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Ask Dr. Gott 10/24

Back problems need a specialist

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DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a 70-year-old male Caucasian with a long history of back problems dating back to the mid-1980s. I had a partially herniated disc, and I spent a week in traction. I still have back problems. Chiropractic manipulation was no help. The chiropractor finally suggested trying an epidural shot to quiet a pinched nerve.
    I went to my orthopedic surgeon to get a referral, but he said shots wouldn't help. My regular doctor said there's no surgeon that will touch my back. So, where does that leave me? With a sore back the rest of my life? It won't let me do much walking, and standing motionless is out of the question. What do you suggest?
    DEAR READER: I choose to avoid criticizing the discrepant advice offered to you by your various health professionals. The basic problem is a disc herniation that is compressing one or more spinal nerves, leading to chronic pain.
    I disagree with your regular doctor. Perhaps, as he said, no surgeon will touch your back, but how does he know?
    My patients with disc problems often discover that their pain levels rise over the years because the back ailment worsens. Where do things stand with you at present? Have you had an MRI within the past six months? These and other questions need answering. While you are unraveling this problem, I urge you to have a neurosurgeon review your case. If he or she agrees that surgery is not an appropriate option, then go to a pain clinic. Most teaching hospitals have such a resource available. Don't delay. You are probably running out of options. You need expert help.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Managing Chronic Pain."

    DEAR DR. GOTT: If my spouse is sick with a common virus or infection, such as a cold, sore throat, flu, etc., can that be passed on through sexual intimacy? When either of us is sick, we are careful about kissing and wash our hands frequently so as not to transfer the "bugs" to each other, but what about other physical contact?
    DEAR READER: Upper-respiratory viral infections are passed on by respiratory droplets, such as coughing and sneezing, not by sexual intimacy. However, most patients with such infections put sex on hold.
    Moreover, unless you have developed a revolutionary new technique during intimacy, you cannot avoid breathing with your partner. Exhalation can spread a respiratory infection with or without sex.
    I should mention that other viral infections, notably herpes, are contagious by direct sexual contact — unlike colds and flu.
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