The Trials and Tribulations of Living with Chronic Pain.

Sunday 29 May, 2011

I think of pain as a speedometer. 1 to 4 is in the yellow, 5 and 6 are green, 7, 8, 9 and 10 are red, and when the pain cranks all the way to 11, you get to see some serious… Stuff.

That’s two film references in one there.

So when you live life on a pain scale, like I do, you get used to certain levels of pain and associate them with everyday things. Today is a 3 day, so I’m all right for now, I’ll go about my usual business and if it gets to 4, I’ll slow down a bit.

Today is a 7. I’ll spend two hours arguing with myself the pros and cons of getting out of bed, and the pros and cos of having pain killers. For me, the pro of getting out of bed is being at least “somewhat normal”, and the pro for the pain killer is “it takes some of the pain away.” The con of getting out of bed is “ow. Pain” and the con of getting pain killers is spending all day in bed anyway, cos my painkillers knock me out. Despite being on the same ones now since I was 19 or there abouts.

When I’m in hospital, like I was recently, my pain-o-meter has a spanner thrown at it more than once. Usually its due to not having that specific pain before, so it brings a new meaning to all the numbers.

Yes, that’s a 6, but its actually a more painful 6 than what I’m used to. Is it because of the location? Is it the type of pain? Maybe the duration? I can never figure it out. It’s just not what I’m used to.

The other spanner is down to hospital protocol. Two hospitals I frequent don’t measure pain that way. One hospital does 1 to 5, which I can make work if I divide my pain by two. If it’s cranked all the way to 11, then its a “FFFFIVE” rather than just a clenched-through-teeth “five”. I can make it work.

The hospital I was just in, though, has a scale of 1 to 3. 1, 2, 3. Mild, Moderate to Severe.

That is of absolutely no use to me. My pain doesn’t do Mild, Moderate to Severe. If we’re really pushing for a comparison, it does “there” “really there” and “just knock me the hell out, I’ll deal with life later” but that is after much deliberation, figuring of location and duration. It takes a strategy room and the world’s finest topographers to get to a conclusion to that degree, you know?

And I know for a fact that I’m not the only one with this problem. There’s a bunch of us who go through life figuring out what we can do, day in and day out, on a pain scale budget. “If I take it easy and stay around 4 this morning, I can take a pain killer this afternoon and go to my daughter’s nativity play this evening”, “It’s an 8 right now, it’ll crank all the way up to 11 when I move, will my normal pain killers be enough? I can’t drive if I take the stronger ones, but I really need to go in to work…”

Once again, a hospital’s failings to do best for the patient. They mess with normal pain killer schedules, they mess with normal pain killers! And they want us to try and figure out our pain in a different way to what we understand. All whilst we’re dealing with whatever the reason we’re in hospital for, nurses who just shouldn’t have the job and other patients screaming the ward down in agony.