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Help for You and Your Aching Back

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Back and neck pain happen commonly, and if you haven’t had an episode yet, it’s likely there is one in your future. The bad news is it can hurt a lot; the good news is that fewer than 1 out of 100 people with new-onset back pain has a serious condition such as infection, fracture, or cancer. Also, human backs have the capacity to heal themselves. Even if a disc is herniated, studies have shown that the condition tends to regress over time, with partial to complete resolution after six months in two-thirds of people.

To give CHP members improved treatment options for back and neck pain, early in 2008 we opened the network to include the Back and Neck Program through the Center for Orthopedics and Sports Physical Therapy (COSPT). We are receiving positive feedback from members and physicians regarding the success of this exercise program, which reduces pain, improves function, and teaches patients how to strengthen their backs to avoid future episodes of pain.

The January and November 2008 issues of HealthLine, posted here, have more details. If you and your PCP feel that the Back and Neck Program may be appropriate for you, you can make an appointment by calling

(850) 656-1837.

Another tool in the tool box for back pain is Health Coaching. Excellent DVDs from the Foundation for Informed Decision Making are available at no additional charge, explaining what research shows about acute (recent onset) and chronic low back pain. In addition, the Health Coaching Dialog Center web site, accessible via, has a “health crossroads” module under the Health Information tab, providing great information about how to get better. CHP wants you to be able to choose the course of action most likely to lead to healing. Specifically, we want you to participate in informed decision making to better understand the risks and benefits of available choices. You can obtain the DVDs on back pain and other conditions by calling a Health Coach at (850) 383-3400. On a national level, increasing numbers of patients are discovering that education, support, and conservative therapy provide relief from painful symptoms, while reducing the need for habit-forming pain medication and surgery. Several groups, such as the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society, have produced evidence-based clinical guidelines that encourage patients to seek conservative care from their physicians, keep active, and take over-the-counter pain medication.

Unless serious symptoms are also present, such as incontinence or fever, imaging studies are not recommended unless, after six weeks, the pain is still severe and not improving with active participation in conservative care. The reason is that 65 out of 100 middle-aged to older adults with no back pain show abnormalities such as bulging discs and arthritis on imaging studies. The older you are, the greater the chances that your back x-ray or MRI is already abnormal even though you have no symptoms. The take home point is that you do not want to undergo procedures directed to a problem that isn’t the cause of your pain.

In order to facilitate evidence-based care for neck and back pain, requests for outpatient MRIs of the cervical and lumbar spine will require precertification by Capital Health Plan. This will be phased in starting February 16, 2009. The most important test for back pain is evaluation: taking a history and performing an appropriate physical exam. These will be required elements prior to imaging.

If you are suffering with sudden onset or persistent back or neck pain, you should contact your primary care physician for evaluation and management. After evaluation, your PCP may elect to help you manage your pain in a number of ways, including referral to the Back and Neck Program at the Center for Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy and to a Health Coach.


Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

A Healthy To-Do List for 2009

Do you know that CHP is offering a new benefit, Posit Science InSight®, to members 65 and older in 2009? Do you remember the many other benefits of your membership? A good way for Capital Health Plan members, both new and old, to begin 2009 is to look over the following list. Take advantage of these benefits and tools, maximize your membership, and Live Well!

  • Health Coaching: For questions and educational materials, you can telephone a health coach 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 850-383-3400 or 1-888-372-6608 (TTY users call 1-888-277-1586).
  • Primary Care Physician: The most important decision you can make is choosing a Primary Care Physician (PCP). If you have not chosen one yet, please check here for a list of those currently accepting new patients.
  • CHPConnect: Sign up for your secure online electronic personal health record (see instructions for new users).
  • Savvy Senior Programs: Attend one of CHP’s four monthly Savvy Senior Programs, which meet in Leon, Gadsden, Jefferson, and Wakulla counties. See the Medicare Event Calendar for more information.
  • Posit Science InSight®: Sign up now to receive your brain fitness benefit, exclusively for members age 65 or over, at no extra cost. Call toll-free 1-877-582-1852, 9:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, to order your copy of the software (TTY 850-383-3534 or 1-800-955-8771).
  • Eyeglasses: Schedule your annual routine eye exam. Take advantage of the $150 eyeglass benefit available to Medicare Advantage members every two years.
  • Fitness Reimbursement: Join a health and fitness center. Medicare Advantage Plan members can receive a $150 per year reimbursement for health and fitness center membership.
  • CHP Urgent Care: If you want to avoid long wait times and high copayments and do not have a debilitating or life-threatening injury, consider calling CHP’s Urgent Care Center. Urgent Care is open 11 a.m to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekends. Call for an appointment at 850-383-3382.
  • Medicare Advantage Plan Meetings: If you are not yet a member of CHP Retiree Advantage, CHP Advantage Plus, or CHP Preferred Advantage, come to an informative meeting. See the Medicare Event Calendar for dates and RSVP by calling 850-523-7333.

For more information about Capital Health Plan’s programs, contact Member Services at 850-523-7441 or 1-877-247-6512 (TTY 850-383-3534 or 1-800-955-8771), 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Capital Health Plan is a health plan with a Medicare contract. Benefits, formulary, pharmacy, network, premium, and/or copayments/coinsurance may change each year. Please contact Capital Health Plan for details.

Ask Dr. Nancy - Free & Low Cost Ways to Get Healthy

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Q: I want to get healthy . . . if it’s free or low cost! Any suggestions?

The answers are more plentiful than you may expect. The rest is up to you! Here are a few simple suggestions that will make a difference in your life.


