Author Archive

Doctors Without Borders

March 8th, 2020

When much of the area in and around Managua, Nicaragua was destroyed by an earthquake in December 1972, humanitarians from all over the world pitched in to help the Central American country recover.

Among them were legendary baseball player Roberto Clemente and a team of volunteers, all of whom perished when the cargo airplane they were flying in crashed on New Year’s Eve 1972.

Also coming to the aid of Nicaraguans in the wake of that disaster was a fledgling organization known as Doctors Without Borders, which faced its first test as a relief agency during the Nicaraguan tragedy.

What, precisely, is Doctors Without Borders? It is an independent humanitarian non-government agency that provides various forms of medical assistance throughout the world.

Internationally, it is known as Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), for it was founded in Paris, France in December 1971 by a group of journalists and physicians who were of the belief that much international aid was obstructed by legal barriers and was also medically inadequate.

The simplest definition of the organization comes from a MSF promotional video: “Doctors Without Borders…provides aid to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters.”

In 2009, MSF was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Accepting the award was MSF’s then President of International Council, Dr. James Orbinski, a Canadian physician and one of the many doctors, surgeons, and nurses who mostly comprise the medical sector of MSF.

MSF receives approximately three million dollars in fiscal assistance each year. More than 80 percent of those funds are used to finance MSF programs. The remainder goes to administrative, management, and fundraising duties and responsibilities.

More than 23,000 people work in all sorts of vocations for MSF, which has approximately 3,000 paid employees and 20,000 volunteers working across the globe.

Five of the 24 MSF offices are referred to by MSF officials as Operational Centers, or OCs, and all five are located on the European continent in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Geneva and Paris.

Other MSF bureaus can be found in Toronto, Canada; New Delhi, India;  Rio de Janiero, Brazil; Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Taipei, Taiwan, which is the site of the first office on the Asian continent.

Interestingly, although MSF exists does work in more than 70 countries, the United States is not one of them. The reason for this is, according to the Doctors Without Borders website, is that “there are other organizations with experience serving these populations that are better placed to address these challenges.”

MSF employees and volunteers are independent of any political ideology and only once in the organization’s history – during the 1994 genocide between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda – have its workers asked for military intervention.

Some of the more recent examples of MSF’s work include providing medical care for those affected by the outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this year; the admittance of more than 50 people to a hospital in Yemen after they were injured while publicly demonstrating against various governmental policies in that country, and the providing of various psychotherapy services to people living with extreme pressures north of the West Bank.
Much of the world’s populace continues to have problems but MSF’s work to help people cope with their problems continues as the organization seeks to provide independent, neutral and impartial medical aid where it’s needed.

My Time NOW

Woman rewards herself with beautiful, new smile.

Photos courtesy of Connie Zahorchak.

Connie Zahorchak

After years of focusing almost entirely on the health needs of her family members, Connie Zahorchak decided a few years ago to focus on a couple of specific health care needs of her own.

“For years, you do for others as a mother and a wife and neglect yourself. That’s what I had done,” Connie confirms. “But through a lot of those years, it bothered me that my front teeth were uneven, so finally, I said, Now, it’s my time.”

It wasn’t just the look of her front teeth that bothered Connie. She was also bothered by what she describes as a popping and clicking in her right jaw and headaches. She initially brought up both issues while visiting with her primary care physician.

“My doctor mentioned that she’d heard really good things about a dentist in the area,” Connie says. “She said he was wellliked by patients and had a reputation for excellent work. Based on her recommendation, I called his office and made an appointment.”

The dentist Connie was referred to is Stephen G. Blank, DDS, who practices cosmetic and functional dentistry in Port St. Lucie, where careful planning is at the core of improving the look and function of his patients’ smiles.

“Your smile really is your best accessory,” Dr. Blank elaborates. “That’s the underlying assumption driving all of our efforts. We design a plan that corrects any underlying issues that are present so that the beautiful smiles we create for all our patients will last.

“And the first step in that process is to set up a well-designed treatment plan so that creating a beautiful smile is possible. Both beauty and functionality are critical to patient satisfaction and long-lasting dental work.”

Before image courtesy of Stephen Blank, DDS.


In designing a treatment plan for Connie, Dr. Blank’s primary objective was to alleviate the cause of her headaches and the clicking in her right jaw. The underlying issue there, he discovered, was a misaligned arch.

“She had a narrow arch that overlapped in the front and caused her jaw to close in a position that wasn’t comfortable for her,” Dr. Blank recalls. “Her teeth were not meeting together in harmony.

“To correct that, we decided that the best course of treatment was to start with a bite appliance to reposition her jaw. Once we were able to get her comfortable with the bite appliance, we moved on to straightening her teeth.

“Connie was very clear about not wanting to wear metal braces. Thankfully, we have another option for patients such as Connie called Invisalign® clear aligners that for many patients is a far more ideal solution for straightening their teeth.”

Aesthetic Appeal

Invisalign clear aligners do the same job as metal braces, but they are made of a hard plastic and are virtually invisible. They are also removable, so patients can take them out when eating or brushing their teeth.

Each clear aligner is designed to be worn day and night for approximately two weeks, after which time the aligner is changed out for a new one. The entire length of time a patient wears Invisalign clear aligners depends on how misaligned their teeth are.

“I live in Pittsburgh, and for years, I’ve arranged my travel schedule to return to Florida to have follow-ups done with Dr. Blank. He’s just that good.” – Connie

Many patients complete their realignment program within a year, but that was not the case with Connie. She wore her aligners for just over a year, but Connie and Dr. Blank agree that the extra couple of months were a good investment in time.

