Is It a Pinched Nerve or Something Else?

What’s causing the pain?

Is that pain in your back, buttocks, or limbs a pinched nerve? A herniated disc? A pulled muscle? Or something else?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “pinched nerve” is not a medically precise term, but doctors and patients often use it to encompass a wide variety of conditions that may cause you pain. The underlying conditions can include:

  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Direct injury to the nerve
  • Obesity
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Bone spurs
  • Repetitive stress

In all cases, these conditions cause pain through “compression, constriction, or stretching” of nerves.

Symptoms of pinched nerves may include:

  • Numbness or a feeling that a hand, foot, or other area of your body is “falling asleep.”
  • Muscle weakness in one area of your body.
  • Tingling or a feeling of “pins and needles” in the affected area.
  • Sharp pain that radiates out. (In contrast, a pulled muscle will usually cause dull pain that’s focused in one spot.)
  • A burning sensation in the affected area that feels like it’s located in your deep tissues.

Treatment for pinched nerves.

In most cases, pinched nerves are temporary. You may need only rest and conservative treatment. But sometimes pinched nerves are a sign of something more serious that could cause lasting damage. So it’s important to pay attention and seek help early if your symptoms are serious or don’t improve.

If your pinched nerve pain is mild and recent, you can try:

  • Rest the area that’s hurting.
  • Take an over-the-counter NSAID such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Alternate heat and ice to relax muscles and reduce swelling.

But if the pain is more serious or doesn’t respond to home treatment, talk with your primary care doctor or pain management specialist. They may recommend:

  • Exercise, stretching, or physical therapy
  • A splint, collar, or other devices to isolate the affected area while you heal
  • A steroid injection
  • Surgery

Don’t ignore the pain.

If you have a pinched nerve, there’s no need to suffer in silence. There’s a lot you and your doctor can do to ease the pain. Also, ignoring a pinched nerve puts you at greater risk of permanent nerve damage.

So if the pain is mild, try rest and home care right away. If the pain is moderate to severe or doesn’t respond to rest and home care, don’t delay. Contact your primary care doctor or a pain management specialist right away.

Make an appointment with a pain management specialist. We’d like to help.

Why is My Pain Worse When it Rains?

Is the pain during rain all in your brain?

Can you feel the rain coming in your joints? It’s an idea that goes back at least to Hippocrates, nearly 2500 years ago: the weather may affect some chronic health conditions. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may already have direct experience with “arthritis weather,” and some people with other chronic pain conditions report that their pain gets worse when it rains.

There’s a plausible hypothesis for this perceived correlation. Rain typically comes with a drop in barometric pressure: the low pressure system you may have heard your local weather person forecast. Lower pressure outside your body may cause tissues inside your body to swell and irritate sensitive nerves. However, this explanation has not been proven, and some scientists point out that the changes in air pressure are about the same as riding in an elevator to the top of a tall building.

Other scientists speculate that high humidity may be to blame. Or a drop in temperature. Or the psychology of gray, dreary days. Whatever the underlying mechanism may be, the lived experience for many patients is clear: rain days are pain days.

Science has long attempted to study this anecdotal wisdom, but the results have been mixed. Some studies have found no correlation between pain and weather. Others have found evidence to support a connection between pain and low barometric pressure or high humidity. Both high and low temperatures have also had a correlation to pain in some studies.

So what can you do for rainy day pain?

While we don’t know for sure that rainy weather makes pain worse, you know when you’re hurting. Always follow your pain management doctor’s usual instructions. But here are a few things you might try to ease the pain on rainy days:

  • Run a dehumidifier. When it’s wet outside, use a dehumidifier to keep your indoor air at 40-60% relative humidity for comfort and health.
  • Wear compression socks, cuffs, and gloves. Rheumatoid arthritis and some other causes of chronic pain get worse with swelling and inflammation. Whether it’s caused by a low pressure system or something else, compression garments over the affected joints can bring down swelling and promote good circulation.
  • Adjust your thermostat. While the correlations between temperature and pain are not at all clear, keeping your home at a comfortable temperature may help.
  • Get some easy exercise. If you’re able and if your doctor approves it, light exercise may help loosen up your joints and bring down swelling. It can also lift your rainy day mood.
  • Be good to yourself. This is important every day, but those rainy day blues can heighten pain. Serious depression or anxiety can make pain even worse. Treat yourself well. If you’re experiencing something deeper or longer-lasting than an unhappy day, reach out for support. Caring for your emotional health can help ease the pain.

