Three Most Common Causes of Flank Pain.

Back pain is one of the top ailments that leads people to call their doctors. Pain in your upper back or abdomen and sides, also called flank pain or kidney pain, has numerous causes.

If you have persistent pain, you should always consult your physician. However, flank pain most commonly results from one of three causes: urinary tract infection (UTI)kidney stones, and musculoskeletal problems like a muscle strain or pinched nerve.

The kidneys are your body’s filters. The waste from your kidneys travels out of your body through urine. One of the best ways to prevent common kidney problems is to drink plenty of water. This helps keep the filtering process running smoothly.

Tip: Drink plenty of water to prevent kidney problems #flankpain CLICK TO TWEET

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused by bacteria that enters the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra.

Symptoms of a UTI

Pain in your lower back or abdomen may be a sign of a lower UTI, such as an infection in the bladder. Pain in the upper back and kidney area, may be a sign of an upper UTI.

Other UTI symptoms include:

  • A frequent urge to urinate
  • Burning when you urinate
  • Blood in the urine
  • Fever

Urinary Tract Infection Treatment

Your primary care doctor or an urgent care doctor can treat a UTI. You’ll be prescribed an antibiotic, and symptoms should clear up shortly after. For recurring or severe UTIs, your doctor may refer you to a urologist.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are crystals that form in your urine and build up in your kidneys. They cause severe pain.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones cause sudden, severe flank pain that can come in waves. The pain may also radiate down through the groin. The pain continues as the stone travels through the ureters, the bladder, and out the urethra if it’s small enough.

You may also experience:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Painful urination

Kidney Stones Treatment

For small stones, you can take pain medications and drink lots of water until the stone passes. Your doctor may also prescribe a medication to help you pass the stone if you have trouble passing it on your own.

Large stones that cannot fit through the urinary tract need to be removed by surgery or lithotripsy, a procedure that breaks apart large stones into small pieces that can pass.

Musculoskeletal Problems

Sometimes, flank pain can be traced to a musculoskeletal problem. This could be a muscle strain or tear from increased physical activity, a fall or other trauma, lifting something too heavy, or repetitive motion.

Muscle-related pain will feel more like a dull ache, and usually worsens with physical activity, pressure, or actions that use those muscles like sneezing or laughing.

You may also have flank pain from spinal arthritis or a pinched nerve.

To treat the pain at home, use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, and ice the area for about 20 minutes at a time every few hours. If the pain doesn’t go away, or you notice swelling or redness along your sides, call your doctor or visit an urgent care center.

Treat #muscle-related pain by icing the area for about 20 minutes at a time every few hours. CLICK TO TWEET

Other Causes of Flank Pain

Flank pain can sometimes be caused by other, more serious conditions. These include:

  • Bladder or kidney cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Diverticulitis
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Appendicitis
  • Blockage in the urinary tract

Flank pain can be tricky to diagnose and require a few different tests to pinpoint the problem. It’s always best to talk to your primary care doctor if you have unexplained pain that doesn’t go away. You should also call your doctor right away if you have signs of an infection, such as fever, fatigue, or body aches.

The Dangers of Sun Poisoning…

Sun poisoning is an extreme case of sunburn, a burn that occurs when UV radiation inflames your skin. It begins with symptoms similar to sunburn, and so it often goes unnoticed, leading to more severe symptoms and dangerous situations.

Sun poisoning is most common during the summer months and in sunny areas. Those with a lighter skin tone, specifically redheads, are most susceptible to sun poisoning. This is because their body has not had a chance to produce melanin, the pigment that absorbs UV light and darkens skin (tans) to form a protective layer.

Take caution! Sun poisoning often goes unnoticed, leading to more severe symptoms. #sunscreen CLICK TO TWEET

Protection from Sun Poisoning

Take preemptive measures to avoid sun poisoning. Wearing protective clothing like hats, sunglasses and long-sleeved shirts help to block UV rays, but if you choose to show skin, do it smartly. About 15 to 30 minutes before going outside, apply broad-spectrum sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher to your whole body. The neck, legs and arms are especially susceptible to sunburn and poisoning. Reapply every two hours, or after you’ve been sweating or in water, and limit sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when its rays are most powerful. Check your medications to get an idea of how your skin will react to the sun; certain medications increase sensitivity, including acne medications, antibiotics, antidepressants, diuretics, heart drugs and birth control pills.