“Invisalign therapy improved Connie’s smile tremendously,” Dr. Blank reports. “The only issue we had was that after completing the Invisalign therapy, the wear patterns from the previous crooked positions of her teeth became more apparent.”

Having already straightened her teeth, Connie next sought to erase the unappealing wear patterns on them. Dr. Blank achieved that objective by first measuring Connie’s teeth and taking photographs of them during what is known as a smile design visit.

For years, the next step in the process was to send the measurements and photographs to a lab, where a wax model was made. That model was then used to create the crowns and veneers that completed the patient’s new smile.

But Dr. Blank recently added to his practice a Formlabs Form 3, a 3-D printer that allows Dr. Blank to design and produce aligners right in his office.

“The 3-D printer allows us to design smiles for makeover cases right here in our office,” Dr. Blank informs. “Instead of sending a case to a laboratory for a wax up, we design it on the computer, print out the model and use that to help create your new smile.

“We can also make bite guard appliances in the office by designing them on the computer and printing them out. There are a lot of different dental applications that can be done with a 3-D printer, and they all represent win-win situations for our patients.”

Sparkling Results

The 3-D printer is so new to Dr. Blank’s office that he sought the help of a lab in creating Connie’s new smile. The results were sparkling, he says, and Connie concurs.

Photos courtesy of Connie Zahorchak.

Connie Zahorchak

In fact, her smile is so much more appealing now that one of her best friends began to see Dr. Blank for her dental work shortly after Connie did. Connie, meanwhile, is just happy that she was referred to Dr. Blank.

“Everything my doctor was told about Dr. Blank and his staff turned out to be completely true in my experience,” Connie raves. “The first thing that stood out for me was the office environment. It is very relaxing, which I like.

“Once I was with Dr. Blank, he took plenty of time understanding my concerns. It was unlike any visit I’ve had with a dentist. He was never pushy. He gave me all the information and let me decide what to do and when to do it.

“He is so conscientious. If there was a problem, all I had to do was call and come in, with no waiting. Dr. Blank and his team are exceptionally courteous. I never, ever had a bad day there.

“I live in Pittsburgh and for years, I’ve traveled to Florida for my follow-ups visits with Dr. Blank. He’s just that good.”

From the Top Down

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Bruce Conner

Procedure on upper cervical vertebrae relieves low back pain.

It was while living amid Central Florida’s Chain of Lakes that 59-year-old Sarasota resident Bruce Conner’s tale of misery began.

“I started experiencing chronic backaches with muscle stiffness and sharp pain in my lower back,” Bruce remembers. “I can’t point to anything I did to initiate the problem except that while growing up, I had some kid-type accidents, like falling out of a tree and getting kicked in the head.

“It’s possible that some of those incidents jarred some of my vertebrae because there were times when I got a very intense pain in my low back that felt like a razor-sharp object, like a knife, was being stuck in my back. But most of the time, it was just a chronic backache that never left. The pain was a nine out of ten.”

The constant agony affected every aspect of Bruce’s life. Working around the house and doing tasks that require strength were painful for him to perform. His sports endeavors were also affected.

“Back then, I liked to play softball and bowl, but when I started having these back problems, I couldn’t do those things anymore,” Bruce describes. “At times, I had trouble just walking.”

Bruce tried various treatments, looking for relief. He went to a traditional chiropractor but wasn’t thrilled with the manual manipulation technique used by the doctor to adjust his spine. The chiropractor couldn’t give him an acceptable explanation for his condition, and the treatment failed to provide the results he sought.

“I then tried an orthopedic surgeon, who took some x-rays,” Bruce relates. “The doctor didn’t see anything on the x-rays that required surgery, but he couldn’t tell me why I was having so much pain either. I was getting to a point where I didn’t have any hope of getting relief from my painful low back problem.”

Then, Bruce heard about doctors in Clearwater who performed a procedure called an upper cervical correction. He decided to make the 90-minute drive there to find out what it was all about and whether it could help him.

“I was at my wit’s end, so I drove to Clearwater to talk to a doctor and have the upper cervical procedure,” Bruce states. “That’s where I met Dr. Zabawa, who was working at that clinic at the time. This was back in the mid 1980s.

“Dr. Zabawa’s adjustments were very gentle. I just felt a little bit of pressure over my neck. He uses a little instrument and just lightly taps. At first, I thought, This can’t be doing anything, but actually, it really works.”

Stephen R. Zabawa, DC, now has his own upper cervical practice, Atlas Chiropractic of Sarasota, where he uses this advanced approach to adjust the spine, which relieves back pain and other disorders.

An upper cervical chiropractor board certified in Orthospinology, Dr. Zabawa uses gentle, precise adjustment methods called Orthospinology and Atlas Orthogonal to treat misalignments of the spine.

The Atlas Adjustment

At Atlas Chiropractic of Sarasota, low back care begins at the top. Keeping the upper cervical vertebrae in alignment keeps the entire spine aligned, which results in relief from low back pain.

“The body has a reflex to keep the eyes, brain and nerves level,” Dr. Zabawa explains. “The spine will distort itself all the way down the body to keep the brain and nervous system level.

“The atlas is the first vertebra in the neck that connects the head to the cervical spine. If there’s a misalignment of the upper cervical vertebrae, the rest of the spine will compensate. The lumbar and thoracic vertebrae, pelvis and hips will torque, putting pressure on the low back, which causes pain.

