Finally understanding the 1 to 10 pain scale

Everyone has a different tolerance for pain. However, I will say that experiencing migraine and meningitis have provided me with the ability to gauge pain better.

Do you have a good understanding of the pain scale? 

If you have a condition that causes pain, you will commonly be asked what your pain level is at each medical appointment or procedure appointment. Most medical facilities use the Stanford Pain Scale (1-10) to ask patients to measure their current pain level by. This can be very confusing for the patient, who is thinking “which number best represents my pain?”

We all know that everyone has a different pain tolerance.  Some people can stub a toe and say their pain is a “10.” In reality, that level of pain is generally not considered a “10.”

So what is the pain scale? 

This is how the scale is generally explained:

Pain level:

0 – You are not experiencing any pain at all.

1 – You are having an occasional mild pain, but it doesn’t have much effect on you.

2 – You have a pain that presents itself off and on, but it is pretty easy to live with.

3 – Your pain is present more frequently and is becoming rather nagging.

4 – Your pain is beginning to prevent you from certain activities at times. Good days, bad days.

5 – You are regularly not able to perform certain activities due to your pain, which is pretty much present most of the time.

6 – Your pain is affecting most all of your daily activities. It is present all the time. It is starting to significantly interfere with your life.

7 – At level 7, your pain is beginning to disable you. You have a difficult time living your life in a normal way. You frequently need assistance due to the pain you are experiencing when moving around.

8 – Your pain is significant and interfering in every aspect of your life. It is difficult to concentrate and is requiring that you lay down frequently. Your pain is debilitating, affecting your outlook, and overall wellbeing.

9 – Your pain is difficult to bear. It rules your life. It greatly fatigues you and there is no quality of life at this point.

10 – The worst pain imaginable. You are delirious from it and you cannot adequately express yourself it is so disruptive.

(Note: Many medical staffers describe the pain level a woman experiences during a normal childbirth as an 8. I don’t know how many women would necessarily agree with that!)

On this 1 to 10 scale, since I believe I have experienced a 10 (during my hospitalization for meningitis), I am aware of when I’m at a 2, 5, or 7. This has truly helped me during my doctor consultations and ongoing treatment programs.

When I’m seeking treatment, I want to find a solution for the problem and not create additional problems or side effects from potentially being over-medicated. I feel it is very important to consider my pain level carefully before telling my doctor what my true pain level is.

Another thing that I have discovered is that heat and migraine don’t mesh well together. I admit that I have always been heat-sensitive, but it’s definitely become more prominent in my life post-migraines.

I recall playing basketball in non-air-conditioned gyms growing up and feeling nauseous. But now, hot days wear me down much quicker. I assume it’s due to fatigue and the accompanying photophobia from hot sunlight. Wearing hats, running fans, or turning on the air conditioning, and staying hydrated is key.

Coming next:  New Year’s Eve tips for a healthy celebration

Please consider sharing this article with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers.  Let’s help each other reach optimal health.  

Next time you are experiencing pain I hope you will consider the varying degrees of pain and provide the doctor/hospital/medical team treating you with the number on the pain scale that best aligns.  

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