Here for you in all kinds of weather.

If you’re not already getting help managing your chronic pain, or if your pain is getting worse, we hope you’ll reach out. No matter what the weather forecast, there’s a lot we can do to ease your pain.

Make an appointment with a pain management specialist. We’d like to help.


What Your Doctor Wants You to Know about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Note: As a new and emerging virus, Novel Coronavirus 2019 COVID-19 is not yet fully understood. Information about the disease is changing every day. The information presented below may change as we learn more and you should refer to the CDC website for the latest information.

COVID-19 currently spreading around the world is raising questions and concerns for many families. Please call your United Physician Group doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms that you think may be COVID-19 (more on that below). Additionally, if you or your family have other health conditions that may make you more vulnerable to the disease, call your doctor for advice on how to prepare and limit your risk.

We’re learning more every day about COVID-19 and how to treat it. We’re here for you and ready to help.

Here are answers to some of the questions you may have, as provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How can I protect myself and my family from COVID-19?

Scientists are working on potential vaccines for COVID-19, but currently, the only prevention is to avoid exposure to the virus.

To lower your risk, you and your family should:

  • Wash your hands frequently and well.
  • Avoid touching your face after touching other surfaces. (We know it’s hard.)
  • Avoid close contact (less than six feet away) with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched. (e.g. doorknobs, kitchen and bathroom counters, toilets, appliances)
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough.
  • If you have symptoms that could be COVID-19, consider wearing a facemask to avoid spreading the disease. Refer to the CDC for guidelines on wearing facemasks if you are NOT experiencing symptoms. 
  • Stay home if you feel sick unless you require medical assistance.

If you or someone in your family develops symptoms that may be COVID-19, call your doctor immediately.

What are the symptoms?

Some people experience no symptoms at all, but the most common symptoms are fever, shortness of breath, and coughing. Other symptoms may resemble a bad cold or the flu. According to the WHO, these may include “aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.” Serious cases can lead to pneumonia and difficulty breathing.

If you or someone in your family is having difficulty breathing, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

Who is most vulnerable to the disease?

Our best information so far says that the people most vulnerable to COVID-19 are elderly people and people with underlying health conditions that compromise their immune system. Young and otherwise healthy people do catch COVID-19 and, as a result, should also exercise the same level of caution to avoid contracting the virus.

Every COVID-19 case should be taken seriously, for your own health and for the health of those around you. 

If I develop symptoms that may be COVID-19, what should I do?

If you’re experiencing symptoms that may be COVID-19, the first and most important thing to do is call your doctor. Tell them what you’re experiencing, the concerns you have, and ask for instructions and advice.

If your symptoms are severe or life-threatening, such as serious difficulty breathing, call 911.

While we don’t yet know enough about COVID-19 to say precisely how many people develop serious symptoms, we do know that the majority of people do not. If your symptoms do not require hospitalization, your doctor will likely advise you to stay at home while you recover. The CDC recommends that you:

  • Stay at home except when needed to get medical care. Avoid public areas and public transportation so that you do not further spread the disease.
  • Wash your hands frequently and well.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces every day. (e.g. doorknobs, kitchen and bathroom counters, sink fixtures, appliances)
  • Limit contact with others in your home. If possible, use a separate bathroom and avoid contact with common area surfaces, such as the kitchen.
  • Monitor your symptoms and seek help if they worsen, especially if you have difficulty breathing.
  • Call ahead to your doctor before coming in, and let them know that you are experiencing symptoms that may be COVID-19.
  • Follow both your doctor and the CDC’s guidelines to determine when to end home isolation

Are the United Physician Group offices open? 