“This twisting of the spine also creates interference in the spinal column. Pressure on the nervous system can affect other parts of the body, far beyond the back. The atlas adjustment takes pressure off by restoring the proper alignment of the atlas vertebra. This balances the head, relieving the spinal twisting down to the lower back, so I’m actually adjusting the full spine. That’s when healing can begin.”

The precision and gentleness of the atlas adjustment is what makes upper cervical chiropractic unique, Dr. Zabawa asserts. “Unlike other chiropractors, I don’t snap-crackle-and-pop you. Here, I make measurements and calculations from a series of x-rays we take.

“Over time, with Dr. Zabawa’s upper cervical adjustments, my back gradually got better, and the pain dissipated. . . . I’m virtually pain free now.” – Bruce

“An upper cervical correction is a very gentle tap in just the right place for your personal misalignment, and there’s no pulling or jerking of such a delicate area. It’s precise and gentle.”

The atlas adjustment procedure Dr. Zabawa performs restores balance to the body.

“It’s an effective, advanced approach without extreme manipulations. Patients may have low back problems, but adjusting the neck takes care of the back.”

“A Dramatic Change”

Bruce says his first upper cervical adjustment was “life-changing” and gave him hope he could actually recover and live a pain-free, normal life again. Those hopes turned into reality for him after a series of treatments.

“Over time, with Dr. Zabawa’s upper cervical adjustments, my back gradually got better, and the pain dissipated,” he reports. “Now, I’m at a point where I don’t really think about my back pain anymore. Where my pain used to be a nine, it’s now zero or one at the most. I’m virtually pain free now. It’s a dramatic change.”

Just as people maintain their cars, so they should maintain their bodies, Dr. Zabawa stresses. With that in mind, Bruce is happy to go to Atlas Chiropractic of Sarasota periodically for preventive maintenance adjustments because without the constant backaches, he is free to do many of the activities he shied away from before. For him, walking is comfortable again and so are the tasks around his home that caused him significant pain before.

“I don’t play softball anymore, but from time to time, I will go bowling with my coworkers,” Bruce notes. “I don’t worry about pain when I’m working and playing with my kids or doing activities around the house. This procedure has improved my life and overall well-being immensely.

”Dr. Zabawa is a very good upper cervical doctor,” he says. “His treatments are very effective. Over the years, most of my loved ones have been to see him, and we’ve all received great care.

“For anyone with the type of back problem I was having, I definitely recommend Dr. Zabawa’s upper cervical treatment. It’s been very effective and helpful for me.”

Custom Fit

Unique implants an option when traditional implants are not.

Long Island, New York native Margaret “Peg” Capalongo, 65, resided in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for ten years before relocating to Florida with her husband in 1999. The move south was prompted by a lucrative job offer for Peg, whose husband was on board as long as he could live near an international airport because his job requires extensive travel.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Peg Capalongo & Ahyse

“The job I moved for was in the chiropractic industry, but I’m now a certified, registered HIT, which stands for healthcare information technologist,” Peg explains. “I’m a supervisor for an organization called Ciox Health. We work for a local hospital system.

“An HIT’s job is to manage the release of patient information to outside entities such as insurance companies and attorneys. We answer subpoenas and provide medical records to patients. We are legally responsible for protecting patients’ sensitive medical information.”

“I was still working in the chiropractic field when I started looking at other careers. There was an opportunity to get into health care, so I went back to school and got my degree in health information management. I then became certified by the state in health information technology, and I’ve never looked back.”

One thing Peg has had no choice but to look back on is a lifelong dental issue. Her struggles stem from a condition called hypodontia in which an absence of primordial tissue prevents one or more teeth from developing.

“Because of this condition, I’ve worn some type of prosthetic device in my mouth since I was thirteen years old,” Peg explains. “In the beginning, the dentist replaced the teeth I lost with partial dentures. Over time, though, my jawbone began to deteriorate because there were no teeth in it. I ended up with full dentures, including a lower denture that didn’t sit well in my mouth because my jaw was flat. There was nothing to hold the denture in place.”

The loose lower denture affected Peg’s chewing ability. She was also reluctant to smile wide for fear the denture would visibly move in her mouth.

“I wasn’t able to eat anything that required a lot of chewing for two reasons,” Peg states. “One is because the denture just didn’t stay put in my mouth. I used a lot of denture glue to keep it in place for aesthetic reasons, but I couldn’t eat with it.

“The other reason I ate soft foods for the past few years was because my dentist was concerned that I might crack my jaw. That would require surgery to put it back together, then they would have to wire my jaw shut. I didn’t want to go there.

“And I had to be really careful when I smiled. I couldn’t show a really big smile or laugh really hard because my denture would fall out.”

Saddle Up

In an effort to support her loose lower denture, Peg tried traditional dental implants, but they failed because the bone mass in her jaw was insufficient. Peg then visited Michael A. Pikos, DDS, seeking a solution to her dilemma.

Before and after images courtesy of Coastal Jaw Surgery.

Before and After

Dr. Pikos is the founder of Coastal Jaw Surgery, a multi-specialty dental practice that has several locations throughout Tampa Bay. Dr. Pikos is a board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has extensive expertise in dental implants.

In treating Peg, Dr. Pikos worked closely with Coastal Jaw Surgery’s prosthodontist Philip J. Hedger, DMD, a specialist in dental prosthetics. Dr. Pikos and Dr. Hedger used a customized type of dental implant called a subperiosteal implant to correct Peg’s problem.

“We are the only practice in the greater Tampa Bay area that offers this implant,” Dr. Hedger notes. “Placing subperiosteal implants is an advanced procedure, and only specially trained surgeons can perform it.”