Sun Poisoning Symptoms

It takes less than 15 minutes to burn and, depending on the severity, more than those 15 minutes spent outside could result in sun poisoning. The short-term negative effects of sun poisoning manifest themselves for the next 4-7 days, with more severe long-term effects extending beyond the first week.

Did you know it takes less than 15 minutes to burn ? Take preventative measures early! #summer CLICK TO TWEET

The main symptom of sunburn is a burning “rash” where the skin reddens, dries up and peels off. Sun poisoning’s additional and more severe symptoms include:

If you experience any of these symptoms seek immediate medical attention. If not treated early and properly, sun poisoning can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Treatment for Sun Poisoning

If you are mildly sunburnt or poisoned, there are a few home remedies that will lessen the pain:

  • Hydrate and take ibuprofen to manage the pain.
  • Cold compresses made of equal parts milk and water, or infused with Burow’s solution will help soothe the skin, and Aloe Vera gel can serve as an alternative.
  • Use cool (not cold) water when bathing and avoid scented items like lotions, bath salts, oils and perfumes because they may react negatively with the burnt skin.
  • Avoid the sun until you’re well, and take precautionary measures to avoid a similar situation!

RELATED: Difference Between UVA, UVB, UVC Infographic


Polymorphous Light Eruption (PMLE)

A special type of sun poisoning is polymorphous light eruption (PMLE), which is a skin reaction to the sun  for people that aren’t used to intense sunlight. This mostly affects fair-skinned individuals who live in northern climates.

Polymorphous light eruption symptoms

Common symptoms of polymorphous light eruption include:

  • Severe skin rash
  • Hives
  • Dense clumps of bumps

PMLE is also inherited through Native Americans and symptoms can last from spring until fall.

Here are some simple home remedies to help heal sun poisoning:

  • Avoid popping any blisters or scratching the rash.
  • Take a cool (not cold) bath or apply cool compresses to soothe the swelling.
  • Take ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen to relieve pain.
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream to relieve pain and itching.
  • Drink extra fluids for a few days.
  • Cover sunburned areas and put on sunscreen before going outside.

Seek immediate medical attention if the sunburn covers a large part of the body, there is a lot of pain, or symptoms worsen.

What is a sunburn?

Almost all of us have experienced sunburn – and many of us were probably not wearing sunscreen at the time. (Oops.) Maybe if we truly understood what was happening to our skin as we nonchalantly soaked up the sun for “just 10 more minutes,” we wouldn’t be so lax.

A sunburn is the skin’s response to extreme ultraviolet (UV) exposure and indicates severe damage. In as little as 10 minutes of intense UV exposure, the skin sets into motion a system of defense against this enemy.

The first indication of damage is redness. This is the body’s inflammatory response in situations requiring repair and is a result of dilating blood vessels. The skin will then start to lose moisture and hydration, which will be apparent with a feeling of tightness. Slowly, skin cells will start to thicken and melanin (pigment) will be produced (tanning) in an attempt to stop the UV rays from penetrating through to the deeper layers and damaging the DNA of the cells.

Exposure of skin to high levels of sunlight may result in hypo or hyperpigmentation, which appears as irregular light or dark patches. The body is excellent at coping with minimal amounts of damage, but if exposure is greater than the body’s ability to repair and mop up, more serious consequences may result. If DNA is damaged and its repair mechanisms are inhibited, skin cancer may occur.

Why Does the Skin Peel?
Peeling after a sunburn is your body’s way of getting rid of the damaged cells that are at risk of “losing control” and becoming cancerous. Due to this danger, all damaged cells are instructed to sacrifice themselves by repair mechanisms within these cells. This mass death of cells results in whole layers of damaged skin peeling off, to be replaced by other cells underneath those layers.

I Have a Sunburn, What Should I Do Now?
First of all, you should take care of the cause of your problem: get out of the sun immediately. Drink plenty of water as you may be dehydrated. If skin is severely blistered, seek help from a medical practitioner. Otherwise it is important to take down the inflammation and try to reduce damage to the deeper layers of your skin.

