In Celebration Of Small Things That Bring Big Pain

painEarly last week I was at work, walking through the warehouse. I stopped to talk to somebody, leaned against a pallet on a rack, and a sliver of splintered wood JAMMED up underneath my left thumbnail: deep.

And now I know why that’s such an effective torture technique. The pain was instant, and so intense I thought my brain stem exploded. I began howling, hopping around, and shaking my hand, as the person I was talking with blinked in confusion.

It was, without exaggeration, the most intense pain I believe I’ve ever experienced. And it didn’t let up. Oh, it came down from a 10, to about an 8. But it still hurt like a son of a bitch. If you stub your toe, or accidentally hit your thumb with a hammer, it hurts really bad, but lessens quickly. This shit didn’t lessen much. It was a plateau of misery, not a spike.

Within hours the thumbnail turned black on one side, and was super-sensitive. A breeze would throw me into a state of anguish. And if I actually hit it on something… well, have you ever attempted to shout profanity with your teeth clenched, and tears pooling in your eyes? I have.

You’d be surprised how often your thumb bangs on things, or comes in violent contact with stuff. Even when you’re favoring it, and trying not to let it happen.


The worst of these instances happened when I was rummaging through stacks of CDs in my office here, looking for a disc by Scruffy the Cat. They were an 80s college-rock band that was popular with the Peaches Records crowd, when I worked there. I’d just found out the lead singer died, and had an email conversation with Brad about it.

So, I was digging through the stacks, and RAMMED my thumb into the edge of a compact disc case. It felt like an electric current went through my body, and everything went back to a 10. Holy shitballs! This laughed in the face of all the former pain I’d endured during my life. I was hollering like a mental patient, moving from room to room. I don’t know why, but I felt compelled to move.

And then one morning, a couple of days ago… I woke up and my thumb didn’t really hurt anymore. The night before it seemed to be absorbing all the pain and human suffering within a five mile radius of me, and now it was done. Just like that, as if someone threw a switch.

Today, I’m pain free. Well, except for the ongoing emotional pain related to the loss of all my hopes and dreams… But physical pain, no. And while my thumb was pulsating like something from a Looney Tunes cartoon, I swore I’d never take pain-free for granted again. So, I’m trying to appreciate it.

For a Question, I’d like to know about some tiny little thing that unleashed the most suffering upon you. I’m not talking about a catastrophic car crash, or the kind of surgery where they have to lift the top of your skull off, or whatever. I mean some stupid household thing that really brought you to your knees. Tell us about it, won’t you? Use the comments section.

And thank you guys for reading!

I’ll see you next time.

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  1. Tooth pain is the worst. There’s nothing that dulls it. I’d taken a dozen kicks in the nuts to one painful tooth.

    • “take” not “taken” I swear I’m getting stupider by the day.

      • And tooth pain is right there. In your head. Just. There. You can’t ignore it. You can’t drink it away. You start thinking of ways to rip out your teeth to fix it.

  2. Sinus infection. When it hurts too much to open your eyes, and sunlight is of the very Devil. OK, that’s not necessarily ‘household,’ I’ll admit, but it’s the only time that I’d contemplated putting a spike through my own skull.

    • Wow, totally agree. I’ve been prone to sinus infections in the past and sometimes moving my eyes up or down or side-to-side would entail excruciating pain. After a few relapses of this over the years, the damn bugs became immune to run-of-the-mill antibiotics and they had to bring out the heavy artillery. Thank God I haven’t had a bad one in a few years now…

  3. I feel your pain. I got a tiny splinter under the nail of my index finger a couple of weeks ago. It was very small and was rammed deep. Criminy dick that bastard hurt. I could see it under the nail but it hurt so much I couldn’t even try to dig that bastard out. Like you, it hurt every time it touched anything. My wife tried after about four days to get some tweezers on it and that lasted about two seconds. I woke up one morning and noticed it somehow had worked its way out to where the tip was finally reachable. Yanked that bitch out and it hurt as bad as it did going in, but it was finally out. The tip is still tender, even typing this.

  4. Any time you get something stuck under your eyelid/in your eye….it’s not so much the pain but the sensation will drive you batshit crazy.