Subperiosteal implants are generally used when a patient is told their jawbone is not wide enough or tall enough to support traditional dental implants. That is common with patients who’ve worn dentures for many years. But unlike traditional dental implants, subperiosteal implants are not surgically placed into the jawbone. Instead, they rest on top of the bone.

“Initially, we take a three-dimensional CT scan and make a printed model of the shape of the patient’s jawbone,” Dr. Hedger describes. “From that model, we create a customized implant that straddles the bone, much like a saddle on a horse.

“Dr. Hedger is very creative, like an artist, He looked at my facial structure and designed teeth that look so natural, most people don’t know I wear them.” – Peg

“Each subperiosteal implant is patient specific. It is such a precise fit that they can only be used for that patient. The implant snaps into place engaging undercuts in the bone. There are also tiny fixation screws to tack it into place and provide extra support.

“The process of securing a lower denture and thereby restoring a smile using subperiosteal implants is not very well-known, but it can be life-changing for the patient.”

Subperiosteal implants are used to secure lower teeth only, Dr. Hedger clarifies. However, there’s a different procedure that can be performed for the upper arch, which Coastal Jaw Surgery also provides.

“With our advanced training, the specialists at Coastal Jaw Surgery can offer these innovative options to patients who were told by other dentists that they were not candidates for dental implants,” he observes. “To denture patients who think there is no hope, we say, There are options for you. You can improve your quality of life!”

Safe and Successful

Peg experienced an improvement in her quality of life after receiving subperiosteal implants and new teeth from Coastal Jaw Surgery.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

A unique implant treatment has put a smile back on Peg’s face.

“The teeth that were created for me and that I have now are gorgeous,” Peg reports. “I’m extremely happy with them.”

Peg is thrilled with the appearance of the teeth she received following her subperiosteal implant procedure. She credits Dr. Hedger for doing a “great job.”

“Dr. Hedger is very creative, like an artist,” Peg describes. “He looked at my facial structure and designed teeth that look so natural, most people don’t know I wear them. I’m amazed by how he made them look so good.

“The staff at Coastal Jaw Surgery gave me a post-surgery treatment program that was all-natural homeopathic medicines, so I didn’t have to take any major drugs. It’s amazing to me how forward-thinking they are to actually embrace homeopathic remedies.”

To Peg, getting the implant was an amazing experience, even though it required a major procedure. She’s happy she had the work completed at Coastal Jaw Surgery.

“I had been working with Dr. Pikos on and off for about six years trying to determine what to do about my problem and how to fix it,” Peg relates. “Then last year, Dr. Pikos and Dr. Hedger suggested utilizing a subperiosteal implant as a solution to my problem.

“It took some surgery by Dr. Pikos to prepare my jaw for the unique implants, and Dr. Hedger designed the teeth that go on top of the implants. I worked with Dr. Hedger to get the teeth just right, but we did it.

“Having a team such as Dr. Pikos, Dr. Hedger and all of the assistants and staff at Coastal Jaw Surgery made the process a lot easier to go through. They made me feel very comfortable. The entire process has been fascinating, and I feel good now. I don’t know that I would trust any other team to do the work for me.

“I also like that the staff at Coastal Jaw Surgery didn’t just look at my mouth. They looked at me as a person and took my whole body into consideration. I’m a type one diabetic, and they did whatever was necessary to make the process safe and successful for me, and they did a wonderful job!”

A Wonderful Life

Resident enjoys dining out, singing and having fun with friends.

Michelle Williams loves everything about Savannah Court of Orange City, especially the food, which is served restaurant-style in the dining room.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Michelle Williams

“My favorite is the lasagna,” she says. “It has lots of cheese.”

Michelle, 58, has been at Savannah Court for the past several years. Though she has multiple sclerosis, nothing stops her from enjoying all the amenities the resort-like senior living facility has to offer.

That includes joining a group of friends in a spirited game of bingo, which she does almost daily, and participating in the community’s regular sing-alongs and karaoke contests, all of which she does with her own personal brand of gusto.

“I love to sing!” Michelle voices, demonstrating her talents.

On Thursdays, Michelle and her fellow residents board a shuttle and go out to lunch at one of the area’s restaurants. Whenever the bus is leaving, Michelle is on board.

“Michelle is a breath of fresh air,” says Todd Brown, Savannah Court’s marketing relations director. “Whenever she sees you, she calls you by name and tells you she loves you.”

Abundant Amenities

Michelle has definitely found a long-term home at Savannah Court of Orange City, which is nestled just 20 minutes between Metro Orlando and Daytona Beach, where it provides residents with a cozy, small-town ambiance while also offering all the amenities necessary to carry out an active lifestyle.

Those amenities include assisted living services, senior day care services for caregivers who need a day for themselves, and respite care for seniors recovering from illness or surgery.

Michelle’s needs include shower assistance, but beyond that, she does most everything on her own. And with her birthday coming up soon, she can hardly contain her excitement. That’s because it falls on the same day as Savannah Court’s monthly auction.

During the auction, residents are given play money dubbed Savannah Court Bucks that they can use to bid on a variety of items such as jewelry, room décor, books, clothing and cosmetic items. The gifts are usually provided by area businesses, but residents sometimes make donations as well.

“It’s a very popular event,” Todd says.

Residents are also treated to arts and crafts, music, games, and various exercise programs to suit their needs and tastes. Options include playing ball, stretching and chair exercises.

On Fridays, residents get a visit from Jojo the dog. Life at Savannah Court is full of events of all sizes. There is at least one large themed event each month as well as daily events such as themed dinners, ice cream socials and happy hours.

