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The Pain Truth - 5 Surprising Pain Triggers

NEW YORK - Ever felt muscle tension for no apparent reason? Or gotten a headache out of the blue?

The cause could be something you're doing every day, but just aren't aware could be a pain trigger.

On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," Dr Kavita Mariwalla, a dermatologist at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, pointed to five things in your daily routine that you may not realize could prompt pain:

1. Pain Trigger: Your Wallet

Your wallet can be a real pain in the back and the buttocks, and it can even lead to shooting pains down one leg. Tucked in a back pocket, it may rest directly over the piriformis muscle, which is located over the sciatic nerve, compressing and irritating it day after day. A fat wallet may also put the spine slightly out of alignment, causing muscle tension.

Solution: Remove your wallet before sitting, especially in the car. If you have sciatic pain try alternating heat and ice treatments and Advil, Alleve or Motrin for the first 72 hours.

2. Pain Triggers: Cheese and Wine

Cheese lovers, take note - your favorite food may be the reason for all those headaches. Aged cheese, such as blue cheese, brie, cheddar, feta, mozzarella, parmesan and Swiss, contain a substance called tyramine. This notorious headache trigger is also found in some processed meats and beverages. Tannins are another common trigger for headaches and are found in red wine.

Solution: Keep a food diary to help spot links between foods and headaches, so you'll know what to avoid. Stick to white wine instead of red and if you must have red, try lighter wines like Beaujolais or Pinot Noir.

3. Pain Trigger: Your Workstation

A desk job at an office has some dangers. Computers and typing may be putting you at risk for overuse injuries. If you spend many hours a day at your desk or workstation, give some thought to the setup. A poorly positioned chair can cause you to slouch forward, straining the back and neck. A monitor that's too low or too high will also strain the neck. If your job involves a lot of typing, you may be at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a nerve problem that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands or wrists. The condition is more likely to develop if you keep your wrists bent to access your keyboard. Headaches that are centered behind the eyebrows may be due to eyestrain from staring at a computer screen that is poorly lit. You may also be in need of a new prescription if you are doing most of your work in an area without enough light.

Solution: Place your monitor with the top of the screen at eye level. Position your chair so that you are sitting straight with your feet on the floor. Use a cushion to support the lower back if needed. Tilt your keyboard so that your wrists are slightly bent and consider a gel pad to rest your hands on while typing. For eye strain, adjust the brightness of your monitor or bring in extra lighting for your workstation. You may also need something as simple as a new prescription, so be sure to schedule an eye exam.

4. Pain Trigger: Sleep Habits

If you wake up sore most mornings, take a good look at your sleep posture. Stomach sleepers may twist their necks to the point of hyperextension. Other people sleep on their sides with one arm overhead. After many hours, this position can strain the shoulder.

Solution: The safest ways to sleep are on your back or on your side with your arms below shoulder level. Side sleepers can place a pillow between the knees to support the lower back.

5. Pain Trigger: Smart Phones

Do you have a phone that lets you text, surf the web, and play games? That's a lot of mileage for your thumbs. Doctors have begun seeing arthritis at the base of the thumb in people as young as 30.

Solution: When your thumbs begin to ache, give the texting a rest. Try simple exercises like squeezing a tennis ball in one hand to strengthen your hand muscles. If pain continues, use your phone to make an actual call - to a doctor. There are effective treatments for arthritis.

When to See the Doctor About Pain

1) Chest pain: If you feel pain in your chest, don't dismiss it as a muscle ache. Especially if you feel like there is "an elephant sitting on your chest" or if the pain radiates down your left arm. It may be the sign of a heart attack.

2) Severe headache: Even if you are prone to headaches, if you suddenly develop what doctors call the "worst headache of your life," go to the nearest emergency room to make sure it is not something serious that requires medical intervention.

3) Pain accompanied by numbness and tingling: Back pain usually resolves with rest, but if you develop numbness or tingling in an extremity, call a doctor right away to make sure you don't have a disc problem or something more serious like spinal stenosis.