The human body is a confusing thing! Some things that don’t seem that concerning to you might be a warning sign for your practitioner. It can be difficult to tell what just needs a heat pack or a cup of tea, what needs a practitioner and what needs an emergency room visit!
What is meant by the term "red flag"? Its a sign or symptom that can indicate the possibility of a serious medical condition that may be dangerous if left unchecked.
So today I will discuss some of the most common red flag signs and symptoms I see as a myotherapist. If you are experiencing these types of symptoms, its always safest to check in with your GP first.
This might seem a little obvious. But sudden, severe pain is always a red flag, even if you think you know the cause. If it causes nausea, vomiting or loss of consciousness, you need to seek medical attention, stat.
Night Time Pain That Wakes You Up
Pain that wakes you up, stops you from falling asleep, or doesn't ease with rest is an indicator that something is not right. It can be associated with infection, inflammation, abdominal aortic aneurysm and cancer.
Sudden Changes In Bladder/Bowel Control
In myotherapy terms, this is a very serious red flag. Although there can be more benign reasons for a change in bladder or bowel control, it could be a sign of serious nerve or spinal damage. Seek out your GP asap.
Dizziness & Fainting Spells
There can be may reasons why you experience dizziness and fainting. Some can be as simple as low blood pressure. But some can be a warning sign of something nastier. If you lose consciousness completely, then you need to seek immediate medical attention. For dizzy spells, book in to see your GP for a general checkup.
Burning Soles Of Feet
It seems like the least significant of the listed red flags. But this one can be just as serious. Burning soles can be a sign of nerve dysfunction in the legs, spine or feet. But it can also be a warning sign for deep vein thrombosis – a blood clot that occurs in a vein. If DVT is not treated, it can be fatal. So don’t hesitate to get a medical check-up straight away.
Lower-Mid Back Pain Plus Altered Urination
This might seem like an unusual combination of symptoms. But it can involve serious kidney involvement – from a kidney infection to kidney disease and even kidney failure. If your lower-mid back pain is still lingering after a treatment, its worth considering that it may be kidney related. If in doubt, get some tests done to check your kidney function, its always better to check it out than leave it to progress!
Chest Pain & Shortness Of Breath
It’s not just the dramatic heart-clutching Hollywood-style chest pain that is a red flag. Any unexpected chest pain is a concern, whether it feels obviously muscular or deeper into the chest. Difficulty breathing can also be a major concern – after all, we need enough oxygen to function! For mild cases, you can seek your GP’s attention immediately. But if in doubt, call 000 – better to be safe than sorry.
We all get headaches from time to time. But severe headaches can be a sign of issues including hormone imbalances, nerve dysfunction or even brain tumours. The more severe the headache, the sooner you should seek medical attention. Even if you are used to having migraines, it is still a red flag to get suddenly what feels like the worst headache you will ever experience. Feeling confused, running a fever, vomiting and numbness associated with a headache means you need to seek help immediately.
Sudden Changes In Vision
Seeing is a pretty important part of surviving in today’s world. But if there are sudden changes to your vision such as blurriness, double vision or loss of vision (even temporarily), it can mean that something is impairing the function of your eyes or your brain. Look out for co-existing symptoms along with vision changes - like headache, dizziness, or nausea.
If you are experiencing any changes in vision, please do not drive anywhere, even to seek medical help. Order an Uber or a cab, ask a friend for a lift, or if all else fails, call an ambulance or book a home visit with a GP.
Muscle weakness when you have worked out or numbness when you’ve been sitting on your foot is one thing. But if you experience unexpected weakness, numbness or inability to move any body part, it’s a massive red flag. This shows that your nerves are not functioning properly or your nervous system isn’t getting the message.
If any area of your body feels numb, this is a sign of nerve involvement. Numb can mean different things to different people, but usually people describe it to me as being like pins and needles, a bit tingly, feeling "different" or a true numbness of complete loss of feeling. The most common areas to have this numbness is in the arms and legs, and usually it starts at the fingers and toes. This is a kind of red flag that your myotherapist may be able to help you out with, although you may still need to see your GP or your Chiropractor if any scans are required or if structural treatment is needed.
If you experience any of these symptoms, your first stop should be your GP. If you come in to see me and we can't clear these red flag symptoms, I might not be able to treat you. But once you’ve got the all-clear, I’m happy to help with any musculoskeletal symptoms. To book in a session, head here.
Mel is a Myotherapist based in Ferntree Gully. She has a special interest in chronic pain conditions, like fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, and more.