  5. I accidentally shut the washing machine door right on my middle fingernail. Funny, it didn’t feel terrible for the first 2 seconds that my brain processed it, but then the pain proceeded to kick me in the face. I was breathless for what felt like 5 minutes as I gripped my hand and spun slowly in a circle (don’t ask me why this was necessary – I think it was the shock that something so simple could hurt so fucking badly.) It continued to smart for several days afterwards, yet there were no visible signs of trauma.

  6. A sliding door on a cabinet jammed and when I finally yanked it free it slammed onto my thumb and the pain almost made me pass out. This was during a manic lunch rush at McDonald’s. Within minutes two other girls managed to get serious burns so we were like a golden arches convoy onthe way to the hospital. The staff took painstaking care bandaging the burns then it wad my turn. The only way to alleviate the pain was to drill right through the fingernail. It took two nurses and two friends to hold me down on the guerney. Once that drill made contact with the skin underneath I knee I met the devil himself. That hurt for weeks on end. It too months for the nail to grow back. That was 35 years ago and I can still shudder and break out in a cold sweat. Excuse me but I need a shot if Jamesons.

  7. Steve in WV says

    Without a doubt, kidney stones. I had the pleasure of experiencing this little miracle a couple of years ago and it put in in the hospital for damn near a week. A WEEK! The pain was completely unbearable with even the stronger medicines they hand out at pharmacy. I guess the stone got stuck between my kidney and bladder, which forced my kidney to back up, which created a ripple effect with pain coursing through my entire body. I have heard people describe an appendicitis as someone stabbing you with a knife, this was more like being stabbed with a dull, super heated, ghost pepper tipped knife, while simultaneously being run over by a tractor trailer hauling lawn furniture (heh!).

    • I’ve had three bouts with kidney stones. All were accompanied by simultaneous nausea, vomiting & defecating.
      I’ve found that there is nothing one can do to stop the pain, short of a trip to the nearest hospital’s Emergency room.

    • I’ve had two kidney stones that were both teeny tiny and hurt like hell. I went to the hospital for the first one and rode out the second one on my own. Horrible.

  8. Steve in WV says

    Just realized my story doesn’t really meet the “household” requirement but, nonetheless.

  9. Hitting my head on the corner of a cabinet flips me the fuck out.
    In that instant everything in the world is my enemy. From the time of creation to that instant everything that has ever happened is solely in consipracy to make sure that the cabinet door is at just the right place that when I stand of straight from reaching into the dishwasher I hit my head on it.

    It’s a pain that shoot into the center of my brain and explodes in tears and rage. While in reality, the physical pain subsideds into a day long throbbing headache after a few minutes, the moment of impact is a pocket eternity. I know how to measure the infinite, I do it every time I hit my head on the corner of a cabinet door.

    A universe of stabbing pain and the consolidated rage of a billion broken hearts are focused intently on the contact point and explode in a release of howling, searing, screaming hurt.

    I’d rather rub my scalp of with a cinder block lubricated with lumpy mayo than have the weight of the world try to drive its way through my skull at the edge of a cherry door.

    • Haha, yeah, I only do that about once a year. I don’t know what is more infuriating, the intense pain (although thankfully it usually passes pretty quickly) or the knowledge that I still manage to do it once a year!

    • Reminds me of the old saying, “I’d rather have rats gnaw at my face than attempt to load a program from cassette.”

  10. Lew in Bama says

    Femur bone to the toe.
    We like to buy our yellow lab femur bones to chew on. He likes them and they are good for his teeth. What they are NOT good for is hardwood floors and big toes. He carries it around in his mouth, then will drop it like a hot potato. We have dents in our 60+ yr old hardwoods where he has dropped it. On several occasions he has dropped said bone directly onto my big toe, causing me to wail in pain as I drop to my knees clutching the afflicted toe in agony. Unbelievable pain for about 2 minutes, then I hobble aorund the house for about 10, then back to normal.

    • johnthebasket says

      Where, in fuck’s name, are you getting femurs? Are you aware that people need femurs to walk? I know that everything is available for a price, but for the sake of human decency I hope you’re only robbing graveyards.


