When to see a doctor: 5 body pains you should never ignore

/ Source: TODAY

We all experience occasional aches and pains, and while it may be fine to grin and bear it sometimes, it's important to know that pain can be a signal of a real problem.

The tricky part is figuring out which pains we absolutely must pay attention to. To help us figure that out, NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar stopped by TODAY Monday with a list of five body pains we should never ignore.

1. Morning headache

Headaches happen, and most of the time there's no cause for alarm. But if your headaches are at their worst the first thing in the morning, it's worth investigating.

"Patients that have a complaint of a headache that's much worse in the morning — perhaps it's relieved by vomiting, gets better as the day goes on, perhaps worse with coughing or exercise — [it] might be a symptom of a primary brain tumor," Dr. Azar explained.

But while it's important to see your doctor, it's also important not to panic.

"Primary brain tumors are incredibly uncommon, incidence is less than one percent," she stressed.

2. Severe stomach ache

Serious stomach pain could point to a number of problems, including ulcers.

"Typically what we would experience is pain in the belly, anywhere from the navel up to the breastbone," she said in regards to ulcers. "It's called a burning pain."

If your pain peaks on an empty stomach and feels better after eating, or if you experience black tarry stool or vomit blood, be sure to get it checked out.

Body pains that you should not ignore.TODAY

3. Swelling/pain in one leg

Pain accompanied by a swollen leg merits medical attention.

Dr. Azar noted that swelling in both legs can indicate congestive heart failure, "but swelling in only one leg — particularly the calf — associated with pain could be a symptom of a blood clot in the leg."

Risk factors for developing a blood clot include long trips via plane or car, extended bed rest or recent surgery.

4. Back pain at night

While back pain in among the most common complaints, it's not always related to the usual wear and tear.

"What we're talking about here is very specifically back pain that wakes you up from a deep, deep sleep at night," Dr. Azar explained.

If you have a history of cancer or if fever and unexplained weight loss accompany the pain, don't hesitate to see your doctor.

5. Pins and needles in feet

Pay attention to pins and needles. The sensation that often precedes numbness can be your body's way of signaling something else.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 25 percent of the 29 million Americans with diabetes have yet to be diagnosed. Pins and needles could be an early warning sign and a cue to get tested.

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