unexplained pain

Unexplained Aches and Pains

Most of the time, pain has a purpose. It alerts us to injury or forces us to rest or avoid certain activities while the body heals. That’s why random aches and pain are so frustrating. What is your body trying to tell you? And why should you just suddenly start having pain for no reason?

Chances are the pain is caused by a reason. Pain can occur as the result of stress, frustration, anxiety or fear. Clinical studies have shown that people with anxiety or a negative outlook actually experience pain more intensely than others.

Pain can also occur because your lifestyle is starting to hurt you. Overeating, too much processed food, dehydration, and lack of exercise can start to manifest as pain. This is real pain, the same as a sprained ankle, and it tells you something is wrong.

Unexpected pain can also be a signal that you are fighting off an infection or some other illness. The body fights off pathogens all day long, and most of the time we are never even aware of it. When the germs get the upper hand, you get sick. But when the fight is undecided, you may experience twinges, aches, headache, pains, and also fatigue. These are signs that your body needs rest.

Obesity has a strong association with chronic pain because the extra pounds put a strain on the joints. But nobody gets obese overnight. If you are starting to pack on a few extra pounds, you may notice a twinge here or an ache there. These are the advance signals that your body is not coping well with the extra weight. You do not have to be morbidly obese to experience weight-related aches and pain.

Headaches, neck pain, and muscle aches can also be related to inadequate or poor-quality sleep. Repetitive movements can cause pain, as well, typically in the hands and arms. In other cases, random aches and pains can also be a warning sign that something more serious is going on. For instance, occasional pain in the side after a greasy meal may signal that you need a physician to check your gall bladder.

While pain serves the adaptive function of helping to protect us, once you receive the message, it doesn’t help to keep suffering. Many aches and pains can be easily treated with topical pain relievers. Topicals are a safe but effective way to manage many types of pain. Applied directly to the painful area, the active ingredients get absorbed through the skin and go right to work at the location. Available over-the-counter, topical products can be very effective and they have few side effects.

Other pain treatments may be a heating pad or an ice pack at the painful area, massage, targeted exercises, relaxation techniques, or even just plain rest.

Over-the-counter oral pain relievers are not always the first best choice for these unexplained aches and pains because there can be serious safety concerns with some of them. In general, pain specialists will advise taking them only at the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time. Oral pain relievers are not always effective to begin with and when you add the possible risks, you have better options for your first line of pain treatment. This is not to say oral pain relievers may not be helpful, but they are not always the best starting place.

Most random aches and pains go away with topical treatments, rest, and an awareness of what the pain is trying to tell you. If the pain continues or gets worse—or you cannot find anything that helps—it may be worth a visit to your physician.

Photo by Sam Burriss on Unsplash

Joseph Pergolizzi, Jr., M.D.

View posts by Joseph Pergolizzi, Jr., M.D.

Dr. Joseph Pergolizzi, Jr. is an internationally renowned perioperative and pain specialist, well-versed in multiple issues confronting patients and caregivers in acute and chronic pain. He runs a highly regarded pain center in Naples, Florida; is chairman of the Abstract and Poster Selection Committee for PAINWeek; and is a member of the CHANGE PAIN Board. Additionally he has been awarded the American Medical Association Physician Recognition Award with Commendation. Early in Pergolizzi’s career, he was concerned that pain patients “had no voice” and were unnecessarily suffering in silence, worried about the side effects of common pain treatment options. Pergolizzi has since devoted his time, working tirelessly, to overcome that fear and get his patients on the road to recovery by offering a variety of treatment options, including holistic approaches, best suited to each individual’s needs. As a physician, inventor, research scientist and advocate for pain patients, Pergolizzi has leveraged his medical, regulatory and business acumen to build a strong track record of success within the healthcare industry. Additionally, he works with Healthy Directions as an adviser and educator on natural solutions for pain management. Pergolizzi has authored more than 350 peer-reviewed articles, abstracts, platform presentations, and book chapters. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical chemistry from St. John’s University and his medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine with the highest honors. He completed his residency in anesthesia at Georgetown University School of Medicine and a clinical research fellowship in the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Website: www.drpergolizzi.com 

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