Regardless of age, everyone experiences body aches at one time or another. These discomforts could be the direct result of a workout or sports injury, or from simply sleeping awkwardly one night.
Obviously, not all aches and pains require a visit to the doctor’s office. But, some do.
Pains That Need Your Attention
Rahul Kapur, MD, Penn Sports Medicine physician and lead medical physician for Penn Athletics, discusses certain pains that need your attention.
Oftentimes, minor wrist ailments occur from repetitive movement, such as writing or typing on a keyboard. Relieving this type of pain may be as simple as making a change to eliminate repetitive strain, performing stretches to relieve tension, or wearing a splint or brace to stabilize and put pressure on the joint.
More serious pains – for instance, discomfort on the thumb-side of your wrist – should be examined by a physician, as it could be a scaphoid fracture.
Especially in athletes, this type of pain is typically caused by a muscle, tendon or ligament strain. It may occur immediately after an injury, or develop gradually over a period of weeks or months. In many cases, simply reducing the use of the injured area can help to alleviate the discomfort.
If you experience a sudden onset of sharp, intense pain in the groin, buttocks or thigh at the time of an injury, this could indicate a high-risk stress fracture of the femoral neck (a break in the neck of the femur or thigh bone). If this occurs, it is recommended you seek medical attention.
Getting dressed or lifting an item over your head shouldn’t cause pain. The shoulder has a wide and versatile range of motion and when something is wrong, it can hinder your ability to move freely.
If you experience pain that radiates down your arm during one of those activities (or at all), this could indicate a disc issue in your neck - especially if you have numbness, tingling or weakness.
Heel pain is most often caused by plantar fasciitis, which is inflammation of the band of tissue (the plantar fascia) that extends from the heel to the toes. This condition can be treated by performing stretching exercises, avoiding going barefoot and icing the heel several times a day.
If pain is present in the back of the heel or Achilles region and is accompanied by swelling or bruising, this could indicate a partial tear and should be examined by a physician.
Don’t ignore or try to suffer through foot-related conditions simply because it’s “only your feet”. If you have trouble walking, you are more likely to stop being physically active, which can lead to further health issues down the road.
Nagging pain at the top of your foot, especially over the outside (pinky side), could be from a stress fracture. You may be told to keep pressure off the foot for a while or need a cast for a few weeks.
If you train too hard over a short period of time, you may experience shin splints. They often plague runners who do not build their mileage gradually enough or who abruptly change their workout regimen. Treatment for shin splints can be as simple as decreasing, or completely stopping, your training until the pain subsides.
If there is pain in the lower leg, this could be the result of a stress fracture (an incomplete crack in the bone), which is much more serious. If it’s accompanied by numbness or tingling, you could have what is called exertional compartment syndrome (an exercise-induced muscle and nerve condition). It is important to see a physician so that they can perform the necessary tests to correctly diagnose the injury.
Big Toe Pain
Because we are constantly on our feet, there are many causes of toe pain. Cuts or scrapes and blisters can easily be treated at home. Your toe, though, supports the majority of your weight when you push off your foot and pain there could also be an indication of something more serious, such as gout or arthritis, or in some cases a tear or stress fracture.
While there are aches and pains that don’t warrant a visit to the doctor’s office, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If you have been experiencing pain for some time or are concerned about a recent development, it is best to get checked out by a physician.