Category Archives: Medical

Avoid unsightly helmet hair: leave the helmet at home when biking around town like Jake and Cody

Cody Larson and Jake OlsenI took this photo of Cody Larson and Jake Olsen biking to work this morning. They weren’t wearing bike helmets, a perfectly reasonable and safe thing to do for around town biking according to the research discussed here

These gentlemen need to look their best at work, so they leave their helmets at home when commuting and biking around town.  Plus, they know that they’re helping to contribute to the overall public health of the community by setting a good example.  Yep. The promotion of the wearing of bike helmets for around town biking reduces bicycling and the public health benefits of cycling.  Who’da thunk of those unintended consequences?

(It’s absolutely not true that Jake and Cody were smoking cigarettes and texting while biking just before I took this photo. That’s just a vicious rumor circulating on the intertubes.)

Griff Wigley, sweaty helmet hairContrast their fresh, cool and professional appearance with the way I looked this morning when I arrived at GBM after a hard commute from my house wearing a helmet. 


Dr. Aaron Swingdorf, new guy at Professional Drive Dental Group

Jerry Appeldoorn has been my dentist at Professional Drive Dental Group (PDDG) for as long as I can remember.  But one of my teeth needed attention on a day he was gone recently so I got stuck with the group’s newest dentist, Aaron Swingdorf. He wasn’t just filling in.

Aaron "Darth Vader" Swingdorf with Griff Wigley Dr. Aaron Swingdorf with Griff Wigley Professional Drive Dental Group
It turns out, he’s not half bad. Originally, he was a dentist in Perth.  Good sense of humor (does a good Darth Vader imitation). Up-to-date on all the latest technology. Adept with sharp and noisy tools. Not really all that sadistic.

There are so many links between dental health and overall health, systemic health, fatigue and energy in particular. So I wanted to bring her on so she could tell you guys all about this subject and answer the question, can bad teeth make you sick and tired? Learn more about your oral health here

At my first appointment, I noticed that he wasn’t listed on the PDDG doctors web page so I told him I considered him an imposter. I kept nagging the office staff at my follow up appointments until finally last week, his page got put up by their web design firm. It was like pulling teeth. Now if they would only add him to the Doctors page.  They should know the drill.

Word of mouth: Aaron’s dad, Brad Swingdorf, is a dentist with Cahill Dental Care in Inver Grove Heights.

Update 9 pm: I added a photo of the PDDG building, parking and sign.  I wonder how long it’ll be before Dr. Aaron gets his name on the sign.

Northfield’s heroin problem: four years later

Ann Etter and Dr. Kristine MatsonDr. Kristine Matson, MD paid a visit to my office (AKA the GBM) this morning and I twisted her arm into posing for a photo (assisted by Ann Etter) with a copy of last Saturday’s Northfield News.

She’s featured in a front page article of the paper, Physician’s study of Northfield heroin users offers glimpse into their world

For the first time, a study of local heroin addicts — all in treatment — takes a look inside their lives: When they began using drugs, how they got into heroin, who their influences were and why they decided to get treatment.

Northfield physician Kristine Matson conducted the study. And though the number of subjects was small, Matson believes there is much to be learned from her research.

Dr. Charles ReznikoffToday’s paper has a follow-up article, Heroin reaching new group of users, featuring Dr. Charles Reznikoff, Addiction Medicine Specialist, Opiate Agonist Therapy (OAT) Clinic at the Northfield Hospital.

The photo of him is from the Moravian Church town hall forum on heroin back in Nov. 2008.

Six months ago, Charles Reznikoff’s Northfield patients fell into two specific groups: Those in treatment for addiction to prescription pain medications and a cohort of 25- to 27-year olds and their siblings being treated for heroin abuse.

By the first of the year, Reznikoff was dealing with another cohort of patients: Teenage heroin addicts with no connection to what the opiate addiction specialist often refers to as the 84-85ers. It’s a change that troubles the physician who works part-time in the city’s Northfield Hospital clinic.


Another heroin overdose, another suicide: Is growing up in Northfield dangerous to your mental health?

depressionI’ve heard from some young people (twenty-somethings) this week that one of their friends committed suicide and other died of a heroin overdose. 

I’m not providing names of the deceased, as I’ve not talked directly with their immediate families. Please refrain from referring to them by name in the comments.

The sad events prompted one of them to ask via email:

This is now the third person I have at least been acquainted with that has died due to this drug. This news comes shortly after hearing about another of my peers passing away due to suicide. The fifth person I know since I graduated in 2005. Three of my classmates or 1% of the 2005 graduating class have also committed suicide since graduation.