Take a cool bath (no products added) and then blot skin dry. Avoid greasy creams, which prevent the skin from cooling and may make the situation worse. Rather, apply generously a soothing after-sun gel to red areas and then stay out of the sun and the heat. Look for ingredients such as Clove, Licorice, Lavender, Cucumber and Yucca to reduce irritation, pain and redness. Also look out for an incredible ingredient called Japanese Alder to accelerate the repair of UV-induced DNA damage. Couple this with ingredients such as Algae and Hyaluronic Acid to rehydrate the skin and you should be well on your way to a calmer skin.

And no, it is not then OK to go out into the sun the next day for another blast! Remember, your skin is still trying to heal and so must be kept out of direct sunlight for a good few days. Keep in mind, the skin is a great record keeper. Even with a great after-sun product, irreparable damage may have occurred in the form of premature aging or skin cancer that may only reveal itself later. Think twice next time you decide “just another 10 minutes;” –your immune system is listening!

Understanding the mind of the elite athlete

As a tennis fan, I marvel at Roger Federer’s ability to gracefully execute some of the most difficult shots I’ve ever seen. Other sports have their greats: Lebron James on the basketball court, Michael Phelps in the pool and Lance Armstrong on the road. These are just a few of the athletes that continually wow us with their agility and uncanny power and strength. We know them for what they can do from the neck down. But what about their minds?

Over the last few decades science has started to look inside the mind of the athlete. What they have found is a brain not only finely tuned for the demands of their particular sport, but one that may also carry a mental advantage to situations beyond the sports field. This research also provides a unique context for studying novel and important questions about the human mind, such as how the mind and body work together to rewire brain circuits over years of practice. With increasingly sophisticated brain imaging techniques, we can also start to actually see what the brain is capable of at the highest level of physical and mental expertise. In turn we can see how the mind of elite athletes from distinct sports may compare to expert musiciansdancers, artists, yoga masters, or highly skilled video gamers. All this leads to a better understanding of just how flexible our brains are, and perhaps why we excel at some activities and not others.

For a long time, research on the athlete’s mind focused on studying the athlete in the context of their sport. For example, we know that elite athletes are faster and more accurate at remembering and later recalling meaningful play formations from their own sport. They are also quicker and more efficient at searching a visual scene containing sport-specific information, especially when the target is something relevant to their sport, such as soccer players searching for the ball in a realistic soccer scene.

Research has also shown that expert athletes are better at anticipating the actions of their opponents and the consequences of those actions, based on sport-specific contextual information. For instance, an elite cricket player need only see the pitcher’s preparatory arm movements before the ball is released to judge where the ball will bounce and its trajectory into the hitting zone, while non-experts are more likely to look at both relevant and irrelevant visual aspects of the pitch.

research group in Italy recently investigated this same phenomenon in basketball. They found that elite players could predict the outcome of the free-throw earlier and more accurately than a group of expert viewers (e.g., journalists and coaches) and novices, by using cues from the shooter’s hand movements at ball release. Before the ball even left the shooter’s hand, only 486 ms after the shot motion started, expert athletes could predict success with greater than 30 percent accuracy, while expert watchers and novices were only at about 10 percent accuracy. At the critical time of ball release (781 ms after the start of the shot) experts were about 75 percent accurate while expert watchers and novices hovered around 40 percent. Even more fascinating, they found that what made the difference for elite players was the excitability of the brain area that would control their shooting hand. It’s as if the expert brain was, subconsciously, imagining taking the shot themselves and the moment when the shot left their finger tips was the “aha moment,” the best moment for predicting if the shot would drop.

This study demonstrates that just watching sports is not enough to develop the ability to anticipate what your opponent will do — it takes playing.

What we still don’t know, though, is how and under what conditions the athlete brain learns anticipation. Many hours of basketball practice may rewire brain pathways specifically for the mental demands of basketball. But are the number of practice hours all that count for this rewiring to occur? Or is it more a matter of what they focus on during practice? The expertise literature suggests that it is both how you practice and how much you practice, yet there is little to no brain-based evidence for how to optimize learning an athletic skill.

Another question is: after years of practice in a fast-paced sport like basketball or tennis, would an elite athlete acquire the ability to respond faster to anything in their environment? Does sport, in other words, sharpen the mind? Different studies have come to different conclusions. However, recent research by myself and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, compiled all the results from a variety of studies conducted over the years by scientists around the world. We found that, overall, elite athletes did show faster response times in tasks outside the context of athletics.

