim has been studying gender differences and pain for over twenty years, and has also concluded that women’s higher levels and fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone may be contributing factors. “[M]en have higher levels of testosterone,” he told NPR, which in some studies appeared to protect against pain, or decrease pain sensitivity.

Genetic predisposition may also contribute to pain experience. Sarah Linnstaedt, a translational biologist at the University of North Carolina Medical Center, has recently identified a series of RNA molecules in the bloodstream “that are more likely to be elevated in women who develop chronic neck, shoulder or back pain after a motor-vehicle accident. Many of these RNA molecules are encoded by genes on the X chromosome, of which there are two copies in most women.”

Psychological Differences

Differences in handling the stress and anxiety pain can cause may be another factor. In her studies, Jennifer Kelly, PhD, of the Atlanta Center for Behavioral Medicine has observed: “Women tend to focus on the emotional aspects of pain. Men tend to focus on the physical sensations they experience. Women who concentrate on the emotional aspects of their pain may actually experience more pain as a result, possibly because the emotions associated with pain are negative.” Women may also be more prone to depression caused by chronic pain.

“Pain expression is complex: though partly hard-wired by evolution, it is affected by many personal factors,” an analysis of pain from University College London acknowledges. Psychological beliefs about articulating or expressing pain could make it difficult to gauge its severity, for example. “Men are still often expected to suppress certain emotions and action . . .” The Conversation points out, “and these beliefs may also affect how pain is expressed, viewed and responded to.”

The gender of a care provider could also psychologically influence a patient’s honesty about pain: “I’ve noticed that women typically feel more comfortable discussing pain symptoms and being vulnerable with female health care providers,” Leia Rispoli, M.D., a pain management specialist and associate physician at Remedy Pain Solutions, told Glamour, “which, in chronic pain, there are very few of us.”

A Call for Individualized Treatment

Many of these studies around pain and gender are comparatively recent, and research is still ongoing. Even as progress continues, pain assessment may still be impacted by gender bias.

This is why we specialize in individualized pain assessment, care, and treatment. While we are your advocates in finding the best pain solution, we encourage you to advocate for yourself, and are dedicated to listening to your specific concerns, needs, and questions.

Whether you identify as a man, woman, or non-binary individual, pain management is one of our specialties. For caring, high-quality pain management solutions, visit our website or call us at 833-523-0906.

In Pain? How to Advocate For Your Health to Doctors

Chronic pain can cause many stressors beyond the pain itself. But talking to your doctor doesn’t need to be one of them. Though you may feel uncertain during an appointment, at United Physician Group we are committed to addressing your pain — and all of your health matters — with kindness and empathy. Here are a few things you can do to help your doctor understand your pain, and collaborate with you for solutions.

Take Note of Your Own Body

Being armed with information is one of the best ways to be proactive about pain. But this doesn’t require encyclopedic internet printouts or endless email chains of advice from your neighborhood chat group. Though research can offer extra information, what may best equip you (and therefore your doctor) is self-awareness.

“Think about the duration and quality of the pain. How you’d describe it if someone asked when it started,” Sana Goldberg, practicing nurse in New Haven, CT, and author of How to Be a Patient: The Essential Guide to Navigating the World of Modern Medicine told REWIRE. “If anything has relieved it, and if anything has made it worse. Prepare an ‘elevator pitch’ of sorts. The more you can describe it, the better you’re going to be able to work with your physician.”

Pay attention also to how temperature, food, over-the-counter pain medicines and physical activity also impact your pain. All of these details will help paint an even clearer picture, and will help your doctor plan for how to alleviate it.

Coordinate with Caregivers

“When you’re seeing a whole bunch of different specialists, they don’t always talk, which can make the diagnostic process take much longer,” Isabel Mavrides, a Latina disability justice activist and organizer explained to GREATIST. If necessary, bring everyone together in a Zoom or conference call, or even an email chain. Find the format that works best for you and your specialists, to make sure everyone is clearly connected. (Because of HIPAA regulations protecting your privacy, your doctors may then continue the conversation through more secure channels, but now they all know who is on your care team.)

A friend or family member can also help with this task. In fact, asking a trusted loved one to attend appointments with you — to take notes, ask questions, and provide thoughtful and honest feedback to your own fears and reactions in private — may help a great deal.

Ask Questions When You Have Them

Your doctor knows a lot, but she or he doesn’t always know what you want to know. When a question arises, remember that your doctor is a member of your whole-health team who wants to help. In October 2021, U.S. News & World Report shared 17 questions doctors wish their patients would ask, including those around:

  • Preventative care
  • Comprehension of what’s been shared
  • Other trusted sources of information
  • How your family history may impact treatment
  • Specifics around prescriptions
  • How sleep impacts pain and treatment
  • The reason behind tests, and what results will reveal
  • What they do for their own health and well-being

Dr. Ted Epperly, a clinical professor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine underscored the importance of question-asking in Time magazine:  “Asking questions is one of the best ways to ensure you and your doctor are on the same page,” he explained. “And if your doctor doesn’t seem interested in answering, or you get a negative response, you need to find a new doctor.”