Currently, all United Physician offices are still operating to service all of our valued patients that depend on the care and service we provide. In the event that you are sick, unable to come in or simply are uncomfortable with visiting the office in person, please contact your closest location for options on TeleVisits. 

What is the United Physician Group doing to protect my health if I have to visit the office? 

There is no higher priority for us than the health and safety of our patients, staff and their families.

United Physician Group clinical staff is following the Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations provided by the CDC. This includes 

  • Disinfecting each exam room or patient area after each patient is seen 
  • Disinfecting common areas and surfaces multiple times throughout the day
  • Initiating an extensive deep clean and disinfection to be performed nightly at all locations, and 
  • Implementing additional infection control and prevention measures for clinical staff

To protect the health of our staff and patients and ensure the continuation and a smooth transition of your healthcare, United Physician Group will be converting all previously scheduled and future sick visits to TeleVisits. We are also screening all patients prior to arrival in the office for any symptoms consistent with those of COVID-19 and asking affected patients to remain home.  

Any patient in the office that is exhibiting fever, cough or shortness of breath will be provided appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and isolated from the patient population.

We’re here for you.

Because COVID-19 is still new and not entirely understood, we know that it can cause some anxiety and concern. Paying attention to the disease is smart, but there’s plenty we can do together to prepare. Call your United Physician Group doctor with your concerns. We’re here for you.

What Helps for Getting Over a Cold?

Although colds aren’t actually caused by cold temperatures, they are more common in winter. Whenever a cold strikes, it can sap your strength, cloud your mind, and leave you feeling miserable.

Sneezing, coughing, congestion, sinus pressure, sore throat… There’s still no cure for the common cold, but you can treat the symptoms and feel better faster.

Get Plenty of Rest

With our busy lives, it’s sometimes hard to slow down. But you need more rest when you have a cold so your body has the energy to heal.

Drink Lots of Fluids

Water, herbal teas, and fruit juices will keep you hydrated while helping to loosen congestion. Add a little honey to soothe your throat and possibly ease coughing. (Note that honey is not safe for children under one year old.)

Keep the Air Moist

If the air in your home is dry, use a cold-mist humidifier to add moisture to the air. It may help soothe irritated sinuses and help prevent reinfection.

Gargle with Warm Saltwater

If your cold symptoms include a sore throat, gargling a few times a day with warm saltwater may ease inflammation and help you feel better.

Use Saline Nasal Drops or Saline Irrigation

Saline nasal drops or irrigation may help ease decongestion and reduce sinus inflammation, making it easier to breathe through your nose.

Over-the-Counter Cold Medicines

Over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicines can help ease cough and cold symptoms. Children under the age of 4 years old should not take OTC cold medicines, unless directed by your doctor. For children 4 years and older, discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Pain relievers can help ease the aches and soreness of a cold. Many OTC cold medicines include some form of pain reliever, so be careful not to double-up by taking pain relievers in combination with cold medicines that contain them. Children under 6 months old should only take children’s dose acetaminophen. Children 6 months and up can take appropriately dosed acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Only adults should take aspirin, which can increase the risk of Reye’s Syndrome in children.

Give It Some Time

The only real cure for a cold is time. Colds are caused by what’s called a “self-limiting” viral infection: it will usually run its course and go away on its own. However, the CDC advises that you contact your doctor right away if your cold lasts more than 10 days, if you have a high fever (or a low-grade fever that lasts more than 4 days), if you have trouble breathing, or if your symptoms return and get worse. Also contact your doctor if you have any other symptoms that concern you, or if you’re just not sure what to do. When in doubt, call and put your mind at ease.

Don’t Suffer in Silence

If you’re suffering from a cold and want some advice, call your United Physician Group doctor for help.