Monday, March 21, 2011

Heather's pain scale

I've gotten really good at dealing with pain, but I need to be more realistic in how I talk about it.  I almost always say that my pain is a 2 or a 3 according to the following pain scale:
I don't know why I do that; maybe it's because I insist on smiling through it.   I don't think I'm trying to be tough.  I've got nothing to prove.  I think I am just grossly inaccurate when trying to quantify my pain.  Also, I think that I discount finite, definable pain altogether, such as a paper cut.  Yea, it hurts, but it will stop hurting in a few minutes, so I will probably insist that it is only a 0 or a 1 on the above scale even though it is more like a 5 or a 6 (judging by the swear words I likely utter).  

So how does my pain scale work, anyway?  I figure there are only 5 values on the scale:  0, 2, 3, 7, and 8.  Zero includes minor ouchies, and 8 was only felt in the penultimate hour of labor with my first child.  Most of my recent pain I've been calling a 2 or a 3, and periodically it jumps to a 7.  Even during the spine biopsy I remember telling the nurse that my pain was a 3.    

I'll be the first to admit that this is a terrible personalization of the accepted scale.  First of all, when I complained to my mom that the nurse in the hospital didn't offer me any pain medicine she explained that nurses don't medicate pain that's a 2 or a 3.  Pain has to be greater than 3 to get the good drugs.  By constantly rating my pain at a 3, therefore, no one will ever know when I would like some help in treating the pain.  For example, I would rate my pain today at a 3, but I also rated my pain on Saturday at a 3 and Saturday was a far more painful day than today has been so far.  By recognizing this problem of mine I hope to change my ways and be a better patient in the future.  Let's revise Saturday's pain to a 7 and today's pain to a 5.  And please pass me the Tylenol.    

In other news, these drainage tubes are driving me crazy.  I called my surgeon's office and got the appointment changed from Friday to tomorrow (I had to move my radiation oncology appointment from tomorrow to Thursday).  Hopefully tomorrow you will read a happy post about the separation of me from the tubes.  And hopefully they are a large source of my discomfort, thereby relieving some pain with their removal.


  1. That is school we use the same scale for kids to identify the immediacy of their counseling need. Of course, the text above is changed, but the faces are the same.

    FYI, a 2 or a 3 on our middle school scale means that you had a fight with friends and want to talk about it with a counselor in the next 1-2 days. In middle school, there are definitely no pain meds for a 2 or a 3.

    I will be sending you "get rid of these crappy tubes" thoughts and vibes tomorrow! Good Luck!

  2. Scaling is difficult for everyone much to the chagrin of behavioral scientists such as myself. The only way to do it well is to do what you did which is come up with a scale that is meaningful and useful for you. In fact some of the better standardized measures train people to use personal anchors as you did with the paper cut/ labor example. It can seem trivial but hopefully it can help you and others make decisions about how to make you more comfortable. I hope their is a descending but squiggly pain graph post in our future.

    So sorry to hear you are in any pain. You are the bravest person I know and that has nothing to do with pain tolerance, just so's you know. Hope you get to be done with those drainage tubes soon!

  3. Hope you can get those tubes out soon, they certainly looked like a pain this weekend and that can NOT be any fun at all.

    Pain is funny, as Martha stated, everyone's pain scale is different with different thresholds. The important thing is that the pain is lessening!

    Since you're only willing to take yourself up to a 3 now, just start reducing it by fractions :) so you can gauge your relief. Now your pain is down to a 2.65 on the Heather scale :)

  4. Pain pain go away, come again some other day...

    As the rain recedes from the Northwest winter, so shall your pain. That's a fact, jack.

  5. I always thought it odd to have a pain scale when I giving birth to my daughters. How did I know if I was just being a whimp or if my pain qualified for a larger number? Other women down the hall were screaming - was their pain worse? But at least now you have learned the valuable lesson of what to say to get the good drugs. That is a useful piece of information that I am glad you imparted to all of us. Tucked that nugget into my brain.

    So many nice signs of spring out there - the robins returning, little sprigs of green grass popping up, and the smell of wet concrete. The girls were searching for worms in the parking lot this morning. Your smile back at work will be one of the best signs of spring and "rebirth" of the new, cancer free Heather!