Pain: When to call a doctor?

By  , Expert Content
Jun 18, 2012

Pain is a common complaint and everyone experiences pain at sometime or other, but in most cases, you don’t have to visit a doctor. Taking a simple pain reliever such as an acetaminophen or ibuprofen relieves pain.

Call a doctor for chronic pain if:

  • pain is constant or intense and does not improve with rest,
  • pain is associated with weakness, numbness or tingling in hands or legs,
  • pain is associated with throbbing (pulsation) in the abdomen and/or fever,
  • pain started after a fall, blow to the back or other injury,
  • pain is associated with unexplained weight loss,
  • pain has lasted more than a few days without a clear reason,
  • you are feeling down or blue or are not enjoying the activities that you enjoyed earlier because of pain,
  • your sleep gets disturbed because of the pain or you are unable to sleep because of pain,
  • illness or injury that started with pain has healed, but the pain has not gone away and
  • if you have a history of cancer, osteoporosis, steroid use or drug or alcohol abuse.

Watchful Waiting

During watchful waiting you and your doctor observe your symptoms or condition without using medical treatment. If you have mild to moderate pain, which is occasional and simple measures such as exercise, healthy eating, massage and pain relievers (such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin) relieve the pain, you may not need further treatment from a doctor. Watchful waiting should be avoided if your pain is severe or if persistent pain interferes with your life. Delay in diagnosis and treatment can worsen the pain.

Who to consult

Mild to moderate pain, which is recurrent (keeps coming back) and does not improve with self treatment and care at home should be evaluated by a doctor.

Some health professionals, who can be consulted for pain include:

  • family doctor,
  • physician,
  • nurse practitioner, a nurse who has been through advanced training and
  • physician assistant (a health professional, who practices medicine under a doctor's supervision).



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