Even though no one likes to deal with pain, it does serve an important function. Pain acts as the body’s way of letting you know that something has gone wrong. Whether this means you shouldn’t touch the stove when hot, forget to wear shoes when throwing out the garbage, or pay more attention to where you’re walking, pain serves as the body’s way of saying “Hey, don’t do that again.”
However, even if you’re in tune enough with your body to understand when pain is the result of an unfortunate or careless accident, pain can also signal a more serious underlying condition. While most causes of pain are temporary and eventually go away, specific types of pain should never be ignored, and signal a need to seek immediate medical attention.
With that in mind, here are five pains you should never ignore.
The Worst Headache of Your Life
If you suddenly experience what feels like a skull-shattering headache, you need to seek immediate medical attention. While the cause of the headache could be something as harmless as a sinus infection or a cold, you could also be suffering from a brain hemorrhage or tumor. An intense headache is a classic sign of a brain aneurysm, and needs to be taken seriously.
Discomfort or Pain in the Abdomen, Arm, Shoulder, Jaw, Throat, or Chest
Discomfort or pain in the chest could be a sign of a variety of serious health problems, including heart attack or pneumonia. In fact, the early signs of a heart condition typically manifests as discomfort rather than pain. Most patients who suffer a heart attack describe the experience as similar to a great weight being placed on their chest rather than a crushing pain that’s often associated with the condition.
However, individuals suffering a heart attack don’t always experience pain or discomfort in the chest. Symptoms of a heart attack can also manifest as referred pain, meaning that the pain manifests in the areas such as the arm, shoulder, throat, neck, and jaw.
Studies have shown women may never experience either chest pain or discomfort when experiencing a heart attack, and are more likely to have the symptoms of the condition manifest as nausea, dizziness, or shortness of breath.
If you experience any discomfort throughout the chest or surrounds areas of the body without any noticeable cause, you need to seek immediate medical attention.
Pain in the Lower Back or Between the Shoulder Blades
While pain that originates in this region of the body is usually the result of arthritis, it could also be a sign of abdominal problems or heart attack. A serious concern with sudden back pain also includes aortic dissection, where a small tear in the aorta wall can slowly grow larger and lead to internal bleeding. Individuals who have the highest risk of developing this condition are those who smoke, or who have a history of diabetes or circulation problems.
Sudden, sharp calf pain is one of the lesser known symptoms of deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot that develops in the deep veins inside of the leg. The condition affects roughly two million Americans a year and can have life-threatening consequences if part of the clot breaks off and moves on to the lungs where it can cause a pulmonary embolism to occur. Individuals who have the highest risk of suffering from this condition are those with diseases such as cancer or diabetes, pregnant women, seniors, and those bedridden.
Burning Legs or Feet
Approximately one-quarter of the estimated 27 million Americans who suffer from diabetes never have the disease diagnosed, according to the American Diabetes Association. For individuals unaware of having the disease, a tingling sensation or burning pain in the legs or feet can indicated possible nerve damage, a symptom of diabetes. If you frequently experience these sensations, you need to schedule an appointment with a physician.
Timothy Lemke is a freelance health writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Dave Matthews, a dentist in Eugene, OR.