Wednesday, January 22, 2014

No Pain, No Gain

Doctor’s offices and hospitals often have charts to help you rate your level of pain from 1 to 10, using the increasingly severe grimaces on little iconic faces on the chart.

The problem, of course, is calibrating the chart. For example, it’s hard to imagine anything more painful than, for example, being burned at the stake, or being dragged under a moving freight train1. So I’d rate those as 10 on the chart. I have to admit the face on the chart doesn’t quite look like someone being dragged under a train. This is more appropriate:

Unfortunately, though, that means any pain that I’ve ever actually experienced is probably no more than a 1 or a 2. So, of course, I’ll be waiting in the emergency room for a long time.

On the other hand, just waiting around at the doctor’s office is extremely exasperating, which, I think, qualifies as a kind of pain. So given that, I would almost always be at least on level 2 by the time anyone bothers to ask.

But then there’s a whole range of pain in between that’s difficult to quantify. What number is a broken leg? How about a compound fracture? How about passing a kidney stone? Where on the scale are these things.

I really can’t describe my pain in any meaningful way without reference to some other pain. Just putting a number on it doesn’t work.

“How much pain are you in?”
“7. This is definitely 7 pain.”
“Why is it 7?”
“Well, if 6 is a broken toe, and 8 is being impaled by a fireplace poker, this is somewhere in between.”

1 The fact that it’s carrying freight is probably immaterial. I would imagine being dragged under a moving passenger train would be equally painful. I just thought freight sounded better.

1 comment:

Bill Costa said...

I've heard (from many reliable sources) that passing a kidney stone would be an 11.