If you’re looking for a doctor’s advice on how to tackle everything from early morning wake-ups to common aches and pains, we asked GP and author, Dr Rosemary Leonard how she manages these issues herself.
A doctor’s advice revealed…
The problem: Early-morning wake-ups
I hate it when I wake up at 3am and can’t go back to sleep, especially if I know I have a very long day of work ahead.
Never pills. I’d still be half asleep hours later, when I have to be working. Instead, I try to work out why I can’t get back to sleep. In summer, it’s often sticky skin, so I have a tepid shower – yes, even at 3am! If it’s thirst, I prefer orange juice to water (though my dentist would be horrified).
But my best solution of all is usually a comforting bowl of cereal, with loads of milk, eaten in bed, while reading a magazine. And because I always set my alarm before I go to bed, I never look at the clock. Knowing there is less than a hour before I have to get up only makes me more anxious, and won’t help.
The problem: Neck pain
I have had a few problems with my neck – there have been times when I’ve woken up and, for seemingly no apparent reason, my neck is so stiff I can hardly move my head.
I’ve tried all sorts of remedies, but the only thing that brings quick relief is a once-off, hefty dose of ibuprofen (600mg). It must be after food, though. The other essential part of my treatment is a very hot shower for at least five minutes, followed by a pummelling by one of my sons or my hubby.
If the pain persists, then I head to my physiotherapist, who massages the tense muscles and releases the trigger points with an acupuncture needle. The pain is usually worse for an hour or so afterwards, but at least then I can turn my head. It’s money well spent. Finally, I’ve decluttered my handbag to reduce the weight I carry on my shoulders.
The problem: Pain when passing urine
Just like every woman, I’ve had horrible times when it stings when I go to the loo.
The first thing is to sort out why. If the skin feels sore and itchy, then it could be thrush or an allergy. If I feel I need to go more often, or like I’m peeing shreds of glass, then it’s more likely to be a urinary tract infection. In the past, I’ve tried cranberry juice, but it hasn’t helped.
So, much as I try to avoid them, this is one of the few occasions when I take an antibiotic. However, I always ask for a urine sample to be sent to the lab beforehand to check I’ve been prescribed the right antibiotic.
The problem: Indigestion
There are two types of stomach discomfort that can occur after a meal.
If I’m just feeling overfull and bloated, then I don’t reckon medicine of any sort will help; it’s time that’s the best healer, and giving my tummy a complete rest from food. I tackle more persistent discomfort with omeprazole, which reduces the production of stomach acid.
A low-dose formulation is available from chemists, but a higher dose is available on prescription. It takes more than one dose to take effect, but after three days, I know I’ll feel better. And rich meals, alcohol, and fizzy drinks are off the menu for a few weeks, too.
The problem: Earache
My ears get blocked a lot, especially on a plane, and they really hurt.
If the problem was wax, my ear canals would feel uncomfortable, and a regular douching with hot water from the hand shower attachment would help. But the discomfort I get is deeper inside my head, and it’s because of a problem in the middle-ear cavity. Sucking on menthol sweets helps (horrifying my dentist even more), but even better is a decongestant, such as Sudafed.
But never after 6pm, as it has an adrenaline-like action. At night, a tissue soaked with lavender and eucalyptus oil on the pillow is just wonderful. On a plane, my solution is a blast of a decongestant nasal spray, such as Otrivin, before landing, and then regularly repressurising my ears. That involves breathing out, hard, with my mouth shut, holding my nose. I often have to repeat this several times, and no, it doesn’t do your ears any harm!
By Dr Rosemary Leonard