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Don’t ignore the pain

Seek prompt medical attention to identify the root cause of pain


The Straits Times


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Stop suffering in silence. If you struggle with chronic pain or experience a sudden onset of pain, do not delay seeking help as it may be a sign of more serious problems.


This is the advice of four doctors from Mount Elizabeth Hospitals who highlight four of the common types of pain and address some frequently asked questions.




While exercising benefits overall health, an accident or a wrong landing may leave you in pain. Knee injuries are among the most common sports injuries.


A common type of knee injury sportspeople experience is damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the major ligaments of the knee.


For instance, this injury may occur from an improper landing after a jump during a basketball game or an abrupt change of direction causing the knee to twist unnaturally while skiing downhill.


According to Dr Alan Cheung, an orthopaedic surgeon practising at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, symptoms of damage to the ACL are swelling, pain or the knee unable to stabilise itself.


Another common injury sustained from contact sports, such as soccer and rugby, is a meniscus tear where a type of “shock absorber” cartilage between the bones known as the meniscus is damaged.


Dr Cheung says that this may cause pain at the sides of the knee joint and locking of the knee — meaning that you cannot fully bend or straighten your knee.


One other common knee injury is damage to the cartilage resulting from a “direct blow” or heavy impact suffered during activities such as rugby or wrestling. Cartilage is the lining of your joints which facilitates smooth gliding motion.


Dr Cheung says: “Cartilage injury may present as a dull ache at the front of your knee which gets worse when you walk down stairs.


“Having any of these three injuries may end your sporting career and lead to osteoarthritis (degenerative change) in later life and they should not be ignored.”




While regular exercise is recommended, doing strenuous exercises before your body is ready for it may be detrimental to your heart. Excessive high intensity exercises are also not suitable for everyone.


Dr Lim Choon Pin, a cardiologist practising at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, says that chest pain is often a warning sign that you may have an underlying heart condition that should not be ignored.


He says: “Chest pain on exertion (also known as angina) that goes away with rest is a symptom of progressive narrowing of the coronary arteries and should be evaluated by a medical doctor for further treatment.


“On the other hand, a sudden onset of severe chest pain even during rest, sometimes associated with dizziness, difficulty breathing or sweating, may indicate an ongoing heart attack and could be life-threatening. This requires immediate medical attention at the hospital’s emergency department.”


Hence, it is always important to have chest pain symptoms evaluated as early as possible to prevent future complications.




Period pain is one of the most common pains experienced by women. It is usually caused by muscles in the uterus tightening and relaxing during menstruation.


Is period pain an indicator of your ability to get pregnant? The answer is yes.


Dr Fong Yoke Fai, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, says that severe menstrual pain can mean that there are issues with the female reproductive organs and this can affect fertility.


Some of the more common conditions associated with severe period pain include endometriosis (tissue that lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus instead), adenomyosis (inner lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium, breaks through the muscle wall of the uterus), uterine fibroids and pelvic infection.


What kind of menstrual pain is considered abnormal then?


Dr Fong says that mild cramps that do not affect daily function or activities are not uncommon. However, once the pain becomes significant — for example, if someone is extremely fatigued, or has to lie in bed, or relies on painkillers to get around — it implies that there is some inflammatory process going on with release of certain chemicals that can trigger the pain.


Other tell-tale symptoms include “near faint” spells, frequent visits to the general practitioner for pain injections or medical leave, or a sensation of wanting to go to the toilet during menses.


Dr Fong adds that early detection is the key to management of these conditions — patients have more treatment options when they are diagnosed early and it would be much easier to prevent further progression of the conditions.




Frequently having gas pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated? These, among other symptoms, may point to the possibility of colorectal cancer.


Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting men and women around the world, including in Singapore.


Dr Dennis Koh, a general surgeon practising at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, says that surgery remains the mainstay of curative treatment for colorectal cancer.


Traditionally, curative surgical resection is performed via an open surgery to remove the colorectal cancer.


Dr Koh says that with minimally invasive surgery (MIS) the same surgery can be performed through much smaller incisions.


Some advantages of MIS include:


  • Less post-operative pain; and
  • Shorter recovery time and resumption of diet; and
  • Less visible scarring; and
  • Less likelihood of surgical complications compared to open surgery. 


For more information, visit the Mount Elizabeth website or call 6250-0000 (Orchard)/6898-6898 (Novena). 

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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