If your body is in pain, it is telling you something.
You can’t let every ache, soreness or twinge worry you to the point you have your GP or local hospital on speed dial. But there are pains that come on suddenly or accompany fever that you should never ignore. Abby Cuffey of Woman’s Day and pain management specialist Dr. Houman Danesh of Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York explain how to recognise when some pains, even if they seem small, need immediate attention.
1. A sharp ache between your shoulder blades.
Could be: A heart attack
About 30 percent of people who have heart attacks don’t get the classic chest pressure. Pain between shoulder blades is common in women, as is jaw pain, shortness of breath and nausea. If you have these symptoms (you’ll likely have more than one), you need care ASAP.
A muscle pain is like a dull ache. A heart attack is more like a sharp sudden onset. Call 000. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. It’s better not to have someone drive you to the hospital. Wait for the ambulance because they are set up to do triage immediately.
2. A ‘thunderclap’ headache.
Could be: An aneurysm, which is a balloon-like area in an artery
Most of us have experienced mild or moderate headaches — usually an over the counter pain medication makes the pain go away. But if you have the worst headache of your life and it comes on suddenly, call 000. Again, do not drive the hospital yourself.
How do you know it isn’t a migraine? With a migraine, you feel nauseous, are sensitive to light and sound and it’s a gradual progression.
Bleeding in the brain due to a ruptured aneurysm isn’t all that common, but when it does happen, swift action is key. Surgeons can save your life by sealing off the weakened spot. If you aren’t treated right away, you could die. The biggest risk is, if it does rupture, and you are bleeding into your brain, it becomes difficult to treat, if it can be treated at all.
Don’t take aspirin for such a sudden, intense headache — it can increase the bleeding.
3. Dull stomach pain to the lower right of abdomen.
Could be: Appendicitis
The pain usually starts at the centre of your stomach and gradually moves to the right. If the appendix does rupture, that can be a dangerous complication, with bacteria bursting into your bloodstream and infecting your entire body. If you feel this sensation, go straight to Emergency. (Usually it gets more intense over a 24-hour period as it shifts location.)
Usually with appendicitis, when pressing down on your stomach it doesn’t hurt as much as when you let go quickly. Another test is where you use the muscle underlying the gall bladder: Bring your knee to your head and have someone push down with resistance. If that hurts, that’s a sign of an irritated appendix, which would need to be evaluated further.
4. Tooth pain that wakes you up.
Could be: Teeth grinding