My daughter is a Pediatric RN, currently studying for her Nurse Practitioner exam and we got into a conversation about pain scales. I, like most of you, have always been presented with the standard pain scale by doctors and asked to rate what my usual pain level is and what it was at the time. She pointed out to me that pain measurement has been found to be variable, particularly for chronic pain sufferers.
“Mom, when you have pain all of the time, you have to ignore it to an extent just to function. The more you are able to ignore it, the less accurate that pain scale will be. That is why they have come up with several chronic pain scales,” she said.
Well, that certainly makes sense, doesn’t it? And yet in twelve plus years of chronic pain, I have never been presented with that chronic pain scale. There are many to choose from out there, but here is a side by side comparison that shows you the difference.
Regular Pain Scale
A friend shared this image today on her Facebook page.
It caught my eye because as chronic pain sufferers, we get asked about our pain level all of the time by a variety of specialists. Burning Mouth Syndrome is a novelty to some doctors we encounter, and a pain chart helps to accurately convey the level of pain you experience and how it affects or inhibits your daily activities. Often it is a range, and with BMS, this is particularly true because our pain escalates throughout the day unless we find coping strategies or medicine that provides some intervention.
This “improved” version adds a bit of humor to the pain scale (bees, bears and ninjas?), but also makes the point that if you are truly at the top-level of pain (10 is the top!) then you are incapacitated or have been rendered unconscious by the level of pain and medical intervention is required immediately.
I was surprised by the comments that accompanied the image. Some laughed, but others were angry, feeling that the image was mocking their pain. Some even took the scale to task for not having enough numbers, because their pain was “at least an 11 or 12!” Others berated the creator for not including labor, even though that is a pain that only affects one gender.
Pain is affected by many factors, and each person’s tolerance and perception is individual but we must be consistent and coherent when talking about our pain levels with medical professionals. Some of the comments came from people in the medical profession and they gently mocked people who claimed they were experiencing a 10 level of pain but were “casually talking on their phone and eating chips.” Continue reading