National Backpack Safety Awareness Day – Take Steps Now to Help Your Children Prevent Future Back Problems

Backpack SafetyEach school year millions of children walk to, from, and around school carrying backpacks filled with books and materials. Parents and students should be aware that too much stress on the back from a heavy backpack could cause back pain and possible back issues in children.

On September 17, 2014, we’ll be celebrating the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) National School Backpack Awareness Day, a great day each year to learn more about taking steps to prevent future back problems in children. Join AOTA and occupational therapy practitioners, educators, and students across the country, as we help others learn to avoid the pain and injury that can come from heavy backpacks and bags.

In preparation for the day, we’re offering a few quick facts and tips to help understand the potential impact and take steps now to ensure backpack safety for your growing children.


  • Back pain caused by backpacks is often short term — such as a muscle strain – and may be alleviated with a short period of rest or reduced activity. Any type of back pain that persists is uncommon and should be evaluated by a medical professional.
  •  Habitually carrying backpacks over one shoulder will make muscles strain to compensate for the uneven weight.
  • A heavy backpack can pull on the neck muscles, contributing to headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain and/or neck and arm pain.

Some tips to help:

  • Take breaks and rest if any pain is felt in the back and consider lightening the load if possible. Any pain being felt is a sign the backpack is too heavy for the body.
  • Be sure to use both straps for support to avoid the spine leaning to the opposite side and stressing the middle back, ribs, and lower back more on one side than the other.
  • Purchase a backpack with lightweight material (e.g. canvas), a padded back and hip or waist buckles for extra support. Another alternative is wheeled backpacks to completely free the back of any stress.

You can help others in your community by organizing local events and educating people of all ages about proper bag usage. Teach others how to properly choose, pack, lift, and carry various types of bags—including backpacks, purses, briefcases, and suitcases. Check out the event planning tips and strategies available below. Learn more about AOTA’s National School Backpack Awareness Day.

To find a physician, call 877-250-STJO(7856) or use our physician finder.

5 Foods That Can Help Keep Your Bones Strong & Healthy

strong bonesWhen it comes to building strong and healthy bones, two key nutrients are critical to success: calcium and Vitamin D. These two nutrients work with each other and play vital roles in maintaining strong and healthy bodies.

Many studies show that low calcium intake is associated with low bone mass and high fracture rates. Vitamin D plays an important role in protecting your bones because your body requires it to absorb calcium. [1] A lack of Vitamin D can lead to bone loss, lower bone density and a higher likelihood to break bones with age. Whether you’re a meat-eater, vegan, vegetarian or dairy-free, there are plenty of foods choices that can provide you with these two powerful nutrients.

So what foods can help fortify our bones to keep them strong and healthy? Here’s the list:

  1. Dark, leafy greens: Dark, leafy greens, such as kale, arugula, watercress and collard greens are perhaps the best non-dairy sources of calcium. Here is a breakdown of percentage of daily calcium value per cup of various greens: Watercress (12%) Kale (14%), Dandelion Greens (10%), Turnip Greens (10%), Arugula (6%).
  2. Salmon: A 3-ounce piece of salmon contains more than 100% of your vitamin D. Also, canned salmon includes the softer, edible bones of the fish, meaning it’s loaded with calcium.
  3. Cheese: Cheese is made from milk, which is loaded with calcium. A mere 1.5 ounces of cheese contains 30% of your daily calcium requirement, but cheese can be very fattening, so for a healthy alternative try cheese made from skim milk.
  4. Yogurt: Yogurt actually beats out milk with a whopping 42% of your daily calcium intake per eight ounce serving.
  5. Almonds: A one ounce serving of this nut provides 80 milligrams of your daily intake of calcium, and comes with other health benefits like lowering blood sugar levels and helping decrease cholesterol.

So there’s the list! Now make your grocery list and be sure to add some of these foods to your diet and be on your way to building strong and healthy bones!

To find a physician, call 877-250-STJO(7856) or use our physician finder.

Related Resources

Baked Kale Chips – Full of Heart-Healthy Benefits
Find an Emory Physician


[1] Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Krall EA, Dallal GE (1997). “Effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on bone density in men and women 65 years of age or older”. N. Engl. J. Med. 337 (10): 670–6.

