What Does a Rheumatologist Do? Meet These Nashville Docs!

“Rheumatology? What’s that?”

Fair question. If you’re like the majority of people, you may never require care from a rheumatologist. When you have a good primary care doctor, your requirements for diagnosis and treatment with other specialists may be somewhat limited.

But for those patients who have autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, a rheumatologist could be a life-saver. Rheumatologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disease and autoimmune conditions. These diseases, which include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and polymyositis (among others), can cause pain and swelling in the joints, muscles and bones.

How Can a Rheumatologist Help Me?

If you experience muscle or joint pain that’s different from the common aches and pains you’ve known in the past, you may wish to see your primary care doctor for an evaluation. If your physician is concerned that your symptoms could be caused by a rheumatic condition, then he or she may refer you to a board-certified rheumatologist.

These diseases can be complex, but your rheumatologist will perform a full physical exam and evaluate your medical history in order to establish a plan of care. Diagnostic imaging test (such as x-ray, MRI, ultrasound and CT scan) may be ordered. Treatment may be administered via medication, injection, lifestyle modification, or other therapies.

Meet These Nashville Rheumatologists

St. Thomas Medical Group is home to two Nashville-area rheumatology specialists. Rheumatologists have received additional training beyond that of an internal medicine physician.

Leslie Cuevas, M.D.

Dr. Cuevas grew up in Germantown, TN. She attended Drake University on a softball scholarship and graduated in 1995 with a BA in Biology. She earned her medical degree at the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 1999. She then moved to Nashville where she completed her Internal Medicine residency at University of TN – Nashville in 2002 followed by a Rheumatology fellowship at Vanderbilt University in 2004. She joined Arthritis Specialists of Nashville after completing her training.

Dr. Cuevas moved with her family to Denver, CO, and spent time studying at Denver Seminary, but she has recently moved back home! She is excited to join St. Thomas Medical Group to provide rheumatologic care to the people of Nashville and the surrounding areas. She has a special interest in treating patients with fibromyalgia.

She spends her personal time with the ones she loves most: God, her family, and the Tennessee Titans! | Schedule With a Nashville Rheumatologist Online or call +1 (615) 964-5823.

Poonam Somai, M.D.

Dr. Somai has been with St. Thomas Medical Group since 2009. She earned her Medical Degree at the University of Bombay, India in 2001. She completed her residency training in Internal Medicine at Michigan State University in 2005 where she served as a Chief Resident. She then completed her fellowship in Rheumatology in 2007 at the University of Iowa.

She is Board certified in Rheumatology and treats diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and polymyositis. She specializes in ultrasound-guided injections of the joint, tendon and bursa.

She enjoys traveling and exploring different cultures / cuisines, reading, and spending time with her husband, daughter and twin boys.

She provides specialized care to the Gallatin community outside of her office hours at St. Thomas Medical Group. Dr. Somai is accepting new patients by referral. | Schedule With a Nashville Rheumatologist Online or call +1 (615) 964-5823.

Spot Stroke Symptoms FAST With These Guidelines

Did you know that stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the US?

One out of every twenty deaths is caused by stroke.

A stroke occurs every forty seconds in the US and takes a life every four minutes, according to the CDC.

So, what we can do about it?

This May, in recognition of Stroke Awareness Month, St. Thomas Medical Group is encouraging Nashvillians to learn about three common stroke symptoms.

Recognizing these symptoms in a stroke victim – and quickly seeking emergency care – can potentially save a stroke victim’s life. When it comes to stroke, every second counts.

What Is A Stroke?

There are a few different types of strokes. Ischemic and hemorrhagic are two common types. In an ischemic stroke, an artery becomes blocked, reducing blood flow to the brain. In a hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel may leak or burst, creating swelling or pressure around the brain.

Strokes can cause significant and permanent brain damage in survivors. However, seeking emergency care as quickly as possible can minimize damage and improve the chances of recovery. The treatment window can be quite narrow…

  • Three-hour window: Patients suffering ischemic stroke, for example, may receive a drug known as Alteplase IV r-tPA; this drug must be administered within three hours of stroke onset. In some cases, a patient may be eligible within a 4.5-hour window.
  • Six-hour window: Another option for stroke treatment is thrombectomy. This is a minimally-invasive procedure in which a surgeon removes the blood clot causing the stroke. This procedure should be done within six hours of the onset of symptoms. In some cases, the procedure may be done within a 24-hour window (Source: Stroke Association).

