Do I Have To Go To The Doctor; I Fell Down edition.
December 18, 2017 4:39 PM   Subscribe

On Saturday, I slipped on my wood stairs, and fell down 5 or 6 stairs on my backside. I bruise my butt and a little of my hip good, but I also nailed my ribs pretty damn good. No head involvement. I bruised my ribs, and could have possibly broke them. But given that treatment for bruised and broken ribs is the same, RICE, do I need to go to the doctor?

Something similar happened in March. I fell harder in that time, but on softer ground and the fall impacted a wider area of my body. I went to urgent care, I had bruised/injured the soft tissue of my right hip, right back/ribs, arm, both wrists, right biceps and shoulder. I hurt a lot by the 2nd day, which is what drove me to urgent care. I was banged up, but nothing serious. The only thing that stood out was that the Nurse Practitioner said that I bruised my ribs, possibly fractured them. But they don’t X-ray because treatment is the same, they can’t do anything for broken ribs, so no reason to image. Google seems to confirm this. I healed just fine then.

This time I fell, my socked feet slipped out from under me and I fell backwards on the smooth stairs. The impact was on the edge of each stair, in basically two places, my hip/buttocks, and left side and bad about mid-back area (about the same where the xyphoid process is, maybe a little higher). I sorta fell, sorta slid down each stair I believe, so the same areas were impacted multiple times. The fall was less severe than the one in March, but the impact on my ribs worse. It’s bruised and the bruise is just coming to the surface. It hurts to take deep breaths, it hurts to sneeze, it hurts to cough, twisting is very painful, and if any pressure is applied to it, the pain is enough to make me cry out. Getting up and sitting down sucks but I can do it. I also have felt an occasional thunk/pop around the rib injury when twisting. It feels like it’s deeper than the majority of the pain. That thunk does hurt a little, but not as much as twisting or touching that spot.

I’m otherwise doing okay. I can walk without too much pain. I can carefully lift things, say a half full basket of laundry. I am writing this from a coffee shop I walked to (about a 10 min walk). It’s been 3 days, I keep being on the fence whether I should go to the doctor. Is it possible something is wrong enough to need medical intervention after 3 days? Is there a reason to go for potential broken ribs as treatment is to take it easy and let it heal? I have been icing a lot, and I have cyclobenziprine I’ve been taking (I have it for another unrelated back issue.) I’ve been taking 400mg ibuprofen every 4-6 hours to manage the pain. I’m making myself periodically take deep breaths.

So should I go to my doctor? Is there any reason to view this as anything other than something that just takes time to heal? I’m just thinking getting in to see my doctor this week is going to be difficult, and I don’t want to have the expense of urgent care, especially as I don’t seem to be experiencing anything that urgently needs attention.
posted by [insert clever name here] to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Possibly relevant- I do have a disc protrusion in my thoracic spine around t7-8. It isn’t bothering me. I told them that last time as well, and the NP didn’t think it was important so didn’t do anything.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:43 PM on December 18, 2017

Well, if you want an opinion from someone who isn’t a doctor..... I think you’ve thought this all out logically. Ice, manage your pain, take it slow and easy. You’re still in the acute inflammation stage, so whatever bruising you did is going to hurt like hell. If you were to experience true shortness of breath, intense pain when breathing or hear/feel any rales or fluid in your chest when you breath, then you should definitely hit the urgent care. I’d worry more about having bruised your lung in the fall than having broken the rib, but if you’re breathing well then I’d pass on the doctor for now and just keep self-monitoring.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:48 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I almost certainly broke a rib a couple of months ago and didn't go to a doctor even though I live in Canada where it wouldn't cost me a dime. So, I mean, I guess I'm giving you permission not to go, but I'm not sure I'm a good example.

I mean, my reasoning was basically the same as yours, and I was in pain for a month and am now fully healed.
posted by 256 at 5:49 PM on December 18, 2017

I once did a similar tumble (whilst holding a cat and a glass of water), and I didn't go straight away, but I did end up having several weeks of physical therapy, because my muscle kind of clamped around my sciatic nerve. Watch out for that part.
posted by kellyblah at 5:49 PM on December 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I once had a staircase mishap rib iniury that became a months long ordeal involving an inflamed ribcage.

If I were you, I'd rest it and do what you mentioned above, take ibuprophen or your medication of choice, and wait a week to examine progress or lackthereof.
posted by Temeraria at 7:26 PM on December 18, 2017

Are you able to sleep? I fell in November and bruised my tailbone. It really hurt, so I took pain meds left from dental work so I could sleep at night, for a couple nights. I'm usually hesitant to take pain meds, but getting decent sleep was a big help.
posted by theora55 at 7:50 PM on December 18, 2017

Best answer: My rule is that if you are asking Internet strangers whether you should go to the doctor, you should probably just go to the doctor.

One reason to do so in this case is that they can help you establish a baseline and set of expectations for recovery. So if your recovery starts to go awry, you can course-correct much more effectively.
posted by ewok_academy at 9:02 PM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you call your doctor? They would be able to tell you if there are any symptoms that warrant an urgent care visit, especially if there is something relevant to your medical history.

Alternatively if you are insured, your insurance likely has a nurse hotline. You could call them.
posted by nat at 2:05 AM on December 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Another staircase klutz here (friend's unfamiliar basement stairs, too-big socks...) -- recovery took a lot longer than I expected. I (in Canada!) did see my doctor, but the only thing that came out of that were Rx painkillers; I had smashed up my tailbone (did I get an x-ray? can't recall) and it took months to be able to sit down easily. (I've also had my ribs broken and bruised.)

The only reason I would see a doctor would be if:

-- the pain is greater than OTC drugs can manage; it interferes with work, sleep, etc

-- your work or other day-to-day whatnot involves some sort of insurance or other ? where starting a paper trail about the injury ASAP would be useful.

Loads of people spend a while trying to tough it out before seeing a doctor, but if you need to make a claim for temporary disability or something like that if it doesn't heal well, "I was trying to tough it out" nearly never seems to be a thing that doctors or anyone dealing with doctor-type paperwork understands. There are, it seems, two types of injuries: ones that send you to the ER right away, and ones that you are "faking." "Tried to deal with it at home; it got worse over time" gets a side-eye from a weird number of physicians, in my experience. (Doctors rarely seem to understand why people would not go rushing off to see them, unless it is for a cold...)
posted by kmennie at 2:52 PM on December 19, 2017

I'd see a doctor. When I "bruised my ribs" on my left side, it turned out that I had ruptured my spleen. YMMV, hopefully, but please get checked out.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:22 AM on December 20, 2017

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