Testicular Cancer: What are the Signs and Symptoms of Testicular Cancer?

Cancer with DocTesticular cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in one or both testicles. Like many other parts of the body, testicles can be affected by certain conditions and diseases, which can lead to symptoms. Most often, testicular cancer can be detected early on, and men often find the cancer themselves while performing self-examinations. It’s recommended that men ages 15 to 55 should perform routine self-examinations to identify any possible changes. However, some testicular cancers may show no symptoms and may go undetected until they reach an advanced stage.

Symptoms may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Lumps – If detected early, a painless lump may develop that will likely be about the size of a pea, but can grow much larger if left untreated. Any lump, enlargement or tenderness of the testicle should be evaluated by a doctor immediately.
  • Pain – Pain or discomfort in the testicle that may or may not be accompanied by swelling can be a warning sign. It should be noted that pain can be caused by a variety of maladies, including injuries, infection and possibly cancer. Your physician will be able to diagnose the cause of any pain in the testicles.
  • Heaviness – A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum may be a sign of testicular cancer.
  • Pressure in abdomen – A dull pain or feeling of pressure in the lower belly, groin or lower back may be cause for concern. Testicular cancer that has spread (metastasized) beyond the testicles and lymph nodes to other organs may cause this and other symptoms like sweating, depending on the area of the body affected.
  • Fluid – A sudden buildup of fluid in the scrotum.
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts – Testicular tumors can produce hormones that cause breast growth and/or tenderness – a condition known as gynecomastia.

It’s important to remember that while cancer is one possible cause of testicular symptoms, more often these symptoms are caused by infection, injury or something else. Always see a doctor regarding any changes you notice in one or both testicles because even non-cancerous testicular issues can be very serious.

Learn more about urology care at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

To contact a urology navigator for more information, call 678-843-5665.

Emory Saint Joseph’s Celebrates 35th Anniversary of McAuley Awards

Emory Saint Joseph's HospitalLong known as a place providing uniquely compassionate care, Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital recently celebrated a significant milestone deeply rooted in its heritage of serving those in need – the 35th anniversary of the McAuley Awards. Named for Mother Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, who exemplified the highest standards of compassionate care to all patients, this award represents that same standard that continues to be honored and celebrated to this day.

For patients, that means a deep commitment to meeting your needs in a manner that places you and your family at the center of everything we do – a commitment that Emory Saint Joseph’s strives to achieve for each person, every time.

Emory Saint Joseph’s has been committed to maintaining this standard of care since the hospital’s beginning in 1880, when four Sisters of Mercy traveled from Savannah to establish Saint Joseph’s, Atlanta’s first hospital.

That same commitment to compassionate care is evidenced daily through the dedication employees show to our patients, their families and to each other.

Each month, the McAuley Award is earned by an employee who exemplifies Mother McAuley’s high standards of compassion and service. The award was established in 1979 by a grateful father whose son was saved at Saint Joseph’s. Since that time, more than 420 employees have earned the honor of the McAuley Award. More than 50 of those are still employed at Emory Saint Joseph’s today.

Gamma Knife ©: What is Radiosurgery?

Shannon Kahn, MDRadiosurgery, also known as stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic radiation therapy, is a non-invasive, outpatient alternative to traditional brain surgery (neurosurgery). It’s performed by a machine called Gamma Knife©, which isn’t a knife in the traditional sense; rather it uses 192 precisely-focused beams of radiation to target and destroy tumors without damaging surrounding healthy tissue.

In clinical use since 1968 [1], Gamma Knife© is used largely to treat cancerous brain tumors. It is also used to treat benign brain tumors such as pituitary tumors, meningiomas and acoustic neuromas, which are tumors related to balance and hearing. Gamma Knife has also proven effective in treating functional neurologic disorders such as trigeminal neuralgia.

“Gamma Knife© is an unparalleled technology that has extensive research supporting its effectiveness and safety. Being able to offer this treatment and expertise to our patients at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital is a unique strength of our program in which we take great pride,” said Shannon Kahn, MD, radiation oncologist at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

The procedure offers an alternative for patients with tumors too small or too hard to reach surgically, patients who aren’t well enough to undergo traditional surgery, or patients who just prefer a less invasive treatment. Gamma Knife © also provides an alternative to whole-brain radiation in some cases, which can decrease the cognitive and memory problems often associated with more traditional radiation treatments.

