Decode the Meaning of Your Pain
Pain is Mother Nature's distress signal. Pain lets you know that something is wrong. In terms of sheer numbers, arthritis and back pain are the most common reasons for pain, but they rarely qualify as a reason to seek emergency care.
If you're a patient in the ER, your doctor or nurse might ask you to describe pain in terms of when it happens, what produces it, and what relieves it. In addition, you will be asked to describe the intensity on a scale of one to ten -- ten being absolutely unbearable, shrieking pain and one as a minor nagging ache. This numerical rating of the pain helps your doctor understand the severity of the situation. Of course, one-to-ten is not a perfect rule, because some pretty minor issues such as shingles can hurt like hell, while other major conditions, such as appendicitis, may be rather low in their pain rating. Considerable competence is required to evaluate pain. Pain always means that a problem exists -- the issue is simply finding out the source of the problem so that you can undertake appropriate treatment.
The duration of the pain is also of consequence. Any abrupt, severe pain demands immediate attention. If pain is less acute and comes and goes, there is generally some grace period in evaluating it, but the whole pain area demands careful vigilance before assigning a low worry score to it.
As with other major symptoms, pain is more serious in older people than in younger people, because they generally have diminished reserves of strength, and it helps to be physically strong if a pain hits. Treatment of pain, of course, depends on the cause, but continued pain needs to be addressed promptly when it occurs.
From Living Longer For Dummies by Walter Bortz. Copyright 2001 Hungry Minds, Inc. All rights reserved. Used here by permission. For Dummies is a registered trademark of Hungry Minds, Inc.
- - - - -
Banishing Americans' back pain has grown to a $100 billion industry. But much of your best advice is available for free.