    • Lew I feel your pain.. We give our dogs deer femurs and they love um.. but the little pieces left behind on the hardwood floor will buckle you. They are hilarious though, the 11 pound weiner dog will take the 12 pound bone from a 50 pound bulldog and haul ass! they run around with things like they are connected

  11. Ran a flat-head screwdriver under my thumbnail one time. I saw God, man.

  12. Broken toes. I yanked the freezer door open, and a container of chili fell out and landed just right on one of my toes. It felt like I broke all of them, but it was just one.

  13. Two words: Paper cuts. For some reason these light me up just thinking about them.

    BTW, if you need a copy of the Scruffy the Cat CD, I have one I can run off a duplicate of. I’m sure it’s illegal or something but it was like 30 years ago and I’m happy to do it. Were you at the show at the Cradle when they stopped the show just a few songs into it because the frat boys wouldn’t stop shoving people around? In any case, “Mama Killed Hate” is still one of my favs.

    • David, I have the Tiny Days CD, was listening to it on my way to work today. I saw where somebody reissued all their stuff (2 LPs, 2 EPs) as one big download. I’m gonna be all over that.

      Yep, I was at that show. Hey, he warned them a couple of times. I just wish the rest of the audience had beaten the troublemakers down. They deserved it.

    • In the line of paper cuts: I too worked at a record store when we still had records. I still remember it was some shitty Elton John LP, I ran my thumbnail in the crack of the sleeve to break the shrink wrap and the cover “papercut” the meaty end of my thumb. Bled like an s.o.b.

  14. This is a fun comment thread to read. It’s like watching Itchy & Scratchy.

  15. The Divine Miss E says

    The other day I accidentally pulled some skin away from my nail while trimming them, as sometimes happens, and it smarts. Then, last night, I touched something metal and it sent a shock directly under that fingernail into the sensitive skin. The pain almost sent me to the floor.

    A month or so ago I dropped the plug from the blowdryer – heavy-duty thing – directly on top of my foot. That bitch hurt for a week.

  16. What about the dude, who used to visit this site, who ran into an open door in the darkness and ended up with a staph infection and died? Although it never happened? Or did it happen? Nah, didn’t happen. I think it just gave him the liqui-shits.

  17. johnthebasket says

    My cat food cupboard door is like a Jap sneak attack. It has about seven too many layers of paint, and won’t close properly, so while I’m bending over to fend off the little bastards while I’m preparing one of their eight or nine daily meals, the door creeps open as if it’s being operated by Boris Karloff, and I quickly stand up and imbed the corner a few inches into my head, or so it feels.

    After staggering around the kitchen concatenating swear words that make no sense when put together and trying to avoid stepping on a cat, which, I can assure you, only makes things worse, I struggle to regain sight, hearing, and a general understanding of my position in space, holding my head, which doesn’t help at all, and continuing to curse every god and pretend god through history.

    We have a picture window at the rear of the kitchen. On a leafless winter night, the people who live behind us can see into the kitchen through the trees. I’ve idly wondered how they experience this dance without the soundtrack. I assume they think I’m having an acid flashback or a stroke. I’ve not had a stroke, and acid flashbacks, for the most part, are less dramatic. Damn cats.


  18. About a year ago, I noticed that my left nut was considerably larger than normal. It felt swollen, but no pain. A few days later, it seemed back to normal so I shrugged it off.

    About a week later, I noticed it was even bigger and really starting to get uncomfortable so I went to a urologist.

    Keep in mind that I hate doctors. As a matter of fact, I think I have only been to an actual doctor about six times in my life, and this includes eye exams and mandatory physicals to play pee wee baseball as a kid.

    The lying bastard explained the procedure like this:
    Picture your testicle as a pillow which has a single pillow case. And picture both testicles as two pillows, each with its own pillow case and both are stuffed inside a large pillow case called a scrotum. Somehow, you tore the single pillow case on the left side and fluid is building up in there. The longer you wait to take care of this, the bigger it will get. Eventually, it could look like a loaf of bread or even larger. I looked up the condition on the net (called a hydrocele) and saw some really grotesque stuff, so I had no choice. Had to get this fixed before I got hired at the circus as the Elephant Balls Man.