Which leads me to ask the question, "Does growing up in Northfield lead you to have a higher risk of depression?" Can you run a story on what options there are in or around Northfield for at-risk youth. Honestly, something has to be done. Working with both the individual and family, addictino advocates can help you and your loved one achieve freedom from addiction.

What is being done? What more can be done?

26 Northfield area doctors rated highly by Medica on quality and cost-efficiency. Is it helpful? Is it fair?

Medica Premium Designation

Today’s Strib: Medica posts controversial doctor ratings

For the first time, the Medica health plan today began publicly rating thousands of Minnesota doctors on its website,, in an effort to give consumers more information on their health care providers. The state’s second-largest insurer is using a "star system" to indicate which doctors meet certain thresholds for quality and cost-efficiency in 20 medical specialties.

Medica posted the ratings Wednesday in spite of pleas from the Minnesota Medical Association (MMA) to delay publication. The MMA says the system is prone to errors and unfair to doctors. Medica used three years’ of patient claims data to determine which doctors adhere to national treatment guidelines, and which have higher than average costs.

The MMA has posted a release on it’s website titled: MMA finds significant errors in Medica’s physician rating program

After reviewing the Medica Premium Designation Program, the MMA raised three serious concerns about the program: a lack of reliability testing to assure statistical accuracy in physician results, a lack of Minnesota physician involvement in the development of the rating program, and a woefully inadequate timeline for physicians to review their results and the data underlying their results.

You can search the database to find how individual doctors scored (1 star for quality, 2 stars for cost and quality).

My screencapture image on the right is the result of searching all providers within 5 miles of zip code 55057. The results came back with "More than 100 providers met the preferences you selected. The closest 100 have been returned." I then sorted those by name and listed them all on one page. Click the image, and then after the larger image pops up, click the green arrow to enlarge it further.

I counted 26 Northfield area physicians on that list of 100 with 2 stars on the Medica Premium Designation system which says:

Northfield Physicians rated by MedicaLook for the stars. Find the care you deserve. When you’re looking for a physician, simply look for the stars. They mark physicians who have met standards for quality and cost-efficient care.*

One star means a physician has met nationally recognized standards for delivering high quality care.

Two stars means a physician has been recognized not only for providing quality care, but also for meeting local benchmarks for providing cost-efficient care to their patients. They meet or exceed nationally recognized guidelines, and they’re more likely to recommend the right tests and treatment at the right times.

How do you benefit from all this? It’s simple – a doctor with two stars has proven he or she delivers value.

Your plan does not require you to use Premium Designation physicians, but when you do, your total costs for the treatment of a condition will be on average 10-20% less.

Premium Designation physicians, as a group:

  • Have lower surgery repeat rates
  • Follow nationally recognized guidelines for care, and
  • Are more likely to be aware of the latest research and clinical trials.

Northfielder Henry Emmons has a new book, a new website, and a new blog

Henry Emmons The Chemistry of Calm Henry Emmons in Strib
Northfielder Henry Emmons was profiled on the front page of the Variety section in yesterday’s StarTribune in a piece titled Capturing calm. "A Minnesota psychiatrist and author is trying to shake up how people think about mental illness." Henry’s second book, was released last month: The Chemistry of Calm: A Powerful, Drug-Free Plan to Quiet Your Fears and Overcome Your Anxiety

Continue reading Northfielder Henry Emmons has a new book, a new website, and a new blog

Has the patient-centered medical practice movement arrived in Northfield?

doctors2 This article in the NY Times last week caught my eye: If All Doctors Had More Time to Listen. Are there are any doctors in the Northfield area who are practicing this way?

By stepping off the big-clinic treadmill, where doctors are sometimes asked to see a different patient every 15 minutes, Dr. Batlle has joined the vanguard of physicians trying to redefine health care. These doctors spend more time with patients, emphasize prevention and education to keep them healthy and can handle many medical problems without referrals to specialists.

Geezer report: how a trip to the Northfield Library ended my 20-year struggle with low back pain

I blogged about my high-tech hearing aids over a year ago. So it’s time for another report from the front lines of impending geezerhood, but this time, the topic is low back pain.

lo_bk_pain I had my first episode of low back pain in 1988. I was working late at night at a job in Eden Prairie when suddenly, I couldn’t stand up straight. I literally had to crawl to my car to drive home. I started standing at a desk back then and have been doing it every since. But I’d still have episodes where I’d pinch a nerve in my low back (sometimes doing nothing strenuous, other times, doing stupid stuff) and then hobble around for a week or two. I would always get immediate relief from a variety of chiropractors, and then I’d try umpteen different back/stomach exercises to prevent it from happening again but nothing ever worked longer than 3 or 4 months.  Until a year ago.

