Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wait, I'm Injured?!

I hear, sometimes, people talking about how scary it is when their kids don't know that they're injured because of their high pain tolerances. Been there, done that.

I have something off in the cartilage of my left knee, along with a small cyst, and it looks like I may have focally fractured it a couple months ago. Thankfully, it's not a tear. I have had it for a bit over two months. I didn't realize, because those are supposed to hurt. And, well, it didn't, mostly. I assumed that I had a minor sports injury that was most of the way better and that I just wanted to make sure it was going to stay fine during the year in China. But. It is apparently not minor. It's something that will recover with time and physical therapy, but it's not minor. This is right now. I am an adult, and I have had a major injury for two months without realizing it because my pain tolerance is too high.

I do this fairly regularly. There are three fractures I've had that I know of which never made it onto my medical records because of this kind of thing, and there are three others that may have happened (This current one is one of the maybe's.) One was a broken nose, I never made it to a doctor at all from it but there are people in my family who know what a broken nose looks like. That was my senior year of high school.

One was a focally fractured shin. That's a leg bone. I walked to school the next day. I walked at school the next day. I was walking around on a leg that had a broken bone in it. (Yes, I am sure that I broke it. There is still a dent in my shin, four years later. I assume it's permanent. No, I did not take any pain meds for it. Not even a Motrin.) I was sixteen. I got it passing out into a swimming pool at a swim meet, because I don't always know when I overextend myself. That's the only time I did so badly enough to lose consciousness, thankfully, but that could have been a lot worse than it was. (I came to in the pool and had already swum to the edge by the time most people realized anything had happened. The whole breaking my leg on the way down thing, even if it didn't manage to hurt enough to make me realize it was broken right away, probably woke me up.)

One was a broken foot. I went hiking the next day. I didn't get it checked out for a month. My host family never even knew I was hurt, at all. (I was staying with a host family in Shanghai at the time, and I was alone in Hangzhou when I broke the foot. Yes, I speak Chinese well enough to do doctors offices there.) There was some medical fail involved in this one not making it to my records- the doctor actually saw the point of the break on the image a month later, and said it wasn't a break because to look like that the injury would have to be about a month old... Yes, the doctor had been told the injury had been a month prior. I don't think that "This person walked around on a broken foot for a month" is a statement the doctor could handle. I was eighteen when I did that. I was a legal adult when I did that. (I was seventeen for the nose, and sixteen for the shin. Twenty for the knee issue, which is a thing that is going on right now.)

That's not to say there are no advantages to this. It's a pain at hospitals, where no one understands that this kind of pain tolerance is a thing, but it also means that when an 800-lb Old Spot pig attacked me I was able to get myself out of there, and I didn't miss a single day of school from it. It happened on a Tuesday where there was no school because of Rosh Hashonah, Wednesday was no school for the same reason, Thursday I was at school, and Friday I rode my bike to school.

I've had to learn other cues for a lot of things. I'll apparently start acting like I'm in pain a bit before I feel the pain, though it's not by much. I get goosebumps normally, though I tend not to feel cold until I'm close to hypothermia, and the really boring synesthia of some sounds having temperatures doesn't help. But even with the things I've picked up, I can miss broken bones because of my pain tolerance. I've had 3-6 broken bones in my life, and my pain tolerance is the reason that none of them are on my records. (It's also why we're not actually sure what the number is.)


  1. I don't have this precise problem...I think I'm pretty pain sensitive, in fact. Key word, *think.*

    The thing is, I don't know what serious pain is, because I don't have a history of doctors and other people taking it seriously when I was in pain. Practically every time I was in pain for some reason or other, I got told someway or somehow that it wasn't really that bad.

    So now I don't know what "that bad" is even supposed to feel like, or if I'd know it if I felt it, because I have no idea what serious pain is like to other people.

  2. I thought I had a high pain tolerance, but I can at least feel the pain of a serious injury. I guess that I can always feel the pain, but I can tolerate much more of it than other people I know. But I totally understand how frustrating it can be to have others not understand how badly you are injured just because you don't act like you are in much pain.

    Just because I don't complain of the pain often and I'm not popping pain killers people do not believe that I actually have a problem. I can't imagine how hard it would be to live with actually not feeling the pain and not knowing when you are injured.

  3. I am very sensitive and can't bear even a small pain. When any pain occurs, I try my utmost to demolish it at the time of beginning.
    physical therapy in bergen county

  4. I remember when I was around 12, I flipped my bike over a mailbox (clumsy me!), and skidded on gravel with my chin, tearing it open and filling it with dirt and gravel. And insisting to my medically trained firefighter father that I not go to the hospital because I was afraid of stitches, as I bled profusely all over the house. Insisting that I instead be left to watch McGuyver reruns as I did every evening.

    And as an adult, installing equipment in a telecommunications facility and looking at the equipment and noticing blood all over it. Oh look, I seem to have gashed my arm on an exposed bolt, and my shirt is ruined and there's blood smears on several pieces of equipment.

    Or the time I was hospitalized over a 4-6 inch wide staph infection in my arm that I didn't notice because I couldn't see it.

    Or the time I was hours from a burst appendix before I realized there was something seriously wrong, more than just constipation.

    I know that which you speak of well!

  5. May I add a link to this on my website? The "atypical pain" page? I'm trying to create a resource for medical professionals re. the challenges autistic patients face. If you have any questions, please email me ( Thanks!

  6. This is common, due to the fact that people experience pain on different levels. My brother injured his arm playing football and speculated that he had broken a bone. His team mates and coach told him that he would be in much more pain if it was broken. Surprisingly, when we took him to hospital, he had a fracture.

    Alberto Lawrence @ Institute of Sport Physiotherapy