What Is Your Body Pain Trying To Tell You?

What Is Your Body Pain Trying To Tell You?

What you should know about body and head pains.

Photo: Ivan Obolensky / www.pexels.com

What is the first measure you take when you experience head or body pain? If you brush it off and continue with your work, you’re within the 50% of Singaporeans who choose to keep silent about their physical pains. These results have been released by the 2017 GSK Global Pain Index study which also found out that 85% of Singaporeans suffer from head and body pain. 

Pain Specialist from Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Dr. Yeo Sow Nam advises us on how we should manage 7 different instances of pain. Read on to see which types of pains are dangerous to ignore!

1. How should we treat daily headaches?

Common symptoms are, an increase in stress levels, lack of sleep, poor posture or changes in diet, but in other cases, the cause may be a total mystery.

If your headaches cannot be reduced by suitable OTC pain relievers, such as paracetamol, one should seek help from medical professionals early.

If your headaches occur mostly at work, it’s good to evaluate your work routine and simple changes such as adaptations to workstations and regular breaks with stretching your neck may be key to avoiding them. However, if your headaches are getting worse or too frequent, you should see your GP for proper guidance and diagnosing the root cause.

2. When is stomach pain dangerous? 

Determining when your stomach pain needs medical attention depends on the type of pain felt, its location and the trigger factors that worsen the pain. The most common type of pain is stomach or belly ache, which may resolve itself when caused by over-eating or rich foods that cause gas. However, if there is any trauma or underlying medical condition then it’s important to identify and address it accordingly.

Acute pain is sudden, and severe, and this often ends up with patients needing to get emergency aid or even urgent surgical involvement. Chronic pain is usually less severe, but lasts longer. With that said, pain that is less severe does not necessarily mean it is from a less serious condition.

If lifestyle or dietary changes and eating in moderation doesn’t help, then one should consult specialists to identify the root cause as well as follow diet recommended by nutritionists.

3. Could a frequent pain in either ovary mean something fatal? Or is it just part of the menstrual cycle?

If you experience the below symptoms, do consult a doctor as there is a possibility that you may have pelvic pain. (1) A more severe kind of pain can cause abdominal discomfort which may require medical attention. Here are some types of pelvic pain:

  • Pelvic pain that may expand to your lower back and thighs
  • Pelvic pain shortly before or after your period
  • Pelvic pain during intercourse
  • Bowel pain
  • Nausea, vomiting or breast tenderness
  • Heaviness in your abdomen
  • Pressure on your bladder that increases urination or difficulty urinating

Do consult a doctor if you have the following symptoms:

  • Sudden, severe or unbearable abdominal/pelvic pain
  • Pain followed by fever or vomiting

However, pain caused by the menstrual cycle consists of the following symptoms:

  • Throbbing or cramping pain in your lower abdomen that may be intense
  • Dull, constant ache
  • Pain that radiates to your lower back and thighs
  • Nausea
  • Loose stools
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

If suitable OTC pain relievers, such as paracetamol, are unable to reduce period pain, one should seek medical help early.

(1) http://www.mayo.edu/diseases-conditions/ovarian- cysts/basics/symptoms/con-20019937

4. When is a back pain more than just a harmless ailment? 

Back pain can be acute or chronic. Acute back pain can come suddenly and last for no more than six weeks, while chronic back pain is less common and can last more than three months. (2) However, if your pain lasts for more than a few days, you should always consult your doctor and seek proper medical attention. (3)

Massages can ease muscular tension and help in back pain relief, especially in addition to taking pain relievers and resting.

Being in pain for weeks or longer takes its toll. My advice to those in doubt is always to have an assessment done by a specialist that takes into account the physical, psychological and social impact of your pain to come out with the best solution possible. To get back to living life to the fullest, you may need to include a combination of solutions such as therapies, altering posture and lifestyle, exercise and suitable painkillers that allow you to move around and enjoy your daily routine without suffering.

(2) http://www.mayo.edu/diseases-conditions/back- pain/basics/causes/con-20020797

(3) http://www.mayo.edu/diseases-conditions/back- pain/basics/causes/con-20020797

5. What could a dull chest pain be trying to signal to us? 

Dull chest pain can be caused by a variety of underlying problems, and it is hard to find out the root cause. It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you experience chest pain especially if it radiates to your left arm or chest.

Look out for these symptoms as these can indicate that your chest pain is related to a heart attack or heart condition:

  • Pressure or tightness of chest
  • Crushing or searing pain that expands to back, neck, jaw, shoulders and arms
  • Pain lasting more than a few minutes and worsens
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting.

If you suspect you are having a heart attack, you should call for emergency help immediately.

6. Is a pain in the neck and shoulders mostly just muscle strain?

Neck pain is often attributed to pain in its soft tissues, such as the muscles, tendons and ligaments due to an acute or chronic muscle strain. The neck is known to be a very mobile part of the body, but this also means that it is less stable and more prone to injuries. However, there are also some other possible causes of neck pain: (4)

    • Bone or joint abnormalities
    • Trauma
    • Poor posture
    • Degenerative diseases
    • Tumours

Like the neck, the shoulder is also a mobile part of the body with a large range of movement and is also prone to injuries. Most common causes of shoulder pain are: (5)

  • Strains caused by overexertion
  • Tendonitis caused by overuse
  • Instable shoulder joints
  • Dislocation
  • Bone fractures in the collar or upper arm
  • Stiff or “Frozen” shoulder
  • Pinched nerves

(4) http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/neck- shoulder
(5) http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/neck- shoulder

7. We are always warned that pain in the calf could be a blood clot. How do we know if it’s just a sore muscle or a deadly blood clot?

Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) a serious condition where a clot forms in a vein that runs deep inside a leg or arm. Indeed, detecting the condition is one of the biggest challenges as the signs are similar to a series of other conditions. However, there are some common warning signs that can help you differentiate the deadly blood clot from a sore muscle:

  • Pain or tender legs – this is especially so in the calf, where it is often persistent
  • The pain is persistent, worsens with time in an arm or leg
  • The skin of the affected ligament turns reddish or blue and feels warmer

If you experience the above symptoms or are in doubt, please seek medical treatment immediately. If you have persistent, disabling or progressive pain despite treatment, then you should ask your GP to refer you to a pain specialist.

There are also some predisposing factors to DVT, and they are listed below:

  • Chronic immobility (e.g. long flights)
  • Dehydration
  • Infections
  • Tumours
  • Use of steroids

Dr. Yeo advises that while pain is unpleasant, it is important as it’s your body’s way of telling you that something is not right and that you need to take extra care and manage or prevent it. The 2017 GSK Global Pain Index shows that pain affects a person’s emotional state, relationships with family and friends, quality of life and even workplace productivity.

(Also read: How To Tell If Back Pain Is Serious And Needs Medical Attention)