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Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

Would your body become tougher by avoiding medicine for minor aches/pains?

Asked by Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One (3901points) April 9th, 2015

Clearly if you have a broken leg you need a splint or a cast or something – but what if you just have a small headache? Throughout your lifetime would taking small doses of medication have a note-worthy negative effect? What about mentally?

I understand it depends on the pill but I’m speaking from a holistic standpoint I suppose.

I’m interested in the over the counter pill craze where people are taking medications and then medications to cope with the side effects of those medications, etc. What if you were to tough most of those out? Would you be better off?

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27 Answers

marinelife's avatar

All that you would get out of toughing it out is a lot of pain. You just need to take medications including OTC medications thoughtfully and with awareness of how they work and the potential for side effects. That includes supplements too.

ibstubro's avatar

It’s just in my nature that I ignore pain that’s not debilitating. As a consequence, I have a very high threshold of pain, and that comes in handy any time there isn’t a pill to pop for every little minor inconvenience.

hominid's avatar

I’m not sure if “tougher” is the word, but it’s possible to learn to live with pain and not have as much of a problem with it. I’ve been experiencing chronic pain for almost two years, and I’m unable to take any serious pain-relievers due to another health condition. This period has given me an opportunity to really explore pain. It’s not exactly what I thought it was.

There are a few things that factor into our experience of pain. First, there is a ton of noise our brains make regarding the nature of the pain. We have a tendency to catastrophize and attribute other scary and harmful emotions to the sensations of pain. This commentary can be viewed directly, and in doing so it tends to lose its power. Second, we frame our pain. When I am at the gym and exercising, the burn and pain experienced is thought of as a good thing. But similar sensations in the context of an injury are unbearable. But rather than re-frame the pain from injury or illness, it’s possible to see if you can experience the sensations without a frame. This is a strange experience. In turning attention directly to the sensations we label as pain, it’s possible to (for a time) experience the raw sensations. And in those moments, pain doesn’t seem as solid a thing anymore. It can be fluid and hard to pin down. At times it can be elusive.

I can’t say whether an individual would be better off with medication or not. But it is possible to turn towards pain and develop a completely different relationship with it…without drugs.

jca's avatar

I am just like@ibstubro when it comes to pain. There have been times in my life where I had significant pain, I let myself feel it and then I move on. I’ve had major surgeries anr trauma where I was prescribed painkillers and have not taken one pill. From my weight loss surgery 3 years ago, I have a whole bottle of Vicodin in my dresser drawer, unused.

Mariah's avatar

I know so many people who refuse to take even something minor like Tylenol if they have a bad headache or something. I don’t understand the motive. No, there will be no long term benefit for making yourself tough out the pain.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@marinelife
I’m glad you brought up supplements because I sort of have the same viewpoint on vitamins. People swear by them, but I just don’t see the need. Nature provides all the vitamins you need if you just eat correctly. Of course, I’m talking about your normal average, every day smith like me – not someone who is clearly, vastly deficient in some sort of vitamin. The one-a-day just to be healthy kinda thing seems like a waste to me. Just eat some broccoli for cryin out loud is my stance. xD

@ibstubro
I’m in the same camp personally. My medicine cabinet has perhaps some nyquil for serious rough nights – but on average I get sick once a year due to the flu shot. Nowadays, I don’t even really feel the flu much either. I tend to think that a sort of hypochondriasis occurs for minor things too

@hominid
SO in a sense you’re saying yes? I don’t want to strawmanerize you but it sounds as if changing how you feel/view pain is better. Even if it’s just for the fact that you can avoid other medications that cause problems. Very interesting answer ty. =) The catastrophizing you mentioned is just the sort of behavior I’ve sort of associated with overly pill poppin peoples. And that sort of thinking can’t be beneficial at all, can it?

