Scary Symptoms Don’t Always Mean Scary Consequences

There you are, sitting at a stoplight when suddenly you feel a twinge of pain. It starts off dull, but then works its way into a fervor, and next thing you know you can’t focus on anything else. But this pain is different from your usual pain — this seems serious. You’re getting freaked out.

Pain comes in all shapes and forms, and sometimes it indicates that there’s something scary going on. The problem is that today many people are afraid to see doctors for one reason or another, and instead self diagnose themselves with tools found online. It’s easy enough to do: plug in a few symptoms into an online source and look at what you could have. But as humans, sometimes we tend to automatically go to the worst possible outcome, instead of thinking logically. And when that happens, we may also self treat the problem instead of going to get help.

So how do you determine whether or not you need help or if it’s just a minor issue? How does anyone figure out if these minor symptoms are really the sign of something larger? Do you really need to see a doctor or pain specialist?

The short answer is yes. If something is causing you enough pain that you start questioning whether or not you should seek out help, always fall on the side that gets you checked out — better to be safe than sorry. But in the time between the present and when you actually see a doctor, know that not every scary symptom means that you’re going to end up in an emergency room.


It’s been a rough day at work, and you can feel the pain creeping around from the back of your head. You know it’s coming: the headache. Soon you’ll feel your cranium throbbing and you won’t know whether to talk a few ibuprofen pills or try to find a way to remove your head while still staying conscious (here’s a hint: that doesn’t work). But things get scary when the headaches become more and more frequent, and their intensity ramps up. Now those after-work symptoms are all-day affairs, and you’re trying to determine if you’ve got something more serious brewing up there. The ibuprofen isn’t working now — what do you do?

First, figure out what’s causing the problem. Headaches are tricky things, and when they turn into migraine headaches — the causes of which are still being researched — it gets a bit freaky. But let’s think about what we do know.

Research is ongoing in the field, but what we do know about headaches is that they’re often caused by some combination of our natural genetic structure, and the environment in which we are in (meaning, you may get headaches just because of who you are and what you’re doing). It can also be low serotonin levels triggered by things like caffeine, alcohol, bright lights or even certain smells. In addition, men are three times less likely than women to have migraine headaches, so if you’re a woman who experiences headaches on a regular basis, you’re not alone.

When the headaches become more frequent, some people turn to self medicating because it seems to help the problem. They also may start fearing the worst — is it a tumor? Do I have cancer? Does this mean that there’s some kind of problem with my brain?

First, go seek out a pain specialist. These doctors have lots of experience dealing with migraine and lesser headaches, and they have the tools at their disposal to determine whether or not your issue is one that requires some kind of major treatment. Chances are pretty good that it’s a treatable situation based on narrowing down the cause of the issue. For example, not drinking enough water during the day can cause headaches, sometimes ones that are very intense. Or it could be just a matter of tweaking the environmental concerns to limit your caffeine intake or stay out of the bright lights at your work. Either way, the best response is to seek out help from a qualified professional, that way you know what to do.

Mystery Pains

Your elbows have been bothering you the past few weeks, but you brush it off as just one of the signs of getting older. As the weeks go on, you start to notice some other weird issues — all of a sudden your nose is like a bloodhound’s, always keen to pick up a scent. Oh, and then there’s the headaches that won’t quit. What gives?

There are lots of options to choose from here — these could all be unrelated symptoms, or they could be something larger. One option is Fibromyalgia.

This is one of those scary terms that people really freak out about, but again, with the help of a pain specialist, these problems can be mitigated. Fibromyalgia is not life threatening, nor will it get worse over time. In fact, there may even be a remission period where it goes away for a bit. But if you are diagnosed with the condition, then you should get treatment from a pain specialist who knows Fibromyalgia inside and out.

What kind of options will they tell you? Since Fibromyalgia symptoms vary, there are all sorts of basic things that can work — acetaminophen, sleeping aids and antidepressants for the emotional symptoms — and then there are the alternative methods that also work, including acupuncture, yoga and meditation. Some people view Fibromyalgia as a horrible condition that they’ll never be able to fix. It doesn’t have to be that way, not with the right treatment.

Spinal Issues

It’s an average Tuesday, and you’re moving boxes around your garage on a late evening. Suddenly, you feel a violent pain and you can’t stand upright — oh no, you’ve thrown out your back. After practically crawling back to your couch, you start fearing the worst: blown out discs, osteoarthritis, or even a vertebral fracture or cancer. Holy cow, it’s time to start planning for the worst.

Alright, let’s calm down a bit and figure out what’s going on. It’s time to head to a pain specialist. That’s right, not a chiropractor — at least not the one that works at the mall next to the taco stand. A qualified pain specialist will have tools at their disposal that a chiropractor may not — MRI machines, massage therapists, acupuncturists — people who know how to diagnose and properly treat the problem. Then you can go from there.

Back pain always scares people because it could be so many things, and it puts them down for long periods of time. With the right doctor, you’ll be diagnosed and fixed up as best as possible.

It’s All Scary

At the end of the day, there are all sorts of scary symptoms that happen to us that we don’t know how to fix. We go online, find out what those symptoms could mean, and scare ourselves half to death by thinking the worst. That’s a bad way to go about getting better.

Instead, take the time to see a doctor that can really help you out. They’ve got the tools to find out what the problem really is, and get you fixed up right away. Remember, don’t use Google as a second opinion, because you never know what you’ll get.


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