Michelle is among those who enjoy the exercise class that uses pool noodles.

“I have to bend down and let her tap me on the head with the pool noodle,” Todd says with a laugh. “She always has a positive attitude and loves life.”

The community’s single-story, square layout makes it easy for residents to navigate and get around to all the fun things going on each day. However, one thing no resident has to participate in is drudgery.

Staff members are there 24/7 to take care of residents’ every need, from laundry to apartment cleaning to cooking and doing dishes. The design of the community’s center courtyard also fosters a spirit of camaraderie, Todd says.

“We allow our residents to remain independent for as long as they can. I love that I get to be a guest in their home.”

The Best Valentine’s Gift is a Healthy Heart

February 5th, 2020

Here we are in February already. We’ve gotten through the stress of the holidays and if you’re like me, you made promises to yourself to take better care of your health this year. So how’s that going for you? Hopefully, you’re making good on your promise to yourself.

Along those lines, February brings with it Valentine’s Day, and there is no better gift that you can give yourself, or your significant other, than a healthy heart. That’s why February is American Heart Month.

According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Some of the biggest risk factors associated with heart disease are uncontrolled high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Other conditions can also put you at risk for heart disease. For example, carrying around extra weight puts undue stress on the heart. High blood sugar or diabetes can damage the blood vessels that help control the heart muscle. Unhealthy eating and inactivity are also risk factors.

To lower your risk, there are several things you can do. For starters, you can eat better and reduce your sodium intake. One way to do that is to fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables and eat foods low in trans-fat and saturated fat. And be sure to include whole grains, poultry, fish, and legumes in your diet.

Limiting sweets and sugar sweetened beverages will go a long way toward improving your heart health as well. And be sure to always choose foods rich in potassium and to limit your intake of red meats. Also, limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day, if you’re a woman, and two drinks a day if you’re a man. If you enjoy cooking, research some healthier recipes you think you’ll enjoy and maybe try something new.

Another critical step you can take to lower your risk for heart related problems is to avoid second hand smoke. And if you smoke, STOP! Sure, that’s easier said than done, but there are many cessation programs that can help.

If you can’t partake in one of those, there are other ways you can break your smoking habit or at least cut back on your smoking. Changing your routine is one such way. Instead of having a cigarette after a meal, go for a walk or brush your teeth. You can also make a list of the reasons why you want to quit and read the list every time you feel the urge to smoke. If you smoke when you drink, cut down on alcohol which will help you avoid those moments.

Another way you can improve your heart health is by finding a hobby you enjoy that will get you moving for a few hours each week. Bicycling, walking or jogging, rollerblading, yoga, tennis, or any activity that gets your heart pumping will do the trick. Just be sure to choose something you actually enjoy. That way, you’ll actually look forward to the activity. Staying active and engaging in regular physical activity helps reduce blood pressure, helps control blood sugar, as well as helps control your weight. All of these will help you reduce your risk for heart disease.

It’s also important to have your healthcare provider do a blood test to measure your cholesterol levels. You will want to know your total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol as well as your triglycerides (blood fats). Having a higher level of HDL can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. High levels of LDL on the other hand, can raise your risk because it can build up inside the arteries and form plaque which reduces blood flow. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in your body and a major energy source. High triglycerides can cause hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease. Ask your healthcare provider for ways to best manage your levels.

Finally, you want to try to reduce the stress in your life wherever possible. Meditation, yoga, performing deep breathing exercises, or taking a nice hot bath can all help with this. We live in a world that is constantly on the go. Stress is inevitable but if we can limit it, or try to control it, we can help protect our heart.

Written by Laura Engel

Swelling Relief

Compression pumps relieve swelling from venous disease, lymphedema.

When Veronica* was 17, her mother brought her and her three younger sisters from their native Dominican Republic to live in America. Veronica’s mother had come to the United States beforehand to establish a new home and life for her daughters.

“The Dominican Republic is a third-world country, so it was hard for my mother, who is a single parent, to raise four daughters there Photo courtesy of AcuteWound.and care for herself,” Veronica shares. “She wanted us to have a better future.

“So after she moved to the United States first, we stayed with my grandmother, and my mother sent back money. My mother worked very hard to get a place for herself and become stable, then she brought us up to help her out and go to school.”

Veronica adapted to life in the US pretty quickly, but learning English was difficult for her. She refused to give up, however, because she was determined to learn the language of her adopted homeland.

“I knew I would learn English one day,” Veronica states. “I knew that with patience, perseverance, dedication and continuing to go to school, I would get it. And I did. Now, I’m bilingual, and that makes me an asset to the company I work for.”

Veronica works from home using her computer. But all the sitting that’s involved with her job took a toll on the circulation in her legs. They began to swell, and the swelling got worse as her condition progressed. For treatment, Veronica’s primary care physician referred her to a vascular surgeon who specializes in leg vein disorders.

“By that time, my circulation was worse,” Veronica relates. “I also had pain and heaviness in my legs.”

The procedure on Veronica’s leg veins helped; however, Veronica suffered with more than venous disease. She also had lymphedema, a condition that causes excess fluid to accumulate in the lymph vessels. Too much fluid in these vessels leads to swelling.

“I asked the vascular surgeon if there was anything else that could help with the swelling,” Veronica recalls. “The doctor referred me to Acute Wound Care.”

“After my initial session with the compression pump, there was a noticeable difference. My legs looked skinny, like when I was younger, and they didn’t feel as heavy.” – Veronica

Acute Wound Care is a fully accredited home medical equipment provider specializing in hospital-grade compression devices and specialty wound-care dressings. The compression pumps, which reduce swelling caused by conditions such as venous disease and lymphedema, are prescription devices. They are approved by most insurers.

