Pain: On a Scale of 1 to 10…

How I hate the pain question scale.

For those of you who are not familiar with what I am talking about, it is a pain scale. It was designed to help patients communicate their pain level with “1  being a mild pain” and “10 being a severe pain”. I appreciate the “goal” of making the pain scale and see how it can help those in acute pain, but for those in chronic pain, the scale can be frustrating.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s talk pain.

There are two types of pain, acute and chronic. Acute pain is short termed and resolves itself. Examples would be falling and you have a painful bruise or cut yourself with a knife while chopping vegetables. Acute pain is manageable. On the other hand, chronic pain is consistent, daily, and does not go away. Examples would be the following: neuropathy, a disease that involves the cranial nerves or peripheral/autonomic nervous system; Fibromyalgia, a complex syndrome that is characterized by pain amplification and musculoskeletal discomfort;  and Interstitial Cystitis (I.C.), or painful bladder syndrome, which can cause bladder and pelvic floor pain. There are many more diseases and conditions that cause chronic pain, too many to write here, but I just chose those that I am personally familiar with.

Chronic pain is exhausting in so many ways: mentally; physically; emotionally; spiritually; and financially. Often those individuals in chronic pain feel isolated. Many are unable to hold down a job or relationships with loved ones are strained. Some who suffer from chronic pain feel a burden. Many people, even family, and friends will evaluate your pain level as to how you look from the outside. You will hear comments such as, “well, you don’t look in pain” or my favorite, “you are thinking about it too much” as if you are wanting the pain.

That is why I hate the pain scale. Right now I am a 1. Last night I was a 10. Fibromyalgia and I.C. are unique in that the pain varies in intensity and frequency. The only constant is that they are unpredictable. I believe that is why people do say, “you don’t look in pain”.  I get it. It is hard to understand. Pain is subjective. One person with the same illness can respond totally different to the same source of pain as another individual. You may have a person who is visibly emotional and shares their pain while someone else is more stoic and may look “fine” on the outside but inside they are crying. I don’t believe that comments are meant to personally offend or hurt us. It is that they don’t have any understanding of the disease and suffering you are experiencing.

So, what can we do about it and how do we get relief from chronic pain? I will be exploring and discussing options on my next blog of what we can do. We can take back control of our lives. We do have options. We are not alone.

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