If you saw a child crying in pain, you probably wouldn’t shove a sock in its mouth or put earplugs in your ears to block out its cries – well, at least, I hope you wouldn’t.
But, that’s pretty much what you do whenever you pop a painkiller.
When you take a painkiller it doesn’t take away the pain; it just makes your brain deaf and dumb to it. If you have a headache caused by dehydration or neck tension, and you take a pain pill, it will relieve the symptom of pain because you won’t be able to feel it anymore, but it won’t change the fact that your body desperately needs more water, or that the anxiety and tension that you are accumulating at work every day is taking its toll on your health in other ways. What’s worse is that many painkillers are stressful to the liver and kidneys, and so they add to the body’s burden, rather than being of any real help. How ‘willy-nilly’ is your pill popping? Are you numbing your period cramps every month and stunting your hangovers every weekend with paracetamol, aspirin, codeine or ibuprofen, like they were sweets? This short-term avoidance of discomfort may be causing your body some serious long-term harm. Medication is a wonderful thing when it is used correctly, but it can be dangerous and addictive if used incorrectly. Bear in mind that it is possible to overdose on water. Yes, that seemingly innocuous liquid stuff that makes up most of your body mass can also be harmful when you have too much of it. It’s known as overhydration, and although it’s not easy to achieve, it can cause you to go into a coma. The point is: If something as generic and “harmless” as water in excess can have such a detrimental effect on the body, imagine what the regular unnecessary use of pain medication can do.
What most of us do when we get a cold or the flu is also dreadful. It’s never a convenient time to catch a cold or come down with a bad case of influenza, and we all know that it’s just something that you need to sit out and be patient with. Most of us take a cocktail of over the counter drugs that treat the symptoms so that we can motor on at work and continue to function. These drugs treat the symptoms, but they can also weaken your immune system further and make you sick for longer. The problem is that we then spread the virus further around the office by not staying in bed and resting, and our bodies take strain because they have to contend with fighting off the virus as well as coping with the harmful effects of the chemicals we’ve ingested to stop our noses running and our bodies aching. The drugs trick you into feeling better than you are, so you can continue to push yourself, and this could even lead to strain on your internal organs (like your heart). There’s a reason you feel terrible when you are sick. Many symptoms present as an indication that your immune system is fighting the infection. Getting rid of these symptoms can hamper the body from doing what it’s supposed to in the fight against the disease.
We think we know best, but perhaps we should start trying to pay attention to what our bodies are telling us instead of chemically putting them on mute. This isn’t necessarily an invitation to stop taking medication for chronic pain or discomfort. It’s more of a call to action to be more conscience of when and where you take medication. You may have a genuine need to take antidepressants and anxiolytic medication to be able to live your best life, but if you are swallowing “chill pills” every day just to take the edge off, you could be fraying other parts of your wellbeing you may not be aware of.
Your body is achy and gross and full of mucous and is yelling at you that you need some downtime. It is blatantly stating that it needs you to isolate yourself and get plenty of rest. That is why it is presenting all the symptoms that it does. It hasn’t lost its mind since coming into contact with the contagion and is now trying to symptomatically and systematically destroy you. Pain is there as an indicator. It’s a message from the body that says: “Yo, dude/dudette, something is not lekker!”
So instead of plying yourself with all these meds that are doing nothing for the real cause of your “dis-ease”, why not try and pay attention to what is causing the pain and problems in the first place?
If you have a condition that requires medication, use it. That’s what it’s there for. But if you’ve twisted your ankle and feel tempted to pop some painkillers so you can still go out dancing, that’s not such a bright idea because you will cause even more damage and your body won’t be able to tell you. Sadly, some professional athletes and dancers have done irreparable harm to their bodies by dulling their pain receptors with medication and doing even further harm to injuries.
So, the next time you see your poorly reflection in the medicine cabinet, ask yourself if you need to numb-out that achy sensation or dry out that runny nose. Popping a few 1000mgs of vitamin C and bonding with your duvet may be a much better option.