April 2022
National Library Week

Happy April to all of our readers! We hope you enjoy this month’s issue and find the pieces below insightful and helpful. To read more about National Library Week and how you can support PlaneTree Health Library, check out this issue's footer. Happy reading! 


…seek treatment for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)?

Medical professionals are trying to help patients understand the brain-gut connection in IBS. While it was once considered an issue of the gut alone, scientists now recognize that disturbances in the nervous system, brain, and gut can lead to IBS symptoms. This finding has led the medical community to use more of a holistic approach to treatment. Suzanne Smith, a nurse practitioner at UCLA's Integrative Digestive Health and Wellness program is teaching a mindfulness course that helps patients with the anxiety that is linked to IBS symptoms. Smith states that participants experienced “a significant improvement in quality of life and overall well-being.”

The NIH lists several complementary treatments to IBS and then evaluates the effectiveness of each: mindfulness meditation therapy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, and yoga. These are all approaches used to treat IBS, but the majority did not have enough evidence to draw firm conclusions. Read the NIH list to get more information about how effective each treatment can be. 

...practice more positivity for my physical health?

Absolutely. People’s perceptions and beliefs can actually have a significant effect on their physical health. An early study from 2002 discovered that individuals who held more positive attitudes about aging lived around 7.5 years longer than their counterparts who held negative beliefs. When one views aging in a more positive light, they are more likely to be active and resilient, as well as have a stronger desire to live. 

Becoming more resilient is not always easy. Dr. Lisa Wexler notes that resilience is a process that consists of a variety of factors such as family, community, and cultural practices. Tapping into one’s strengths, caring for your body, taking on positive attitudes, and surrounding yourself with a good community are all tactics to nurture one’s resilience. Doing so can be incredibly protective for your physical, emotional, and health, as well as fend off potential dangers and harms. 

…consider surgery to fix a frozen shoulder?

Frozen shoulder (also called adhesive capsulitis) is an inflammation of the shoulder joint. It might follow after a shoulder sprain or injury, but it can also occur spontaneously, especially in women 40-60 (menopausal women), in diabetics, or in people with thyroid disease. It moves through phases of “freezing” (often the most painful), “frozen” (shoulder nearly immovable), and ultimately “thawing” over the course of 1 - 5 years. (Yes, years.) While a frozen shoulder usually resolves itself, the loss of muscle tone while it is frozen can get in the way of full recovery. 

The most common treatment options are: 1) manage pain with anti-inflammatories, especially in the freezing stage, or 2) if pain is more severe, to manage with a steroid injection; plus physical therapy movement exercises to retain range of motion and avoid losing muscle tone. It is critical to start these exercises early and to do them regularly. Arthroscopic surgery is an option usually reserved for the most limiting frozen phase

…be concerned about incontinence?

Incontinence, the lack of control over urination, is a condition that typically becomes more common as a woman ages, but still frequently sneaks up and takes people by surprise. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology discovered that the prevalence of incontinence among women 60 years of age or older increased among all categories, including urge incontinence, stress incontinence, and mixed urinary incontinence. 

Urge incontinence, in which a sudden, unprovoked need to urinate is felt, can be treated through pelvic floor exercises, certain medications that increase bladder capacity, and botox injections, but can also largely be managed through lifestyle modifications. This involves avoiding drinks that may irritate the bladder and scheduling regular bathroom breaks. Stress incontinence, which involves leaking urine, requires more severe and technical treatments, such as urethral bulking agents, or potentially bladder sling surgery. If you are experiencing symptoms of incontinence, urogynecologists strongly recommend seeking treatment as they may worsen over time if not dealt with.  

…get screened for cervical cancer?

NIH states that “nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV infection, which is spread through sexual activity.” Did you know that you should still get a cervical cancer screening, even if you have been vaccinated for HPV? The vaccines greatly reduce the risk of getting cervical cancer, but they do not protect against all cervical cancer.

The answer to this question is most definitely yes. You should get screened, but how often? It is largely based on your age and there are different types of tests that dictate the timeframe. Check out these helpful charts from the American Cancer Society’s new guidelines and talk with your doctor about what’s right for you. 

Recycling Medical Equipment

In 2020, the EPA estimated that the U.S. generates close to 6 million tons of medical waste annually. Most of that comes from medical facilities - but as anyone who takes daily maintenance medications can tell you, it can add up to a lot per individual person, too. At the same time, prices for durable medical equipment used at home can bring on serious sticker shock. Reuse and recycling to the rescue!

Electricity- or battery-operated medical equipment, including hearing aids, nebulizers, and CPAP or BiPAP machines, also power wheelchairs or scooters, are considered e-waste. Dispose of these items through e-waste programs in San José or an approved collection site in Santa Clara County. If the equipment is still in working order, see if it can be reused or resold.

Unpowered mobility equipment - like push wheelchairs, knee scooters, crutches, Zimmer frames, rollabords - in reasonable shape can be reused or resold. It is possible that your original provider will accept return for any medical equipment that is no longer needed. Broken, no longer usable medical equipment that is primarily metal (including grab bars and bed rails) can be recycled as scrap metal.) 

Diabetes supplies and equipment can sometimes be recycled or reused; see here and here. At least one manufacturer of insulin pens has a recycling program - check with your pharmacist or healthcare team if this is available for your prescription.

Where to donate medical equipment: these organizations may accept donations for reuse (call first!): 

There is also Where To Donate Used Medical Equipment In California: The Complete Guide for more details.

Loan closets for medical equipment answer both the question of where to donate items in good shape and how to get needed equipment at little or no cost. Avenidas’ loan closet program has re-opened this year, and programs like Ability Tools, NorCalSCI,  and the other organizations listed in Free Medical Equipment In California: How And Where To Get It may also have opportunities.

While on the topic of safe and ecologically-appropriate ways to dispose of medical waste, here are instructions for:

Medications (prescription drugs, over the counter medications, and supplements) should never be flushed or poured down a drain. It’s best not to throw away unused medications either, but dispose of them at a drop-off location. Do remember to cover or remove your personal information on the pill bottle labels first, though! Or peel off the labels from empty pill bottles and use them to store small items.

Inhalers and spacers should be dropped off at these locations.

Where to drop off medications: Nearly all pharmacies have safe drop-off boxes; and you can find locations in San José, in the City of Santa Clara, and throughout Santa Clara County. Disabled or homebound folks can use free mail-back programs

Sharps (needles, finger-stick lancets, etc.) should be collected in a container designed for that purpose.These should never be put in the recycling bin or the trash - instead, take to one of the drop-off locations listed here or use the mail-back program. Nor should needles ever be reused. (Depending on the product, it may be possible to clip off the part that contacts blood and recycle the remaining plastic (ask your pharmacist or health care team for details.)

There are also take-back events for partially-used, expired, or unwanted medications and for sharps. (The next national DEA Take-Back Day is April 30, 2022.)

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Looking for more community events?

The list of free, public, health-related events in the South Bay that used to be included in PlaneTalk has moved online, as have the events themselves. 

We’ve created an expanded Community Events Calendar on our webpages at:

There are many more events on health and other topics of interest to seniors, their caregivers, and anyone interested in healthy aging on this calendar - and since they’re online, you don’t have to worry about travel time or parking!


National Library Week was April 3-9. Library Week is a time to support your local libraries, library workers, and to promote library use in your community. Consider donating to PlaneTree Health Library. With your help, we can raise more funds to support the Library and our mission to provide accurate, trustworthy, and free health and medical information. Follow our Facebook page or connect with us on social media @PlanetreeLib to let us know why you support our library!

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