Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Apr 7, 2011

Pain Scale

This XKCD really hit home with me, because I got a similar reaction from the nurse when I broke and sprained my arm and told them the pain was a "two". I looked up at the pain chart, did a quick estimate based on the smilies, and picked two. I mean, I wasn't grimacing or anything, I could feel it and it was uncomfortable, particularly when I moved . . . sounded like a 2 to me. Mostly I just couldn't use my arm for anything.

Later on when it swelled up I think I would have been around a 5, maaaaaybe a 6: I started having spasms in my arm and it hurt enough that I had to stop and stand still until the spasm passed, I couldn't talk or focus or do ANYTHING while my arm was hurting. But I didn't scream or anything. (Btw, in case anyone REALLY WANTED TO KNOW, my, er, monthly cramps are about this bad, maybe a little bit worse. So yeah, my broken arm? Whatevs. And doctors wonder why I keep flushing the pain meds they've prescribed me after surgery/injuries in the past.)

I think one of the doctor posters on MDOD described what 10 out of 10 pain looks like the best: having your leg amputated with a hacksaw. In my mind, 10 out of 10 pain is what you experience just before you pass out. So I'm not really sure why they even ASK you to rate your pain this way. The doctor should really preface it with "well, you're not passed out or grunting and covered in sweat, so I'm going to say your pain is less than a seven. Why don't you rate it for me on a scale of one to six, seven being the part where you're grunting and sweating from the effort of not screaming." Because when you're at or above a seven, they ain't getting any useful communication out of you and they ought to know that.


Nancy said...

I agree. When I was in physical therapy, the therapist asked me the same question, with the same scale. I imagined a "10" being 10,000 volts of electricity running through my should at the same time that someone hit it with a sledge hammer. So I also rated my pain "2" even though my shoulder was really bothering me. That didn't leave much room for improvement on their scale.

Jennifer Snow said...

If they were smart, they'd have two scales, one for chronic pain, and one for acute pain, and the top of the scale for chronic pain would be more like "I can't bring myself to do anything but lie here and hope the pain magically goes away" or similar.