It’s the easiest, best free exercise of all. Just don’t set unrealistic goals. Start with even 10 or 15 minutes at a time, and work up to 30 minutes five days a week. Rainy day? Walk in the mall. You’ll quickly feel the mood and energy boost of walking. (Also consider a fitness center, now more affordable with a CHP $150 membership reimbursement. See page 3 for details!)

Control portion size.

If you’re not ready to change your diet drastically, begin by reducing amounts—and eat more slowly. Using smaller plates and bowls at home is a good trick. They’ll look full, and you’ll discover you still feel full with less food. Most meals cooked at home are cheaper and have fewer calories than restaurant meals. If you have leftovers, freeze them for later rather than grazing on them after hours. Avoid eating anything two to three hours before going to bed. In addition to avoiding acid reflux (heart burn), studies show eating fewer calories later in the day promotes less storage of those calories as fat.

Stop buying and eating junk food.

Break away from this unhealthy American pastime. Most fast food restaurants have healthy choices now. Make the healthy choice.


I’m serious. A good belly laugh actually has healthful physiological effects (also smiles and chuckles). Stress and worry can cause illness. So be open to looking on the light side, watch and read comedies, and seek out people with a good sense of humor. The doctor says: yuck it up.

Take our new online Health Survey.

This great tool yields personal health help. You answer questions that take 15–20 minutes and then receive an individualized (and updateable) report. The survey also creates forms that you can take to doctors’ visits, lets you set and track health goals, and generates a tailor-made list of information resources. The Health Survey is a terrific way to map the “big picture” of your health and decide personal goals. Do you want to lose 20 pounds, improve your strength and balance, or reduce the medications you take? CHP can help! Try this and other online services and don’t forget our 24-hour Health Coaching phone line (850-383-3400). We also have health classes and support groups through our Health Promotions department (850-383-3511) and their community partners. Live well. It’s your choice!

To Access the Health Survey

  1. Click on Members tab.
  2. Click CHP Health Coaching.
  3. Log on with your user ID and password (or register, if you are a first-time user).
  4. Click Health Tools.
  5. Click Health Survey.

Are You Facing a Tough Medical Decision?

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

At Capital Health Plan, we believe that knowledge is power—for patients as well as doctors. When you have accurate information about health and treatment options, you can work with your doctor to make the medical decisions best for you. That is shared decision making.

Free Informative DVDs and Videos.

“Shared Decision Making®” is also the name of an award-winning series of DVDs and videos available to members through CHP Health Coaching. The topics are:

  • back pain
  • enlarged prostate and prostate cancer
  • breast cancer
  • colon cancer screening
  • heart disease
  • depression
  • end-of-life issues
  • menopause
  • osteoarthritis of the hip or knee
  • uterine fibroids and abnormal uterine bleeding

When you have one of these conditions, you face treatment decisions—some that aren’t easy. Watching a DVD will help prepare you to talk with your doctor about options. The information may answer some of your questions and also help you think of others to ask your physician.

Research and Real Patients. Shared Decision Making DVDs summarize the results of medical studies about a condition; explain treatment or testing choices; and outline the possible risks and benefits of each choice. In the DVDs, real patients explain what they went through when making tough medical decisions.

Watching the DVD is step one: getting knowledge. The real decision making happens in the doctor’s office. You’ll have the power to help choose the right treatment choice for you.

How to Get the DVDs.

CHP Health Coaching is your source for Shared Decision Making DVDs and videos, as well as much more information. Call CHP Health Coaching at 850-383-3400. Health Coaches are specially trained nurses, dietitians, and respiratory therapists who are available to you by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—at no out-of-pocket expense. You also can obtain additional information by following the links to CHP Health Coaching.

Ask Dr. Nancy

Note: This article is over 60 days old, and may contain information that is out of date, or has been superseded by newer information.

Nancy Van Vessem, M.D.

Chief Medical Officer, Capital Health Plan

Q: I received a letter about CHP's new benefit CHP Health Coaching for "health information and support," 24 hours a day. Can I really call a Health Coach at any time? Who will be taking the phone call?

CHP Health Coaches are mostly registered nurses, but other professionals such as dietitians and respiratory therapists are available. The nurses are ready to talk with you 24/7 about health questions, decisions, procedures, or tests. They cannot provide emergency care or answer questions about benefits. However, you may ask the Health Coach about diabetes, breathing problems, back pain, heart disease, cancer, procedures like hysterectomies, and other concerns or choices you and your family face. For this one-on-one guidance, the coach uses evidence-based medical information, meaning that the information is up-to-date and supported by valid research.

The CHP Health Coach can send you additional information, including DVDs and brochures, if that is appropriate for your situation. You can choose to be followed by the same Health Coach by scheduling phone calls. Your primary care physician will receive a notice that you are participating in health coaching and can also refer you to the Health Coaches. The primary goal is for you to have information to do what is medically in your best interest, including understanding and following your physician's treatment plans.

Another new resource is the Dialog Center through A vast array of tools helps you manage your health, including a Health Survey (find out where you stand and get recommendations for improvements), Healthwise (an encyclopedia of health information), and Balance modules (on-going help with weight loss, back pain, smoking cessation, stress reduction, and healthy eating).

Please take advantage of these new tools to improve your own health . . . and Live Well!

Call a CHP Health Coach at 850-383-3400 or 1-888-372-6608 or log onto at any time. For the hearing or speech impaired, call 1-888-277-1586. This membership service has no additional cost.