What is urgent care?

What is urgent care?

Urgent care is medical care for an urgent problem that is not life threatening. Examples of life-threatening emergencies include a heart attack or a serious head injury. These require a visit to the Emergency Room (ER). Urgent Care centers such as such as ours, Aspen Medical Center in Santa Fe and Aspen Urgent Care in Espanola, New Mexico, are setup to assist patients with an illness or injury that does not appear to be life–threatening, but also can’t wait until the next day.


When faced with a medical problem that requires immediate care, it is sometimes difficult to determine if it is truly an emergency, or if it is an urgent care issue.

What is considered an emergency?

Urgent care is not a substitute for emergency care. In general, an emergency medical condition is one that can quickly endanger the life or limb of an individual.

Some examples of conditions requiring a visit to the ER include:

  • Compound or open fracture (bone protruding through skin)

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Fever in a newborn (less than 1 month old)

  • Heavy, uncontrollable bleeding

  • Extensive or severe burns

  • Severe abdominal pain

  • Severe chest pain or difficulty breathing

  • Signs of a heart attack (e.g. chest pain lasting longer than two minutes, possibly associated with shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, and/or pain radiating into the arm or jaw)

  • Signs of a stroke (e.g. sudden numbness, loss of vision, one-sided weakness, slurred speech, or confusion)

Dial 911 without delay for any medical problem that appears to be immediately life-threatening.

ER visits are necessary for true emergencies, such as chest pain that is potentially a heart attack and severe injuries. Minor injuries and illnesses can be evaluated by our urgent care providers.

What conditions are appropriate to treat at an urgent care center?

Urgent health concerns are not considered emergencies but still benefit from prompt evaluation and treatment. Some examples of such conditions include:

  • Accidents and falls

  • Cuts that might require stitches

  • Breathing difficulties (e.g. mild to moderate asthma)

  • Eye irritation and redness

  • Earaches

  • Allergies

  • Fever or flu-like symptoms

  • Sprains, strains, and minor broken bones and fractures

  • Moderate back problems

  • Sore throat or cough

  • Skin rashes and infections

  • Urinary tract infections

  • STD testing

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea

The average cost of an ER visit is $2,250 according to insurer Cigna. In contrast, urgent care visits average $170. If one has an urgent care need, it is reasonable to visit an urgent care center first. However, if you are uncertain, it is always best to err on the side of caution and visit the ER if you think you might have a true emergency medical condition.

Aspen Medical Center here in Santa Fe and Aspen Urgent Care in Espanola, New Mexico provide urgent care services seven days a week. Aspen Medical Center is certified by the Urgent Care Association of America. We have x-ray and laboratory services on site. Our commitment to compassionate and convenient patient care ensure that patients with urgent medical needs receive the best medical expertise days, nights, weekends and most holidays.

Andrew Ropp, MD

Medical Director

Protect Yourself from the Heat

Protect Yourself from the Heat

According the Nature Conservancy, “More than 95 percent of New Mexico has experienced mean temperature increases over the last 30 years.” July is generally the hottest month of the year in Santa Fe with average daily high temperatures of 86°F. At this time of year, the risks of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, are increased.

What are heat exhaustion and heatstroke?
Heat exhaustion occurs when your body gets too hot. If heat exhaustion goes untreated, it can lead to heatstroke. This happens when your internal body temperature reaches at least 104°F. Heatstroke is much more serious than heat exhaustion. Heatstroke can lead to shock, organ failure, or brain damage. In extreme cases, you can die from heatstroke.

What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion?
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include muscle cramps, heavy sweating, pale or cool skin, weakness and/or confusion, dizziness, headache, nausea +/- vomiting, rapid heart rate, and dark-colored urine which is indicative of dehydration.

What are the symptoms of heatstroke?
In addition to the symptoms of heat exhaustion listed above (with the exception of heavy sweating and pale or cold skin), warning signs of heatstroke include fever with a temperature of 104°F or higher, red or flushed skin, lack of sweating, trouble breathing or shortness of breath, fainting, and seizures.

How does a person get heat exhaustion or heatstroke?
Heat-related illnesses occur when a person is not able to keep him or herself cool. The main causes of heat exhaustion and heatstroke are hot weather and exercise. Your risk of heat-related illnesses is increased by prolonged exposure to high temperatures.