Second opinions and finding a better personality fit may also help you solve your challenges. But be sure that, wherever you go, you’re taking the most important person in the conversation seriously — yourself.

At United Physicians Group, we’re here to advocate for and with you. Connect with us online or call (833) 523-0906 for consultation.

Why It’s Important to Listen to Doctor’s Orders

Though many people managed through the worst of the COVID pandemic without access to their usual hairstylist or personal trainer, we all gained a deeper appreciation for those we rely on for our happiness, fitness, beauty, and health. And the most important person watching over your long-term health is your primary care doctor. 

Though there may be some debate about the necessity of annual check-ups for healthy individuals, listening to your doctor’s advice is beneficial for more than one reason.

Establishing Health Baselines

Your doctor may advise you to stay on top of annual physicals, as these sessions allow you both to track (and potentially treat) a variety of conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure. A yearly physical may even help your doctor detect cancer earlier, when it may be easier to treat.

“When we meet for annual physicals, it creates a health baseline and strengthens the patient-physician relationship, which is important to maximize your wellness,” says Michael Fedewa, Jr., DO, a board-certified family physician at Duke Primary Care Holly Springs Family Medicine. “If we know you when you’re well, we’re going to be ready to provide the best care when you’re sick, and we may be able to prevent some illness altogether.”

Early detection circumvents a variety of future problems. “It’s never enjoyable to learn that your body isn’t functioning the way it should,” OnHealth experts acknowledge, “but blood tests . . . can save you from much more serious health complications down the road. Discovering what ails you early can also save you money in the long run.”

Well-Researched Expertise

Convenient and convincing as the internet (or your neighbors and loved ones) may be, your doctor is truly the best source of trusted, up-to-date medical information. 

“[E]ven the most ‘reliable’ sources can be confusing,” Minneapolis-based neurologist Dr. Frederick Strobl, told HuffPost. “They don’t have the background a medical professional has to evaluate other’s claims so if they don’t want to follow my advice, they should really seek a second opinion from another doctor, not a friend or neighbor.” 

This expert knowledge is a product of the extensive educational requirements for doctors, which include:

  • Bachelor’s or equivalent undergraduate degree in an accredited institution
  • A four-year medical degree from a medical school
  • Passing of medical board exams
  • Residency with rotations in different medical specialties (e.g., emergency medicine and in-patient hospital care) for 3-4 years 
  • American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) certification
  • A state license to practice in the area where they work, which in many states must be continually renewed

Your doctor’s cumulative expertise makes them the best source when it comes to your whole-body health. 

An Expert Who Truly Cares

Once you find the right family doctor, you’ll have a health advocate for the long-haul. “Primary care . . . is really the patient’s medical home,” says Dr. Danielle Martin, the Chief Medical Executive and Executive Vice President at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto (WCH) and a prominent advocate for public health care. “The value . . .  is that you accompany people through their journey in life through the high points and the low points and really try to be their anchor in the healthcare system.”

When you build a relationship with your doctor through regular visits, they become a caring person who knows your family history, is better equipped to connect you with their network of specialists, and can work with your individual needs to prevent, manage, and treat any chronic conditions. More than a check-the-box chore, they can be someone who fosters your health — hopefully through your long and healthy life. 

United Physicians Group doctors are eager to be these trusted resources for you and your family. Connect with us online or call (833) 523-0906. 

Can Wellness Tools and Treatments Help Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain can be difficult to handle, and it takes trial and error to find what mitigates your pain. United Physicians Group wants to help you find the right solution, without the noise the internet brings. We’ll help you better understand your treatment options. 

Therapies to Reduce Pain 

It’s important to properly take care of both your physical and mental health when treating chronic pain. Along with physical therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other modes of counseling can help manage the mental side effects of dealing with chronic pain. 

Physical and mental therapies can also help you reduce the stress in your life. Heightened stress can be a culprit of worsened symptoms, so taking care of your mental health may lighten the load. At-home methods of reducing stress, like keeping a routine, staying connected with friends, and paying attention when you need to rest, may provide relief.

A few other therapies have been demonstrated to help with chronic pain as well, such as: 

Don’t limit yourself to just one therapy method. A study conducted by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment has illustrated that a team of collaborative therapy providers may be most effective for chronic pain management. So if one method doesn’t suit you, maybe a combination will.

