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March 23rd, 2011
06:54 PM ET

What could be causing my husband's hip and lower back pain?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.

Asked by Jessica Diebold, Boston

Last winter, my husband fell on some ice. Instead of landing on his backside, he landed on his left hip. He was in a great deal of pain in both the hip and lower back, and went to an ER for X-rays, which came back negative. The pain persisted for the following two weeks, and eventually he was referred to an orthopedic surgeon, who did MRIs and a bone scan (both negative). After a round of PT with no decrease in pain, he was referred to a physiatrist, who diagnosed traumatic facet syndrome.

After another round of PT and injections to numb the spinal nerves, my husband is still in pain. He was referred to another physiatrist, who still insists it is facet joint syndrome and prescribed daily light stretching. The pain is getting worse, not better, and even taking a pain medication like Percocet does not totally relieve his pain. Is there anything else this could be? Do we go for a fourth opinion?

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Health lessons from Chernobyl
March 23rd, 2011
05:31 PM ET

Health lessons from Chernobyl

With ongoing problems at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant – including the latest warning that radiation has turned up in Tokyo’s drinking water – CNN is looking at past nuclear accidents for a hint of the long-term impact.

The worst nuclear accident ever took place in 1986 when there was a massive explosion at the plant in Chernobyl, in the Ukraine region of the former Soviet Union. A team from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, has conducted long-term studies looking at cancer rates in the area. Scott Davis, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington, leads the research, including three studies of childhood cancer, one childhood leukemia study and a study now under way on breast cancer rates.

The team compares people who have the illness being studied, with people who are not sick, while estimating the amount of radiation each individual was exposed to. Through this method they estimate the increase in cancer cases that can be attributed to radiation exposure. An important part of the approach involves making estimates of each individual’s exposure; this is done through computer models and interviews with each person about his or her location and movements.

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Nearly 50 million Americans uninsured, CDC says
March 23rd, 2011
04:54 PM ET

Nearly 50 million Americans uninsured, CDC says

Almost 50 million Americans are without health insurance– 3 million more than a year ago, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The report finds one in five people were uninsured during some portion of the last 12 months.

Over the past decade, the number of adults 18-64 without medical coverage has gone up but the number of children lacking insurance has gone down, according to the CDC.

An expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation who monitors these figures says the economy is partly to blame.

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Filed under: CDC

March 23rd, 2011
12:26 PM ET

What is congestive heart failure?

For years  Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor had struggled with congestive heart failure, a chronic condition in which the weakened heart cannot pump enough blood throughout the body.

Taylor, 79,  died Wednesday at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles after six weeks of hospitalization, her publicist said.

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer keep pace with circulation needs. The blood backs up in veins and other parts of the body such as the liver, lungs and lower extremities.  The condition also affects the kidneys' filtering ability.  Patients commonly see swelling in their legs and ankles.  They can also have trouble exerting themselves, easily experiencing shortness of breath and fatigue, according to the American Heart Association. FULL POST


Health care law turns 1: Who's up; who's down?
March 23rd, 2011
09:57 AM ET

Health care law turns 1: Who's up; who's down?

The White House is saying “Happy Birthday” to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act , signed into law by President Obama one year ago today. But you might not hear many celebrations.  Legal challenges were once considered a longshot, but more than two dozen states have signed on to lawsuits to try to overturn the PPACA, winning victories in Florida and Virginia. The Supreme Court seems likely to have the final word.

More subtly, some states – especially those led by Republicans – are simply refusing to implement parts of the law. In Georgia last month, Gov. Nathan Deal killed an effort to start developing a health insurance “exchange” – an organized marketplace to make comparison-shopping easy – even though the PPACA requires an exchange in every state by 2014.

Even among supporters, the birthday celebration is muted because it’s too soon to tell whether the law is a success.

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Biking, running going well... Swimming, not so much
March 23rd, 2011
09:41 AM ET

Biking, running going well... Swimming, not so much

As training continues for the 2011 CNN Triathlon Challenge, Dr. Scott Zahn of Green Bay, Wisconsin, is finding success as well as struggles.

It has been almost two months since Atlanta, and exercising and eating healthier have become the routine. The weight loss and increased fitness are quite dramatic from where I started in November when I decided that it was time to get serious and get healthy.

Everyone is amazed at the changes. Comments like “you look great,” and “you’re melting away,” are a daily occurrence. That makes me feel great and the positive reinforcement keeps you going.

Underneath all this excitement there is still one thing that I struggle with – doubt. I have no doubt that I can complete the biking and the running part of the tri, but it is the swimming part that I have no confidence in.

This past weekend I biked 16 miles one day and ran 5 miles the next. I feel very confident that when August 7 comes I will be ready for that part.

I never realized the challenge of the swim portion. It is so different from the other events. First of all you need to think about breathing. If you don’t breathe, you drown and if you don’t do it right you’re going to be swallowing the Hudson River. Nobody wants to do that. It’s very technique driven and uses a whole different group of muscles compared with the other events.

I’m trying to think about head position, high elbows, reach on the stroke, stay level, kick from the hip and, oh yeah, don’t forget to breathe. That’s a lot to think about and harder to do it all correctly. Will I ever be able to put it together? I’m not sure. Am I feeling more comfortable in the pool? Sure, but I am much further along in the biking and running.

It is about 140 days until the triathlon, 20 weeks, which will be about 40 more swim sessions. That’s a lot of swimming. I am sure that as August comes around I will feel more comfortable and a lot of this will become more natural. Right now, that seems a long way off. At least I have the current of the Hudson to push me along. I just hope that I don’t swallow too much of it along the way.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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