How can we prevent or avoid heat-related illnesses?
During hot weather, it is important to try to keep cool. This is especially true for babies, children, and the elderly who are more sensitive to the heat. If you are ill, overweight/obese, or have heart disease, you are also at greater risk. People who work outside or in hot settings are also at greater risk of heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

Try not to go outside when it is very hot. If you must go outside, wear light-colored, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing. Wear a hat or use an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher here in Santa Fe and surrounding areas. Drink plenty of water. If you are in a hot environment, drink water or other fluids every 15 to 20 minutes, even if you are not thirsty. If your urine is clear or light-colored, you are probably drinking enough water. If your urine is dark-colored, it may be a sign of dehydration. Try to limit or avoid drinks that contain caffeine (tea, coffee, soda, etc.) or alcohol. Avoid spending too much time outside between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m if possible. Take frequent breaks from the heat/sun and outdoor activities. Do not stay or leave a child in a parked car when it is hot outside. (If there is any danger of forgetting a child in a hot car, you can use the trick of leaving your left shoe in the back seat with the child.)

What do you do if you or someone you know has heat exhaustion or heatstroke?
If you suspect you are getting too hot, get out of the sun/heat into a cooler environment even if it is just into the shade. Lie down and elevate your legs to improve blood flow to the brain. Take off any heavy or tight-fitting clothing if possible. Apply cool wet towels to the skin or take a cool bath to help cool your body temperature. Drink fluids (water or a sports drink). Take frequent sips; do not guzzle. Avoid caffeine or alcohol.

When to call 911:

If someone is displaying the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke listed above, take their temperature. If the temperature is 104°F or more, call 911 and seek medical help immediately. If after trying to help someone cool down, symptoms do not improve or temperature is 102°F or higher after 30 minutes of treatment, call 911. If the person faints or has seizures, call 911. If the person stops breathing, call 911 and start CPR.

Just remember to stay hydrated and do your best to keep cool this summer!

Low Back Pain

Most people will not make it through life without suffering from back pain at some point in time. Back pain can occur in different areas of the back, but low back pain is particularly common. More than 30% of U.S. adults report having had low back pain within the previous three months. Most episodes of back pain will improve within 6 weeks or less, but some people develop chronic low back pain (low back pain lasting more than three months).

There are many different potential causes of low back pain but it can generally be prevented by learning how to improve your posture as well as proper techniques for lifting and exercising.

Sometimes back pain can be serious. Contact your doctor immediately or come to Aspen Medical Center to be evaluated if:

  • Pain goes down your leg below your knee
  • Your leg, foot, groin or rectal area feels numb
  • You have fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, weakness or sweating
  • You lose control over your ability go to the bathroom (to urinate or defecate)
  • Your pain was caused by an injury
  • Your pain is so intense you can’t move around

What causes low back pain? A muscle strain or spasm, sprains of ligaments (which attach bone to bone), joint problems or a “slipped disk” can all cause low back pain. A common cause of low back pain is using your back muscles in activities you’re not used to, such as lifting heavy furniture or doing yard work. Unexpected events such as falling or a being involved in a car accident can also cause low back pain.

A slipped (also called a herniated) disk happens when a disk between the vertebrae (or bones of the spine) bulges and presses on a nerve coming out of the spinal cord. Sometimes people who have a slipped disk don’t know what caused it or sometimes it comes from an activity such as lifting while twisting. Most of the time, slipped disks and other low back pain can be relieved by following a few simple methods.

Back pain can generally be treated with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). Gentle stretches or exercises such as yoga can be helpful as well. Using a heating pad for 20 or 30 minutes can help with painful muscle spasms. Ice packs and massage can also be helpful. Weight loss is another way to help improve low back pain over time.

For chronic low back pain, acupuncture has been shown to be a helpful treatment. Multiple studies have shown acupuncture provides significant pain relief in people with chronic low back pain. The Joint Commission, an independent non-profit organization that accredits and certifies 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, recommends acupuncture as an treatment option for pain management. We offer low-cost acupuncture at Aspen Wellness (https://aspenwellness.care, phone: 505-466-5887). Often multiple or ongoing treatments are necessary to improve and maintain some level of pain relief. Acupunctureis a safe and healthy alternative to other treatments like narcotic painkillers which have multiple risks but are sometimes used for chronic low back pain. 

Journey to Nepal

I recently had the pleasure and privilege of working again with Himalayan HealthCare (HHC), www.himalayanhealthcare.org. HHC is a non-profit organization that has been working in Nepal for 25 years now. Their mission as stated on their website is “to create sustainable development programs in the remote areas of Nepal that will improve the quality of life for its people. Himalayan HealthCare achieves its mission by providing primary healthcare, community education, and income generation programs that enable people to be self-supporting in the long-term.” Founder, Anil Parajuli, and his wife Soni, and their wonderful family, are inspirational and a joy to work with.

 

My wife, Rachel, an acupuncturist, and our son and I were part of a team of seven international volunteers on the recent Spring 2017 Medical Service Trek. There was also a Nepali doctor, Dr. Trishna Chand Thakur, on the trek. The trek lasted for twelve days and we trekked to two villages, Shertung, and Lapa, and set up clinics there for a total of 5 days, treating hundreds of patients.

