Alternative Pain Scale

When chronic pain people go to see doctors and specialists, we are often asked to rate our pain on a 1-10 scale. Somehow I always get confused by this instrument, partly because I don’t know what each level means. For that reason, I’d like to propose this alternate 1-20 scale (it was 1-18 but I added a few)
(This is meant to be funny for people in pain, so no need to feel bad, be upset, etc.)
IMG_55971. I have bold plans to revamp diet or try new stretches out of desperation borne by last night’s pain, and I am overjoyed and energized that I am not right now in pain.
2. I’m busy-busy-busy because if I move fast, the pain won’t catch me! And I’m in motion now, but once I stop, maybe I’ll be stuck to the couch with glue.
3. God, why am I so bitchy? Oh, wait–I’m in a sort of grinding, background-noise, world-clenching box of pain just beneath the edge of my conscious.
4. Couch. All I want is my couch and Netflix.
5. Wait, I’m kind of unsafe to drive just because I’m in pain. Like I can’t think clearly. Wait: does that mean I’m high on pain itself? Did I invent a free and unpleasant way to get high? Everything is totally funny. Pain Vegas!
6. Get the heat things and the cold things and the tiger balm and the various ointments and salves and put them all on me immediately.
7. Don’t fucking touch me.
8. Oh my god, do you still love me? Someone tell me they love me because I worry you hate me when I’m in pain. Am I irritating? Is it hard to love a near-invalid?
9. We need to check on our long-term disability policy. Do we have long-term disability? What if I can’t work anymore? Oh my god, I can’t go to work tomorrow but I have to. We need to make a Plan B right now. What about eel farming? Can we put eels in the pond behind your parents’ house? Could we live on that? We should start buying cans of soup on sale and putting them in the basement.
10. Everything is so beautiful and precious because I might die soon. I love that lampshade so very much.
11. I hate everyone and everything is bothering me and making my skin feel gross and I hate this couch where I’ve been lying for hours and I just want a shower but the thought of the effort of a shower makes me want to cry.
12. I was born to play video games on my phone. I am good at this.
13. I can’t read. The sentences are too hard. Remember when books?
14. I can’t watch TV. I’ll just scroll through Facebook in a fester of something unpleasant but even the blue hurts my eyes. Look at all the well suckers doing things, completely oblivious to their looming deaths and physical disintegrations.
15. I can’t even play games on my phone. My last stupid pleasure has been taken from me and I wish to lodge a protest with the universe.
16. Where are the drugs? Oh—I stopped taking them because they wrecked my stomach. Where is that old bottle with the prescription from two years ago?
17. I don’t even care about the drugs because I’m learning something from the pain. It’s making me deep and spiritual and I see shapes and colors. If I just roll with it I can surf the pain. I can.
18. No I’m not learning anything. I need the drugs and the pain needs to be killed.
19. Mommy? Oh dammit I’m the mommy. Oh just breathe like you’re in labor. It will pass. (Except there’s nothing good at the end, except maybe you will give birth to a horrible gooey thing like in the movie Alien that will come and bite your face off.) Will someone please feel sorry for me immediately?
20. Words are hard. My name is… something? Whatever. Name.
21. Do I have food poisoning? Wait, am I hung over–did I do tequila shots last night and have a great time that I don’t remember? Oh no, it’s just pain-barfs. (This is a new edit and I don’t like to have to add it, but the research is an ongoing process)

16 responses to “Alternative Pain Scale”

  1. This is just wonderful, so funny and creative and real. I especially like #8: “Everything is so beautiful and precious because I might die soon. I love that lampshade so very much.”

    I’ve been in blessed remission from fibromyalgia for years, but I remember #4 very vividly: “Get the heat things and the cold things and the tiger balm and the various ointments and salves and put them all on me immediately.”


  2. Haha! Indeed. I should make a poster of this and just hold up a number on my fingers when hubby asks if I’m ok. I guess I’m a 9 today. You are so funny!


  3. You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one. I love this new system and may use it at my doctors office tomorrow. It makes me wish I could think like this to write something like this.


  4. Sonya, I laughed out loud at #9 and #10. Superb! I have a few friends I am going to forward your blog to. Although I don’t have physical chronic pain, I have had emotional chronic pain… interesting to look at this scale and think of that. xoxo barbara


  5. My mother has been in pain for so long now, I’m ashamed to say that sometimes I forget what that really feels like for her. This reminded me and opened my heart just the way Kafka said words should be the axe that ‘breaks the seas frozen inside our soul’. Beautiful.


  6. I hate that scale it doesn’t make sense because if my pain was even a level 6 or 7 I wouldn’t have a need to take meds or see a doc ! How about we start at 10 ? Love this list all bang on right ! Especially 11&14 !


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