    I had the procedure and when I woke up they asked me what my pain level was between one and ten. Ten being the highest. I said five hundred. They gave me two shots of morphine and it did about as much good as a glass of water.

    If you ever need a hydrocele repaired, I suggest getting naked, sitting on a 2″ x 8″ board and drive a ten penny nail through your bag with a sledge hammer and squeeze out the fluid with vice grips.. It will hurt less. And, by the way, morphine is shit. Bourbon works way better.

    • Jazzbone Swirly says

      Dilaudid combined with fentanyl do a pretty good job with post-surgical pain, although the headache you get about 8 hours later is a bitch.

  19. Wisey in TTown says

    I was barefoot and was playing around with my lab. I was playing keep-away with a tennis ball soccer style. I tried to kick the ball away when my dog lunged for it and her canine fang went under the nail of my big toe and out the side. I laid on the ground and screamed for 10 minutes.

  20. One day while pruning shrubs in my yard, a teeny, tiny piece of a stem from the shrub got in my eye. It didn’t really hurt at the time, just kinda irritated my eyeball enough that I kept rubbing my eye. Well, rubbing my eye was not the smart thing to do as it scratched my cornea. Within an a short period of time, my eye was absolutely killing me. Called my eye doctor and he had me come in to check my eye and, sure enough, I had, indeed, scratched the cornea. He prescribed two different kinds of eye drops that helped to heal the cornea, but nothing dulled the pain until I was able to go to sleep for the night. By the next morning, it had healed enough that tears were no longer pouring from my eye like a faucet had been turned on full blast and the pain had pretty much subsided. BTW, I’ve done this to myself twice. Odd thing is, I wear glasses, so how this stem (that felt like a huge tree limb) got in my eye is a mystery to me.

    Second worst pain was passing a kidney stoned. Nightmare experience for sure! Don’t even want to think about it.

    • Didn’t your momma teach you to properly chew your food? Especially kidneys… 😉 Good thing you didn’t swallow a building block…

      • Ha! I kinda like my typo. I wish I had been stoned when I passed that kidney stone. Maybe the sight of bright, red blood in the commode and the blinding pain would have been far more interesting. 😉

  21. A few years ago I sliced a piece off the tip of my right index finger using a mandoline. It was a quick, clean cut and it hurt like a motherfucker and bled all over the place.

    I was able to stop the bleeding eventually; then went to Urgent Care several days later to have the doc pick out the bits of gauze, which hurt like a brand-new motherfucker.

    It was tender and painful for some time – hurt to touch anything. This was a problem, since my job involves typing.

    Nowadays I only open a beer AFTER the potatoes are sliced.

  22. I regularly walk into things lying in my pathway, shoving my little toe away from all the others, or jamming it into the joint. If I walked across a ballroom and there were one small brick in a corner, my toe would find brick. I’ve broken the same toe doing the same thing a couple of times. The pain is explosive and opens the mind to all sorts of creative swearing.

  23. The stupidest injury I keep getting over and over involves lightly whacking one of my knuckles in a way that wouldn’t hurt a normal person but for me turns into a marble-sized, swollen bruise that pains me for days. It’s happened a couple of times when I’ve been unplugging and wrapping cords after a band gig. I can’t imagine what makes me such a delicate flower, but it’s annoying as all get out.

  24. While putting away groceries, I dropped a can of soup on my little toe. The pain was way out of proportion to the incident, and there was much swearing involved. Over the next three weeks it kept up the pain, and stayed purple and swollen. I figured it was broken, but it’s a little toe. You don’t go to the doctor for that – you tape it the next toe over and wait it out. Well the pain got so bad I finally went in, got X-rays, and was told that not only was it broken, I had re-broken it at least twice while it was trying to heal. I had to stay off of it for a month.
    All for a can of soup.

  25. I also once grated off part of my knuckle once while grating carrots for a dish. Moderate pain, but lots of blood, a decent scar, and I still get a little queasy when I see a grater.

  26. Opening a bottle of wine! We have this very cool tool that has a sharp blade, the corkscrew part and then a tall part that fits over the mouth of the wine bottle. Put it all together and turn the handle thingy and the corkscrews goes in and removes the cork.

