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Ouch! Knowing where the root cause of pain

CEBU, Philippines - The first thing that we usually do when we feel pain is to take that magic pill called aspirin, but is this the right thing to do?

As much as pain relievers like aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, or even mefenamic acid are able to relieve most body aches, it is not a magic drug and does not cure the underlying disease that may be causing the pain.

Pain tells us that there is something wrong with our body, and for that reason taking pain relievers does not really solve the problem. Until the root cause of the pain is resolved, it will never disappear and we would never really know what our body is telling us.

When we feel pain on a certain part of our body, like the shoulder, it doesn't necessarily mean that the pain is caused by some strained muscle on the shoulder, although it could be. However, it may also mean that there may be something wrong with our heart, the gallbladder, liver, or the lungs.

This is called referred pain, when the pain is felt in an area away from its actual source.

There are several explanations regarding this phenomenon and one of this is when the nerve supplying the painful muscle and the nerve supplying the internal organ that is actually causing the pain converges into one common nerve at the spine before going to the brain. The brain then interprets this sensation, returning it to both the organ and the muscle where the brain believed the pain signal originated. Some believe that since our internal organs are slow in sending and receiving pain signals, the pain felt on the muscles would be far stronger.

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Another theory is termed the "leap" phenomena wherein the strong pain messages from the ailing internal organ would affect an adjacent nerve, sending pain signals instead to the muscle that the latter supplies.

Regardless of the explanation as to how this came about, we must realize that it is very important that we be aware not just of the painful muscle but of all the other symptoms that we are feeling, regardless if these symptoms may seem to be totally unrelated to the pain.

Here are some of the more common examples of referred pain and its possible causes:

1. Palate and throat: The sudden excitement of the nerves in the palate and throat causes brain freeze. This is the sudden head ache that you feel after drinking a very cold beverage; more like what this suddenly popular 24/7 convenience store claims would result after drinking their sugar-filled beverage.

2. Left chest, tip of the armpit, down to the little finger, and on the mid-upper back: Pain in these areas would signal that there is something wrong with your heart.

3. Neck, jaw, shoulders: Could either mean that your heart is in need of air or that you are actually already experiencing a heart attack.

4. Right neck down to the shoulder, below the right chest, and below the right shoulder blade on the back: Pain in these areas could mean that there may be something wrong with your liver or gall bladder.

5. Between the shoulder blades on your back: This could be caused by a stomach disorder.

6. Below the left chest and left shoulder blade in the mid-back: Have your pancreas checked, it may be inflamed.

7. Pain enveloping your lower body down to your groin and the outer sides of your thigh: This could mean that there is something wrong with your kidney.

8. Area just above your belly button: Small intestine affected.

9. Area below your belly button: Colon disease.

10. On the right side of your belly button: This could mean an inflammation of your appendix.

Pain is a way for our body of telling us that there is something wrong with it, and so we must not be content with just taking pain tablets, because in the long run, if left unchecked, it could cost us much more than a visit to the doctor. (FREEMAN)

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