Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Pain-o-Meter

I've been thinking about pain. Physical pain, like Attila the Mom is experiencing (she broke her ass a week or so ago, the poor clumsy thing). Personally, I don't have any physical pain, but I think about it for lack of anything better to do.

Like I was thinking about the pain scale the nurse fills out in the hospital after all the blood is mopped up and the screaming has died down to a low moaning.

The purpose of the scale is to give the nurse and the staff an idea of your pain tolerance before they lay on the heavy-duty pain meds. Nice idea, but it's one of the most subjective exercises I've ever done. And to make it worse, here in Arizona (where we have an excessive amount of pain due to the political climate), the scale is 1 to 10—giving us, and me, an additional four painful choices of pain.

I say subjective because how does one measure one's pain and assign a number to it? I've never had an arm suddenly fall off, so I don't know what 10-pain feels like. Likewise, what's 1-pain? Martha kicking my shin under the table for a socially unacceptable remark?

Have some manipulation, anyone? Drug addicts will always go for a 1. Ex-Marines and other macho men will choose 15. Some sufferers of fibromyalgia will pick all 10, just to be on the safe side.

So what am I?

"I'm between a 4 and a 6."

"You're a 5 then?" the nurse asks.

"Not always. Sometimes I'm between a 3 and a 7—you know, the pain comes and goes."

"That makes you a 5 again," the nurse says, punching numbers into her calculator.

"Okay, but what happens if I hit 7? Do I get a second ibuprofen? Morphine in a drip?"

Honestly, I should be flogged for my full of shitness and messing with the overworked nurses. As a courtesy, I usually just say 5 and get it over with, even though I have no idea what 5-pain is like. Or 3-pain. Or 8-pain . . .

So where do you think you are on the pain scale, dear readers?


First, I'm thankful that I don't have pain, other than the usual that accompany old fartdom. Second, are you still my friend, Pam the nurse, or would you like to slap me silly?


Ponita said...

I'm still your friend, Charlie... don't you worry!

And a pain scale HAS to be subjective, because I cannot experience the pain someone else is feeling. I have to take your word for it that it is a 3 or an 8. Some people are extremely stoic and will endure just about anything short of having their eyeballs ripped out and roasted. Then there are the pansies who scream at the slightest pinch. Your pain tolerance is yours, and yours alone. Mine is mine alone. Then again, the druggies who are regulars at the ER for a hit of something are a pain in the butt to the nurses, who (unfortunately) can't take any morphine for that kind of pain.I bet if you did experience pain that was an 8 out of 10, you'd know it... and you'd let the nurses know it. 10/10 has you writhing in excruciating agony that is just about unfathomable. Kinda like if a pickup truck decides to fall on your leg and pin you to the ground. I've not experienced that. And I would rather not.

I can be a real pain if I want to be, but usually I can't be bothered, because it takes too much effort. It's much easier just being sweet little ol' me! ;-)

As far as your "full of shitness" goes, they have enemas for that...

Robert said...

On the political scale, my pain threshold is consistently a 10. On a practical level when having dealt with pain, and having been asked this question more than once while in the hospital during my heart surgery, usually responded something like: "You want me to RATE my pain? What kind of monster are you? I HURT LIKE BLOODY FUCKING HELL LIKE I WANT TO DIE! YOU do the goddam Math"!

[My wife tells me that I actually said that... or something similar, while in the hospital.]

Wandering Coyote said...

Mental health professionals do this all the time with mood and anxiety ratings.  It drives me up the wall because it is subjective, and because when I'm in a crisis, the last thing I want to sit around and ponder is how I rate my mood/anxiety on a scale of 1 - 10.  It really irritates me!

Kim Ayres said...

Sometimes it's not about the level of pain, so much as how long we have to endure it for. An intense pain that is over in  few seconds is not as bad as a milder pain that just never goes away. So it's really a case of how much it wears us down.

My tolerance for a particular pain level will be considerably lower 3 hours later, whatever level it was to begin with

TechnoBabe . said...

Most of the time I ignore pain. Turns out that is not necessarily a good thing. By the time I acknowledge the pain I am in crisis. Since I am older than you, I feel the older person's body pains like how it aches to wash the floor on my hands and knees but I do ignore that. When I have a sinus headache, I don't wonder if the pain is at the 7 or 8 stage yet, I decide if I have time to sleep long and hard and if I do I take sinus pill and sleep. When I had my first child in natural childbirth I would indeed know a 10 pain. I am not fond of pain, I guess that is why I have always ignored it. It came naturally to my dissociative personality. There I go blathering on; what was the question again?

Deanna Schrayer said...

