My Chinese Husband Hates Pain Killers | Speaking of China

22 Responses

  1. Kelly
    Kelly April 11, 2011 at 2:41 am | | Reply

    This is a can of worms in our house, as well!
    Like you, I don’t believe in abusing Western medicine, but I do think there is a place for it, especially because I have a difficult time believing that any of my illnesses are caused by “cold air in my stomach” or “too much fire” in my body (I find it more likely that I’m sick because of a virus or bacteria or that I’ve eaten something that doesn’t agree with me).
    I’ll often give Chinese/herbal medicine a shot first ( since I’m allergic to some forms of penicillin), and have had things such as fire-cupping and gua sha; sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. My husband is pretty supportive of me taking whatever antibiotics, etc., I need to get better, because he’s usually seen me try other things that haven’t worked and just wants me to get better. His mother is a doctor, though, so that may play a role as well.
    However, he is NOT supportive of me taking pain killers (Tylenol/Aspirin) for headaches or other pains. He says they are not healthy and not safe. (He usually lays off after I remind him that I’ve had the headache for three days and have to go to work to teach 20 squealing 7 year olds later that day!)
    Do you know WHY this aversion to pain pills exists? I’m curious.

  2. Jessica
    Jessica April 11, 2011 at 4:43 am | | Reply

    My husband is the same way and it drives me crazy. I get bad headaches and I am sorry but I am going to take a tylenol if I want one. You’d think I was popping vicodins like candy though for the way my husband reacts when I want a tylenol for a headache. We actually had a big fight about this a couple weeks ago because he was acting like I was some sort of addict when all I wanted was to not have a damn headache anymore. It is easy for him to judge too, because he seriously never gets headaches.

    I’ve heard that Chinese reactions to painkillers (and why you’ll rarely see any narcotic painkillers prescribed even after major surgeries in China) has to do with the opium wars and a government/societal distrust for anything opiate related. I read an article awhile back about how China was finally starting to allow cancer patients to have morphine, can you imagine? It is definitely a cultural difference and one that drives me absolutely nuts.

  3. Sarah
    Sarah April 11, 2011 at 5:14 am | | Reply

    Currently me and my boyfriend are both suffering from sore throats and I suggested we buy cough medicine and vitamin C’s but instead he thought it would be better if we avoided hot food and fried food. Stick with just eating watery rice and watermelon and fruit. If that doesn’t work then we should buy cough medicine.

    In general my boyfriend prefers Chinese medicine then western pills.

  4. Crystal
    Crystal April 11, 2011 at 5:27 am | | Reply

    I agree – it’s better not to take painkiller (or any other chemical medicine) if you can do without it.
    Although I admit that recently I used Nurofen… bad me 🙂

  5. Sara
    Sara April 11, 2011 at 6:41 am | | Reply

    Luckily my boyfriend doesn’t have anything againts pain killers, but I do agree that it’s better not to take them too often. But instead when I’m sick he makes me to eat Chinese porridge zhou 粥 and I don’t like it at all!

  6. Eileen
    Eileen April 11, 2011 at 7:59 am | | Reply

    I don’t take pills unless it’s bothering me to the point where I can’t do simple tasks. My husband doesn’t mind, fortunately. When I get those dreadful headaches that-just-wont-go-away, my husband gives me asprin.

  7. Laowai in Shanghai
    Laowai in Shanghai April 11, 2011 at 10:34 am | | Reply

    My husband used to keep a bottle of Tylenol at his desk. Whenever he has any kind of feeling that he is sick, he asks me to go get the Tylenol. When I went back to the States for a visit, he reminded me to buy some more. When our child is sick, he is always quick to tell me the kid needs Tylenol. he seems to have no qualms in using this kind of medicine. What is wrong with him?

    As for me, if I have a sore throat I will take Nom Something Pi Pa Kao! It works wonders. I tried guasha but I did not think it worked when I tried it. My husband has little interest in Chinese medicine.

