Pain scales really are very individual.
They always ask you to rate your pain on a scale of zero to ten. Zero is no pain, and ten is the worst pain you can imagine and/or the worst pain you’ve ever had.
When I was in the ER with aseptic meningitis, I rated my pain an eight. And the nurse was like, “Are you sure it’s not a ten?” and I was like “No really it’s an eight.”
Because for me, a nine is when it starts severely impairing your consciousness, and a ten is when you’re either on the point of passing out, have already passed out, or by all rights should have passed out at some point whether you did or not.
And I’ve experiences nine and ten, many times. I know what they feel like. This was a particularly hellacious eight, but it wasn’t a ten. Not on my scale.
I was talking to a friend whose pain scale is very similar to mine. We both rate a migraine in the 6-7 range, and we’re aware a lot of people will rate a migraine at a 10. And that’s fine, if that’s what works for them, but we’ve experienced pain far worse than migraines.
I remember when I first went on Neurontin for pain control, and I had to revise my entire pain scale. What I thought was a “1” was actually a “6”. That happens when you’ve never lived without severe pain.
And neuropathic pain, of all kinds, is far more likely to throw a 10 at you than other kinds of chronic pain. So you’re likely to eventually find out what a 10 is. I found out through untreated trigeminal neuralgia. You can find out through other ways too, though. Diseases that completely fuck up your organs are another good way to learn what a 10 is.
But at any rate, I get the sense that there’s people where 10 is as bad as they can imagine and they can’t imagine very bad pain. And that’s fine, for them. And then there’s people who’ve been through hell and back and will rarely admit to pain over a 6. And then there’s the rest of us somewhere in between.
But it’s extremely subjective. And I do wish nurses understood that sometimes. That when I say something’s a six, I mean it’s something that someone else might call an eight or a ten even. And if I do start giving numbers 7+ it’s really fucking serious.