Methods to “Add to Cart” 

Retail therapy can help too, especially if you choose your purchases with an eye toward self-care, and managing your pain at home.

  • Heating Pad and Cooling Packs: These can make it easier for you to employ either hot or cold therapy to ease your pain. 
  • Wedge Pillow: The shape of a wedge pillow can help you sit comfortably in a way that eases hip and lower back pain
  • Lumbar Support Pillow: Placed behind your back, this pillow can improve your posture while seated, which may decrease your back pain. 
  • Yoga Mat: Do yoga in the comfort of your home with your own yoga mat and bricks.
  • Probiotics and Turmeric: These are both anti-inflammatories that can help ease chronic pain. 
  • Phone Apps: There are many phone apps that aim to help manage chronic pain. These apps do not directly resolve pain, but rather act as a pain log or diary to help communicate concerns and symptoms to your doctor. 

To learn more about chronic pain management, consult with your United Physicians Group provider. We will provide the best quality care possible to help you find a treatment method that works for you. Connect with us online or by calling (833) 523-0906.

Annual Physicals: The Key to Ensuring Your Child’s Health

Parents know to take their child to see a doctor when they’re injured or not feeling well, but ongoing preventive care is just as important as any “crisis” appointment. 

Sometimes referred to as a well-child visit or simply a “check-up,” annual physicals provide doctors the opportunity to assess your child’s overall health. Here’s a closer look at why these appointments shouldn’t be skipped. 

Why Are Physicals So Important for Children?

Wellness visits give care providers and parents the opportunity to discuss growth milestones, developmental concerns or issues, and your child’s general health. In addition to answering your own specific questions, the doctor may ask about your child’s sleep habits, diet, and physical activity. 

As a child grows, they can start to take autonomy over their health and may ask their own questions at these appointments. These exchanges allow doctors to make sure a child is on track with development, and establish an early, positive relationship. Additionally, physical exams and discussions of any changes or symptoms can help doctors catch potential issues early, when they’re easiest to treat.

Your child’s doctor can also administer any necessary immunizations or discuss your child’s vaccine schedule with you during this time. From birth to the age of 18, the CDC recommends a number of vaccinations and boosters to prevent a wide range of potentially serious illnesses, including hepatitis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, and meningitis.

What Happens During Your Child’s Physical?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, what takes place at children’s wellness exams will vary by age. For example, while height and weight are measured at all ages, head circumference may only be measured until the age of three to look for any neurologic or developmental issues. When it comes to height and weight measurements, medical professionals can plot a child’s growth on a chart to compare their development with children of the same age and gender.

The younger your child, the more involved a wellness visit may be. During infancy, for example, a doctor may check your baby’s head for bone formation, look for fluids in your baby’s ear, track eye movements, and assess the hip joints for any problems. They’ll also look in their mouth, listen to their heart and lungs, and check their abdomen. Infant reflexes are also examined during a baby’s checkup to gauge nervous system development. 

While doctor visits are frequent during a child’s early life, after the age of three, the schedule changes to annual check-ups

As your child grows, a provider will still check their vitals, including their pulse, breathing, blood pressure, and temperature. They may also check their vision and hearing. During late childhood and adolescence, providers may use this time to discuss important health and safety issues, such as personal hygiene, avoidance of drugs and alcohol, and the importance of wearing seatbelts and helmets. As they develop into teens, doctors may also provide opportunities for children to have more private conversations about sexual health.

If you’re seeking a team of doctors to provide personalized care for your children and family, turn to United Physicians Group. Find a doctor online or by calling (833) 523-0906.

United Physician Group Hosts Donation Drive this Fall and Winter Season

The United Physician Group is committed to improving the lives of our patients in the clinic and supporting the people in our communities. As the weather becomes colder, now is the perfect time of year to donate items to local shelters to help those in need stay warmer. If you’re interested in participating in our donation drive, please consider donating the following items to any of our office locations:

  • Socks (New)
  • Blankets (New)
  • Sleeping Bags (New/Gently Used)
  • Coats (New/Gently Used)
  • Tents
  • Toiletries
  • Backpacks
  • Tote Bags

All that you have to do is bring any requested items to your local United Physician Group practice, and we’ll donate them to local shelters or missions in each community. 

What Happens to Your Body While Going Through Grief

When we talk about grief, oftentimes mental and emotional health take center stage. Yet, grief can have profound physical effects, too. Although healing takes time, and it may feel as if there’s nothing you can do to expedite the process, understanding the physical changes that take place as you’re grieving can help you stay in control of your health.

