Slipped down stairs and hurt my back, what is my best plan for tomorrow?
January 5, 2014 4:58 PM   Subscribe

A few hours ago I slipped and fell down half a flight of stairs, injuring my back. How important is it that I see a doctor? Is there anything I can do to make going into work tomorrow less terrible?

Today I slipped on, and then fell down, half a flight of stairs while trying to leave my apartment building. My back is bruised and extremely sore. Lying, sitting, and standing are all somewhat painful; changing positions is extremely painful. Walking is painful. I don't have a car and rely on walking/public transit to get to work. I have a 1-hour commute each way (walking, stairs, 2 different subways). If it were possible, I would take the day off of work tomorrow. However, my coworker (in my 2-person department) is stranded on the opposite coast due to weather. It is extremely important that one of us be there, and it looks like that has to be me. There is no backup person we can call. I know this is stupid and there should be some sort of backup plan, but there isn't. I can't work from home; this is a situation where at least one person needs to be on site.

For now I am alternating cold/heat and taking anti-inflammatories.

1) How important is it that I see a doctor for this? Should I just try to go to urgent care before work? If I go immediately when it opens and if it doesn't take too long I will only be slightly late to work; if it takes me a while to see a doctor and they decide to do X-rays or something I may be unacceptably late. Going after work is unfortunately not an option.

2) Is there anything I can do to make going into work tomorrow less terrible?

Other relevant info: 31, female, decent health insurance.
posted by matcha action to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Just as a drug datapoint, chatting with a surgeon recently he mentioned he takes 800mg Ibuprohen which is 4 regular. The right dose can make a difference, any chance you have a nurse call in service available? Do keep moving a little, carefully, really hard if things 'lock up'. Long soak? Good luck and be careful. Take pillows and the heating pad and prop up, steal a comfy chair.
posted by sammyo at 5:12 PM on January 5, 2014

You're probably going to be in worse pain tomorrow. Recruit a friend to drive you to work, or shell out money for a cab.
posted by lizzicide at 5:17 PM on January 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

01) I've had and ignored a lot of injuries that ended up being a lot worse in the long run. If this is worse than any pain you have felt before in your back, then I would absolutely say see a doctor. If it's on par with period cramps, then I would give it a day or so to see if it is better or worse.

02) If there is any chance at all that you could take a taxi to and from work, whether or not you will be reimbursed by your employer, I would suggest that as a starter. Wear the most comfortable clothing you have, regardless of whether or not it is "professional". Wear comfortable shoes/boots which are safe to walk in - nothing with a heel.

Also mefites are a friendly bunch of people, if you are willing to post your location there might be someone nearby who is willing to carpool you to work for gas money.
posted by elizardbits at 5:20 PM on January 5, 2014

Definitely max out your ibuprofen or whatever anti-inflammatory your using. Ice will be more helpful than heat at this point. If you have arnica or anything like that laying around, apply liberally.

Do yourself a favor and skip the public transit tomorrow. Depending on where you live, a car service might be cheaper than a taxi.

Bring a couple of ice packs with you to the office (or ask someone to run out for you when you get in).

elizardbits has a point - I'd be willing to do it for free (assuming my husband doesn't need the car tomorrow). I'm no stranger to back injury and I feel really terrible for you!
posted by tealcake at 5:26 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

This sounds like it was a pretty bad fall. You can't be entirely sure how badly you might have injured yourself. Is it possible to get someone to take you to urgent care tonight? Then you can know one way or another, and face tomorrow with it either out of the way, or just take an unavoidable absence.

I say this next part not to alarm, but because your health is the most important thing. A few years ago one of my relatives slipped and fell on his back. He did not think it was that serious. He had punctured a lung, and it almost killed him, and the only reason it didn't was because he had a friend who insisted he get it checked out.
posted by instead of three wishes at 5:34 PM on January 5, 2014

Do not max out painkillers with out reading their warning labels, especially acetaminophen. Doing so can cause liver damage.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:35 PM on January 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Seconding that you will likely be in worse pain tomorrow. Assume that you will not be able to work. Call your supervisor at work and let them know, and let them figure out how to deal. It is their job to figure out how to cover employees, for any reason.
posted by sageleaf at 5:38 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree with instead of three wishes and sageleaf. Unless your job involves compromised top secret missile codes, your long term health is more important and work will survive a day without you. Back injuries can occur with minimal pain - or even no pain - and then come back to seriously screw with your mobility later if they go untreated.

Is one day at work worth that risk? Only you can judge, but I think most people - and most humane employers - would say no.
posted by kythuen at 5:42 PM on January 5, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you for the car service/ride share suggestions, I am afraid it would be too hard to plan at this point if I go to urgent care first because I don't know when I would get out of there. I will take a car service though from there if the pain is too bad. I don't have any friends who have cars who live anywhere near me, unfortunately. Urgent care places are all closed for the night for now, and it doesn't feel bad enough to be worth a trip to the ER.

I am reading and following warning labels on anti-inflammatories, not to worry on that front.

I am fairly sure I haven't punctured a lung or broken anything, I am able to move around a little (I've done a few laps around the apartment to try to keep it from stiffening up too much) and I am not having difficulty breathing or anything. I know the pain is going to be worse tomorrow but I've gone to work before on public transit the day after throwing my back out, and this doesn't feel too much worse than that.
posted by matcha action at 5:55 PM on January 5, 2014

Are you in an area that's going to be under siege by pseudo-arctic weather tomorrow? If you're only semi-mobile, that's going to be an even bigger deal, of course.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:12 PM on January 5, 2014

Ice is a great analgesic. I would be using that instead of heat right now it will help with the pain and help keep swelling down.

Be careful maxing out any pain medications, a tip I got from a doctor when in serious pain with a broken tail bone was to take 2 ibuprofen and 2 acetaminophen (check labels for dosage and make sure you are not already taking a table that combine them in any way). They both work differently in your body and on pain differently so they do not carry the same risk as taking a double dose of either (never double dose acetaminophen). IANAD simply relaying what one said to me.

If you are in as much pain as you say I would get to a doctor as soon as possible.
posted by wwax at 6:46 PM on January 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Please plan to see a doctor at urgent care. I fell down the stairs and while it was not extremely painful for me, I ended up with a compression fracture in one of my vertebrae as well as some chipped teeth.

You'll likely get injected anti-inflammatories and/or muscle relaxers as you probably have muscle spasms. That should help the pain. A compression fracture in an otherwise healthy person is probably no big deal; I certainly have not had any lingering effects.

The strangest part of this whole ordeal was spitting out bits of teeth a few days afterward--I went to the dentist and ended up getting sealants put on.

Hope you feel better soon.
posted by FergieBelle at 5:48 AM on January 6, 2014

Came here to mention the ibuprofen + acetaminophen combination but was beaten to it. I have chronic back pain thanks to nerve damage and every doctor I've seen for it has recommended this for days when it's flaring up particularly badly.
posted by ltisz at 12:30 PM on January 6, 2014

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