No man likes to be called a wimp by his buddies, but ask yourself what you would rather hear: 1) "I always knew that deep down he was a hypochondriac," while your buds snicker behind your back. Or, 2) "Yeah, he was one tough guy to be able to ignore that kind of pain," while they sniffle over your coffin.
Remember David Bloom, the NBC reporter? He felt a pain behind his knee after being wedged in an armored vehicle for hours on end while covering the Iraq war. He was told to go to a doctor. He didn't. He died in 2003 from a pulmonary embolism caused by deep-vein thrombosis at age 39.
Bloom tried to tough out one of the eight pains every man ignores at risk of death or permanent injury. Let's take his particular pain first:
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1. Leg pain with swelling. Maybe you've been crammed in a tight seat for six or more hours like Bloom, or maybe you're nearing the end of an overseas flight, and one of your calves is swollen and really hurts. There's a possibility the blood that pools in your lower legs has formed a clot known as deep-vein thrombosis. Don't rub your leg. "It can send a big clot running up to your lung, where it can kill you," Dr. John Stamatos, author of Painbuster, told Men'sHealth.com. See a doctor, who can dissolve the clot with drugs, or sometimes put a filter in your veins to stop the clot before it stops your clock.
2. Severe back pain. Does your back feel like you've been lifting refrigerators and pianos, but you didn't just help your buddy move into a new apartment? A severe lower back pain not related to exercise could be an aneurysm of the aorta and it could burst. A ruptured aortic aneurysm killed George C. Scott, who had been warned by his doctor, but had delayed treatment, according to MedicineNet.com. Just as painful but less life-threatening is a kidney stone. Either possibility requires a prompt visit to a doctor.
3. Sharp pain in your abdomen. If it cuts like a hot knife from inside, get to the emergency room quick because it's serious trouble, and since a bunch or organs are jammed together in your abdomen, it's dealer's choice as to which one is causing the pain. It could be your appendix, or your gallbladder, or your pancreas. That kind of pain with any or all of them means surgery. Soon.
4. Chest pain. If a heavy ache comes and then quickly goes, it could be indigestion — or the Big One. "Even if it's very short in duration, it can be a sign of something serious," Stamatos told Men’sHealth.com. If it's a heart attack, how much time do you have? Half of the deaths caused by heart attacks happen within several hours (not days) of the first signs. Again, get to the E.R.
5. Persistent foot or shin pain. If you have a pain at the top of your foot or in your shin that hurts more when you exercise but continues to hurt even when you're resting, you may have a stress fracture. When bones undergo stress, they regenerate, but can be weak during the regeneration process. "If you're training so hard that the bone doesn't get a chance to heal itself, a stress fracture can develop," Dr. Andrew Feldman, team physician for the New York Rangers, told Men'sHealth.com. A suspected stress fracture means 1) a doctor, 2) rest until it heals, and 3) maybe a cast.
6. Sudden headache. A sudden, "thunderclap" headache could be no more than a sinus headache, but it could be a brain hemorrhage or brain tumor. "We learned in medical training it was a classic sign of a brain aneurysm," Dr. Sharon Brangman, spokeswoman for the American Geriatrics Society told WebMD. If you're not sure of the cause, "Go immediately to the ER," said Brangman.
7. Sudden groin pain. This usually doesn't hurt like a kick in the crotch, but it's close, and it doesn't stop. There's a good chance it's testicular torsion, which is caused by a common congenital defect in which anchors that hold the spermatic cords in place are missing. The pain is caused by one of the cords getting twisted and cutting off blood to the testicle. You'd better see a doctor fast if you plan on having descendants. "If you catch it in four to six hours, you can usually save the testicle," Dr. Jon Pryor, a urologist at the University of Minnesota, told Men'sHealth.com. "But after 12 to 24 hours, you'll probably lose it."
8. Painful urination. Frequent, painful urination that is rusty in color could be bladder cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer in men. Or, it could be a bladder infection — same symptoms. Blood in the urine is always abnormal, says MedicineNet.com, and once again, a doctor should be in your very near future. He will perform a urinalysis to check for infection then look inside your bladder with a scope, if necessary.
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