Archive for June, 2013

How do our brains process pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Let's say I stub my toe. How does my brain know where it hurts and how bad?

DEAR READER: Pain serves as the body's warning system. It alerts you to an injury or when something, such as an infection, has gone wrong inside your body. Pain can also help in healing. But in order to respond appropriately, your brain must identify the location and severity of your pain.

Why does balance decline with age?

DEAR DOCTOR K: In a previous column you wrote about the importance of balance exercises as we age. But why does our balance get worse as we get older?

DEAR READER: A number of changes that come with aging can affect our balance, including many health problems and certain medications. Balance exercises can help you improve your balance.

I have elevated PSA levels and am scheduled for a prostate biopsy — what can I expect?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently had a PSA test and my levels came back elevated. I'm scheduled to have a prostate biopsy. What can I expect?

DEAR READER: The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is a screening test designed to detect prostate cancer before symptoms develop. An elevated PSA value can suggest that cancer may be present. But only a prostate biopsy can confirm the actual presence of cancer.

Are there exercises I can do to relieve my knee pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have pain in my kneecap, right in front of my knee. It hurts to walk down the stairs or even sit for too long. What can I do?

DEAR READER: It sounds like you have what is called patellofemoral pain. That's pain where your kneecap (patella) meets your thighbone (femur). It usually results from overdoing exercise. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to prevent and relieve this pain.