@jca
Perhaps then it really just comes down to an individual’s ability to cope with pain – some need more help than others? I really want to see the results of a study where they remove large quantities of medicine from people’s lives and see what happens. Again, I’m not talking about those with serious chronic pains/injuries.

p.s. I’m not sure if it is customary to respond this lengthily but my mind is verbose – it’s up to my fingers to filter it out, and they are controlled by my mind… so.. it gets hectic

jca's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One: Perhaps. Your theory is interesting. I remember clearly I cut my finger very badly once, and I laid on the bed, raised my hand way up high above my heart to help stop the bleeding (with a paper towel on it) and told myself “OK, you’re going to feel it for 10 seconds.” I felt the pain and counted to 10, (“ow, ow, ow”) and then said to myself “Ok, you’re going to forget about it now.” I got up, still felt some pain but did not allow myself to indulge about it.

Like I said, that may be relatively minor compared to some other pain I’ve experienced -torn ligaments and comminuted ankle fracture, dental implants (3 teeth), removal of teeth for the implants and also removal of two wisdom teeth, stitches after being torn after delivery of baby, other surgery post-delivery, and weight loss surgery – with all of the above, I’ve taken one Vicodin on one occasion. The rest of the time, I have filled the prescriptions just in case and then left them alone and forgot about them in the drawer.

My mom is the same way.

Safie's avatar

Mind over matter i believe i don’t take anything for headaches or minor pain i’m a health and fitness type of girl always have been and i believe there are so many other natural ways to stop pain and it all starts in the mind, also there are pressure points on certain parts of the body that can help also…The reason i also mention mind over matter is if you look at how many experiments done on people with placebo pills and those people after taking them believed they were cured and felt better when in fact it was there own belief/power of thought/mind that actually made them feel better and not the pill obviously there is nothing but sugar in the placebo, so again it’s basically down to mind over matter the mind is a powerful tool.

Mariah's avatar

^ But why? Are you actually concerned that the occasional Tylenol is going to bring your body harm? I’m just confused by this perspective, and I’m wondering if you can help me understand. What does not taking Tylenol ever have to do with health or fitness?

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@Safie
I feel the same way. There’s no reason not to explore the ability to expand what your mind is capable of. Perhaps it’s a pinhole of light from the portion of our brain we’ve yet to unlock?

@Mariah
I wouldn’t say that I have concerns so much as that I’m curious. We live in a world where pills are advertised as a quick fix to absolutely anything. There’s something off about that for me.

janbb's avatar

I take what I need to feel comfortable when I am in pain; I don’t particularly find it a virtue or helpful to just live with it. I get a certain headache that will become a whopper migraine if I don’t catch it early so I do. I am not an addictive personality nor do I take anything mindlessly but I believe that not being in pain is better for my health in the short and long run.

The one exception is sometimes colds where I find it is better to get the gunk out rather than dry yourself up. Also, I have pretty much avoided anything such as statins that are recommended on a permanent basis and will resist them strenuously.

Safie's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One Absolutely! i think people far too easily reach and turn to medication when they have the slightest pain, there are studies done to prove that medication can eventually cause more harm to the body than good…but it seems we live in a world where everyone wants a quick fix so to speak, not me, i try something else that i know won’t do more harm than good in the long run it’s the one body i have, and i do take care of it…Great Q btw.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@janbb
I’m certainly not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with how you consume medication. What you’ve said sounds perfectly reasonable. I just wonder if how I roll has any merit behind it. I don’t know how or why I started avoiding minor meds – but I don’t miss them. (especially when I see the cost these days)

@Safie
A brief search brought up that some over the counter sleep meds have been linked to dimentia. Has broccoli? xD I’m sure it has somewhere – everyone has a study somewhere.

janbb's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One No prob – I didn’t feel criticized. I think people should figure out what works for them. I do just find occasionally these days that some have a virtuous smugness about not taking meds when they’re hurting.

Safie's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One Yes there are many studies, i guess everyone has a different pain threshold, in fact they say we women have a higher pain threshold maybe something to do with childbirth but idk…all i know is we do live in a Quick fix world and how would someone know if they never tried anything else whether it would work or not there is always an alternative besides just popping pills.

