What’s Causing That Pain?

The likely causes of your bad headache, chest or abdominal pain.

When your pain symptoms might not be as critical as you thought. By Sasha Gonzales

With the plethora of medical information and advice online, it’s unsurprising that many turn to the Internet to diagnose their own conditions. But before you google and get yourself into a panic, here are three common pain symptoms that might be less serious than you thought – and if you are unwell, it’s always wise to head to the doctor and get a physical examination.


Photo: bowie15 / 


You’re worried it’s a brain tumour, but it’s probably a migraine or tension headache

If you have a throbbing headache on the front or side of your forehead, you probably have a migraine. This pain is usually recurrent. Dr Sim Li Kun, a resident physician at Dr Tan & Partners, says that there are different types of migraine: A migraine with aura, for example, has a warning sign, like flashing lights, before the headache strikes.

“The cause of migraine is unknown, but in some cases, certain foods or smells, stress, fatigue or the onset of menses can trigger the pain,” explains Dr Sim. “If the trigger is known, you can reduce the recurrence of your migraine by avoiding it.”

Tension headaches are very common. These usually present as a dull ache over the forehead or temples, as if a rubber band is stretched around the head. A tension headache may be due to stress, dehydration, alcohol consumption, lack of sleep, depression, skipping meals, squinting or even poor posture. It is not severe enough to stop you from going about your daily activities, and is easily treated with painkillers, relaxation techniques and avoiding the triggers.

Dr Sim says that you should seek medical help if your headache does not go away after taking painkillers, or if it starts to affect your daily life and work, or you feel unwell between headaches. Also look out for red flags, such as the sudden onset of headaches, severe pain that feels like the worst headache of your life, or a history of trauma to the head, like a recent fall or accident.

You should also get your headache checked out if it’s accompanied by a stiff neck, fever, confusion, photophobia (not wanting to look at bright lights), nausea, or vomiting as these symptoms may indicate meningitis. Another reason to see the doctor: When the pain is associated with neurological symptoms such as numbness, weakness, tingling in the face or upper/lower limbs, slurred speech, or confusion.

Next: Chest Pain

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