Monday, April 18, 2011

On a Scale of 1 to 10

We've all been asked this question a thousand times- "How would you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10?" I really hate the pain scale question, despite understanding how useful it is. Since living with chronic pain my approach in answering has changed.

These days anything that I would rate under 5 I would not use the word pain as the descriptor. Instead I would use discomfort or ache. A rating of 5 means I'm straddling between pain and a bad ache or discomfort, unable to really tell if it is one or the other. The real pain scale, as far as I use it, is between 6 and 9. This is where most of my pain takes place. Even though sometimes I'm tempted to say my pain is a 10, I'm fairly sure there is pain worse so I try to stay away from using that rating. Instead what I'll do is use 9.5.

How do you use this scale when facing this question?


  1. I think I am quite like you.
    But also I have a whole raft of horrible feelings that I find hard to rate as pain, even though I feel so bad I can hardly move. It is like they are one the extreme low notes instead of the extreme high notes!

  2. I hate answering that question...and I hate asking my patients that question...although, as you is somewhat useful.

  3. It is a tough question to answer, because it is so subjective. I have wondered at times about the nurses in ER who ask me to rate my pain. Which ones understand that 9/10 means I may vomit in her lap?