JLeslie's avatar

Do most people take a pill every time they have an ache or pain? I don’t think so. Pain can be bad for us. We release chemicals and hormones that can create stress in the body. Minor pain isn’t a big deal I don’t think. People live with pain all the time.

I don’t know if we get “tougher” but we can block off areas of our bodies. I had chronic pain for several years and I did some biofeedback. The women conduction the my biofeedback said she was shocked how “dead” the area was. Like my brain, muscles, and nerves were flatlined in that part of my body.

We do release chemicals to dull pain over time. Pain is useful, it let’s us know something is wrong. Prolonged pain is detrimental I think, but a lot of people deal with it.

hominid's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One: “SO in a sense you’re saying yes? I don’t want to strawmanerize you but it sounds as if changing how you feel/view pain is better.”

I’m not saying it makes my body tougher – I still feel intense sensations of “pain” through much of my day. But I’m more ok with that. It’s just part of my existence. As shit-corny as this sounds, pain is teaching me a ton.

But I suppose you could describe it is “tough”...maybe. But not in a positive sense. Rough, calloused hands might make manual labor easier. But it also means that more manual labor is done. A familiarity with pain may result in a better understanding of pain, but that familiarity means much more pain.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m uncomfortable with the word “tough”. I find it to be applied to situations where I might use “weak” or “vulnerable”. Tough isn’t necessarily something to celebrate.

ibstubro's avatar

Interesting information on pain.

NPR advertised an upcoming program today that included a man that was making himself immune to snakebite by repeated exposure – yes, he lets snakes bite him – but I couldn’t find a link. I tried to remember the name of the program so I could use it in an answer to this question, but, alas…

We have a number of dedicated NPR listeners…maybe someone else will think to link.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

Based on all the information the group has found I think we can agree that pain can be handled to some extent by the brain. We can train the pain.

Does medication impede this ability in any way? I know it probably sounds like I’m just on a smear campaign trail but; (improper use of semicolon) I’ve seen people take pill after pill and branch out medications until they just seem to be even more sick than when they started. I don’t like that.

JLeslie's avatar

By the way, I know you asked about OTC drugs, but just a mention of the triplicate pain drugs, studies have shown just the opposite. People who use and abuse regularly build a tolerance to the drugs and they seem to experience more heightened pain than people who don’t regularly use those drugs.

jca's avatar

I don’t consider myself smug about handling pain without medications. My point is that I am, for some reason, not really in what I consider terrible pain (despite surgeries and traumas as described above). With the incidents described, if I were writhing in pain, I would definitely have to take something. I’m not a martyr. When I was in labor and delivery, I had an epidural. But for the torn ligaments, surgeries, wisdom tooth removal, etc. I felt like it was pain I could tolerate. When I hear about people being described Vicodin and stuff for tooth removal, and I think about mine that I just took an aspirin for, I feel like I can see how some feel that painkillers are overprescribed.

Coloma's avatar

No. I take 600mg. Ibuprofen tablets 2x a day for my aches and pains.
I am 55 now and have lived on rural properties with animals for decades here in Northern CA.
My daily routines involves lots of physical activity and my hands and wrists are getting arthritic and I have tendonitis and a stiff shoulder from an horse wreck injury years ago that required a pin in that shoulder. Knees and hips are fine, so far. haha

Between tearing hay apart to feed horses, unscrewing feed container lids, scooping feed, shoveling stalls, grooming horses, saddling and riding horses, carrying buckets of water and cleaning our pet duck and goose barn daily, dumping kiddie pools for the birds, scooping my cats ;litter box, and, a lifetime of cooking, slicing, dicing, dishes and housework.
Fuck….my arms, shoulders, hands and fingers have come up lame. haha
Such are the hazards of the profession of being a hippie cowgirl.
I also worked in interior design for years and moved furniture and all sorts of objects around, I have used my parts to the maximum and I’d love some prescription pain killers but I’m not asking for any, yet. lol

David_Achilles's avatar

I found this excerpt from Wikipedia interesting on the topic of pain:

