Friday, November 27, 2009

Yeah, yeah, it goes to 11

I've had my doubts about the pain rating scale that doctors use for quite awhile. If you've seen a doctor in the past 8 years or so for anything pain-related, you've seen it.

Image 1: Happy smiling face at 1, crying sad face at 10.

NPR even had a story a week ago about what a breakthrough this was on helping people manage their pain. Um, ok. If I'm discussing pain with a doctor, it's at least a 5, or I'd be at home, drinking tea on the couch. Anyone who says 10 is either addicted to painkillers (and hoping to score more) or lacking in imagination.

Let's take that old standard, childbirth, as a ten. Well, what if you were giving birth and someone started stabbing you repeatedly in the foot? While splashing boiling water on you? And pulling out chunks of your hair? You'd feel silly then, wouldn't you. You'd already self-reported your pain at the top of the scale.

So, under the premise that "It could always be worse" (my personal rallying cry), let's just save 9 and 10 for wartime and torture. So we've now shrunk the useable part of the pain scale from 5-8. That's not much of a range.

All this to say I have pleurisy. After my usual hemming and hawing, I gave it a 6.


Anonymous said...

Once saw a more in depth analysis of the chart, actually applying specific causes to each number on the scale. 1 = papercut and so on. 10 was a shotgun blast or a kidney stone. Now, I have had a kidney stone that took 3 months to pass and I'd say it was really the most painful thing I have ever experienced, but thought being shot with a shotgun would have to be worse. Surprisingly I met both a marine and a sheriff deputy who had had stones and been shot. Both said the would rather be shot than have stones. Also met a woman who had given birth and had a stone and she said she would rather give birth everyday for the rest of her life than have another stone.

I'm not convinced there isn't always something worse than the worst pain imaginable but the scale is probably useful in general terms.

Personally I think a 10 would be jumping off the Empire State building and catching your eyelid on a nail but who knows.


Anonymous said...

Unable to let it go.

Years ago I knew a guy who had grown up in Chi in the 50's & 60's. He used to go to a place called Bounce World that was just a lot of trampolines situated in pits so they were at ground level. You paid your money and bounced. They had games with nets strung between tramps and you would bounce high, toss a ball over the net and someone on another tramp would bounce up to catch it and toss it back.

He was there one day when a kid missed his jump and went into the net. The kid got his braces tangled in the net and came down - YANK - pulling all of his teeth out but his back molars to which the braces remained attached and from which he hung screaming 10 feet off the ground. Worst part was he had to hang there for ten minutes while workers removed the trampoline in order to get a ladder under him.

Always thought that was probably a 10.


Anonymous said...

Oh and having had pleurisy a couple years back I rate it pretty high on the misery scale. Takes forever to heal and it feels like every movement hurts.

Sorry, B.


Anonymous said...

The worst I ever head was kidney stones, twice. Pretty bad, never had worse pain. On the second occasion there was a lady in the next room in the hospital who had born children and had kidneystones on another occasion and preferred giving birth by a long shot. I had pleurisy too, but that was 60 years ago, so I am not quite sure about the pain, I don't remember. But that very fact would indicate that it was not too bad, or else I lucked out.


Kate said...

I'm terrible at these pain questions. I always think that having my leg cut off while I continue to experience the pain that I am being asked about would really raise that bar. Having never had a kidney stone, I can only speak to natural childbirth, which was really painful. Excruciating, in fact. But again, leg-cutting-off would have made it even worse. I usually top off at an 8, thus leaving room for atrocities.