• The Pain Scale: Yay or Nay?

    Posted by bailey-anne-vincent on September 24, 2020 at 11:31 am

    I know I’ve been discussing pain a lot this week, but I had to ask:

    Should the Pain Scale be erased from medicine?

    Personally, I have an incredibly hard time contextualizing pain and communicating it to others. I never want to use a 9 or a 10 (even when I’ve likely experienced my own version), so I aim low numerically, or “explain away” instead. I am not a number person, so narrowing it down to something so simple when it feels so complex is like a multiple choice test I can’t pass.

    “I’m a 7 if I’m standing, but a 6 if I’m sitting, and maybe a 5 if I’m laying down completely and taking meds. But I was an 8 when I had my daughter without an epidural, but maybe that was more like a 9 at times? I’ll never be a 10… that’s reserved. And sometimes I think it’s a 4 because I’ve had 7’s and they are worse than this.”

    I have too many words and thoughts and self doubts to just say: “This is a solid 8”; to answer resolutely.

    Where do you fall on the pain scale? Do you feel comfortable with it, or wish we had another system? Do you feel you land on a number easily, or aim lower or higher than you should?

    jenny-livingston replied 3 years, 6 months ago 3 Members · 2 Replies
  • 2 Replies
  • paul-met-debbie

    September 25, 2020 at 3:45 am

    I couldn’t answer a question like that. It’s too vague. Pain is too complex to catch in a number. It also makes a difference what kind of pain it is (sharp, steady, deep), what its location is (concentrated in a spot, a part of the body, all over the place) and the duration (short pinches, waves, continuous).

    Questions I consider relevant about pain are “do I want a pain killer now or can it wait?”, “can I sleep with it?”, “does it drain my energy?” or “does it impede other natural processes of my body?”
    And perhaps to monitor the process that causes the pain as a symptom “how does it compare to the pain of yesterday?” (more, less or same) although that one could already be hard to answer objectively depending on the mood of the day.

    So a more practical and present approach is preferable in stead of the number. Perhaps it is easy and fast for the nurses and doctors to just ask for a number, but the answer does not really tell a lot. It gives a false illusion of knowledge and caring. There a many better questions to ask.

  • jenny-livingston

    September 25, 2020 at 9:40 am

    I agree with both of you! Pain is so difficult to reduce and contain to a number. I always find myself questioning it in similar ways, Bailey. “Well, I thought this was a 6, but it’s not as bad as something else I once rated as a 6. But it definitely feels like a 6 today!” The number scale seems so arbitrary and I don’t personally find it helpful to use. In fact, trying to rate my pain oftentimes just leads to more frustration and anxiety about the pain itself.

Log in to reply.