Patients receive brain scans to pinpoint the exact location and amount of radiation that will be administered. A lightweight frame is attached to the head with four pins. Local anesthetic is used, but the patient remains awake during the procedure, which is painless and lasts from a few minutes to several hours, depending on size and location of their tumor(s).

Radiosurgery is covered by most insurance providers as well as Medicaid and Medicare, and has a very quick recovery time.

Dr. Khan notes that side effects are usually minimal. “Some patients may experience a slight headache following the procedure, but patients go home the same day and are typically back to their normal routines by the next day.”

The goal of Gamma Knife© therapy is to damage the atypical or cancerous cells and prevent them from multiplying, while preserving the healthy tissue. Malignant tumors may decrease in size over a period of a few months while the goal for benign tumors is typically tumor stabilization.

Learn more about Gamma Knife© radiosurgery at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

To contact a Gamma Knife© nurse navigator, call 678-843-5513.

[1] “Why Gamma Knife® surgery?”

Peripheral Artery Disease 101: PAD Symptoms, Causes & Risk Factors

PADPeripheral artery disease, also known as peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, is a potentially life- and limb-threatening condition in which the arteries that deliver blood from the heart to the rest of the body narrow, resulting in weakened circulation and decreased blood flow to the limbs.

PAD Causes
The narrowing of the arteries and weakening of circulation experienced by patients with peripheral artery disease is typically caused by atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of fatty deposits and plaque in the lining of blood vessels that deliver blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The specific cause of atherosclerosis isn’t known, but it is thought that unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking and poor diet/exercise habits, among other things, can lead to damage of the inner parts of arteries, thereby causing the formation of plaque as the body tries to heal itself.

PAD Risk Factors
According to the National Institute of Health, those most at risk for PAD include:

  • Smokers
  • People with Diabetes
  • Adults Over the Age of 50
  • People who are considered obese
  • People with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or who have a family history of either
  • People who have experienced a stroke or who have a family history of stroke
  • People with coronary heart disease or who have a family history of CHD
  • People with Metabolic syndrome

Having any combination of the above risk factors may put you at an even higher risk for peripheral artery disease.

PAD Symptoms
“It’s important to note that many people suffering from peripheral artery disease do not experience any symptoms,” said Michael Clark, MD, vascular surgeon at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. “When they do occur, the most common symptom of PAD is leg pain.”

This leg pain presents itself when walking, climbing stairs, or exercising and generally improves with rest, which is also known as claudication, said Dr. Clark. Claudication is experienced by roughly 10 percent of all PAD patients.

Other peripheral artery disease symptoms may include coldness in the lower extremities, decreased hair growth (especially on the legs), and numbness and/or tingling in the lower legs and feet.

If you have any risk factors for PAD, whether you’re experiencing symptoms or not, talk to your physician and ask if you should be screened.

Find out more about vascular services at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

To find a vascular surgeon, call 888-250-STJO (7856).

Understanding Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines: Mammograms, Clinical Breast Exams & More

mammogramAccording to data from the National Cancer Institute, approximately 12% of all women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during their lifetime. Statistics like these, combined with recent high profile cases such as Angelina Jolie undergoing a preventive double mastectomy, have led many women to ask what type of breast cancer screenings they need and when, to ensure they are prioritizing their breast health and catching any breast abnormalities as early as possible.

To help clear up confusion and promote early detection, the American Cancer Society (ACS) provides guidelines for breast screenings, ranging from recommendations around breast self exams, to clinical breast exams (CBEs) and mammograms, to MRIs.

“While breast screenings can’t prevent breast cancer, they can help make sure cases are diagnosed early, when they are most treatable,” said Linda Byrd, RN, breast cancer patient navigator at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

Breast Self Exams
Self-awareness and examination of the breasts is an option that’s recommended by the ACS beginning when a woman is in her 20s. A breast self exam (BSE) is a step-by-step way for a woman to examine her own breasts for changes and abnormalities. Visit our site for more information on how to conduct a proper breast self exam.