    If I think hard…. it seems to go back to the wisdom teeth thing. He got the first two pulled in China. He was directly given a shot in the mouth and then remembers the dentist using a hammer to break the tooth and pull it out offering no additional pain medicine after the incident. He did this twice and then ran out of time in China. After we got medical insurance in the US, he went to the dentist here…. where the dentist first gave gas then a shot in the arm and then a shot in the mouth and took out the other two teeth at the same time and gave a prescription for pain medicine after that… just in case.

    He didn’t have a problem with painkillers after that.

  8. Bruce
    Bruce April 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm | | Reply

    You can take it ,but take half the dose . It’s safer. Why? You can damage your liver or kidney if you take too much. Read the warning label.

  9. ordinary malaysian
    ordinary malaysian April 11, 2011 at 2:11 pm | | Reply

    I really don’t know why China Chinese have this aversion against pain killers like you said. There is no such problem here with Malaysian Chinese. But I like Jessica’s attempt to explain the aversion – has it got something to do with the opium wars? But one may have to consider that the Chinese have their traditional medicines and practices which use the holistic approach and which do not focus on the immediate. In fact, they have an entire pharmacopoeia of herbs for all kinds of ailments. An don’t forget acupuncture and other modes and manners of treatment including gua sha. And thousands of years of history to the traditional medicines and practices.

  10. lifebehindthewall
    lifebehindthewall April 11, 2011 at 7:39 pm | | Reply

    Girl.. i feel your pain… let me tell you .. i currently have what seems like a sinus infection and we all know how irritating and difficult it is to sleep when you anything wrong with your nose… My husband insist on only drinking hot water. HOT Water.. that is his cure all…but when I went to school… every chinese I came in contact with said to me….”Oh.. you are sick.. Drink Hot water…” I think it is instilled in them at birth…LMAO… however, my husband and I have came to a agreement… i dont say anything about the crazy crap he eats .. and he doesnt say anything about my pills….lol

  11. Samantha
    Samantha April 11, 2011 at 11:38 pm | | Reply

    Luckily, my husband is studying to be a doctor of western medicine, but we have to hide the Tylenol and Claratin. She doesn’t even know I take birth control. If she did, she’d try to get me off it and onto some bitter herbal concoction regimen that I’m sure would include preserved placenta. Ew.

  12. Samantha
    Samantha April 11, 2011 at 11:39 pm | | Reply

    Clairfy: We have to hide the meds from my Mother-in law.

  13. Harland
    Harland April 12, 2011 at 8:53 am | | Reply

    It is a crime how Chinese treat pain management. People are NOT given any analgesics for post-operative pain. Nothing. Not so much as an aspirin. They are just left to suffer in their beds. It’s heartbreaking.

    I remember when I bought some aspirin here in China. The indications on the label were purely for the blood-thinning lowering of heart attack risk. Not a word was said about the marvelous pain-relieving effects of this wonder drug.

    Don’t even talk to me about end-of-life pain relief. I don’t want to get angry.

  14. Hummingbird
    Hummingbird April 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm | | Reply

    I have to agree with PPs who think a blend of easter and western medicine is probably the best road. I wouldn’t want to abuse pain killers either, but there is a grey area between abuse and no use at all! And I would be happy to try acupuncture or herbal remedies instead, but in the middle of the night, you didn’t have that option.

    Too bad men can’t bear children. Then perhaps your husband could experience natural childbirth, which is like pushing a watermelon through a keyhole without benefit of painkillers, and see where he stands after that. Or worse yet, a C-section. Had one of those myself and would have *killed* anyone who stood between me and the post-op meds. Hehehehe…

    Has he never had a sports injury, like a broken bone or dislocated joint, where he was praying for morphine? I certainly don’t wish harm to him, but a brief “owie” with no long lasting consequences, might change his mind.

    I believe in compromise in relationships, but this is one place where I would put my foot down and say, “My body, my choice.”