Oh Charlie, have you hit on a touchy subject for me. I too hate the pain scale, because it is so subjective, and because you could rate it 2 when the nurse asks, but by the time the doctor gets to you it's turned into a 10, so what good is it? I have fibromyalgia and arthritis, so my "normal" rating is around 6, but there are days when it's as low as 3, and then other days when it's beyond 10. And believe me, when it's beyond 10 it's so bad I couldn't possibly writhe in agony, I can't even move without excrutiating PAIN. It's horrible! My husband, on the other hand, can tolerate just about any pain, so much so that I have a hard time getting him to go to the doctor when he's bleeding from the head - that's irritating!
And the druggies? Oh, how I loathe them! They're the reason those of us who really do experience extreme pain have a difficult time getting the medicine we need. I'll hush now though before I go off on a tangent. Glad to hear you don't have to deal with the 10 kinda pain!

Pat said...

I just have the odd dull aches that go with advancing years.  Say 3.  Any more than that and I'm going to make waves.
The worst pain ever was when I was sutured after giving birth without a local.  Both Times!  And I would like to get those doctors by the balls and tell then IT IS NOT NUMB DOWN THERE!

Ponita said...

Pat! That's barbaric!!!! Good grief, how stupid could they be!

Philip Dodd77 said...

I love the way you talk about stuff like this. I have never felt real pain and will probably die before someone tells me I hurt that much. I have been unlucky enough to have seen people in agony. I haven't had that and will probably give up if I do. No that's not true, I'll grit my teeth and soldier on cos that's what I do. My slipped disc last year, as a bit that should have been in the middle of my back decided to introduce itself to my spinal cord, was pretty bad. But. Pain is part of life, so we live it and feel it. It comes and goes, like love, like buses, like breath.

stacybuckeye said...

I was never more annoyed by this question than when I was asked when I went into my doctor because I was have a miscarriage.  Really?  Did it matter?  Idiots.

Mlockridge01 said...

I have experienced pain that caused me to loose consciousness. That's a 10. I drove myself to the hospital with an acute pancreatic attack one time, hovering between a solid eight and high nines. I made it there, so that wasn't a 10. Severe toothache is a seven. Broken foot was a six. Most cuts and scrapes run far less than five. That's how it works for me.

FAY said...

On a 1 to 10 scale I usually answer W.  Of course, that usually only gets me some Seroquel or if the doctor is old, thorazine, but what the heck.  Better living through chemistry is what it's all about.  And who am I do deny those poor, darling drug companies.
My dear Charlie, if I might suggest, just answer "haughty turquoise."  that should get you something more interesting than a morphine drip.
Just a suggestion.

barbara said...

I'm not that good with numbers.  How about we implement a colour scale for pain instead?  A sinus headache would be a light blue, slamming your thumb in the dishwasher door is red, that persistent nagging hip pain is a muddy orange.  

Should I be patenting this?

Murr Brewster said...

I always thought I could take pain really well, but it turned out nobody had really smacked me hard enough yet.

Angie said...

Ugh, the dreaded pain scale, as a nurse in the local ER nothing pisses me off worse than asking this question...your pain is? And the answers I receive are nothing short of brilliant on a daily basis. The pain, well it's in my arm, I told you that. My penis?! What does my penis have to do with this? (pain is...) The drug seekers 10/10 daily, ever time I see them, never mind the fact I just passed them walking out of the liquor store or fast food place. But why do it then? Because it is a "Joint" requirement and if you don't do it on EVERY patient you get cited. Yes, just like everything else in this weirdo world we live in people who have no clue dictate what we should do.

unknownmami said...

When I needed a root canal, I was at 10 and thought the scale and question were a waste of time since they wouldn't alter treatment.

Trina said...

If im dealing with my kids... 10, hubby... 20 :) lol

M Witzl said...

My pain tolerance varies. When it comes to headaches, I'm up there with the big guys: I almost never need aspirin or other analgesics. But I suspect my headaches are pansies compared to other people's -- especially migraine sufferers. When it comes to dentists, I'm as far down on the scale as it's possible to go. But I gave birth au natural, with nothing but a strap of leather to chew on and a midwife's hand to break. That has to count for something, right?

Tiffin said...

I have a high pain threshold and the ability to take my mind elsewhere MOST of the time.  So this question doesn't work with me very well.  But if my teeth are chattering and I'm rocking & moaning, it's where I can't get a handle on it, so you better not ask me dumb questions just then.  Weapon of choice = sarcasm.

dan said...

There are ten happy face type pictures with different expressions by each number that go from happy to unbearable. I learned
SOB are letters not numbers.
After a while the pain killers started wearing off and I
felt like a shark had been chewing on my legs like a pair of giant
Slim-Jims. After about an hour of screaming they reminded me that some
where in the rats nests of tubes and wiring I had a button that dispensed morphine to my epidural. After I discovered that,
I pounded on that button like a woodpecker on a termite mound and soon
was so mellow I would have had to take more narcotics to wake up.  For more on this read my blog.