It Hurts Here, There and Everywhere: Aches and Pains Not to Ignore

Do you ever have those mornings when your body feels like you've gone 10 rounds in the ring? There's a pain around the SI joint that wasn't there yesterday. And why are the knees crackling and the hip popping?

Aches and pains can result from normal aging and wear and tear of the body. Maybe you need to scale back on exercise or add flexibility and stretching movements into your daily routines. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity weekly. To keep your body healthy, carve out at least 20 minutes a day for some type of movement—a walk, bike ride, yoga, strength training or gardening.

Before panicking about the latest ache, recall the past couple of days—maybe you painted the kitchen, moved heavy boxes or played soccer with the kids. Muscle soreness is one thing, but chronic or sharp, sudden pain is another. There are certain aches and pains you should never ignore.

Chest pain

Don't ignore chest pain, whether a dull throb, sharp stab or pressure like an elephant sitting on your chest. Pain, particularly in the left arm, can signal heart conditions from angina—decreased blood flow to the heart—to cardiac arrest. During a heart attack, there may be pain in either or both arms, along with sudden shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea.

It's tempting to self-diagnose chest as heartburn or reflux. It's wiser, however, to call 911 and let medical professionals diagnose the cause.

Pain in the lower leg

Soreness in the back of your leg after exercise is one thing, but persistent tenderness and pain could be signs of a blood clot. Watch for warmth and redness of the skin in the affected area. Blood clots can break loose and travel to the lungs, causing sometimes deadly pulmonary embolisms.

Muscle and joint pain

Even healthy people experience muscle and joint aches. Pain affecting a small area of the body is typically caused by overuse or minor injuries. If the entire body aches, likely causes are infection, illness or maybe a reaction to certain medications.

Here are some common conditions to be aware of if you have muscle and joint pain:

  • Arteriosclerosis—occurs when there's a blockage in arteries carrying blood to the muscles and results in pain in your arms, legs or both.
  • Arthritis—can affect all ages as athletes in their teens may develop arthritis as a result of injury and overuse. Osteoarthritis, the most common type, occurs when protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bone wears down, resulting in pain, stiffness, bone spurs, loss of flexibility and swelling. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints and often causes bone loss. Patients may have pain and inflammation throughout the body, and joints may swell into deformed shapes. Psoriatic arthritis, a combination of joint inflammation and psoriasis skin disorder, causes pain, stiffness and throbbing in the hands, fingers, feet, knees and other areas of the body. Different types of arthritis can be treated with physical therapy, medications, steroids, joint replacement surgeries and topical creams.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome—has becoming increasingly common with increased use of mobile devices and keyboards. It results with repetitive wrist movements that damage the main nerve in the hand. Typical symptoms are numbness, tingling, weakness and pain in the wrist and arm.
  • Covid and flu—aching muscles in the back, legs and arms and sometimes accompanied by fever, cough and congestion could indicate flu, Covid or other infections. Home test or see the doctor before spreading your germs.
  • Medications—prescribed to treat one condition may cause other issues. About 30% of patients taking statins to control high cholesterol report muscle pain. Talk with your provider if you notice significant muscle pain that impacts movement.
  • Neck and shoulder pains—if you haven't suffered a recent accident and start having chronic pain in the neck, arms and shoulder, possible causes could be:
    • Herniated disk in the neck resulting in pain, numbness or tingling in the arms
    • Pinched nerves also cause pain, numbness and tingling in the arms
    • Rotator cuff injury results from tendons in the rotator cuff becoming inflamed and triggering pain in the shoulder, elbow or wrist
    • Tendinitis also occurs from inflamed tendons in the shoulder or arm and causes pain in the shoulder, elbow or wrist

As a rule of thumb, don't ignore persistent pain. As with other medical conditions, the success of treatment increases when caught early. Listen to your body; you know when something just doesn't feel right.