Water can block labor painAbout a third of all women who...

Healthwatch

March 03, 1992|By Universal Press Syndicate

Water can block labor pain

About a third of all women who go through labor suffer severe lower back pain in the process. Doctors have tried without much success to relieve this pain with any number of drugs, including Novocaine. That's why this Danish study, which finds that water injections can dull the pain, is so exciting. Doctors at the Aalborg Hospital in Denmark injected sterile water or a saline solution in the aching backs of 272 women going through labor. Each woman was then asked to rate her pain on a scale of 0 to 10 -- with 0 standing for "painless" and 10 for "unbearable pain." Prior to the injections, the women as a group ranked their pain as an 8. A scant hour later, the water group was feeling much better at 3, while the saline group still hovered at 8. Why the difference? The doctors theorize that water injections irritate the nerves enough to block the brain's pain signals. Saline injections, by contrast, so closely match the chemical makeup of fluids in our tissues that they aren't sufficiently irritating so the pain continues unabated.

Greasing your medicine:

This helpful hint comes from Francis Block, a general practitioner in Paducah, Ky. For people who have trouble swallowing foul-tasting pills, he suggests daubing them with a little butter or margarine before taking them. This not only makes the pills slippery, it eliminates any lingering, bitter aftertaste.

My doctor better than yours:

If you're like most people, you really like your doctor but don't think much of others. The difference between what we think of our own doctor and doctors in general is called the "image gap," and, according to the American Medical Association, it's sizable. Only 42 percent of people surveyed by the AMA believe doctors explain things well to their patients. But when asked about their own physician, 87 percent approved of the way he or she handles things. Similar gaps showed up when the pollsters asked people whether they thought doctors were too interested in making money (63 percent thought other doctors were, but only 18 percent thought the same of their own doctor) or whether they acted like they're better than other people (38 percent vs. 10 percent). Alan Nelson, a past president of the AMA, is quick to point out that other professions also suffer from image gaps. Most people, for instance, dislike politicians but are happy with their own representative. Still, Dr. Nelson admits, doctors would probably benefit as a group if each one did a better job of listening to patients and addressing their needs.

Seeing spots:

Growing up, you may have been told those little white spots on your fingernails represented the number of sweethearts you had, the lies you'd told or gifts you'd soon receive. Researchers have more scientific theories for what causes the spots, but they haven't settled on just one explanation, either. Some spots result from minor bruising of the nail. When you accidentally bang your nail against the back of a chair, say, it separates from the underlying nail bed at the point of impact. Just like the exposed tip, the bruise appears white because the nail is no longer lying snugly against the pink, capillary-rich nail bed. White dings may also result from injury to the nail matrix. Located below the cuticle, the matrix is a cluster of specialized cells responsible for generating the nail itself. Minor damage to the nail matrix might be caused by an overly zealous manicure, becoming apparent as the nail grows out. Still other spots may be the result of common, though unexplained, abnormalities in keratinization. During this process, cells in the matrix are turned into keratin, the protein that makes up both hair and nails. Researchers agree that occasional white spots are no cause for concern. But since fingernails provide clues to overall health, nails that turn white or develop ridges should be checked out by a doctor.

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