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.

United Physician Group Spotlight: Destiny Lawton, CMA

As a child, Destiny Lawton would accompany her mother to flea markets, where she sold her oils. “I watched how she would get to know people, one-on-one,” Lawton says, “seeing what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they needed, what they didn’t need. Then she would guide them in the right direction.”

That ability to connect with people, to understand their needs, to guide them wisely and well: young Destiny learned it well by her mother’s side, and it has served her career and life’s purpose ever since.

Lawton’s mother also taught her to value education and advancement. “My mother instilled in me the importance of finding a job you can grow with,” she says, “something that will always be there.”

Connecting, helping, learning, and always growing… It led Lawton naturally to a career in healthcare. “I am also a health nut,” she says. “Health has always been a part of me.”

So she majored in chemistry and pre-health at South Carolina State, then went on to graduate cum laude from Miller-Motte College, earning her CNA and CMA, and, for good measure, a certification in medical billing and coding.

She has continued to pursue additional education and training. “I do enjoy school, though sometimes I don’t know why,” she says, laughing. “The bills are high. But I love learning something new, because I know that I can use what I learn to help people.”

Doing Her Part to Ease Patient Pain

At United Physician Group Pain Management of Myrtle Beach, Lawton supports interventional pain management specialist Dr. Elizabeth Snoderly. “I’m Dr. Snoderly’s right-hand woman up front,” Lawton says. But like everyone at the clinic, she takes on many roles, doing whatever it takes to get their patients the best care.

“I work the front desk, serve as the pre-op nurse, do new patient consults, prep patients for their procedures, send clearance letters to cardiologists…” She loves connecting with patients, figuring out what they need, and collaborating with the entire clinic team to relieve their pain. “Patients know I’m here to take care of them,” she says.

It’s all very much a team effort, according to Lawton, with everyone working together to ease patients’ pain. “Dr. Snoderly is a phenomenal doctor who’s known throughout the county and even in other states. Her bedside manner is wonderful. Patients love her. Some bring her back gifts from their travels,” she says. And when a patient calls with an urgent need, a full schedule doesn’t matter. “She’ll ask me, ‘Well Destiny, do you think we can get them in?’”

“We have two other phenomenal providers,” Lawton says, naming Amy Hancock, PA, and Jammie Emerson, NP. “Ms. Hancock is my go-to for any questions I may have about a patient… or my personal life. And Ms. Emerson is so kind-hearted. Like everyone here, she’s a people-pleaser.”

Lawton reports directly to Denise Minks, LPN, the pain management clinic’s clinical coordinator. “I wouldn’t trade her for the world,” Lawton says. “Her heart is so warm. She’s so very caring, and she makes sure she supports us in every way. If something doesn’t seem right, she consults with us, then says, ‘Let me see how I can make it better.’”

The whole team, Lawton says, is united in their commitment to bring patients comfort. “They know that we’re here for them,” she says, “and I love seeing the smiles of relief.” 

“We had one patient call recently,” says Lawton. “She said, ‘Thank you so much for getting me in. I have not had this much relief for eight months. Please tell Dr. Snoderly that she’s phenomenal.’”

Calls like that make all the hard work worth it.

Still Learning, Still Growing

Lawton isn’t sure what’s next in her career. She loves what she’s doing, but she’s still taking every opportunity available to learn and grow. She thinks about moving to a back office job and advancing toward a higher position in healthcare administration. “But if I work in the back, I’m going to lose the connection with my patients and what they need,” she says.

Education and career advancement have never been ends in themselves for Lawton. They always serve her commitment to connecting with people, to helping them. Whatever her next step, she’ll find a way to keep doing that. She’s clear on what’s most important to her. “I like to see their smiles at the end.”

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Are you suffering acute or chronic pain? The people of United Physician Group Pain Management want to help. Schedule an appointment today at one of our pain management clinics in Myrtle Beach, Piedmont, or Spartanburg.

Dr. Hamilton on Your Carolina

United Physician Group’s Dr. Matthew K. Hamilton was recently featured on “Your Carolina” to discuss his insights and expertise on pain management. In the interview, Dr. Hamilton describes his interventional pain fellowship at Vanderbilt University, his goal of improving a patient’s overall quality of life through a multi-disciplinary approach, and how each patient is unique and deserving of an individualized approach. Watch his interview to learn more.