By Carla Ballard Brewer
October 12. 2009

One day I asked my husband if he was hurting anywhere. He looked at me strangely, and replied, “No.” I’m sure he was really wondering if I had finally “lost it” this time!

“Are you SURE?“ I questioned again, “Not anywhere?” He paused, thought about it, and replied again, “No.” I must admit that his answer was very hard for me to comprehend! I was never without pain somewhere – ALL the time. And not only did I suffer pain all the time, but I had several different types of pain that I experienced. Often these different types of pain have different pain levels of their own! Many people just think pain is pain – it hurts; it is uncomfortable, but it is just pain. When a person has Fibromyalgia, pain becomes much more complex.

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a combination of different symptoms that can occur together. If one symptom had to be chosen to identify FM, that symptom would definitely be pain. Everyone has experienced pain in one form or another, but most of the time it disappears over time. If the pain does not go away after a reasonable time period, then the person usually begins trying to find out why the pain is lingering.

What is pain? According to Wikipedia, pain is “the unpleasant feeling common to a headache and a stubbed toe . . . Pain is part of the body’s defense system … producing a tendency to protect the affected body part while it heals and avoid that particular harmful situation in the future.” In other words, it is the body’s way of saying, “Stop! This is harmful to your body!!”

In a similar way, that is how babies are taught to avoid dangerous situations. For example, the parents often tell a baby that the stove is “HOT; do not touch it!” Of course, a baby will never learn exactly what “hot” means until he actually burns himself, but the parents try to teach the baby that “hot” is something that is bad and should be avoided. In the same way, a person who does not have Fibromyalgia cannot fully comprehend what the pain of FM is by just being told about it, but they can learn enough to help them empathize with those family members or friends whom they must watch live in FM pain daily.

It is extremely difficult to describe to your doctor or someone else just how bad your pain is. That is why a Pain Level Chart was created. Most people have seen some type of Pain Level Chart posted in their doctor’s office. Although there are different types of charts available, most are similar. Before telling your doctor what number you believe that your pain level is, be sure to familiarize yourself with the Pain Level Chart that is being used by your doctor. There are enough variations in some of the charts to make a difference in what treatment you might receive for pain. Remember that pain affects everyone differently and only you know what you are feeling. Most of the charts show a scale of 1-10 with different smiley faces underneath the numbers. The smiley faces range from smiles to tears as the chart progresses up to 10. Each number represents a different level of pain.

Level 0 is equal to no pain. Levels 1-2 signify that the pain is mild, but it can be ignored. Levels 3-4 indicate moderate pain, and the pain interferes with tasks. Level “4” is the level at which it is a good idea to start introducing some avenues of relief. At levels 5-6, pain is still moderate, but it now interferes with your concentration. Your pain is distracting you, but you may be able to focus on something else rather than the pain for a short period of time. Levels 7-8 designate severe pain. It often interferes with basic needs, such as eating, sleeping, daily chores, etc. Your pain may be severe enough that it makes you stop in the middle of an activity, or not be able to complete it at all. It is difficult to think of anything else but your pain. Levels 9-10 equal the worst pain that you can imagine. At this point pain IS your world. It is important to remember that the best way to treat the pain is to stay ahead of its increasing intensity, and to maintain a regular schedule of pain relief. Do not wait for Level “10” before you discuss options with your doctor.

I have also seen a Pain Level Chart that contains a list of “pain” words from which to choose to help describe the type of pain that you are experiencing. Some of these words are throbbing, stabbing, dull, aching, pinching, steady, localized, pervasive, tenderness, soreness, stinging, and/or cramping.

As you can see, the act of describing pain can be complex and difficult. In addition, pain has an extremely wide range of intensity. The paragraph in this article that contains Wikipedia’s description of pain actually described the role that pain should play in a normal body. I must admit that I almost laughed when I read the description of pain as an “unpleasant feeling.” Most people who live with pain constantly would have a similar reaction! There seems to be no “On/“Off“ button in the body of a person with FM. So in addition to our pain not working properly in our bodies, it works with the “volume” of pain turned on “high” most of the time. As if that is not difficult enough, FM throws in different types of pain to complicate matters further. Oh, how our bodies love to confuse us!!

Pain Chart




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