Expert advice for common health and fitness ailments.
There are some problems that plague even the biggest fitness buffs and the healthiest health nuts. We asked local trainers, doctors, and nurses to offer quick, reliable solutions for everything from blisters to backaches.
Problem: You’ve had a pounding headache for hours that won’t go away.
Solution: Know your triggers. “Some people have headaches when they drink alcohol or coffee,” reports Dr. Peter Gottesfeld, a family physician in Mount Kisco and Cortlandt Manor. “Others have headaches because they clench their jaws.” By knowing the cause of a headache, you can better avoid it. To help reduce pain, Dr. Gottesfeld recommends taking Tylenol, Advil, or any other over-the-counter painkiller. However, if a headache is different than any other you’ve experienced before or if it effects your vision, see a doctor as soon as possible, Dr. Gottesfeld advises, as it might be a more serious problem.
Problem: You promised yourself you’d run that half-marathon in June, but every time you get geared up to run, agonizing shin splints bring you down.
Solution: Shin splints, a common running-related injury resulting from too much pressure on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach the muscles to the bone, can cause pain and swelling along the front of the shin. What to do? “Rest and ice are the big thing,” says Dr. Sudhir Vaidya, director of sports medicine, fitness, and pain management at Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains. “To reduce swelling, elevate the leg above the level of the heart.” Pain usually goes away within a week or two; if it doesn’t, see a doctor. To avoid future pain, Dr. Vaidya recommends wearing proper-fitting shoes and cross training. “Try swimming, walking, or biking instead of just running.” he says.
Your Child’s a Couch Potato
Problem: You can’t make it through the day without Pilates. Your son feels the same way about PlayStation 3.
Solution: Make exercise a priority. “The first thing parents have to realize is that exercise can’t be after the saxophone lesson or the piano lesson,” says Marla Past, owner of Underground Fitness, a gym for teens and ’tweens in Scarsdale. “Often, they make exercise last instead of first.” Past stresses that working out should be as important for kids as it is for parents and that parents shouldn’t confuse basketball practice once a week with a consistent cardio workout. “Not a large percent of children are athletes,” she notes. Having your child join a gym where he or she is in a protected environment or providing exercise equipment at home is a good way for parents to promote daily exercise.
Problem: You helped your daughter move into her first apartment. Now, your back hurts so much you can barely get off the couch.
Solution: “A light stretch is important after every workout to keep tissues pliable.” says Dr. Stuart Weitzman, a chiropractor in Bedford Hills. If you continue to feel aches and pains in your back after a workout or after doing something strenuous at home, put ice on it to keep inflammation and swelling down. If you can bear the pain, Dr. Weitzman suggests not taking an OTC anti-inflammatory, as this might mask an injury that hasn’t fully gone away and tempt you to re-engage in the activity that caused the pain. Heat can be applied after 48 hours but, if pain persists, do not ignore it. “If pain has not improved at all for two days—and if it’s still hanging around for five or more—you want to get it checked out,” he says.
Those Last Five Pesky Pounds
Problem: You’ve been dieting and exercising for months to reach your goal weight and, while you’re almost there, you just can’t shed those last few pounds.
Solution: “Those last five pounds are the absolute hardest,” says Lenny Sarrero, a personal trainer at Fitness for Health in Briarcliff Manor. The reason? Your body might already be at its ideal weight, Sarrero explains. Therefore, Sarrero says, “You’ve got to watch your diet very closely. Every little bit counts.” Beside sticking to a diet plan, Sarrero highly recommends while upping your cardio routine (swim, bike, or run) to burn more calories.
Problem: You fell asleep in the sun and woke up with a nasty burn.
Solution: If you’ve already gotten a sunburn, there are a few things that might lessen the pain and prevent damage. First, take Advil or any other OTC anti-inflammatory as soon as possible. Similar to other injuries, when the skin is burned, it creates inflammation and it’s this inflammatory response that causes some of the damage. “If you can take the anti-inflammatory soon enough, you might be able to blunt or mitigate some of the ultimate damage to the skin,” says Dr. David Bank, director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco. For a sunburned face, Dr. Bank recommends soaking a washcloth in milk and placing it on the face to both cool the skin and prevent damage (the lactic acid in the milk works similarly to an anti-inflammatory). Also, try not to lie down. “If you keep your head elevated, gravity tends to work in your favor and pull some of the fluid and swelling away from the face,” he says.
Problem: You’ve started playing tennis three times a week—something you haven’t done since high school—and your forearm has been hurting for days.
