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Illustration of a medieval torture rack with various tools hanging from it, accompanied by the text "RATING PAIN" in bold letters on the right. Emphasizing the importance of pain management, the bottom right corner shows the logo of "10 almonds" with an icon of 10 almonds.

Get The Right Help For Your Pain

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How Much Does It Hurt?

Sometimes, a medical professional will ask us to “rate your pain on a scale of 1–10”.

It can be tempting to avoid rating one’s pain too highly, because if we say “10” then where can we go from there? There is always a way to make pain worse, after all.

But that kind of thinking, however logical, is folly—from a practical point of view. Instead of risking having to give an 11 later, you have now understated your level-10 pain as a “7” and the doctor thinks “ok, I’ll give Tylenol instead of morphine”.

A more useful scale

First, know this:

Zero is not “this is the lowest level of pain I get to”.

Zero is “no pain”.

As for the rest…

  1. My pain is hardly noticeable.
  2. I have a low level of pain; I am aware of my pain only when I pay attention to it.
  3. My pain bothers me, but I can ignore it most of the time.
  4. I am constantly aware of my pain, but can continue most activities.
  5. I think about my pain most of the time; I cannot do some of the activities I need to do each day because of the pain.
  6. I think about my pain all of the time; I give up many activities because of my pain.
  7. I am in pain all of the time; It keeps me from doing most activities.
  8. My pain is so severe that it is difficult to think of anything else. Talking and listening are difficult.
  9. My pain is all that I can think about; I can barely move or talk because of my pain.
  10. I am in bed and I can’t move due to my pain; I need someone to take me to the emergency room because of my pain.

10almonds tip: are you reading this on your phone? Screenshot the above, and keep it for when you need it!

One extra thing to bear in mind…

Medical staff will be more likely to believe a pain is being overstated, on a like-for-like basis, if you are a woman, or not white, or both.

There are some efforts to compensate for this:

A new government inquiry will examine women’s pain and treatment. How and why is it different?

Some other resources of ours:

Take care!

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