“Acute Wound Care sent a very professional representative named Crystal to my house to install the compression pump,” Veronica recounts. “I’m a single mother of two sons. It was quite difficult to find a good time during the week to do the install, so Crystal came on a Saturday to accommodate my schedule.”

“My role as a compression therapist is to assist patients with the application of their compression devices,” verifies Crystal Benavides, certified compression therapist at Acute Wound Care. “I enjoy educating patients on the purpose of the treatment and on how consistency will provide the best results so they can improve their quality of life and easily perform daily activities.”

Blood Flow Benefits

Acute Wound Care’s easy-to-use compression pumps remove fluid that has accumulated in the patient’s legs or arms, Crystal notes. “In this instance, Veronica had swelling from her mid-thigh down to the tips of her toes.

“The pump has limb-sized sleeves that are placed on the arms or legs,” Crystal describes. “It gently massages the limb, draining any excess fluid back into the body’s circulatory system so it can be naturally eliminated. This alleviates swelling and many painful symptoms.”

Photo courtesy of AcuteWound. The pumps are highly effective and noninvasive, and for the legs, they are much easier to use than compression stockings.

“Each patient is different, but most patients use the pump twice a day for forty-five minutes, usually in the morning and in the evening,” Crystal affirms. “While using the pump, patients simply sit back with their limbs raised to further assist with decreasing swelling.”

The sleeves of the compression pump contain multiple chambers. During treatment, each chamber fills up with compressed air. Then, each chamber releases and the pattern repeats in a rhythmic fashion, forcing any excess fluid out of the limbs.

“With venous disease, also known as venous insufficiency, there’s typically a slowness of blood flow through the leg veins,” Crystal reports. “The compression pumps not only push the lymphatic fluid through the legs, they also work hand-in-hand to assist blood flow in leg veins.

“The compression pump helps with venous insufficiency because it pushes blood up through the legs toward the torso. The blood is aided along the circulatory system back toward the heart to get re-oxygenated and redistributed throughout the arteries. Swelling caused by leaky leg veins prevents blood from properly flowing through the veins. Reducing the swelling improves blood flow.”

Results from a compression pump treatment are often apparent immediately. Many patients see a noticeable difference in the swelling and in the size of their limbs after their first forty-five-minute pumping session. This was true in Veronica’s case.

“After my initial session with the compression pump, there was a noticeable difference,” Veronica enthuses. “My legs looked skinny, like when I was younger, and they didn’t feel as heavy. I thought, Oh my God! I can’t believe this.”

Physicians throughout Florida have been recommending Acute Wound Care’s compression pumps to their patients for years and have been getting great results.

“Many doctors have told us they’ve encouraged their patients to use the pump to reduce limb swelling and improve circulation,” Crystal observes. “They say the compression pumps are safe, noninvasive devices that greatly supplement the medical treatment they provide to those patients.”

Comfy Shoes

Veronica’s vascular surgeon had recommended compression stockings as an initial treatment for her leg swelling, but Veronica wasn’t happy with them.

“I tried compression stockings, and they made matters worse,” Veronica recalls. “They were too tight, and there were times I felt I couldn’t even breathe. I told my doctor, These are not helping me. That’s when he referred me to Acute Wound Care for the compression pump.

“The pump felt a little funny at first because of the pressure. It puts a little bit of pressure on my legs, then it goes up to my thighs. But then it releases the pressure, so it’s not uncomfortable like compression stockings because it’s not constant pressure. It gives me a break in between.”

The compression pump reduced Veronica’s swelling overall and made even small tasks easier.

“The swelling was in both of my legs, and especially in my feet,” Veronica notes. “Before, I couldn’t get into my shoes. They were really tight, so I was wearing a size larger. But after treatment with my compression pump, my feet fit in my shoes with no problem.”

Veronica is quite happy with her compression pump from Acute Wound Care, and she’s extremely impressed by the compression therapist who came to her home to install it.

“Crystal was very professional and compassionate,” Veronica describes. “She related to me as a single mother and worked with me. She very patiently explained the process. She explained everything, then asked if I had any questions or doubts. She guided me through the whole thing. I’m very pleased with her service and recommend her.

“I feel great about the choice I made to go with Acute Wound Care, and I recommend them. I’ve already recommended them to my mother, who has the same problem as me. I’m happy to share my good experience because the compression pump is actually working for me. I can see the progress, and I feel good.”

*Patient’s name withheld at her request.

Pain in the Toe?

Calluses, corns caused by hammertoe can be corrected.

Misalignment of the joint of the big toe can result in an unequal distribution of pressure on the foot when walking,” says board-certified podiatric surgeon Robert P. Dunne, DPM, FACFAS, of Lake Washington Foot & Ankle. “This condition can also lead to the formation of calluses and the development of the sometimes painful condition called hammertoe.”

Hammertoe is a bending or curling of the toe that often results in the formation of corns or calluses as the toe deformity presses unnaturally against a person’s footwear.

“Hammertoes are typically caused by a contracture,” notes Dr. Dunne. “This is an irregular and potentially permanent shortening of muscle or scar tissue that results in the deformity of the toe joint.

“A hammertoe can become very painful,” he adds, “sometimes rubbing against the shoe, causing a corn to occur. If the corn is painful, we know that the corn itself is actually not the problem, but only a symptom. The problem is the underlying hammertoe deformity. Unless the affected toe is straightened out, there will inevitably be an issue with corns or calluses.”

