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Pain Values 101…

y(Pain + Chronic illness)= Chronic pain(nth degree – relativity), where “y” is the actual illness factor.

Y’know, I’m tired. I’m tired of having to define my life according to pain scales. Relativity.

I’m also tired of people saying to me, “I feel like _____! Oh, but that doesn’t even count compared to YOUR pain!!.” Swell. From relative strangers, you’re freakin’ right it doesn’t compare. From my friends? Do you realize you just invalidated yourself? I hate that. Just puttin’ it out there.

So I have decided to, once and for all, define “Pain According to a Badass.” It applies to ME. I think it’ll be fun. I’m also deliriously tired and bone-crushingly exhausted. Keep your appendages on the inside at all times…it’s gonna be a fun ride!!!

This is the Wong-Baker scale for pain. Primarily used in pediatrics, it can be found in other clinical settings and some hospitals. Unless dealing with small children or those of the “suck it up, buttercup” and “awww…poor muffin!” variety…this scale just sucks.


For example, define to me, please, “Hurts Worst.” Is this, like…”Kill me now!” pain? Pain that makes you pass out? Or pain that makes you think, “Huh. Well then. Ouch.”

What would be MY 10? The time I was rushed to the ER having a gallstone attack. I was left for 2 hours with that pain. This pain made me call out to Jesus (of which I’m not Christian) and look around the plaster room frantically for something to impale myself with. Seriously. I wanted blood to shower the room so someone would believe the level of pain I was experiencing. Pain so bad that I, a mother of five, wanted to die.

I have also had kidney stones which have failed to compare to that night. They’d have been about a “9.”

Getting kicked in the back by a work horse while on vacation would fall into a nice “8.5” on the scale, having had two ribs fractures and a cracked patella (from the force of falling into a rock with my kneecap).

The problem, therefore, lies in other people trying to make the distinction of relativity…because if YOUR 10 is getting kicked in the junk, then, Houston, we have a problem.

Not that you don’t understand pain. Absolutely NOT.

It’s that you don’t understand MY pain. You cannot, logically, compare. So if I were to tell you I was at a 10, you’d likely be like, “Damn, woman! Sucks ass!! Sorry ’bout that!” MY attempt, then, is to define my own levels of pain so that YOU can compare it (GO, GO Relativity!!) in your attempt to understand.

No, my 10 makes me want to blow myself up. 10 would make me make the evening news if I were to inflict said 10 on someone else.

This one is a little better above…a more “Universal” pain scale.

The problem I see glaringly WRONG in either of these scales is that they don’t explain the “effect” part. What can you or can’t you do at any particular level? Does a 6 mean you can take pain relievers (found in a drugstore) and sorta/kinda keep on functioning? Or does a 6 mean you’re taking prescription pain killers and can sorta/kinda keep on functioning? Or NOT functioning? WHICH ONE?!?!?

I believe this is KEY to the problem of doctor’s and their ability to assess (or not!) our complaints and afflictions. They. Cannot. Relate. To. A. Standard. No matter how hard someone tries to make a “standard.”

I think I also have to be aware that as a chronic badass, my pain threshold has also likely changed over the course of a few years of pain tolerance (or intolerance). What used to be a 7 or 8 might, in fact, appear as a 5 or 6. Scary shit, eh?

So. If I were to say a 5 means it hurts to wipe my ass, I’m not having a particularly good day. A 6? Hmmmm. Migraine, perhaps? They sure as shit HURT. No, I think a 7.

What do I usually run at? A low grade fever during a flare and a 7 – 8. Remember 8? Yup. 8. According to the scales. *I* might say a 6 or a 7, however. Why? Because I’ve had the pain so damned long it’s like one big bad dream you can’t wake up from…and you’re just along for the ride.

I still have to work. I still have to function. I still have to manage the finances and prepare for back to school. I still have to plan a wedding. I still have to clean the house.

I still have to go on pretending I’m not dying or suffering.

I try my best to relate what I perceive to be a comparative relativity that most people could relate to…for example, I can ask them if they’ve ever HAD a migraine, what would that be for THEM? A 9? Then I have to gauge whether *I* would feel THEIR migraine at the same level, and then judge a relation of where my pain would be relative to THAT.

Sucks. Ass.

Just puttin’ it out there.

Therefore, if I’m saying, “I don’t feel too bad today! :o) “…I’m running at a 4. 4 makes me happy. ‘Ish. 4 might have you running to the doctor saying, “For the love of all thing holy, you MUST FIX ME!”

Therefore, if I’m saying, “I feel like shit today! :o( “…I’m running at an 8. ‘Ish. If what you have to say ain’t covered in chocolate, leave me the hell alone.

For fun times, I really….REALLY…love the Hyperbole and a Half blog post which has the pain scale shown below:

I think it’s MUCH more effective.

**(For the whole post, visit: and for heaven’s sake do NOT be drinking anything while you read it!!)**

So, my goal is to continue to try to relate as best I can my perceptions, my levels and my thresholds in a manner to which the majority of the population can relate.

1 Comment

  1. Janice

    Was just talking about this with Summer when she was in the ER. I was saying that a number scale means nothing… what used to be a 5 for me is probably a normal day now. But then again, I can't remember how I felt everyday before lupus and fibro. I never want to use 10 cause there is always room for it to be worse- see impaling yourself with something to demonstrate how bad the pain is- I am still here so I haven't hit a 10. But when I had a kidney stone I had a whole new definition of a 9. I had a very high pain tolerance before lupus/fibro and I think that still plays in to how much I can tolerate today. And lets say my daily pain is a 4…. well I don't want to wake up every day and think that way. That 4 is now the new 1 cause life doesn't stop for a 4.
    So yeah, pain scales are not worth anything to me. I tell my doctors, if I am telling you it hurts so bad I need pain relievers, know my pain level is past what would bring a "normal" person in. Just trust me.

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