Physical Changes Caused by Grief

Reduced Immunity

According to Harvard Medical School, grief can impact the body at a molecular level. In particular, immune cells appear to be less functional, and inflammatory responses are elevated in grieving individuals. The suspected culprit is the release of stress hormones that accompany grief, which can affect every system in the body. As a result of this weakened immunity, people who are coping with grief may be more susceptible to illness.

Aches & Pains

Stress hormones can also increase physical pain. People in mourning often report feeling physical discomfort, which can manifest as headaches, joint pain, back pain, and stiffness. The bombardment of stress hormones essentially ”stun[s]” the muscles, which is the cause for these uncomfortable sensations. Fortunately, the pain is most often temporary, but any prolonged discomfort should be discussed with a doctor.

Appetite Fluctuation

The emotional toil brought on by grief can result in appetite changes. While some people may find themselves reaching for comfort foods while grieving, others may experience food aversions and a decrease in appetite. “Stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea and other digestive system problems are [also] common companions to grief,” the concerned experts at Knowyourgrief.org confirm. Nausea and an anxious stomach may be common side effects of grief, but should also pass. 

Sleep Issues

Though grief can leave you feeling fatigued, this unfortunately doesn’t mean sleep will come easily. In fact, people who are grieving often find it difficult to sleep, and are more likely to experience middle insomnia, or the inability to get back to sleep after waking in the middle of the night. Oftentimes, these sleep challenges are a direct result of major changes that come with grief, such as immense feelings of loneliness or worries about financial security.

Heart Problems

The intense stress your body undergoes can increase the risk of heart attack. Grief can also lead to a temporary condition that mimics heart disease known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken-heart syndrome. Characterized by chest pain, shortness of breath, and ballooning of the left ventricle, the condition occurs primarily in women, but often resolves itself within a month.

Coping with the Effects of Grief

Grief is a natural response to losing a loved one. When you feel ready, practicing routine self-care by taking walks, journaling, eating nutritious meals, and turning to friends and family for support can help you restore your mind/body balance and start you on the path towards healing, both physically and emotionally.

While grief doesn’t always require professional intervention, it’s a good idea to consider seeking counseling or help from a support group if you’re having trouble getting back into a routine after several months.

If you feel like your health could be suffering as a result of grief or another trauma, turn to United Physician Group. Our healthcare providers are committed to helping patients through every challenge and providing exceptional care through all of life’s stages. Find a doctor online or by calling (833) 523-0906.

United Physician Group Expands with New Douglasville Location

United Physician Group is now offering more healthcare options and convenience with its new location in Douglasville, GA. The new location (2022 Fairburn Road Suite D., Douglasville) will offer both primary care and pain management services with Dr. Kelvin Burton and McFrances Hayes, NP-C.

“I’m excited and honored to represent United Physician Group in Douglasville,” says Dr. Kelvin Burton. “We care for your whole family, at every stage of life. From pediatrics to geriatrics and every age in between, we give all generations of your family the individualized care they need to stay healthy and well.”

The practice will be a resource for comprehensive care for Douglasville and its surrounding communities. We are primary care providers, specialists, and healthcare management leaders united to better serve your health.

Make an appointment with us online or call 833-523-0906.

Dr. Daryl Sherrod from UPG Received Top Doctors Honors in Atlanta

Primary care provider Dr. Daryl Sherrod of United Physician Group, an acclaimed network of Southeastern physicians, ranks among metro Atlanta’s Top Doctors in Atlanta magazine’s July issue. Dr. Sherrod practices at United Physician Group Family Medicine of Decatur and Lithonia.

Dr. Sherrod specializes in hypertension and diabetes. He received his medical degree from Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University. Dr. Sherrod is a member of the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians.

“Receiving an accolade such as this is most certainly an honor,” says Dr. Sherrod. “Medicine, however, is a team effort, and I’m grateful to work with such a dedicated and talented staff.”

Atlanta magazine uses a database of top doctors compiled by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., an established healthcare research company based in New York, to assist in its annual effort. Doctors are nominated for consideration through both a nationwide survey and a peer nomination process. Castle Connolly’s physician-led team of researchers then select the Top Doctors through a rigorous screening process that includes an evaluation of educational and professional experience. This year the publication honors 1,002 of these physicians representing the following counties: Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb, Gwinnett, Hall, Forsyth, Cherokee, and Rockdale.

United Physician Group is a network of acclaimed healthcare providers practicing in communities across Georgia and South Carolina. United Physician Group’s doctors come from prestigious university hospitals, Level I Trauma Center ERs, and neighborhood practices with deep connections to their communities. Practice locations currently offer primary and family care, and interventional pain management.

Dr. Sherrod is now accepting appointments at United Physician Group Family Medicine of Decatur and United Physician Group Family Medicine of Lithonia. Schedule a visit today.