How Long Should You Power Through Pain Before Seeking Medical Help?


How Long Should You Power Through Pain Before Seeking Medical Help?

Whether it’s a nagging ache or persistent jab, pain serves as a signal that something is wrong. The sensation is meant to make you uncomfortable so you get care. But, are there times when it’s OK to power through pain? Read on to find out.

While professional athletes are often celebrated when they fight through injury or pain to achieve a goal, it may not be in your best interest to follow their example. Pushing through some types of pain can cause more harm than good.

Interventional pain management specialist Aashish Jay Kumar, MD, D.ABA, at Spine & Pain Specialists of the Carolinas in Charlotte, North Carolina, specializes in helping patients who struggle with pain. Dr. Kumar and his staff are committed to helping patients identify the source of their pain and achieve relief through state-of-the-art pain management techniques. 

In this blog, Dr. Kumar discusses some guidelines you can use to determine the types of pain that warrant a medical examination.

Pushing through pain

In general, you shouldn't power through pain if you're injured. However, if you’re experiencing pain that qualifies as soreness or achiness without swelling, it may be safe to perform the moderate movement by modifying how you move. Your goal in making modifications should be to make the activity painless. 

If you’re injured, however, it’s never wise to return to activity at full force if you aren’t completely healed. Exercising too intensely if you’re injured could cause your injury to worsen.

When to seek medical help

In certain cases, if you feel pain, you should seek medical help. Here are some of those cases.

Pain that affects your quality of life

Pain that limits your mobility or changes the normal way you do things for more than a day or two shouldn’t be ignored. The physical and mental toll of living with pain that affects your quality of life can quickly cause serious consequences. Appropriate pain management can help you return to overall wellness.

Pain that impacts your ability to maintain your normal quality of life can also cause:

  • Inability to achieve adequate productive sleep
  • Interference with your ability to exercise
  • Challenges in maintaining a normal appetite
  • Isolation due to an inability to participate in social activities
  • Moodiness and depression

Pain that appears suddenly

If you suddenly experience sharp pain in areas where it never existed, it may indicate that your pain can’t wait and medical treatment is necessary. 

This type of pain, called acute pain, often appears as the result of a particular event, such as a fall or car accident. And, while acute pain can occur for an obvious reason — such as a broken bone — it can also occur without an obvious explanation. 

Pain that’s accompanied by other symptoms

When pain is accompanied by other symptoms, it can indicate that the problem is more complex or even life-threatening. Seek medical treatment if your pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Head injury
  • Severe or uncontrollable bleeding
  • Broken bones
  • An intense, sharp internal pain in your lower abdomen
  • Potential signs of a heart attack, such as chest pressure, shortness of breath, or dizziness
  • A deformed joint
  • Inability to put weight on a joint 
  • Loss of movement or sensation in a leg or arm
  • Chills, redness, fever, or other signs of infection

Pain that doesn’t respond to ice or rest

Pain that occurs as the result of working out or another type of repetitive movement may be the result of an overuse injury or muscle strain. If you have this type of pain without any other symptoms, it may improve by treating the affected area with the RICE method, a technique that involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation to relieve swelling and discomfort. 

If your pain doesn’t improve with this approach or is causing suffering, a medical evaluation can determine the appropriate course of treatment.

Benefits of a practice pain specialist vs. a hospital-based clinic

When seeking a medical evaluation or treatment for chronic pain, it’s the most cost-effective to visit a pain specialist’s private practice rather than a hospital-based clinic. Hospital-based clinics typically charge three to four times the amount for services compared to a private practitioner. Also, insurance companies may cover diagnostic tests and treatment at a less favorable rate than a private physician. 

If you experience pain that limits your mobility and affects your quality of life, getting an accurate diagnosis can help you safely return to normal activities as quickly as possible. To learn more, call 704-610-3220 or book an appointment online with Spine & Pain Specialists of the Carolinas today.