Dr. Dunne always offers conservative treatments to his patients before recommending an invasive procedure. Those treatments include non-medicated pads, anti-inflammatory medications and therapeutic shoes.

Outpatient Offering

In cases where hammertoe pain is resistant to treatment, Dr. Dunne may recommend a hammertoe correction, an outpatient procedure performed under local anesthesia either in the comfort of Dr. Dunne’s office or a hospital setting.

During surgical hammertoe correction, a small portion of cartilage and bone is removed from the joint to decompress it.

“Typically, we use a pin to hold the alignment in place that is painlessly removed in the office after about thirty days,” Dr. Dunne explains. “However, not all hammertoes require fixation. There are now implantable devices where we can use a small bone graft if joint fusion is required.

“Whether the patient requires a pin or an implantable device, in the vast majority of cases, he or she will be able to walk on the foot immediately after surgery and during the healing period. The patient can walk on the foot the same day to a limited extent and is usually back to normal activities within a week.”

Lake Washington Foot & Ankle is a comprehensive podiatric medicine clinic offering treatment for everything from hammertoes to bunions. “We treat ingrown toenails, warts and neuromas,” adds Dr. Dunne. “We also do clinical trials for onychomycosis [nail fungus] in an effort to find better and more effective treatment for this ailment.

“Our patients come first, and we recommend that they take action now if they have a problem. I would encourage people not to wait so long to come in. The earlier we address a condition, the easier it is to resolve it.

Spinal Decompression Therapy FAQs

December 30th, 2019

Neck and back pain are unfortunate issues that most of us experience at some point in our lives. Our bodies are, after all, flesh and blood, and we often forget how much we put them through on a daily basis. Americans spend over 50 billion dollars every year on pain management, which includes everything from MRIs to pain medications. It’s safe to say that people are trying whatever they can to improve the quality of their lives. But who wants to deal with the pain, baggage, and potential problems that can result from surgery or taking narcotics?

Fortunately, there is another option available. Spinal Decompression Therapy has exploded throughout the chiropractic world over the last decade as more and more chiropractors are implementing the treatment into their services. Why? Because it works. We’ve broken down the top questions and concerns and debunked a few myths so you can familiarize yourself with a new potential option to treat your pain.

What Is Spinal Decompression Therapy?

Spinal Decompression Therapy (SDT) is a method of gently decompressing or stretching the spine. The spine itself is not actually the main focus through this procedure – that is the intervertebral discs. Through stretching, space is created between each vertebrae to relieve pressure and give the intervertebral discs room to correct themselves.

What Are Intervertebral Discs?

Intervertebral discs are gel-like cushions that sit between each vertebrae of the spine. Their purposes are to hold the vertebrae together, absorb shock, and protect the spinal nerves. When these discs are damaged or injured, they can cause severe pain and discomfort. They also can bulge or break off, which puts pressure on the surrounding nerves.

What Can Spinal Decompression Therapy Treat?

Spinal Decompression Therapy can treat:

  • Spinal Radiculopathy – A condition due to a compressed nerve in the spine that can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness of the nerve. It is most common in the neck and lower back.
  • Myelopathy – A nervous system disorder that affects the spinal cord.
  • Claudication – A common symptom of lumbar spinal stenosis which causes inflammation of the nerves emerging from the spinal cord.
  • Bulging, Degenerating, or Herniated Discs – A condition where the soft center of a spinal disk pushes through a crack in the tough exterior casing. It can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg.
  • Sciatica – Pain radiating along the sciatic nerve, which runs down one or both legs from the lower back. It primarily occurs when a herniated disk or bone spur in the spine presses on the nerve and usually only affects one side of the body.
  • Spinal Stenosis – A narrowing of the spaces within the spine, which can put pressure on the nerves. It occurs most often in the neck and lower back.

What Is the Recovery Time for Spinal Decompression Therapy Surgery?

Spinal Decompression Therapy is non-surgical and non-invasive, so there is no surgery recovery time. As a therapy, SDT takes place over time and is not a solution that can be completed in a single visit.

How Long Does Spinal Decompression Therapy Take?

The length of time and number of visits you’ll need to schedule will be different for each individual based off of your specific circumstances and physical needs. On average, most people need to attend between 15 to 30 separate sessions. Each SDT session usually lasts between 30 to 45 minutes.

What Equipment Is Used?

Chiropractors who follow the most recent advances in industry standards use state of the art equipment, such as the Accu-SPINA table, to perform Spinal Decompression Therapy. The Accu-SPINA system was developed by physicians and scientists to help combat neck and back pain that is unresponsive to other therapies. Clinical trials performed with the Accu-SPINA system revealed that 86% of participants experienced symptoms of pain relief.

Where Can I Find Spinal Decompression Near Me?

An experienced chiropractor in your area that has successfully completed the Spinal Decompression Therapy training and certification program can help bring you relief through Spinal Decompression Therapy.

When Should I Try Spinal Decompression Therapy?

If you’re experiencing neck and back pain and have not had any relief or progress with other kinds of therapies, Spinal Decompression Therapy may be your next option. Whether you’ve been battling chronic pain for years or have just recently been involved in an auto accident, Spinal Decompression Therapy is an option at any time in your recovery process. Don’t hesitate to see an SDT trained and certified chiropractor as soon as possible since it is possible for many injuries our bodies sustain to not make themselves known right away and worsen over time. Also keep in mind that if you’ve been in an auto accident, you only have 14 days from the date of the accident to seek medical care and have it covered by your personal injury protection insurance.

Positive Perceptions

Unique therapy stops neuropathic pain, restores sensation.