    Well, I decided that instead of holding the handle and turning, I would insert my middle finger in the handle and use it to turn the corkscrew handle. Mistake!! For some unknown reason, the corkscrew got stuck in the cork and stopped turning. However, my finger did not. So it continued moving for a quarter turn and then got yanked back. OMG! My knuckle swelled up immediately and hurt so much. I thought something broke but no . .. just swelling.

    Then to make the pain even worse, I tried making a fist. Well, there is this nerve/ligament that normally resides on/over the knuckle. Because it was so swollen, it tried sliding over the knuckle and that brought on even more pain. Also, the middle finger likes to move and follow its side neighbors so I finally had to tape it to the ring finger to keep it somewhat immobile. It took a couple of days for the pain to go away. But I think the knuckle is still bigger than before the incident.

    To this day there is some residual pain . . and I can’t satisfactorily ‘crack’ that knuckle.

  27. johnthebasket says

    I nearly sustained rectal damage when I was riding with a guy who started to insert a Taylor Swift CD in the player and I told him I’d rather be fucked in the ass.

  28. whilst repairing a loose floorboard under the house, I moved some fiberglass insulation out of the way. Fiberglass dust/particles/whatever got into my eye. I got a scratched cornea and the eye dr had to pick out pieces of glass from my eye.

    hurt something bad, but Ive heard kidney stones hurt worse even than childbirth.

  29. Austin John says

    While not exactly a ‘regular household thing’, one of the worst I can think of in the past several years was playing hockey in the driveway with my grandson. We were using a real puck, and he hit me right on the shin. I dropped like a rock! Hurt like hell and ended the playtime right there. I later bought a cheap ($20) set of shin pads so we could play. I might be a little dumb, but I’m not stupid!

    • When I was in junior high we played Hallway Hockey. The puck of choice was a roll of electrical tape; it’s less painful.

  30. Anyone else ever have experience with gout? Holy fuck, talk about painful, the sheet on the bed touching against the area is enough to send one over the top.

  31. Yeah, I’ve experienced gout. Apparently alcohol intake can be a contributing cause.

    It IS painful. It feels like a dumbbell has been dropped on your big toe, and it lasts for about a week.

    In fact, it hurt so badly that I almost stopped drinking.

  32. Stephanie C says

    Cleaning the kitchen…(barefoot, in tank top and shorts…in December). There’s not much counter space to the left of the double sink. Move the knife block to the bigger counter…? Nah, that would have made too much sense. Instead, balance it on the edge of the sink. Then, when it starts to fall over, knives and all and you brain tells your bare feet to MOVE,..MOOOVVVE…and they DO, but your brain tells your left arm to reach out and catch this falling thing…Yeah, not pretty. The bleeding won’t stop even after we tied cloth diapers on to my arm and it bled through those. So, at the ER, after bleeding through really thick gauze pads, they end up taking me in as a “serious” case (I’m thinking serious case of stupidity) but they had to stitch up my arm fairly quickly.. Did I mention it was December and there was no way I could get “bundled” up (properly dressed) with my arm bleeding all over the place? Minnesota in December…brrr.

  33. I’ll start with, Alcohol was involved. At a family party. Some dickwad uncle from the other side was fucking with my daughter. Being a real dick to her, Everyone said, “that’s just the way he is” Fuck that. I approached him to tell him to back off and he stepped towards me. Thought he was gonna throw a punch, so I countered first and clocked him. He muckled me around my neck and spun me for a takedown. Well, my body spun but, my right leg stayed firmly planted. The cracking sound was like a lightening strike. Right foot now facing backwards from the rest of my body. Thank god shock ensued shortly after. Fib and Tib compound fracture. Bambulance to the Hospital. 4 hour surgery, 6 Months in an external fixator and another 6 months of therapy. Google External Fixator. I think that fucker was as painful as the break. I’ll take the splinter under the finger nail any day.

  34. AtomicFireball says

    I cut the webbing in between my middle and ring fingers with a pair of scissors. I could HEAR my skin being cut open! The pain was instantaneous and sweat popped out on my forehead. I drove myself to the emergency room, because it wouldn’t stop bleeding. Tried to deaden my finger , but it wouldn’t take for some reason and I felt EVERY single stitch pull through the skin. I shudder even now.