Nepal is still recovering from the devastating earthquake that occurred at 11:56 am local time on April 25, 2015 with a magnitude of 7.8 to 8.1 on the Richter scale. The earthquake killed 9000 people and injured another 22,000. The death toll likely would have been much higher except that it occurred in the middle of the day when many people were out of their homes. It triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest killing 21 people there making it the deadliest day on the mountain in history. About three and a half million people were made homeless. In the villages we visited, 80% of the homes were destroyed
or made uninhabitable by the earthquake.
After the earthquake, there were multiple aftershocks as well, one of which killed at least another 200 people. There was an estimated $10 billion in damage done by the earthquake which is about 50% of Nepal’s nominal GDP. Needless to say, this has had an enormousimpact on the people of Nepal and two years later, recovery is still underway.

There was much evidence of infrastructure development and there are actually plans to build roads into the villages we visited which will make trekking there obsolete. Himalayan HealthCare has done over 65 Medical-Dental treks since 1992. HHC is involved in the rebuilding effort and over the years has built schools and libraries, served over 180,000 patients so far, improved sanitation, and contributed to education with literacy classes and scholarships for college students from these impoverished communities. There is a documentary on their work titled Hearts in the Himalayas, viewable on Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahAH9uyzq9g

On our trek, we treated patients with a range of medical problems, everything from hypertension and back pain to congestive heart failure and seizures. People were very appreciative and kind. I was struck by the resiliency, joy, and strength of these people who live in very remote mountainous areas. If you are looking for a charity to contribute to, I strongly encourage you donate to Himalayan HealthCare. Or if you are in the medical or dental fields, please consider joining a trek while they are still happening. HHC qualifies as a 501(c)(3) organization so donations are tax deductible. I can guarantee you that your money will be put to good use, as I have witnessed their work myself.

Get out and exercise

Get out and Exercise!

Regular exercise is one of the keys to living a healthy life. Living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, we are blessed with 300 sunny days per year. Although it can get cold at times in the winter, there are opportunities to stay physically active, whether indoors or outdoors, year-round.

There are multiple benefits to exercise. I have often joked that if I could put all the benefits of exercise into a pill and sell that pill, I would become an instant multi-millionaire! Unfortunately, at this time, no such pill has been developed so you actually need to get up off the couch and move your body to get the benefits.

What are these benefits? According to the CDC, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,

physical activity can help:
Control Your Weight.
Reduce Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.
Reduce your risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome.
Reduce Your Risk of Some Cancers.
Strengthen Your Bones and Muscles.
Improve Your Mental Health and Mood.
Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you’re an older adult
Increase your chances of living longer
See this link for more details: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/

What kind of exercise is right for you? That is a complicated question. If you have any concerns about possible heart disease or a heart problem, you should consult your doctor or health care provider before starting any rigorous exercise program. If you like, call Aspen Medical Center Urgent Care & Primary Care for an appointment or just walk in.

I suggest finding some type of exercise you enjoy. Walking, for many people, is an easy and accessible form of exercise. I walk to work everyday. One common recommendation is to try to get 10,000 steps a day. There are many apps and devices to help achieve this goal or the goal can be individualized. You can join the Aspen Wellness Walkers, sponsored by Aspen Wellness, our acupuncture clinic and wellness center. We usually sponsor a walk somewhere in Santa Fe every weekend. For more information, go to https://www.meetup.com/Aspen-Wellness-Walkers/

Other types of exercise include rock climbing, hiking, swimming, biking, skiing, and jogging. Some people like to dance. Others play sports such as basketball, soccer, pickle ball, volleyball, softball, or tennis. Others like yoga, Tai Chi, or Zumba. I believe there is an appropriate exercise for everyone. All you have to do is start. Ideally try to work up to an average of at least 30 active minutes (e.g brisk walking) 5 days a week. This can do wonders for your mood and your overall health. Good luck!

The 100 Mile Challenge Has Begun!

April 4th – July 12th

Week 4 – Next Group Walk – Fort Marcy Park

Next Group Walk – Fort Marcy Park – Sunday, April 25th 8:30am (Click here for info)

Don’t worry, it is not too late to register! Whether you consider yourself a couch potato or a fitness expert…

…Imagine yourself doing something BIG this year to improve your body, brain, mood, and overall health. Imagine a bunch of other people in your community joining you in this endeavor and how the group motivation will help propel all of you to your goals. Imagine a big party to celebrate your achievement! Aspen Wellness invites you to join the 100 Mile Challenge – a challenge to walk, jog, or run 100 miles within a hundred days. People of all ages and levels of fitness are welcome to join.

