I am a healthy woman of 66 and have recently been diagnosed with two herniated disks or rather one herniated and one protruding. I am in continual pain, especially when sitting. I have tried physiotherapy and the Alexander method, neither of which helped. Yoga, walking and exercise do help, as well as heat, but only for short periods of time. Nothing helps to eliminate the excruciating pain radiating down my left leg when I sit. I have not been able to obtain any clear directives from my doctor or physiotherapists regarding what I should do to solve the problem and also what not to do to aggravate the problem or how to prevent it from happening again. Most of what I know I have discovered by trial and error or from the Internet. I am worried that I may inadvertently do something to exacerbate the situation rather than make it better. - Anonymous, Lehavim Roy Bahnof, a veteran physiotherapist at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, replies: I believe your condition can be improved. You said you have a herniated disk, and from what you say helps you temporarily - exercise, yoga and walking - I think physiotherapy can be of assistance to you. This regimen includes an examination for the cause of symptoms. In many cases, pain comes from a muscle or a group of muscles, or from joints that react to the disk herniation or a local inflammation that often appears in the root of the nerve. Once this examination identifies the cause, treatment can proceed. The damaged muscles can be freed up and strengthened, and the inflammation can be treated. If you have nerve pain, there are various manual techniques that deal with this, plus ultrasound and TENS (a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator). Pain can be prevented with specific exercises for improving flexibility and strengthening the abdominal muscles. You need intensive work on movement and flexing of the spinal column. Most of the treatment, about 95 percent, has to be manual, plus warming and the use of electrical devices if needed. You should try physiotherapy again, because I believe it can help you. I'm a girl of 21. For about six months now, I've been waking up at the same time every morning - around 4 a.m. My body and eyes feel tired, but I can't stay in bed even though I try. I feel anxious, as if I must do something. So I get up and eat something, then go on the Internet. Eating makes me feel more relaxed. I'm usually awake for two hours, then I go back to bed and sleep till 7, when I have to get up. Result: I feel tired the whole day, which is really bad since I am working at a very demanding job as well as studying hard. I have exams soon. My broken sleeping pattern seemed to begin when I realized, back in the summer, that I had an eating disorder. I was eating too little. I saw a nutritionist and began to correct this, and now my eating is normal and healthy. But the sleeping pattern persists. I often used to fall asleep on the sofa and sleep there. Could that have something to do with it? Also, I feel that to fall asleep I need to have music or a light on. Can you help? - M.A., Tel Aviv Prof. Peretz Lavie, director of the Sleep Lab at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, says: Waking up in the wee hours of the night and having difficulties in falling asleep again is a prevalent problem. In many cases such an awakening is the first signal of changes in mood. It is very typical of people who feel depressed or "down," particularly in young people. Sometime the change in sleep precedes the change in mood itself. Thus, to find the precise reason for such a change in sleep, a proper diagnosis is needed. I recommend that you consult a sleep medicine expert and/or a psychologist. I am a 44-year-old healthy man living in Jerusalem who suffers from dry skin on my hands every winter. Sometimes they itch and even bleed. What can I do to treat and prevent this condition? - M.C., Jerusalem Judy Siegel-Itzkovich comments: The December issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter offers tips on relieving winter skin itch. Soak yourself in lukewarm water in the tub. Adding bath oil to the water may help retain and replenish the oil in your skin. Use soap sparingly. Avoid antibacterial and deodorant soaps. Mild cleaners such as Dove are less drying. Avoid products with fragrances and lauryl sulfates, which can be irritating. Pat skin dry: Avoid rubbing or wiping your skin. Instead, leave it moist by gently patting or blotting with your towel. Immediately after drying off, apply a thick moisturizing cream or ointment. Avoid creams or lotions that contain alcohol. Use a humidifier: Keep indoor air moisture levels at 40 percent to 50 percent and don't overheat your rooms. Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to email@example.com, giving your initials, age and residence.