Pain Perception

If you have ever been taken to hospital, think back to when you saw the triage nurse. You would have been asked a question, “How much pain are you in, on a scale of 1 to 10?” The first time this happens to someone, they will nearly always aim high. Broken bone? Headache? Burn? They will all be reported as 8,9 or even 10. But then something worse happens. Perhaps that rates at 10. But that means that the previous pain can’t have been 10, so it must be re-evaluated and bumped down to a lower number.

Tolerance of pain varies completely from person to person though. Some people can shrug off pain that has others clutching at the affected area and swearing or shouting about how much pain they are in. I would imagine that they rate the same pain as somewhat lower on the scale than others.

On my own personal pain scale, my neuropathic pain is sitting somewhere around 3 or 4 this morning (With the aid of quite a lot of painkillers) but without painkillers can often by around 8 or 9. I would rate my migraines, which are very debilitating, as about 7, although I once would have said they were 10. The migraines had to be bumped down the list a bit because the perianal abscess that I had last year definitely has to rate at 9 or 10 and was the most pain I have ever endured. I think there must be worse pain than I have experienced, for example the extensive damage inflicted by a road accident must surely be more painful than my abscess was.

This presents a problem for people that experience lots of pain. When going into hospital and being asked to rate the pain, giving 4 as an answer gets you dumped to the back of the queue. A pain level of 4 is not a problem. And yet, that 4 may well equal the pain of the next person to answer the question, who having no further experience of pain, will answer 10.

There’s no solution to this problem that I can see. Pain is entirely subjective and cannot currently be measured, and if it were to be measured, the sensitivity and reaction to pain in the subject would also need to be measured in order to rank the severity of each case.

Still, as a bit of fun to lighten up a horrible subject, go take a look at the pain scale over at Hyperbole and a Half.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

4 thoughts on “Pain Perception”

  1. pain is such an individual thing.
    i have never thought of rating my pain like that, although, as you know, it will change over the space of hours. so i could start out at 3-4 then a few hours later it will be up to 8-9 and (if its my collar bone/shoulder blade fibro thing) i will have a dead arm, painful neck and gritting my teeth~and being sent to bed with diclofenac and paracetamol and a hot water bottle.

    hope you are not too bad today 🙂

        1. Wow, I do find it odd that you’ve never been asked that! I freaking hate that question. One of my problems is that it changes. It varies from what I tell the doctors is 6-8 throughout the entire day. However, because I’ve been dealing with this for two years and on a lot of medication, it’s really a 4-6. Yet, if I say that, then why do I need pain management for a 4? Let’s not forget that I also hurt more in the morning, which is when I have my appointments! I am so taking this new pain chart to the doctor today! Thanks for the good read!!

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