Ask Our Doctors: Why Does This Hurt?

If you’ve ever felt pain and asked yourself, “Why does this hurt?” you’re in luck. The Doctors have immediate solutions to your most painful problems!


Workout Woes

Pain in your side during a cardio workout can be a frustrating feeling. Kim from El Paso, Texas, has been feeling this pain and sharp pains in her chest, and wonders if it could be caused by gas.

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The pain in Kim's is most likely a side stitch, which is the stretching, pulling and pounding that happens to your intestines and diaphragm while running. It can cause a stabbing pain in the lower edge of the ribcage, usually on the right side of the body. An estimated 70 percent of regular runners suffered from a side stitch in the last year, according to Brad Walker, founder of the Stretching Institute.


“That diaphragm, it’s a muscle,” Dr. Jim says. “Just like any other muscle in your body, it can cramp up a little bit. I’ve noticed, if I’m jogging and my breathing isn’t under control well enough, you start to feel it in your diaphragm. You have to slow your breathing down, get it under control, and usually that clears it up.”


If you encounter a side stitch, stop the activity you are doing and take controlled, shallow breaths so the diaphragm does not move as much until the pain goes away. “It is one of the more painful things you can have when one comes on, and you’re just digging under your ribcage, saying ‘Oh my gosh!’” Dr. Travis says.


Kim’s chest pains may be a more serious problem, however. “If you’re exercising, and you’re experiencing sharp chest pains, you can’t blow it off to gas,” Dr. Travis says. “Could gas cause chest pains? Yes, it can, but if you’re having chest pain while exercising, you need to call your doctor, because what we do in medicine is we rule out life-threatening causes of chest pain first, and blood clots, heart disease, we’ve got to rule that out before we blow this off to intestinal gas.”


Computer Problems

Staring at a computer for hours on end is a necessity at many jobs. But doing so can cause harm to your eyes. Kelsey’s eyes become irritated while staring at her computer for just a few hours. “I’m in front of the computer at least two to three hours a day, and my eyes really start to get sore, mostly water, mostly when I blink,” she says.

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“Kelsey’s problem is really widespread. We hear this a lot in practice,” optometrist Dr. Andrew Pilon says. “In fact, three out of four people who work in front of the computer at some point in time have some sort of visual discomfort or eye strain. In Kelsey’s situation, it can have a lot to do with focusing, her eye alignment, or her ability to move her eyes across the screen and ultimately, perhaps even dryness.


“Eyestrain is a complex issue,” Dr. Pilon adds. “Even though the visual system is so adaptable, you’re asking about six muscles, both extra-ocular and internal eye muscles, to adjust, ultimately, to the stimuli that are moving in various regions. So you have the screen, which she is looking at, which is highly variable with different pixels, different resolution, different lighting situations, as well as having to adapt to the environment she is in. So there are glare elements coming in from lights over her shoulders, there’s distractions, so ultimately, she’s asking her eyes to make a lot of microscopic movements, which puts excessive strain on the eyes.”


To help her eyes focus better together, which will relieve much of the strain, Dr. Pilon recommends the Eyeport vision training system, which uses lights to exercise the eyes’ full range of motion. A daily 10-minute workout with the Eyeport will limber the eyes and retrain them to work the way they are supposed to.


Other ways to help relieve eyestrain include practicing visual hygiene by taking a 20-second break and looking away from the computer. Also, holding a pencil in front of your face and slowly bringing it closer to your eyes while keeping the tip in focus will strengthen the muscles. “You’ll feel the pull and the strain in your eyes, and the second you actually notice it start to double, relax the eye, and then continue to do that in a repetitious sequence, over and over again, and ultimately you’ll strengthen those eye muscles,” Dr. Pilon says.


Ovulation Pain

Forty-five-year-old Gina feels severe pain and lightheadedness every month around the time she ovulates, and it lasts between 15 and 30 minutes. She does not want to be on birth-control pills but asks Dr. Lisa if that’s the only way to relieve her symptoms.


“This is a really common question,” Dr. Lisa says. “It’s called mittelschmerz, and basically it’s the pain that you get around ovulation. It’s actually derived from German, called middle pain. What happens is every month when a woman ovulates, you get a cyst on your ovary, which the egg bursts out of, and that’s ovulation. What can happen is, you can get chemicals which are released with that burst, and that’s what causes the pain.

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“The reason that the birth-control pills take it away is because it’s taking away the ovulation,” she continues. “That’s one of the number one cures for it. A lot of women will suffer from it a little bit, some women will be completely debilitated and have nausea, where they can’t work. The birth-control pills can work, but one trick is to take an anti-inflammatory, particularly ibuprofen, a couple days before you know you’re going to have this pain. So if you kind of know your calendar, know your cycle, then you’re going to anticipate it and keep it from happening. This can only alleviate it, so the only real cure is the birth-control pills, or you could use an IUD (intra-uterine device) with hormones, or a vaginal ring that you could put in. Anything that suppresses ovulation can help this.”


Curing Constipation

An embarrassing problem many people suffer from is painful bowel movements caused by hard stool and constipation. This is very common among pregnant women due to the extra iron and calcium they take and because the bowels slow down during pregnancy and babies. “I see this a lot in kids,” Dr. Jim says. “It gets hard and painful, and if it happens, they don’t want to go, and they will hold it for days, and days, and days and it just gets worse.”


Constipation can be described as the inability to have a bowel movement or having hard stools at least 25 percent of the time. It is caused by not drinking enough water, eating enough fiber or exercising enough. Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement can also cause this frustrating problem.


To soften your stool and promote regular bowel movements, be sure to drink a lot of fluids, especially water, and eat high-fiber foods such as fruits, grains, legumes, vegetables, and taking fiber supplements if needed. “Exercising will keep you regular just by the movement, which stimulates peristalsis, which is the functioning of the intestines,” Dr. Ordon says. “It gets the circulation going.”


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OAD 4/21/09