Let’s face it: we can’t run to the doctor with every ache and pain, or we would never leave. So when do you need to go? When is the pain not going to go away on its own?
Many people put off medical treatment until the pain is unbearable and by this time have to spend much more time and money getting the problem fixed. Here are a few guidelines, certainly not hard and fast, but good indications on when you should seek treatment from a health care practitioner.
- Have you been experiencing the same pain for two weeks or more and it has not gotten significantly better?
Usually a pain felt for more than two weeks is not going away on its own. If the pain has gotten worse or you do not notice a significant decrease in the pain it will most likely not go away on its own. Your body will start to develop compensation patterns that may take the pain away but these compensation patterns are not healing the problem, they are just causing new ones.
Just because your body has found ways to make one pain go away does not mean that you are not creating new problems. Getting in early will actually save you time and money as there will be fewer problems to fix.
- Have you had recurring episodes of the same pain that are becoming more frequent?
This is a definite ‘red flag’ that something is wrong and needs to be treated. Many times people come in with a history of pain, whether it be in the back, neck, legs or any body part and when I ask them if they have had this pain before, they say “Yes, a couple of times… but then it would go away.”
If it keeps reoccurring then your body has just learned how to mask it for a while; to create compensation patterns, it has not gone away. And it will continue to come back, each time more intense and the time between occurrences will decrease. Most likely the pain will become more intense with each time it comes back. Getting the problem taken care of during one of the first times it occurs will decrease the amount of time that you will spend seeking medical treatment for it.
- Have you begun to limp or notice that you avoid certain movements?
Many people come in and tell me they feel fine as long as they don’t make a certain movement. This is one of the first signs of an injury. If you are avoiding reaching overhead or out to the side because there is pain, if you are avoiding reaching down and picking up and object because of pain, then you need to seek medical treatment.
If you avoid sitting or standing or sleeping on one side, then these are all signs that there is a problem and something needs to be done about it. Limiting movements so a body part does not hurt is not fixing the problem; it is just creating new ones that you will eventually have to fix along with the old ones.
- Do you wake up with pain every morning?
When you are asleep your body is allowed the opportunity to heal. If you wake up with pain that means that for some reason the body was not able to heal itself during the night. This means that there is a larger issue going on that needs a closer look. If your body cannot feel good after a few hours of complete rest, there is an issue and the longer you wait, the longer the medical treatment may have to be.
- Do you have numbness and tingling in your hands and feet?
Numbness and tingling are signs that there could be some type of nerve involvement or some type of cardiovascular issue. It does not always mean these things—but the likelihood is strong. Numbness and tingling is an issue that needs to be looked at sooner rather than later. If left alone it can lead to far greater problems like muscle weakness and impaired mobility, just to name a couple.
Many times people wait too long to come in and get help, thinking if they wait long enough it will go away on its own. But in all reality you are just creating a more serious problem that is going to take longer to fix.
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