That’s when, after another pinched nerve episode, I found this book at the Northfield Public Library:


Back RX : a fifteen-minute-a-day Yoga-and Pilates-based program to end low back pain forever, by Vijay Vad. (See Dr. Vijay Vad’s web site for more about his books and DVDs, research, etc.)

Also see this NY Times video: Strengthening the Core – The science of back pain and how to prevent it: Dr. Vijay Vad of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City explains.

Dr. Vad prescribes a combination of muscle strengthening, stretching and endurance with one main difference that I’d not heard of ever before: an emphasis on the hips.

… The other was to conduct a research study into why low back pain is so prevalent among professional tennis players. The study I conducted found that the players most susceptible to low back pain had the least range of motion in the hips. In 2001 the PGA asked me to do a parallel study of professional golfers. This study produced the same results, showing a significant link between a restricted range of motion in the hips and the incidence of low back pain. This finding is important for the rest of us, whether we are fitter than average or committed couch potatoes, because of the sedentary nature of modern life and work. Sitting in chairs, which most of us do for long hours every day at work, school, and home, leads inexorably to a restricted range of motion in the hips. The Back Rx program accordingly features exercises specifically designed to counteract this tendency and increase the range of motion in the hips.

I started with the set of Series A exercises in Feb. 2007, 20 minutes, every other day. It took me 2 months to do those completely pain free. I was feeling so much better that I went back to both racquetball and motorcycle trials competition early last summer. No problemo. By fall, I was pain free doing Series B so I started with the most difficult set of Series C exercises. I was pain free doing those by December and was feeling so cocky that I decided to return to snowboarding after a 5-year layoff. Yeehaw! I wiped out dozens of times every time I went with no problems. (I dinged my shoulder but that’s another story.)

I’m still doing Series C every other day and expect that I’ll need to do that for the next 50-60 years so I can still keep doing the sports I love.

Moral of the story: support your local public library.

And if you want a copy of the book to own, support your local bookstore. I’m sure both Locally Grown regular contributors David Schlosser at River City Books or Jerry Bilek at Monkey See Monkey Read can get it for you.

My high-tech hearing aids

stone_deaf.jpgAbout ten years ago (I’m 57) I noticed I was starting to have trouble understanding people in places where there was a lot of background noise — pubs, coffeehouses, parties, etc. I noticed that it helped to watch their lips when they were speaking.

Each time I went in for a hearing check, I was told my that my hearing in the high-frequency range was diminishing, making it increasingly difficult to hear the consonants in people’s speech, important for understanding many words. Background noise, of course, makes it even more difficult. But I wasn’t at the point where hearing aids would help.

I finally reached the point a year ago when I knew I was ready. A trip to the UK did it, as the English accent and noisy train stations put me over the edge.

So I made an appointment with Dr. Samira Anderson at Northfield’s Allina Medical Clinic and she confirmed that I was indeed ready. I tried a relatively inexpensive pair (less than $1,000) for a week or two; then another pair in the $2,500 range for a couple of weeks. Better but not great. And then she told that a new model was just released ($5,500) and suggested I try them. Voila!

IMG_6134.JPGThe photo (click to enlarge) shows my Phonak Savia hearing aids, with a remote control device on the left that I keep in my pocket and the accompanying watch that has the same remote controls on it. The hearing aids are fully programmable and the remote devices allow me to further control them for different situations. In addition to the default setting, my remotes have a special setting for phone use (so that pressing a phone receiver against my ear doesn’t trigger the high-pitched shriek); another setting for noisy backgrounds; a third for outdoor wind; and a volume control.

Why am I blogging this here?

When I finally got over my ego problems at having hearing aids (geezer!) and began showing them to people, I was amazed at how many people (baby boomer guys, primarily) admitted to having the same hearing difficulty and had no idea that this technology existed. I now think of them no differently than my reading glasses. And if a battery runs out in the middle of a meeting, I swap it right in front of everyone, just like pulling out a kleenex and wiping smudges off my glasses. No big deal.

So this blog post is a public service announcement.

One more thing: Be careful of loud music. And always wear earplugs when riding a motorcycle.