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Dr. Roderick Claybrooks, 42, one of the just 1.7% of African American doctors who are spine surgeons says that you don’t always have to go to the ER when you have certain symptoms. The five most common reasons people head to the ER are:

1.Chest Pain

 2.Shortness of breath

3.Abdominal pain/vomiting


5. Musculoskeletal complaints

Some of these complaints may not require an ER visit, but a checkup, Claybrooks says.

Below, Dr. Claybrooks answers your most burning health questions. For more on his book series to help young people achieve their full potential, click over.

I am a female with occasional shooting pain across the upper part of my chest. Are heart attack symptoms different for women?

I have sharp, stabbing pain in my right side under the lower part of my rib cage. I also feel pressure on the right side of my chest between my breast and underarm. What could that be?

Chest pain due to heart attacks in women can be more subtle and is often overlooked because it doesn’t fit the typical description. Right-sided chest pain that shoots across is likely muscle pain or inflammation of the chest cartilage.

Good morning, Doc! I have asthma and went to the ER about 4 hrs ago and received steroids and IV and 1hr neb treatment for my asthma attack. Now I am feeling tight and wheezing again. Should I go back??


What’s a good diet for weight loss? Lean meats (turkey, fish and white-meat chicken), green vegetables and water. No carbohydrates and no sugar (no white breads, no white rice, no crackers).

Good morning, Dr.! I’ve been having this bad cough from the chest for a week and the last couple of days it’s been bad and today I’m vomiting mucus. If I go back into work today because it’s so cold, the cough gets worse from the air over my head. If the mucous is clear, you are probably getting to the end.

If the mucous has color to it, then its probably infected. If you have fever and chills along with it, you should see your doctor.

How do you know when you have diabetes?

You may not know at all without testing, but two common symptoms are constant thirst and having to urinate constantly.

I have a pain in my hip that goes down my leg. It comes and goes. Sometimes, I feel like I’m gonna fall. Should I go see the doctor about that?

You need to see an orthopedic surgeon.

How can I handle rotator cup issues without surgery?

Physical therapy.

Hi, Doctor. What causes your ankle to swell, cramp, and be painful to walk on?

It could possibly be a sprain. You need an X-ray.

What’s the feeling of water dripping inside your legs occasionally? It’s likely nerve irritation.

Doc, my arms and fingertips fall asleep often in my sleep. Sometimes my fingertips get tingly at random times. What could it be and what do I do?

Could be carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel (both are pinched nerves in the arm.) A hand surgeon can prescribe a brace for you.

Dr Claybrooks, I sometimes have pain in my left thumb is that a concern.

It could be arthritis or a pinched nerve in your wrist. If it doesn’t get better, get it checked out.

My fingertips get very cold and turn white and purple from time to time as if there isn’t any blood flowing to them. It even happens when I’m in a hot shower! What could be the cause of this? What kind of doctor should I see?

You need to see a rheumatologist.

Hey doc, is pelvic pain and constipation in early pregnancy normal?

The pelvic pain is not. The constipation could be diet-related. Mention the pelvic pain to your OB/GYN doc.

Doc! I’ve experienced chest pains like an elephant sitting on my chest but the ER doctor said it wasn’t a heart attack. Later I read that my pain could be attributed to anxiety attacks. Is this normal? I get these pains at least twice a year.

Chest pain is never normal. Mention it to your primary care doc.

I’ve had a sinus infection for about a week. I went to the doctor and have been taking Mucinex and antibiotics the doctor gave me. I’m also using a nasal rinse. I’m about to leave Friday on vacation was wondering if I should be doing anything else to help me. Seems to getting better except at night. I will be on a plane Friday. Thanks!

If it’s getting better, you are going in the right direction. You can take a decongestant at night time to sleep better. I haven’t had sex in 3 years.

I’m a 44-year-old woman. Does that harm the body?

Not having sex for some time does not do any harm.

How can a man get rid of a yeast infection that he got from his woman?

You need testing to make sure it’s a yeast infection and then whatever medication your doctor recommends.

Get Well Wednesday: Dr. Roderick Claybrooks Answers Your Health Questions  was originally published on

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