Tim* was a man on the move for most of his adult life. He served in the US Army for six years, during which he spent 13 months in Korea and two years in Alaska, both while working as a heavy equipment operator.

Following his discharge, Tim earned a chauffeur’s license and began driving a semi. He liked the work, but it came with long hours and sleepless nights. Still, he made a good living driving the big rigs.

Tim retired in 2018 after more than 35 years on the job. Upon retiring, the Iowa native packed up and relocated to Florida.

“I moved for the weather,” Tim admits. “I was tired of the thirty-five-degrees-below-zero mornings in Iowa. Plus, I love to fish, and there are huge fish in Florida. I can fish year-round, and in the winter, I don’t have to dig a hole in the ice like I did back home.”

A few years ago, Tim’s retirement was interrupted by an irritating pain, numbness and tingling that he felt mostly in the tops of his feet.

“My feet also burned inside, especially at night, so I couldn’t get comfortable,” Tim describes. “Some nights, the pain kept me up, and I had to cool off my feet by submerging them in cold water, which temporarily stopped the pain. On those nights, the pain was a five or six on a scale of one to ten.”

Tim initially sought help for the problem from his primary care physician, who referred him to Thomas A. LeBeau, DPM, a board-certified podiatrist at St. Augustine Foot, Ankle & Vein. After running some tests, Dr. LeBeau diagnosed the problem as neuropathy.

Neuropathy is a common problem that affects more than 20 million Americans. The most common causes of neuropathy include diabetes, chemotherapy and exposure to chemicals, including Agent Orange and other pesticides and herbicides.

Neuropathy occurs when the peripheral nerves that run from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body are injured, affecting sensation throughout the body. As was the case with Tim, typical symptoms include sharp, shooting pain; burning, tingling, numbness and a pins and needles sensation in the hands or feet.

“There are certain tests for diagnosing neuropathy and determining if someone is a good candidate for treatment,” notes Melissa Spies, AGNP-C, a board-certified nurse practitioner at
St. Augustine Foot, Ankle & Vein. “Those tests include MRIs, nerve conduction studies and nerve fiber biopsies.

“Nerve conduction studies reveal the condition of the large nerve fibers. They help determine where the neuropathy originates, whether it’s coming from the neck, lower back, sciatic nerve or elsewhere.

“A nerve fiber biopsy, taken from the skin, alerts of damage to the microscopic nerve fibers responsible for sensing temperature, pressure and pain. We performed a nerve fiber biopsy on Tim, and it showed he was a good candidate for a unique treatment protocol that we have, and he agreed to give it a try.”

Thomas A. LeBeau, DPM (left) and Melissa Spies, AGNP-C

Resonant Frequencies

The unique protocol used at St. Augustine Foot, Ankle & Vein is electric cell signaling treatment, or ECST. It is a noninvasive treatment that uses pulsed energy waves to treat the painful area of the body.

“Traditional treatments for neuropathy rely on medications such as gabapentin, LYRICA® and antidepressants,” Dr. LeBeau explains. “But these medications simply cover up the symptoms and enable the patient to deal with the pain.

“Not only that, there is a huge concern today about overuse of opioid medications, and one of the nice things about our technology is that it uses energy rather than pills to accomplish pain management.

“With ECST, we get people off medication and solve their underlying problem at the same time because ECST gets to the root of the problem and repairs the damage done by the diabetes, chemotherapy or environmental contaminant.

“Proper use of this unique protocol can in fact safely and effectively treat most pain and circulatory conditions. We use it specifically for neuropathies and chronic nerve pain and are one of the biggest clinics in the country using this technology.”

ECST, which is covered by most insurance, works by treating neuropathy at the cellular level. It incites changes in cells that include a reduction in swelling, the removal of excess fluid and waste products, a leveling out of pH and an increase in cellular metabolism. These changes relieve pain, enable healing and restore function.

“We are achieving great results with ECST at St. Augustine Foot, Ankle and Vein. Up to eighty-seven percent of our patients attain symptom relief with this technology. They are experiencing a decrease in pain, reversal of numbness and improvement in circulation and sensation, which leads to better balance. And that is a major factor in fall prevention.”

Hurts So Good

Tim was among the 87 percent who achieved positive results with ECST. He felt improvement in his neuropathy symptoms shortly after beginning the therapy.

“After the third ECST session, I noticed my neuropathy wasn’t nearly as severe as it was,” he enthuses. “After seven treatments, there was no more tingling, burning or pain in my feet. I also noticed I was more coordinated when I walked, and I had more sensation in my feet.

“One day, I was walking barefoot when I stepped on something sharp and hurt my foot. I thought, Wow, I haven’t felt that kind of pain in a long time. It must be those ECST treatments. Having that pain in my foot actually made me feel good.”

“After seven treatments, there was no more tingling, burning or pain in my feet.” -Tim

Tim never heard of ECST as a treatment for neuropathy until his family doctor referred him to Dr. LeBeau, but now, he tells everybody he knows about the unique therapy.

“I called my brother and daughter-in-law in Iowa because they have the same problem,” Tim shares. “I told them about ECST, but there’s no treatment center in Iowa that offers it. I just about had them convinced to travel to Florida to have it done here.

“The nurse in Dr. LeBeau’s office said there are only a few centers in the country that perform ECST, so I’m pretty lucky to live near St. Augustine Foot, Ankle and Vein. I recommend ECST to anybody, and I also recommend Dr. LeBeau and his staff. With their help, my feet are no longer a problem for me.”

*Patient’s name withheld at his request.


Page 2 of 11