The Three Symptoms – FAST

Because stroke treatment windows are so narrow, it’s critical that everyone knows how to recognize stroke symptoms. Use the FAST acronym to help yourself remember the most common symptoms of a stroke:

  • F – Face: Is the affected person able to smile? It’s common for one side of the face to droop in a stroke victim.
  • A – Arms: Can the affected person raise both arms? Many stroke victims will have one arm drift downward.
  • S – Speech: Is their speech clear and normal, or slurred? Ask them to repeat a simple phrase.
  • T – Time: If you observe any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Stroke Prevention Tips

There are many things you may be able to do to reduce your risk for stroke. The Stroke Association recommends:

  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep per day.
  • Be socially active.
  • Eat a healthy diet, limiting sodium to 1500mg per day.
  • Exercise 30 minutes per day.
  • Get regular checkups with your local doctor at St. Thomas Medical Group!
  • If you smoke, stop smoking.

Take Action Now With a Primary Care Provider in Nashville

Did you know that 80% of strokes in adults are preventable? Unfortunately, having just one stroke significantly increases the likelihood of having another one. That’s why it’s important to partner with a primary care provider in taking the right health measures today. Live in the Nashville area? Call St. Thomas Medical Group Department of Children and Adults at +1 (615) 301-7040

You can also make an appointment online.

It’s Time to Think of Physical Therapy as a First Line of Defense

Back pain? If you’re like most patients, you try to stick it out for a few days. If the pain gets worse, you go to your primary care provider (PCP) or a walk-in clinic. Undoubtedly, most patients think this course is the “right way” to deal with a common joint or muscle issue. And, while there’s certainly nothing wrong with seeing your primary care physician, you should know that patients in Tennessee have a unique option that might actually provide a better way of managing your own health care.

The answer? Direct access to physical therapy.

Why See a Physical Therapist First?

Physical therapy is commonly thought of as a type of health care you receive after initial evaluation and treatment from a physician. And, in many states, this is true. As of 2007, Tennessee residents have the unique privilege of being able to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist (PT) without physician referral.

For patients, this means it’s now potentially faster, easier, and more affordable to see a physical therapist.

  • Faster: You don’t have to see your PCP first before going to a physical therapist.
  • Easier: You may be able to get all the care you need for a particular injury during a visit with your physical therapist.
  • More Affordable: Instead of paying two co-pays (PCP and physical therapist), you only pay one by going directly to the PT. Also, multiple studies have shown that patients who receive an MRI first have significantly higher health care costs than patients who get physical therapy first.

When Is It a Good Idea to Go Straight to the PT?

If you have experienced a soft-tissue injury, you may be a good candidate for receiving care directly from a physical therapist. A soft-tissue injury is an injury that does not affect the bone. These injuries affect muscle, tendons, ligaments and other soft tissues. Acute examples include:

  • Sprain
  • Strain
  • Swelling
  • Contusion / bruising

Soft-tissue injuries resulting from overuse may include:

  • Tendinitis
  • Bursitis

Back pain is another common reason for seeing a physical therapist. Seeing a PT first may lower a patient’s total cost of care, bypassing imaging scans, opioid prescriptions, and other therapies that could be unnecessary or even harmful.

Find a Physical Therapist or Primary Care Doctor in Nashville

To find a primary care provider near you in Nashville, call STMG and STMG Children and Adult at +1 (615) 297-2700 and +1 (615) 301-7040. You can also make an appointment online. St. Thomas Medical Group is proud to partner with Results Physiotherapy.

How Dry Needling Provides Instant Relief from Knots

We all get painful muscle knots from time to time. And whether you’ve tried professional massage therapy or simply rolled your back with a tennis ball, you know how difficult it can be to ease an irritating knot. Once a knot develops, it can be very difficult to get rid of! Severe knots may even detract from your quality of sleep or cause you to avoid certain types of physical activity, resulting in further secondary problems like fatigue and weight gain.

Fortunately, many people are now finding relief from muscle knots through dry needle therapy. Dry needle therapy essentially “wakes up” muscle knots. Once startled, these knots relax back into their natural state.

How Does Dry Needle Therapy Work?

To understand how the therapy works, it’s helpful to know a little bit about muscle knots (also known as “myofascial trigger points”). Muscle knots are contracted fibers that have seized up as a result of some form of trauma (e.g. sports injury, car accident), posture, or overstimulation (e.g. weightlifting).