Clinical Breast Exam Screening Guidelines
A clinical breast exam is an exam in which a medical professional examines the breasts looking for any abnormalities in the size, shape, or skin of the breasts.

The ACS recommends women in their 20s and 30s get clinical breast exams every three years. For women age 40 and over, the ACS recommends getting a CBE every year.

Screening Mammogram Guidelines
A mammogram provides X-ray images of the breast that can help detect abnormalities that can’t always be felt and found during a CBE, such as some tumors. Mammograms are also able to identify microcalcifications in the breast, which can be another sign of breast cancer.

The ACS recommends yearly mammograms for all women beginning at age 40 and continuing as long as the woman is in good health. For women with serious and chronic health problems (e.g. end-stage renal disease or congestive heart failure), the ACS recommends discussing breast screening options with their doctor.

Guidelines for Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer

For women at a high risk for breast cancer, the ACS recommends a combination of both a mammogram and an MRI on a yearly basis. Women at high risk include those who:

  • have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20-25% or greater based on family history-focused risk assessment tools and techniques
  • had radiation therapy to the chest area between the ages of ten and 30 years old
  • have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation or a first-degree relative with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation

Because an MRI may miss some forms of cancer that could be caught by screening mammogram, the ACS recommends that if an MRI is used, it should be used in conjunction with a standard screening mammogram.

Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital offers a comprehensive breast health program, including patient navigators who guide patients through the testing and treatment process.

To speak to Linda Byrd, the breast cancer patient navigator, call 678-843-7118.

To schedule a screening mammogram at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, call 404-686-0500.

For more information on early detection and breast screening guidelines, visit the American Cancer Society website.

Spring to Safety: When Outdoor Activities Leave Us Injured

Leg InjurySay goodbye to the Polar Vortex and hello to the sun! It’s the time of year where we get out from under the covers and start signing up for outdoor activities and sports. Getting active outdoors helps us stay fit and healthy, and is a source of fun when spending time with family and friends. Though those are all positive outcomes from outdoor play, there can be unintended, and sometimes dangerous, consequences in the form of serious physical injury.

Some of the most common sports injuries, according to the National Institutes of Health, are:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Knee injuries
  • Swollen muscles
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

Though many of the injuries listed above can be easily prevented with proper stretching and warm ups, and can be treated with the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation), traumatic brain injuries may require emergency medical attention.

Sometimes, a mild hit can occur to the head, whether by falls, bumping into things, or being hit by others. However, even a mild hit can develop into something more serious and can disrupt the normal functioning of your brain. Concussions and mild TBI’s are the most common types of brain injuries, with approximately 1.7 million people suffering from them each year, and they contribute to a third of all injury related deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mild symptoms may include feelings of confusion, drowsiness, minor memory loss, seeing flashing lights and a headache, in which case your doctor should see you as soon as possible. However, if you or a loved one experiences any of the following symptoms, call 911 immediately to seek emergency medical care:

  • Changes in consciousness
  • Constant confusion that doesn’t go away quickly
  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Muscle weakness on one or both sides of the body
  • Unequal pupil size between the two eyes (one larger, one smaller)
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Remaining unconsciousness (coma)
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Balancing problems, affecting walking and other movement

To prepare for emergencies that may happen during your time outside, print out this handy guide to Know When to Go to the ER, and stick it on your fridge for quick reference in the future, or go to your general practitioner for assistance with non-urgent medical needs.

Related Resources

Saint Joseph’s Emergency Department
Play It Safe: Know the Signs of a Concussion

Spring to Safety: Stay Safe When Spring Rains Lead to Flooding

Flood PreparednessFloods are one of the most serious and costly types of disasters in the United States, according to the National Flood Insurance Program, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Association. Though now is the time we start participating in outdoor activities and enjoying the sun, it’s also flood season. Be sure to take precautions to ensure a fun and safe spring for you and your family.