Effect of exposure to pain:
It is widely believed that regular exposure to painful stimuli will increase pain tolerance – i.e. increases the ability of the individual to handle pain by becoming more conditioned to it. However, in some cases there is evidence to support the theory that – the greater exposure to pain will result in more painful future exposures. Repeated exposure bombards pain synapses with repetitive input, increasing their responsiveness to later stimuli, through a process similar to learning. Therefore, although the individual may learn cognitive methods of coping with pain, these methods may not be sufficient to cope with the boosted response to future painful stimuli.[7] “An intense barrage of painful stimuli potentiates the cells responsive to pain so that they respond more vigorously to minor stimulation in the future.”[8]

Because of this, trauma victims (or patients in pain) are given painkillers (such as morphine) as soon as possible – to prevent pain sensitization.[7]”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_tolerance

Now, I come from a family of stoics and I am not the type to pop pills for every little ache. I just choose not to, but others do and I don’t judge them or try to say that they’re being wimps for not handling it. They are the ones experiencing it.

The Institute of Medicine has this report on the subject of “overuse” and “abuse” of painkillers:
(Majority of Pain Patients Use Prescription Drugs Properly) “The research findings noted above need to be set against the testimony of people with pain, many of whom derive substantial relief from opioid drugs. This tension perhaps reflects the complex nature of pain as a lived experience, as well as the need for biopsychosocial assessments and treatment strategies that can maximize patients’ comfort and minimize risks to them and society. Regardless, the majority of people with pain use their prescription drugs properly, are not a source of misuse, and should not be stigmatized or denied access because of the misdeeds or carelessness of others.”

Source:
Institute of Medicine, “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research” (Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 2011), p. 145.
http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13172

http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Pain#Data

So yes, psychologically you may become tougher, but I don’t think your body becomes tougher. Pain is real or not, and even imagined pain as in psychosomatic illnesses feels real. I don’t think we should overmedicate, but currently, especially in vulnerable populations like the elderly and minorities, and the poor, it’s more common to under-medicate for pain. Why should people suffer when they don’t have to?

Coloma's avatar

@David_Achilles Yes, psychologically you soldier on and learn to ignore the pain but doesn’t have any effect on the pain itself. When you live on a ranch property with major daily chores you do what you have to do, the horses don’t care if my hands hurt, they just want their hay and their blankets taken off every morning. haha

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@JLeslie
Ouch – building up heightened pain sounds terrible

@jca
Exactly. And (started sentence with a fanboy, so what?) I’m the same way – it seems absurd to take such powerful medication for such a thing. I had my wisdom teeth removed. I used one of their pills ( don’t remember what it was) the first day but then I forgot to the next and then just sort of shrugged and got rid of em.

@Coloma
The more I read yalls posts, the more I realize it just boils down to the individual. I’m perfectly happy avoiding medication so far – but I’m not foolish enough to say I’ll always be that way. Maybe one day I’ll just laugh at my young punk ass (nearing 50 as well).

@David_Achilles
So between @JLeslie and wiki – what’s goin on? Haha . Overuse of meds can cause more pain – and avoiding meds can cause more pain? Curse you science!

I hear what you’re sayin about the elderly and what-not but I’m referring more to a lifestyle leading up to that point. Of course an elderly person shouldn’t avoid medication that makes them feel better – that would be stupid. I’m arguing from a camp of balance. That camp requires, though, that for some pains you just suck it up. It sounds as if we’re actually on the same page.

I think toughening yourself up mentally is a better trade off than not doing so, regardless of how your synapses react. But I’m a weird old duck.

Coloma's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One Hah…well feel free to come on out to the ranch here and help me out today. I am home alone through Sunday and all the chores are upon my little shoulders. I just opened and poured a 50lb. sack of Equine Senior into the barrel of pain.lol
I think I should start having a bowl of Equine Senior with glucosamine for breakfast, the damn horses get more supplements than I do. haha

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@Coloma Sounds like gumption has served you just fine so far. Multivitamins don’t cure lack of that!

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