  15. 0%
    0% April 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm | | Reply

    There are reasons. Sleeping pills are used more often. Though I think it’s actually a kind of painkiller too.

  16. Woman
    Woman April 12, 2011 at 6:15 pm | | Reply

    Oh heck yes!!! ALL THE TIME!!!! I sometimes feel that many of my Chinese friends will go to a doctors for a hangnail. I know this is an exaggeration. Most foreigners are taught from a young age “pill satisfaction”. You have something wrong, you take a pill. Something I do not agree with either. But then again, foreigners are also big into first aid. We use rubbing alcohol they use iodine on cuts. Both work. Alcohol stings on an open cut.

    The bottom line is; what we consider first aid is different between east and west.

    For me personally, I hardly ever get headaches. I hardly am ever ill (aches and pains are something different. I am a huge klutz), but when I do come down with a cold, Chinese people try to give me so many herbs and remedies. They work. I totally agree they work. But. I prefer to let nature run its course. And take nothing but increase my water/tea intake and boost my fruits and vegetables. My Chinese friends try to give me the stinky stuff.

    No matter how a foreigner (sounds strange seeing as you guys now live in the States so technically he is the foreigner… LOL!) and a Chinese person looks at things, there will always be a difference when it comes to what to do when one is ill or ingured and raising kids.

    I keep one rule when I am ill and if I have to go to the hospital because of aches, pains, or illness; this rule has saved me lots of money and lots of problems further down the road. It is my body. Give me the reasonings behind what you (the doctor) wants to give me, and I will consider it. Don’t brow beat someone into doing something or taking something because you are the doctor.

    Sorry. I ranted. I have a lot of issues with doctors; both Western and Chinese.

  17. sean
    sean April 13, 2011 at 8:26 pm | | Reply

    My mom does the same thing your husband does! My dad and I could not understand it. We would use medicine if we are sick. But my mom just thinks using it = abuse. I think it’s really weird in a way.

  18. Arianna
    Arianna April 15, 2011 at 6:27 am | | Reply

    My two cents here: it has nothing to do with chinese history. Not only chinese are generally against pills (unless you really need them), here in Europe it’s the same; our consumption of medicaments is, i think, much much lower than in the States. I am not chinese, yet I was also taught to take pills only in extreme cases. And my dad is a doctor lol

  19. Valentina
    Valentina April 16, 2011 at 9:20 am | | Reply

    It’s funny because I feel so awkward taking painkillers.
    I won’t take them unless it’s absolutely necessary. I just hate the thought of a synthetic chemical being pumped around my body. It gives me the shivers. I like using natural medicine wherever possible, but if I had been in your position, Jocelyn, I would have done the exact same!

    That kind of unnecessary discomfort is really not worth it…

  20. Laura
    Laura April 20, 2011 at 11:55 pm | | Reply

    My husband is the exact opposite. If he has any complaint then he is taking everything he can to “fix” it. He tries all kinds of Chinese and Western medicines usually for colds or stomach problems or allergies. He usually doesn’t take pain killers, but he rarely gets headaches. He has no patience and sometimes takes one thing after another. I think its his personality. I have much more laid back personality, so most the time I tried to hide if there is something wrong with me. I don’t tell him unless its unavoidable, otherwise he would pester me to make an appointment to see a doctor or take this or that. I just don’t like to take anything. Thanks for the interesting post!

  21. Hayri
    Hayri April 24, 2011 at 8:47 pm | | Reply

    My Vietnamese boyfriend does the same thing. I get frequent headaches and I take pain reliever to get rid of them. He always shakes his head and says “you white people depend on pills too much”.
    When he’s sick, he just bears it without any medication. I don’t know how he does it, really.

  22. bob saget
    bob saget June 20, 2011 at 3:47 am | | Reply

    Tell him to pop a few tabs and see how he likes them I’m sure his opinion will change hhahaha

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