Floods can be caused by spring thaws or ice jams, extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes or tropical storms or even after a wildfire. To prepare, you should do the following, according to national guidelines:

  • Build an emergency kit
    • Enough clean water, non-perishable food and supplies to last at least 72 hours
      • Water: one gallon per person per day
      • Canned food
      • Manual can opener
      • Battery powered or hand crank radio
      • Extra batteries
      • Flashlight
      • First Aid Kit
      • Whistle to signal for assistance
      • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to create a makeshift shelter
      • Garbage bags, plastic ties and sanitation wipes for personal hygiene
      • Wrench or plier to turn off utilities (to prevent possible electrocution)
      • Cell phone with chargers or extra battery
    • This is to supplement other supplies you may have at home, and does not include:
      • Pet supplies
      • Baby supplies
      • Medications for current health conditions
  • Make a family emergency and communication plan, then practice flood evacuation routes from home, school and work
  • Get flood insurance
    • This is not usually included in home insurance
    • Even if you are in a low risk area, it might be good to purchase it. Lower risk means lower premiums.


If a flood is likely to hit your area, make sure you stay tuned to the radio or weather channel and move to higher ground at first notice. If you are told to evacuate, secure your home if you have time. Move essential items to higher floors and bring in outdoor furniture if possible. Turn off utilities if instructed to do so, but do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or are standing in water. Avoid floodwaters, and do not attempt to drive in them. Cars can be swept away in as little as two feet of water.

In case an emergency situation occurs call 911 immediately. Otherwise download this this handy guide to Know When to Go to the ER, and stick it on your fridge for quick reference in the future or go to your general practitioner for assistance with non-urgent medical needs.

Related Resources:

Play it Safe: Know the Signs of a Concussion

When Should You Go to the ER?

Planning for an Emergency: The Whole First Aid Kit and Caboodle

Spring to Safety: Stay Safe While Spring Cleaning

Spring CleaningThe weather is warming up, flowers are blooming, and the sun is finally out after unprecedented snow around the country! Every year around this time, we are prompted to clean our homes, fix up the garden, and be outside. This involves movements like lifting, bending, moving heavy objects, and climbing up ladders, among other tasks, which can lead to injuries. Read on for tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this season.

Falls are the second cause of unintentional death in homes in the U.S. and cause about 8.9 million emergency room visits, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). The NSC also provides tips to prevent slips and falls:

  • Avoid freshly mopped floors
  • Keep all electrical cords away from high-traffic areas in the house
  • Keep your cleaning materials and other frequently used items in easy-to-reach areas
  • Clean up obstacles such as paper, boxes, books, toys and shoes from stairs and main walkways
  • Make sure you have adequate lighting when you are working or cleaning inside or outdoors
  • While working on your house or lawn, make sure you wear shoes with good support and slip-resistant soles
  • Remove debris from walkways outside
  • Check the condition of your steps and walkways every so often, and repair any damages
  • Don’t stand on a chair, table or other item with wheels while trying to get to high reaches; use a ladder instead

On that note, make sure that when you use a ladder, you keep at least three points of contact with it, whether two feet and a hand, or two hands and a foot. Also, make sure the base is on a flat, dry surface, and climb facing the ladder, using the rungs for grip instead of the side rails. Finally, use a tool belt so you don’t have to climb with tools in hand, climb down one rung at a time, don’t lean or reach too far, and do not use your ladder during windy or inclement weather.

If using lawn tools, keep these tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in mind:

  • Dress appropriately: Wear close-fitting long pants and long-sleeved shirts, no jewelry, eye protection, ear plugs and sturdy gloves
  • Remove objects from the area where you are working so you are not injured if they are thrown by your equipment
  • Never let a child operate or ride on a riding mower, and supervise teens using outdoor power equipment
  • Unplug electric tools and disconnect spark plug wires on gas-powered tools before you make any adjustments or clean near moving parts
  • Do not use electric power tools in wet or damp conditions. Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to protect against electrocution

If you find that you have seriously injured yourself, whether by falling, or cutting yourself on lawn/wood tools, and it is an emergency, please call 911 immediately so you may be taken to an emergency department. Otherwise, print out this handy guide to Know When to Go to the ER, and stick it on your fridge for quick reference in the future or go to your general practitioner for assistance with non-urgent medical needs.

Happy Home Improvement!

Related Resources:

Saint Joseph’s Emergency Department

Prepare Your Body for Summer

Emergency First Aid Kit Supplies


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