Similarly, a recent study by Leila Overney and colleagues at the Brain Mind Institute in Lausanne, Switzerland, showed that tennis athletes had greater precision in detecting differences in the speed of dots expanding toward them and showed faster visual perception than tri-athletes and non-athletes. At the same time, the same study showed that although tennis players were more accurate at finding a tennis ball in tennis snap-shots, they were no more accurate at finding the tennis ball in sport scenes unrelated to tennis. This study points out that some general mental abilities may be gained from sport training, while others may be sport-specific.

In our analysis we also found athletes have an advantage in what is known as “changing the breadth of visual attention.” Visual attention is the ability to focus on what is currently relevant to whatever you are doing (whether it be one or multiple things) while ignoring distractions. Breadth of attention refers to how many things and how much of the environment you are paying attention to at any one time. For example, a wide breadth of attention is necessary for driving in a busy roadway where there are cross-walks with bold pedestrians jumping out at any moment compounded with bike lanes, merging traffic, potential stop-lights, and maybe even your GPS companion directing you where to go. Think downtown Chicago at rush-hour. Now imagine you find yourself lost and while at a stop-light you decide to really “focus” on the map on your GPS module. You tune out the radio, any yapping passengers, all street sounds and sights, and direct tunnel vision to the GPS screen.

Shifting the breadth of attention is essential in sports. A basketball player dribbling down the court must focus on the ball, their teammates, and their opponents, while filtering out the crowd. This requires broad breadth of attention. Free-throw time ensues and now they must tunnel into their pre-shot routine, the ball, and the basket.

So the next time you’re watching your favorite athlete and you ask yourself “how do they do it?” – remember their athletic grace is rooted in as much their mind as their body. Somewhere where the two meet, years of practice and hard work have created a brain sculpted for their sport and perhaps beyond.

Science Shows How Musicians’ Brains Are Different From Everybody Elses


Eye Twitching…

Stupid eye twitch😜

An eyelid twitch, or blepharospasm, is a repetitive, involuntary spasm of the eyelid muscles. A twitch usually occurs in the upper lid, but it can occur in both the upper and lower lids.  A persistent twitching means you should contact your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam.

woman with an eye twitch

For most people, these spasms are very mild and feel like a gentle tug on the eyelid. Others may experience a spasm strong enough that it forces you to close your eyelid completely. Some people never have any noticeable signs.

Spasms typically occur every few seconds for a minute or two. Episodes of eyelid twitching are unpredictable. The twitch may occur off and on for several days. Then, you may not experience any twitching for weeks or even months.

Eyelid spasms may occur without any identifiable cause, and because they are rarely a sign of a serious problem, the cause is not usually investigated. Nevertheless, eyelid twitches may be caused or made worse by:

  • dizziness
  • eye irritation
  • eyelid strain
  • fatigue
  • lack of sleep
  • physical exertion
  • medication side effects
  • stress
  • use of alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine

Most eyelid spasms go away without treatment in a few days or weeks. In rare cases, some eye twitching just won’t go away. Some of these types of twitches can be successfully treated with Botox injections that help stop muscle contractions. See your eye doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment if the twitching affects half your face or your entire eye, causing the lids to clamp shut.

Digital Fatigue: Eye Strain and Migraines

Eye Strain

Just like the muscles in your body, your eyes can get tired. For the job they do, your eyes contain the strongest muscles in your body*. But as strong as they are, they can become strained and fatigued by sitting in front of a computer, under fluorescent lights or in front of a TV for several hours. This is called visual fatigue, and an eye doctor can show you how to lessen it during an annual comprehensive eye exam.

image of a man suffering from digital fatigue

Why do I care about visual fatigue?

Today, more and more people are suffering from visual fatigue without knowing the cause of their symptoms. Modern work and lifestyle changes have forced us to spend extended hours in close-range activities such as smart phones, computer work, e-books, and hand-held gaming. The increased demands of these activities on your eyes can leave you with uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms. For some people, visual fatigue can also lead to reduction in productivity and ability to concentrate—and may even negatively impact your vision health.