Your Registration Includes

As a member of the 100 Mile Challenge you will receive a chart to log your miles, a list of great walking paths, a totebag, a t-shirt, a pedometer, and a 50% off coupon for an acupuncture treatment at Aspen Wellness. You will be invited to weekly walks in a variety of places around Santa Fe. You will have the option of receiving motivational emails with health and fitness tips. And finally, when our 100 days are up, we’ll have a party to celebrate our efforts and achievements. Join now and please forward this link to anyone you want to join you in the first annual 100 Mile Challenge!

*How can I reach the 100 Mile goal?

Customizing Your Challenge

You can join our weekend group walks, or just walk in your own neighborhood, on your own schedule.  You can customize the 100 Mile Challenge to suit your own needs and goals. You may not be able to walk one mile per day but would rather walk several miles during the week or on the weekend. You may want to swim, bike, or Zumba your way to the hundred miles. You may want to double the challenge or even triple the challenge. It’s all about getting active, setting a goal, and enjoying the camaraderie of others. Let’s challenge ourselves and let’s have fun!

Build a healthy habit
Get in better shape or lose some weight
Learn about the many great places to walk or run in Santa Fe
Make friends!
Registration Fees:

The 100 Mile Challenge began April 4th. Late registrations will be accepted anytime during the challenge. However, t-shirts are only guaranteed to those who register by May 1st.

Adults – $20 Children under 17 – $10

Click here for online Registration Form (You can also register in person at Aspen Medical Center or Aspen Wellness)

Take the 100 MILE CHALLENGE! April 4th – July 12th, 2015

Presented by Aspen Wellness

KICKOFF – Saturday, April 4th 9:00am

Click here for more information

Whether you consider yourself a couch potato or a fitness expert…

…Imagine yourself doing something BIG this year to improve your body, brain, mood, and overall health. Imagine a bunch of other people in your community joining you in this endeavor and how the group motivation will help propel all of you to your goals. Imagine a big party to celebrate your achievement! Aspen Wellness invites you to join the 100 Mile Challenge – a challenge to walk, jog, or run 100 miles within a hundred days. People of all ages and levels of fitness are welcome to join.

Your Registration Includes

As a member of the 100 Mile Challenge you will receive a chart to log your miles, a list of great walking paths, a totebag, a t-shirt, and a 50% off coupon for an acupuncture treatment at Aspen Wellness. You will be invited to weekly walks in a variety of places around Santa Fe. You will have the option of receiving motivational emails with health and fitness tips. And finally, when our 100 days are up, we’ll have a party to celebrate our efforts and achievements. Join now and please forward this link to anyone you want to join you in the first annual 100 Mile Challenge!

Customizing Your Challenge

You can customize the 100 Mile Challenge to suit your own needs and goals. You may not be able to walk one mile per day but would rather walk several miles during the week or on the weekend. You may want to swim, bike, or Zumba your way to the hundred miles.  You may want to double the challenge or even triple it if you are ambitious. It’s all about getting active, setting a goal, and enjoying the camaraderie of others. Let’s challenge ourselves and let’s have fun!

  • Build a healthy habit
  • Get in better shape or lose some weight
  • Learn about the many great places to walk or run in Santa Fe
  • Make friends!

Registration Fees:

The 100 mile Challenge will officially begin April 4th. Late registrations will be accepted anytime during the challenge. However, t-shirts are only guaranteed to those who register by May 15th.

Adults – $20   Children under 17 – $10

Click here for online Registration Form (You can also register in person at Aspen Medical Center or Aspen Wellness)

Introducing Aspen Wellness!

ASPEN-WellnessLOGFinal9-14 (3)

At the end of 2014, Aspen Medical Center expanded its mission of offering top quality urgent care and primary care by opening a complementary and alternative healthcare center. Aspen Wellness is located right beside Aspen Medical Center.  Acupuncture treatments are just $25 per session and both appointments and walk-ins are welcome.  Chinese herbs, bodywork, and a wide range of energywork and alternative healing modalities are also available. Aspen’s focus is on the prevention of disease and the promotion of health and wellbeing. With that in mind, Aspen Wellness offers a weekly Qi Gong class (Wednesdays from 4:00-5:00) and a walking club.  Classes on nutritious cooking, stretches for back pain, and the Aspen Wellness 100 Mile Club are currently being developed. 

What can acupuncture treat?

Try acupuncture for pain of any kind, stress, depression, anxiety, allergies, digestive issues, weight loss and more. For a more comprehensive list of conditions and information about other healthcare services and programs, visit the Aspen Wellness website at http://www.aspenwellness.care .

Call Aspen Wellness for an appointment or just walk in. The hours are 10am-2pm Monday through Thursday. Additional hours are available by appointment. Call 505-466-5887 to schedule.

Aspen Medical Center & Aspen Wellness…we’ve got you covered!