Broken ribs are often painful. The pain comes and goes, more often coming than going. Lying in the horizontal can be excruciating and is avoided. Sleep takes place in chairs, preferably cozy recliners. Gravity is just too much for broken ribs to handle while laid out perpendicular to the pull (or push) of gravity. It feels, especially in the case of multiple broken ribs, as if the rib cage wants to cave in on the lungs. Normal muscle contractions can bring about muffled screams, especially if they happen suddenly before you have a chance to prepare for them.
I’m not sure what exactly causes the pain. I think it might be multiple things working at once including, perhaps, a heightened level of anticipation. I’ve had broken ribs in the past and have had some experience in the mending process. Healing takes a long time. Pain subsides gradually but can be enhanced at any time during the process by making the wrong move or bumping into the edge of a door. Things like that make you depressed, probably increasing the length of time for healing because, as everyone probably has heard by now, it’s much easier to heal if you have a good attitude.
My first experience with broken ribs took place many years ago. I was in a basketball game and a smartass guard decided he needed to dribble by me and, as he blew by, threw his elbow into my ribcage as a token of appreciation. The resulting pain was instant and very strong. I had trouble catching my breath and had to work real hard not to display how much pain I was really in. I spent the rest of the game acting as if I could play basketball with a large knife stuck through my ribs. That’s what it felt like.
I suffered with the pain for a few days before finally going to my doctor. After asking a few questions, he said, “I think you have a broken rib or two. Now, I could have you get an x-ray and it will probably show me that you do, indeed, have a broken rib. Then my preliminary diagnosis would be correct. And then I would tell you to take aspirin and take it easy for a while. Or, I could just tell you to take aspirin and take it easy for a while without getting an x-ray. Either way, it will take a few weeks for the ribs to heal and for the pain to go away. I’ll let you decide what you want to do.”
Well now, what would you do? I did the same.
That encounter with my old physician formed my strategy for dealing with broken ribs each time since. I know what it is, I suffer with it until the suffering stops, and then I go on about my business until the next broken rib. Most often my ribs break because of stupid moves on my part, such as leaning against a hard surface like the corner of a counter top. SNAP! Or reaching over the back of a car seat to retrieve an umbrella off the floor behind. SNAP! Or falling over with my bicycle onto a large fallen tree when I failed to extract my shoes out of the “clipless” pedals. SNAP SNAP SNAP!
Oh the pain.
Oh well. It could be worse. And if it could be, it probably will be some day. In the meantime, I’ll just doctor myself and save the copay.