Common Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Tired Eyes
  • Neck or Back pain
  • Burning/Stinging eyes
  • Difficulty focusing after extended periods of time

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, your eye doctor may be able to help.

What Should I do?

Visual fatigue can be diagnosed by an eye doctor through an annual eye exam and a discussion on your lifestyle and work habits. If you have visual fatigue, your eye doctor has new technology designed to help you combat it.

Digital Fatigue in Kids

As the presence of technology increases, so do the chances for your children’s vision to worsen. Many kids today are experiencing digital and visual fatigue due to their increased exposure to digital screens. Nearsightedness has increased by 66 percent since the 1970s, according to The National Eye Institute, a problem that is undeniably linked to the usage of video games.

Not only are children spending too much time in front of  digital screens, they are sitting too close to the screens as well, leading to visual fatigue. Eye doctors recommend the 20-20-20 rule. Take a break once every 20 minutes and focus on something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This can alleviate eyestrain and work the eye muscles that are not being used while watching a digital screen.

It is equally important to make sure the eye gets time to relax on focusing on something up close for 3 hours should be followed by 3 hours of looking at something at a distance. For example, spending time outdoors in natural light relaxes the eyes and relieves visual fatigue as well.

Migraines and Vision — Ocular Migraines and the Connection Between Headaches and Eyes

Migraines are horrible. For those of you who have never experienced a migraine, you’re one of the lucky few. There’s the pain, of course- throbbing, pounding pain. But then, you get the tag-along symptoms: nausea and sensitivity to light and noise. Migraine sufferers quickly learn on the second or third migraine that visual symptoms like wavy lines, flashing dots, and temporary blindness are usually the first sign of a migraine. Also, not all migraines are the same. Retinal or eye migraines, for instance, can occur with or without the accompanying headache, but they can still be just as painful.

Retinal migraines, or ocular migraines, are caused by the same inflammation as regular migraines.  Inflammatory substances release deep inside the brain and around the blood vessels of the head and brain. While ocular and regular migraines affect vision, ocular migraines only affect one eye. Ocular migraine sufferers typically have a family history of migraine headaches.

What triggers migraine symptoms?

While genetics play a major part, other factors can trigger a migraine. Common triggers include:

  • Glaring or flickering lights
  • Certain foods, such as aged cheeses, caffeinated drinks, red wine, smoked meats, and chocolate
  • Food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfumes and other strong odors
  • Lack of sleep
  • Emotional stress

Who is at risk for migraines?

While migraines are a common neurological condition that affects approximately 20 percent of the population, women are more likely to experience migraines. In fact, women in their twenties or thirties are three times more likely to be retinal migraine victims than men in the same age group.

What causes headaches behind the eyes?

Another common issue is headaches behind the eyes. While stress, eyestrain, and lack of sleep can lead to this type of headache, a frequent cause is actual eye problems such as astigmatism, presbyopia and far-sightedness. These problems left uncorrected, cause habitual squinting and put stress on the eyes, which puts tension on the eye muscles, resulting in a headache.

How to treat migraines

The visual symptoms of ocular migraines are usually harmless and resolve on their own within a half hour. The associated headache, unfortunately, could last for several hours or even days. Rest is your first course of action. Afterwards, it’s best to talk with your physician about migraine treatment and prevention.

If you experience unusual vision symptoms, you should schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist to rule out vision-threatening conditions such as a detached retina.

For more information on eye strain visit

Article ©2016 Access Media Group LLC.  All rights reserved.  Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.

Health Tips

Do you work or play a lot on a computer? It can put a real strain on your eyes! What’s more, it can lead to other physical discomforts, like headaches, neck and back pain. To help avoid digital fatigue, consider a pair of computer glasses that help you see digital screens better and more clearly. That way, working on your computer won’t be such a pain in the neck… or back… or eyes!

Computer Eyestrain

Having an annual comprehensive eye exam is the most important thing you can do to prevent or treat computer vision problems.

According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), computer users should have an eye exam before they start working on a computer and once a year thereafter.

During your exam, be sure to tell your eye doctor how often you use a computer at work and at home. Measure how far your eyes are from your screen when you sit at your computer, and bring this measurement to your exam so your eye doctor can test your eyes at that specific working distance.

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