Fractures and Pain

I tripped over a pothole in the pavement at the weekend, somersaulted and broke my wrist.  Not a pleasant experience, but **** happens sometimes.  I thought it was just a sprain at first and carried on home on foot.  Once home, I iced the wrist and hand, then applied a compress and rested it for an hour or two.  After rechecking it, I thought it might be more than a simple sprain – I actually took some paracetamol (which I don’t take as a matter of routine) and, thanks to my very kindly neighbour, headed off to the casualty department of my local hospital.  The triage nurse found it amusing that I’d only taken 500mg parcetamol, which is apparently the dose for a 10 year old child, and provided me with another 500mg.  After a total visit time of just under 3 hours, the fracture was diagnosed and a back slab cast applied with instructions to take paracetamol and ibuprofen for the pain when necessary.

Why are we so quick to pop a pill at the slightest sign of discomfort?  Is our collective pain threshold lower nowadays or are we turning into a nation of people where everything that isn’t quite right needs to be blotted out?  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been taking painkillers at 3am when the pain in my wrist has woken me up, but I try to avoid taking them as a matter of routine.  I’m sitting here currently, medication free, and it’s fair to say that I have a little discomfort in the broken wrist, but really nothing worth popping a pill for.

Pain is there for a reason – it’s your body’s way of telling you there’s something wrong.  Obviously I’ve had an x-ray to confirm that, but surely if I continue to numb the pain, two things are likely to happen:

(1) My tolerance of paracetamol will rise and it may get to the point where 500mg isn’t enough for something minor;

(2) If I’m numb to the pain, how will I fully appreciate the healing process?  What happens if I give the cast a little knock or make a wrong move and do more damage (bearing in mind this is only a half, and not a full, cast)?

I would far rather be fully aware of what’s going on in and around my body than be numb.  It’s only a little pain after all.  Don’t you think this is symptomatic of what’s going on in the so-called civilised world nowadays?

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