The shooting pain woke me in the middle of the night. It felt like someone had wedged a screwdriver between my spine and shoulder blade. Changing position, stretching, pain relievers … nothing helped. The pain came out of nowhere. I racked my brain: As far as I could recall, I hadn't injured myself. “You need to call the doctor,” my wife said. “Maybe,” I replied.

Why did I even hesitate? Well, as it turns out, I'm a typical guy. A 2007 American Academy of Family Physicians survey of 1,100 men found that while most men eventually seek medical attention when they're ailing, a whopping 92 percent wait days to see if they'll feel better. What's worse, nearly a third wait “as long as possible” before getting help. “Men aren't expected to listen to their bodies,” explains Salvatore Giorgianni, PharmD, development director at Nashville-based Belmont University and advisor to the Men's Health Network national educational organization. “Little clues that something is wrong are very frequently ignored.”

When I did eventually see my doctor, I was relieved to learn that the pain was a bad muscle spasm. The debilitating discomfort that could have lingered for a month was relieved after a few days of chiropractic treatments and massage therapy. But there are scores of other easy-to-ignore symptoms that can spell real trouble, particularly as men get older, says Jean Bonhomme, MD, MPH, founder of the National Black Men's Health Network. And the later you catch a problem, often the less you can do about it.

In short, if something doesn't seem right — whether you've developed a strange shortness of breath, recurring headaches, inexplicably swollen lymph nodes, or just unusual pain — it's always best to check in with your physician. Here are some of the more common symptoms you may be tempted to ignore — but shouldn't.