Pain Attention

Car Dash Dirty as a Toilet?

A recent study has shown that car dashboards can contain 283 different bacteria, and vehicles with children and pets are among the worst offenders. Dr. Ordon says this is a false alarm, because bacteria are everywhere and it’s normal to have germs in your house, car and on your skin. Dr. Stork shows samples of bacterial colonies. Surprisingly, bacteria collected from a bathroom door are less prevalent than those found on the keys of an ATM machine. The worst offender, though, is a restaurant table, which was found to be even dirtier than a toilet seat!


Senior Drivers

A statistic shows that people aged 75 and older have a higher rate of fatal accidents than any other age group except for teenagers. Dr. Lisa discusses the horrific crash in Santa Monica, California, where an 86-year-old driver plowed through a crowded farmers’ market in his car. Ten people were killed and more than 50 people were injured in the 2003 tragedy. Dr. Stork points out that as we age, our eyesight and hearing worsens, we have less neck mobility and the risk of dementia increases.  Dr. Ordon says that while older motorists deserve the right to get behind the wheel, they should have a more frequent driving license renewal process.


Six Pains that You Should Never Ignore:

6. Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain could be signs of appendicitis, gall bladder disease, blocked intestines or kidney stones, just to name a few. Less serious issues are gas or constipation. Dr. Lisa says that in females, the pelvic organs can cause inflammation of the tubes or ovaries as well.


Robin, 48, experienced sudden abdominal pain, which she assumed was the stomach flu. When she was finally taken to the E.R., she discovered that her appendix had ruptured, causing irreparable damage.  Now she wears a colostomy bag that she has to empty 15 times a day, and regrets not reacting to her symptoms earlier.


When to Worry:

• If you have fever, chills or nausea

If the pain is sudden and severe

If the pain radiates to the chest or back

If the abdomen is tender to the touch

If there is blood in the stool or vomit


5. Mouth Pain

Many attribute mouth pain to common dental problems, but some may have a much more serious condition. J.R., 31, was in excruciating pain, but thought the aches would go away. After a few agonizing days, he visited endodontist Dr. Alex Parsi in search of answers. Dr. Parsi discovered that J.R. had cellulitis – a bacterial skin infection – in the lower quadrant of his mouth.


Dr. Stork cautions that some tongue or face swellings are indicators of serious conditions and can close off the airway. Some common causes of mouth pain are oral abscesses, cellulitis of the neck and infection. Dr. Ordon adds that smokers or people who use tobacco products are at a much higher risk for developing oral cancer.


When to Worry:

If you have excessive swelling

If you have excessive bleeding

If the pain spreads to the head or neck

If the pain worsens over a period of days

If there is fever or vomiting


4. Pain in Legs or Feet

Dr. Jim says pain should not be ignored if it chronically occurs in the same foot or leg. Some possible causes are neuropathy, diabetes, deep vein thrombosis or cellulitis.


When to Worry:

If you have weakness or numbness

If you have excessive painful swelling, especially after air travel or a long car ride

If the affected area is red or warm to the touch


3. Back Pain

Dr. Stork says the most common cause of back pain is a sprain. Other causes are kidney infection, aortic dissection, spine cancer, fracture and cauda equine syndrome, which occurs when nerve roots are compressed and disrupt motor and sensory function to the lower extremities.


Neurosurgeon Dr. Justin Paquette performs a back exam in the procedure room with John, who has had debilitating pain for three years. Dr. Paquette reports that his patient had some fullness on his ribs on the right side and some numbness on the bottom of his right foot. He suggests a strong physical therapy program, anti-inflammatory medication and ice.


When to Worry:

If you have intense pain

If you have fevers

If you have pain or pulsation in the abdomen

If you have bowel or bladder problems

If you have weakness or numbness in legs

If you are elderly or very young


2. Chest Pain

The key is not to ignore chest pain, warns Dr. Lisa, especially women. The OB/GYN says heart attacks and strokes are under-diagnosed in women. Dr. Jim says that in children, chest pain is often a sign of pneumonia. Symptoms are coughing, fever and chills.


When to Worry:

If the pain radiates out from chest

If the pain moves to the arm, shoulder, neck or jaw

If there is unexplained tightness

If there is shortness of breath, nausea and sweating

If you cough up blood

If there is generalized weakness or other non-specific symptoms


1. Head Pain

Ninety percent of Americans suffer from headaches. Most people just take an over-the-counter painkiller, but sometimes, this disorder can be life-threatening.


When to Worry:

If the pain is sudden and severe

If the pain is unrelenting or worsens over time

If the pain begins after a head injury

If you have balance or vision problems

If you believe it’s the worst headache of your life


Dr. Seth Baum, 49, said he ignored the headache that plagued him for six months until he finally discovered that something much more serious was occurring. After an MRI, the doctor learned that he had a spinal fluid leak. He traveled over 3,000 miles to Cedars-Sinai Hospital for a cutting-edge epidural blood patch procedure that was pioneered by brain surgeon Dr. Wouter Schievink.


Dr. Baum says that he has minimal headaches and is now back to work. Although he can’t engage fully in physical activities, he says he’s on the road to recovery. Dr. Schievink explains that during that the procedure, blood is injected onto the covering of the spinal cord, which helps to seal the leak. Spinal fluid then returns to the brain, which helps the system to function properly. Left untreated, it could lead to serious infection.


Ask Our Doctors

Jennifer from Texas has a question for Dr. Lisa. For the past six months, she has suffered from severe menstrual cramps and pain during intercourse. Endometriosis runs in Jennifer’s family, and she wonders if it could be the cause of her discomfort. The OB/GYN says that endometriosis is a very common problem for women. The lining of the uterus implants outside of the uterus onto the fallopian tubes, ovaries and even the bowel, which causes a great deal of pain and can even cause infertility. Endometriosis can be treated with birth control pills or progesterone injections, but if those remedies fail, surgery may be necessary.


Jill, a caller from Arizona, has a question for Dr. Ordon: Six years ago, she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma skin cancer. After surgery, she was left with a hole in her shoulder and wants to know if surgery can close the cavity. Dr. Ordon says that skin cancer is related to excessive sun exposure, but melanoma is aggressive. The cosmetic surgeon says that a procedure called tissue expansion can remedy Jill’s scar.

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