There are two types of knots:

  • Active Knots: Producing intense pain.
  • Latent Knots: Only painful when pressed on.

Dry needle therapy resolves muscle knots by inserting a very thin needle directly into the trigger point. The knot responds to the interruption and relaxes immediately. Most patients agree that dry needling doesn’t hurt in the way that you might think! Instead you might notice a little bit of pressure followed by release.

Not only does dry needle therapy reduce pain by resolving muscle knots; undergoing this therapy also means you can return to regular physical activity – no longer hindered by painful knots and trigger points. By dealing with the knots now you’re taking preventative measures against more complex health issues later on down the road.

What Do I Need In Order to See a Physical Therapist?

In Tennessee, patients have the privilege of direct access to physical therapists. Tennessee state law does not require patients to obtain a physician referral for physical therapy. This is a unique privilege in Tennessee that’s not available in all states.

St. Thomas Medical Group is proud to partner with Results Physiotherapy in Nashville for dry needle therapy. Keep in mind, dry needle therapy isn’t just for treating injuries. Dry needle therapy is a part of many patients’ preventative health care strategies. The technique may help prevent the need for more invasive treatments, like surgery, later on.

Find a Physical Therapist or Primary Care Provider in Nashville

For more information about dry needle therapy, visit our partners, Results Physiotherapy. To find a primary care provider near you in Nashville, call St. Thomas Medical Group Department of Children and Adults at +1 (615) 301-7040. You can also make an appointment online.

What Is Holistic & Integrative Medicine?

From choosing better foods to exercising more, many Nashvillians are joining a growing movement focused on improving overall health. Holistic doctors at Nashville’s St. Thomas Medical Group are here to support you in this journey.

While many modern health care providers rely heavily on prescription medications for treating disease and illness, holistic and integrative medicine providers tend to put a greater emphasis on lifestyle modification, herbal and nutritional therapies and cognitive therapies. Additionally, holistic doctors in our Nashville clinic take a proactive stance in promoting overall wellness. Providers don’t just respond to disease. They help patients achieve optimal health as a disease prevention strategy. As St. Thomas Medical Group provider Dr. Joseph Lamb says, “Health is so much more than the simple absence of disease.”

#1 Lifestyle Modification

Holistic medicine practitioners frequently encourage patients to make lifestyle changes in an effort to promote healing. Instead of prescribing a sleeping pill, for example, a holistic doctor may recommend specific dietary changes or exercise routines. Rather than prescribing phentermine for weight loss, a holistic physician may carefully evaluate your current diet and recommend manageable modifications that can lead to weight loss without prescription drugs (and their potentially dangerous side effects).

#2 Herbal & Nutritional Therapy

Many holistic physicians are knowledgeable about herbal and nutritional therapies that are less commonly used by internal medicine doctors. These methods, which draw on a rich history of traditional medicine, may be used in conjunction with modern medicinal practices to help patients achieve wellness.

#3 Cognitive Therapy

Thirdly, holistic providers in Nashville’s St. Thomas Medical Group may use cognitive-behavioral therapy to help patients deal with psychological issues, such as depression, eating disorders and substance abuse. Because holistic doctors view patients as “whole” (not people with isolated symptoms and illnesses within the body), these providers use evidence-based approaches to involve a patient’s way-of-thinking in caring for their joint mental and physical health needs.

Your Health Matters…

While holistic and integrative physicians use techniques that are not commonly seen in your “normal” doctor’s office, these physicians are still able to prescribe medications, refer patients for surgery, and provide all of the other health care services that patients may expect of a primary care physician. The benefit of seeing a holistic doctor is that patients have the ability to choose less invasive, more natural therapies first.

As Dr. Lamb says, “In our journey together, through illness and disease to optimal wellness, lifestyle modification can be a most potent opportunity for achieving the patient’s goals.” This prioritization of non-drug-based therapies doesn’t isolate individual illnesses and care plans, but instead incorporates the patient’s entire health into a single, unified plan of care. This approach can be useful for patients dealing with complex health issues like…

  • Cardiometabolic disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • …and more

Take Charge of Your Health With a Holistic Doctor in Nashville

St. Thomas Medical Group Holistic & Integrative Medicine is committed to helping you take charge of your health through lifestyle modification and other methods that take your overall health into account. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call +1 (615) 297-2700.