Solution: Tennis elbow, as it’s commonly called, is an irritation of the tendons at the elbow. “The first thing to do is stop and rest from the activity that’s aggravating it,” says Dr. Gregg Cavaliere, who specializes in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine in Hawthorne. “After that, icing it, using an OTC anti-inflammatory, and a stretching program will help.” A specific stretch that Dr. Cavaliere recommends? Extend your arm straight out in front of you, bend your hand down towards the floor, and push your hand back with the opposite hand. This will stretch the back of your forearm. Dr. Cavaliere warns, however, “The concept of no pain, no gain is never a good idea. If it’s hurting, don’t try to play through it; it’s only going to get worse.”
Problem: You chew gum, use mouthwash, eat candy but, no matter what you try, your halitosis remains.
Solution: Go to the dentist. According to Dr. Cristina Oliveira, a dentist based in Scarsdale, to get rid of bad breath, have a healthy mouth. “Make sure your teeth are free of cavities,” she says, since bacteria cause bad breath. “Brush your teeth and tongue twice a day, and floss at least once a day.” If you need a quick fix, Dr. Oliveira recommends chewing gum that contains xylitol, a naturally occurring sweetener (small amounts are present in berries and other fruits) that has been proven to help teeth remineralize and even repair very small cavities by keeping bacteria from sticking to the tooth’s surface. Carefree Koolerz and Orbit sugar-free gum both contain some xylitol, while Spry chewing gum contains 100 percent.
Problem: You couldn’t resist the bean dip at the company luncheon, and now your stomach is paying the price.
Solution: According to Dr. Peter Wayne of Yonkers, two of the most common reasons for an upset stomach are heartburn and excessive gas. For heartburn, Dr. Wayne recommends sitting upright, since this will stop stomach acid from moving into the esophagus. Taking Tums or Prilosec might also help relieve the feeling. For excessive gas, Dr. Wayne points out, “A healthy diet is usually a gassy diet.” While you might just have to learn to live with it, he stresses not “holding it in” since you could cause constipation. For any type of upset stomach, though, Dr. Wayne suggests eating sensibly and exercising regularly.
Problem: The season’s hottest heels look great with that minidress, but your feet are killing you.
Solution: Do not pop the blister with a needle, says Dr. Rosalind Abel, a podiatrist in Yonkers; you may cause an infection. Instead, soak your feet in a solution of water and vinegar or salt (to soften the skin) until the blister pops. Once popped, she suggests using a topical antibiotic such as bacitracin or Neosporin to prevent infection. To avoid future blisters, Dr. Abel advises using Dr. Scholl’s Blister Cushions or covering toes with Band-Aids. “If you know you’re putting on a shoe that hurts, put one of the pads on before you wear the shoe to separate the toes,” she says.
Problem: You can’t find your keys, your purse, or the dog’s leash.
Solution: Hang out with friends and family more. According to Dr. Pasquale Fonzetti, the associate director of the Memory Evaluation Treatment Service at Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains, studies conducted in the last three or four years have shown that interacting with others may help slow down the progression of memory loss. “Simple activities like puzzles or reading books have not been shown to be helpful in preventing cognitive disorders in people over seventy-five,” he says. “Being socially involved with friends and family and recreational activities have.”
Problem: You’ve taken to counting the hairs on your head—and the number decreases daily.
Solution: “The most common cause of hair loss is heredity,” says Ron Cardillo, a certified trichologist and owner of SoCap USA in Yonkers, which specializes in treating hair loss and implementing hair extension. However, medical causes such as stress, hormone imbalances, and anemia may also be factors, and these can often be reversed with treatment. Using products such as Rogaine when you first start to notice hair loss may also help. “In terms of prevention, the earlier you start using these products, the more likely you will slow down future loss,” Cardillo says. If you are looking for a visible cosmetic difference once you’ve had significant hair loss, however, Cardillo emphasizes that these products will probably not help, as not enough hair will grow back to make a major difference. He advises women not to pull hair back too tightly in a ponytail as this causes hair breakage, which could ultimately result in hair damage and loss.
Problem: You are at an important office meeting when your nose begins to bleed.
Solution: Nose bleeds usually are caused by dryness or nose picking (especially in younger children) and often occur in the winter when the air is particularly dry. When they occur, do not tilt your head back, as this will cause the blood to pool in the throat. “Sit or stand with your face no more than 30 degrees forward and apply a gentle pressure to your nose with your fingers for about five minutes,” advises Anne Simmons, a registered nurse in Dobbs Ferry and adjunct nursing instructor at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale. To prevent future nose bleeds, Simmons recommends making sure the air is humidified.