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Northern Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, LLC | Eagle River, AK
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July 2019 – Putting out the Fires!

The heat wave this year has been unprecedented and I don’t need to tell anyone here in SouthCentral about wildfires.  (Although evidently we need to educate some people not to start them!)  The smoke has been a severe trial for many people with lung troubles, and of course loss of property has been a real issue.  KTVA informed us on July 15th that 58 of the 84 fires burning in the U.S. in July were in Alaska, and 1.4 million acres (out of 2.1million nationwide) had burned at that point.

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One small fire in Eagle River got my attention in a big way, in that it was about 200 yards from my house.  The Pioneer Peak Hotshots and Palmer FD contained it and dealt with it in expert and efficient manner, (and have all of our gratitude in the South Fork!) but the tension was certainly a little high in our household and neighborhood until the last of the smoke disappeared for a few days.  The vulnerability we’ve all felt in the hot, dry, windy conditions was different than that last winter with the earthquake in that we’ve had time to worry about it, and these disasters drag on and on, unlike the sudden shock of an earthquake.

That comparison has made me think a little bit about the differences between acute and chronic pain.  Like earthquakes, injuries and illnesses explode into our lives without warning at any given time, and may cause tremendous structural and functional damage.  The pain from these may be 4.0 or 9.0 – and there may be aftershocks (sorry to bring that up again.)  But although we can’t control or stop them, we can prepare for earthquakes and the inevitable damage that occurs, and in the same way seatbelts and staying fit are a good idea.

Fires on the other handrequire the right set of conditions, and although they take us by surprise, we can generally predict that they’re not going to start or continue in October or February.  Chronic pain more often than not also requires a certain set of conditions, and certainly thrives in situations of pro-inflammatory food choices, toxin (alcohol and tobacco) consumption, sleep deprivation, motion starvation, and stress and anxiety.  And like big wildfires, it usually takes a team of hardworking people a good bit of time to snuff out chronic pain.  Prevention is certainly preferable, and as Smokey Bear says – “only YOU can prevent…”

We’re still rebuilding after the big November earthquake here in Eagle River – hopefully we get our schools back soon.  Let’s do all we can do keep from starting fires (please, no smoking period, but really none out in the great outdoors) and let’s do all we can to prevent the chronic burning and smoldering of inflammation and nerve damage from not valuing our bodies, minds, hearts and souls enough to invest well into their care.

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