Healthcare and Prevention: Would You Visit a Doctor for a Non-Emergency?

XRay of FractureAbout two weeks ago, I slipped and fell, landing clear on my tailbone. The moment of the fall, the pain was so bad that I felt it in my head. After about a minute though, I managed to collect myself and stand up. Although a little shaken up, I was able to walk and decided I was okay. Over the next day or two I iced the area, and felt minor improvements. For better or worse, I'm not one to rush off to the emergency room. I'd have to be bleeding pretty badly or feel major pain to warrant spending the time and money to sit in a waiting room.
After several days of pain, however, both my mom and a friend expressed their concern for my not having had an x-ray. I replied "that there was little that could be done, one way or another. If it was fractured, they couldn't very well put me in a cast." The tailbone is just one of those areas that needs to heal on its own. That said, I heeded their advice and made an appointment with my doctor for an examination of the area, and a possible x-ray.

When I met with the doctor I admitted I was hesitant about coming in, as I knew very little could be done if it was fractured. After a very brief examination, she admitted that an x-ray may not be worth it, confirming my theory that little could be done. She prescribed ibuprofen for the next week and asked that I let them know if the pain didn't subside over that time. She then added, "You didn't waste my time. And it is good you came in. People often have concerns, such as chest pains, and feel that it is wasting everyone's time to have things checked out, but in reality, it is an act of prevention. Think of it as you would about your car. Wouldn't you bring it in if something sounded funny?" I agreed. I then thanked her and was off.

I pondered her last statement. Although I hate wasting my time by going to a doctor when I know nothing major is wrong, most of my lack of interest in going to the doctor or emergency room can be chalked up to my disdain for our healthcare system and how wasteful it is. I hate the idea that I could be contributing to that waste. Yet, my doctor makes a great point. Although I wouldn't say a fractured tailbone is as serious as chest pains, not going to the doctor when you have symptoms of something potentially serious can be irresponsible, and more costly in the end. Staying in tune with one's body and ensuring that everything is in proper order taxes our health care system much less than our negligence or lack of timeliness in dealing with a concern.

How would you have handled this situation? Do you tend to go into the emergency room or go to the doctor when you have symptoms or an accident? Or do you tend to put things off waiting for bigger signs that something might be wrong?

Prevention is key to health. Check out the chapter and tools I give in 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You - an easy to follow, week-by-week guide to health and happiness. Get it now at Amazon.com.

More from Sheer Balance: