The first thing I noticed when I walked in the house was the unusual quiet. Living with four dogs, we rarely have a moment during our waking hours that is completely quiet yet that night is was too quiet. I walked up stairs and opened the bedroom door and saw Ellen laying deadly still in bed. Spencer and Cirque were curled up next to her and didn't even acknowledge my presence and neither did Ellen. I stood still and for what was one horrifying moment thought she wasn't breathing. I placed my hand gently on her face and instantly felt the fiery heat. She stirred and turned toward me. Her face was ashen. I said, "You have a fever. Are you ok?" She whispered, "Yeah, but I have a horrible headache."
"What's your temp?"
Ellen replied, "I don't know but I think it's over a 100. When do you get worried about how high a fever gets?"
Instantly, my left brain shifted into gear searching the grey matter databanks for bits and pieces of any information about fever. "Anything that's 103 or higher in an adult. Not too worry. You have a ways to go." How comforting.
Later I was thinking about Ellen's question and it created a cascade of memories. My Dad was a family physician. Growing up as a doctor's kid you learn about all sorts of interesting and bizarre things many of which only make sense when you get older. One morning when I was probably 15 or so, Dad woke me up informing me if I didn't get out bed quickly I would be late for school. I remember muttering something about feeling sick. He left and a few minutes later returned. "Open your mouth and put this under your tongue". He stood there the full three minutes and then retrieved the thermometer. "99 - you're ok. You can go to school."
I resisted. "But Dad, I have a fever. I can't go to school with a fever! I mean when you have a fever something is wrong and what if it damages my brain?"
Dad said "Doug, you only worry about fever over 103 in an adult. You do nothing about it until then. If you do, you weaken your body's ability to fight infection. Now go to school."
Just as fever is an expression of the body's response to infection or illness, pain is also an expression of the body. What if we approached pain in the same way my Dad approached fever: respect it, monitor it, and if it continues to climb and crosses a high enough threshold, do something about it. What if pain, in people with musculoskeletal injuries, is your body's way of saying "You're weak. Do something about it!" And, how many different ways will your body try to speak to you if you ignore it? How loud does the message need to be for you to hear?
Pain does not always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it's a call to arms to restore, repair and rebuild.
Make Today Count.
Author. Teacher. Therapist.