We often try to avoid visiting the doctor for life’s little aches and pains. After all, some amount of pain is to be expected over the course of our lives, whether due to injury or illness or simply over-exerting ourselves while exercising or going about daily tasks like gardening.
In many cases, small amounts of pain due to exertion or other normal causes will ebb and flow on their own, without any need for medical intervention. However, there are seven types of pain that should never, under any circumstances, be ignored. Let’s take a look at them.
Pain #1: Burning Pain or Numbness in the Legs or Feet
A burning pain in the legs or feet could be neuropathy, and specifically, diabetic neuropathy.
Nearly a quarter of the 23 million Americans who have diabetes are undiagnosed, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Some of the symptoms of diabetes include:
- Dry mouth
- Constant thirst and hunger
- Itchy dry skin
- Slow-to-heal wounds or cuts
- Frequent and urgent urination
- Blurred vision
If you have any of these symptoms and also have a burning sensation or a numb/tingling sensation in the legs or feet, you could be diabetic—bring your concerns to your doctor’s attention as soon as possible.
Pain #2: Unexplained, Persistent Pain in the Chest, Throat, Jaw, Arm, or Belly
- Most people are well aware that chest pain could mean a heart problem and even a heart attack.
- However, pains—even minor discomforts—in the chest, throat, jaw, arm or belly could also indicate serious cardiac problems.
- Some people with heart problems mistake their initial symptoms for stomach or intestinal problems. Heart trouble can even mimic simple acid reflux. If you experience unexplained, persistent discomfort in any of these areas, and you know you have the high risk of cardiac problems, please visit a doctor.
Pain #3: An Excruciating Headache
- Let’s be honest: headaches are a nuisance that we all have to live with at some time or another.
- Often, headaches happen due to easily remedied issues like dehydration, sinus congestion or tension, and can be solved with drinking lots of water, using a neti pot, and taking a time-out to meditate on a regular basis.
- However, if you’re gulping down fluids and keeping calm but your headache still isn’t going away, it’s best if you mention it to your physician. An awful headache (the worst headache of your life) that just won’t budge may be a sign of brain bleeding, which requires immediate emergency care.
Pain #4: Sudden or Nagging Back Pain
- We’ve all had back pain at one time or another, due to sitting a long time on the computer, poor posture, working hard in the garden or starting a new excessive program. A backache is one of the most common physical complaints, and many people suffer from it chronically.
- However, a sudden ache in the lower back or the area between the shoulders could indicate a deadly tear in the aorta, the main blood vessel running to the heart.
- Such a tear—called an aortic dissection—is critically serious, and needs to be attended to by medical professionals right away. If you have a backache or a pain between the shoulders that can’t be accounted for and you are at risk of having conditions such as high blood pressure, circulation problems, smoking, and diabetes, please see a doctor immediately.
Pain #5: Extreme Abdominal Pain
- Sudden, sharp and extreme abdominal pains should be investigated by a doctor right away.
- Conditions like gallbladder issues (including gallstones), pancreatitis, a stomach or intestinal ulcer, and an inflamed or burst appendix can manifest as difficult abdominal pain.
- These are not issues that can be ignored away, and require treatment—in the form of medication or surgery—in order to correct. Don’t gamble with your health. If you have this symptom, talk to a doctor.
Pain #6: Pain or Swelling in the Calves
- An annoying calf cramp happens to everyone once in a while. However, when it is accompanied by swelling or remains as a constant ache, calf pain can indicate something far more nefarious than a simple “charley horse” (the common name for a muscle spasm), it could be deep vein thrombosis or DVT.
- DVT is when a clot forms in one of the leg’s deep veins, and the danger arises when the clot breaks away from the leg vein and travels to the lungs, becoming a pulmonary embolism—a condition which can turn deadly at the drop of a hat.
- If you have pain or swelling, or both, in your calves, please see a doctor rule out DVT.
Other warning signs of DVT include:
- Warmth in the skin of the affected leg.
- The red or discolored skin on the affected leg.
- Visible surface veins.
Pain #7: Odd, Vague, Unexplained Pains or Combined Pains
- A combination of subtle yet chronic pains or odd pains that can’t be medically accounted for could indicate a problem lying beneath the surface of the skin and bone: depression.
- Depression can cause strange pain sensations to arise in the body, and although these pains can’t be explained by other medical phenomena, depression is a common cause of chronic pain.
- If you have annoying pains that have no cause or a combination of pains that arise for no apparent reason, you may be suffering from clinical depression. Other symptoms of depression must be present before a diagnosing depression, such as losing interest in activities you used to do, inability to work or think effectively or not wanting to socialize.
- Talk to your doctor to learn more about resources you can turn to in case of depression, such as counselors who can point you in the right direction and help you become pain-free.