Pain is our inbuilt alarm. It is created when our brain decides we are in danger, and is one of ways that the brain
tells us that:

  • Something is wrong.
  • We need to do something differently to protect ourselves from further damage and to enable us to heal.

Most pain does not signify a serious threat or problem. In fact, chronic pain (pain of 3 months+) is often due to our alarm becoming faulty – it keeps going off, even when there is no/little physical damage.

BUT, there are certainly times when pain is a life-saving alarm and you must get medical support IMMEDIATELY.

When to Call 999 or Go To A&E.

Below are the main* signs that your pain might signify something serious. If you or someone else has any of these, go to A&E or call 999 immediately.

  • A new pain that causes loss of function, e.g., not being able to walk or speak.
  • Pain with shortness of breath, especially if sharp pain makes it hard to take a deep breath.
  • Sharp headache with slurred speech or nonsensical language.
  • Headache with neck pain and fever.
  • Head injury with loss of consciousness.
  • The pain started after a serious accident.

Chest Pain

  • A sudden chest pain or discomfort that does not go away. It might feel like pressure, squeezing, burning or indigestion.
  • That spreads to your left or right arm, or your neck, jaw, stomach or back.
  • And you feel sweaty, sick, light headed or short of breath.

Back Pain AND Any of These.

  • Pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in both legs.
  • Numbness or tingling around your back passage or genitals.
  • Difficulty passing urine.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Chest pain.
  • It started after a serious accident.

*Please note, not every possibility can be mentioned.

If you are still unsure, Call 111.

If you are not unduly worried about a new pain, but it continues for 2 weeks+, you should still see your GP or
physical health professional to check for any underlying physical concerns,

Pain & Mental Health

It is also important to highlight that pain can negatively affect people’s mental health. Again, this should not be ignored.

Call 999 or go to A&E if you feel that yours or someone’s life is at risk, or you cannot keep yourself or someone
else safe.

Get immediate advice and assessment if your mental or emotional state quickly gets worse or you’re in crisis or despair. See this link for See this link for NHS/NHS approved services.

Also, if at any time you have pain and are concerned about your mental health, you should:

  • Talk to your GP or self-refer to your local NHS Psychological Therapies Service (IAPT). Use this link to find your local IAPT service.
  • Or contact us. Caroline can normally help you herself or, if not, she can refer you to an appropriate British Psychological Society Chartered Psychologist. (Please note that we are not an emergency service).


Please be aware of these situations. I hope you, your loved ones and colleagues never experience them, but if
you do … Don’t wait. Act immediately.

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