Seven pains you should never ignore

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by Dr. Art Mollen

AZ FAMILY

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 3:59 PM

PHOENIX -- We all have aches and pains here and there, and we know that not all pain requires a trip to the ER. But Dr. Art Mollen explains seven pains that you should never, ever ignore.

The first is when you feel like you have the worst headache of your life. If you have a cold, it could be a sinus headache, but you could have a brain hemorrhage or brain tumor. 

"One percent of severe headaches are actually brain tumors," Dr. Mollen said.

Another red flag? Pain or discomfort in the chest, throat, jaw, shoulder, arm, or abdomen.

Chest pain could be pneumonia or a heart attack. Heart patients talk about pressure. They’ll clench their fist and put it over their chest or say it’s like an elephant sitting on their chest.

The discomfort associated with heart disease could also be in the upper chest, throat, jaw, left shoulder or arm, or abdomen and might be accompanied by nausea. Too often people delay because they misinterpret it as heartburn or GI distress.

Women’s discomfort signs of heart problems can be more subtle. Heart disease can masquerade as GI symptoms, such as bloating, or discomfort in the abdomen.

Pain in your lower back or between your shoulder blades should also never be ignored.

"Could it be anything more severe that something like arthritis? Yes," Dr. Mollen said. "It could be something as severe as a neuropathy going down your leg. Or it could be something that's related to your abdomen. Or it could be a heart attack that's simply radiating to your back."

Severe abdominal pain is another warning sign. It could be your appendix, gallbladder, ulcers, or intestinal blockages.

Calf pain and swelling can be another warning sign, possibly indicating deep vein thrombosis. DVT is a blood clot that can occur in the leg’s deep veins. The danger is that a piece of the clot could break loose and cause pulmonary embolism (a clot in the lungs).

Cancer, obesity, immobility due to prolonged bed rest or long-distance travel, pregnancy, and advanced age are among the risk factors.

Another pain to which you should pay attention is burning feet or legs. Many people who have diabetes are undiagnosed. Peripheral neuropathy could be one of the first signs.It’s a burning or pins-and-needles sensation in the feet or legs that can indicate nerve damage.

Finally, you should always pay attention to vague, combined, or medically unexplained pains.

"It's vague pain, pain that you can't really describe," explained Dr. Mollen. "It's chronic, people get  it, it could be in your head, it could be in your back, in your leg. It could be depression."

Vague painful symptoms are common in depression. Because the pain might be chronic and not terribly debilitating, depressed people and their families might dismiss the symptoms.

In fact, the more depressed you are, the more difficulty you have describing your feelings. Get help when you’ve lost your interest in activities, unable to work, and are unable to get along with friends and family. Don’t suffer silently when you’re hurting, and see your doctor.

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