One of the most frustrating things from my stay in hospital is when they asked about pain. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst pain imaginable, where would you rate yourself when you’re up and moving around? And when you’re comfortable and resting? And right now?
Arghhhhh… This question does not work for people with chronic pain. As I wasn’t actually in for pain I didn’t put much thought into my answers especially after I (politely) challenged a nurse about the uselessness of me answering. But had I been in for pain related stuff, how would I respond when the first half of that pain scale never really applies to me. This means I lose nuance and nurses who don’t know what ehlers danlos is look at me funny when I say 5, 6 or 7 – my most common pain scores according to their scale. I no longer look in pain when my pain is 7 or below.
Also, the expected result was that when I was moving around my pain would be higher than it is when I’m in bed. But for me that’s often not the case. I know how to read my body and know when I’m overdoing it and I stop. Because most of the pain isn’t an instant thing, it’s not like I stand and immediately I’m in agony, I tend to be in more pain when I’ve stopped. Some of this is adrenaline and some is that I’ve stopped before the pain peaks.
The other really frustrating part of it was hearing other people claim to be at a 10 when they were pretty much fully functional. In my books, a 10 has you close to passing out or passed out.
But there are options out there for improving this quantitative measure of pain.
Firstly, do the basics and show a patient the pain scale with faces on, it gives a bit more context and helps the patient have a guide to consider.
Although again, for people with chronic pain, the scale shifts. It takes a hell of a lot of pain to make me cry or even get close to tears these days.
Maybe go one further and use this one from Hyperbole and a Half:
There are also written pain scales which patients might find useful as they don’t just look at the pain but look at the impact of said pain:
The ever wise and wonderful Jo Southall has a post on her blog about painscales which I’m considering printing off and handing to the pain clinic next time I go. Every time I have to fill in the pain scale form and draw on an outline of a body where my pain is, here’s a hint, pretty much everywhere…
As Jo suggests in her blog, much more helpful questions are about how you are coping with your pain, how it is affecting your life and whether it is disrupting your day to day activities. Not only does this give a clearer picture to the medical practitioner but it also means you can look at making adjustments which will ease those issues caused by pain and in turn you may well make the pain more manageable.