Away in England for the London Book Fair and a 3-Day Writer's Retreat, I suffered a slip and sustained a rather brutal direct impact injury to my sternum. (No, it wasn't while playing on the logs below. The fall happened in a much less fanciful way - isn't that how it always goes?)
It can be pretty scary to suddenly go down and experience such sharp pain that alters your breathing. I talked myself through it. Wasn't the first time something like this had occurred. About eight years ago I'd slipped on stairs while living abroad and broke my back in two places (I'm fine now - yay acupuncture). That day, I'd heard the snap. After this fall, I took some deep breaths, assessed myself, and said, "Good, nothing is broken. At least, I don't think so..."
It was a tough day, sipping breath, trying to enjoy the seminar as much as I could despite the pain. I refused to miss out on anything. But the next morning, when I woke up and was in more pain, I figured I should get checked out, especially because I would be flying in a few days.
In England, the ER is called the AE, for Accident and Emergency. I dreaded the thought of sitting there all day, in a hard chair, in pain, just for a doctor to press a few places (which would likely make me scream) and say, "Nothing we can do - go home and rest."
I walked into the AE in Warwick, UK. Signs everywhere instructed to wear a mask. I didn't. When the receptionist asked if I could put one on, I explained it makes it hard for me to breathe (I refrained from also giving the scientific reasons, that the masks don't work and can increase risk of infection). She gave me no hard time and said not to worry about it. I was very grateful.
I sat for five minutes (or less) before my name was called. I entered a room where the man checked my blood pressure, oxygen level, and temp, all which were fine, and he said to go back to the waiting room and I'd be called for the EKG. At that moment, a girl walked by with the machine. He stopped her and asked if she could take me right away. She could.
I laid on the gurney while waiting for her, which was welcome since it eased the pain. She was another very nice staff person, quirky, saying aloud to herself everything she did as she did it. Afterwards, she brought me to the waiting room. I sat only five minutes (or less) before I was called for the X-ray.
Another very short wait. X-ray completed, I was once again told to go back to the waiting room until called by the doctor. OK, this had to be the part where I sat, and sat, and sat. After five minutes (or less) I heard, 'Nicole Smith!' Up I went.
Here was the part where he'd poke and prod and I'd scream. That's what had happened to me when I'd broken my back in Paris. He was very nice, did not do that, and spent his time telling me that while the film didn't show anything, it often didn't with smaller compression fractures. He told me not to fly right away, practice taking deep breaths, and that the pain would take 6-8 weeks to go away.
You might be asking yourself: when is she going to get to the part about ibuprofen?!
The doctor said he would get me some painkillers and I could be on my way. I told him I didn't want to take any. "But that's what we do," he replied. He wished me a nice day, I thanked him, and was lead to the discharge area. A young girl came over with the little white paper cup with little pills inside.
"I don't need that," I said.
"But this is what we do," she said, or something to that effect. "You need to take them."
"I haven't eaten much." Not that I would have taken them if I had.
"We can get you a sandwich," she said.
"Oh." Unable to come up with a solution to get those pills in me at that moment, she said, "Well, take them with you."
I crumpled up the little white cup and put it in my pocket to discard later. "I'll drink the water," I said.
My point in telling this long story is that this is just one small example in a very big world with many hospitals and ERs and AEs of how patients with an acute injury are treated. I'm not saying that everyone needs to decline pain meds, on the occasional basis, especially if they are in a lot of pain. But I do think it's important to point out that painkillers shouldn't be forced upon a person.
Does ibuprofen slow the healing process? Yes, it does. In fact, "Multiple studies have shown that using NSAIDs can slow the healing of broken bones, damaged ligaments, and other tissues. If you are trying to heal the damage done to a knee, shoulder or other joint, using NSAIDs can significantly lengthen the healing time."
So whether you've gone down in a nasty fall, or have a chronic issue with a joint, taking painkillers
could very well be keeping your body from healing the area.
What speeds up the healing process, decreases the pain, and has no bad side effects?
I'm sure you can guess. Acupuncture, of course.
Thank you, Warwick AE for being efficient, caring, and very fast. I am enormously appreciative. I never took the painkillers, and this morning I woke up a little bit better. I took a slow, wonderful walk through the English countryside for over an hour, during which I took the picture at the start of this blog, and also the one below.