Pain Scale

When you go into the doctor’s office complaining of an ache or pain, you’re gonna get asked how bad the pain is. Most likely you’ll be asked to name a number from 1 to 10. Often accompanied by a little chart, demonstrating what a person looks like with that rough level of discomfiture.

I’m sure you’ve seen these. Just as I’m sure you’ve seen The Internets having fun with them:

I really enjoyed these comics. I like it when smart and creative people get absurdum on the oddities of the world. But I didn’t think of really how absurd the world already is, until I was in a hospital and was handed such a chart.

“Onascaleofonetoten, tenbeingtheworst, what’syourpainlevel?” asked the nurse, her words worn smooth with use. And – yep! – I had nothing.

I thought about saying 9 – it was about the worst pain in my life. I thought about saying 2 – it was extremely less than pain levels that I could easily imagine. I thought about taking the image key of frownie faces, folding it until it was all corners, and using it to give her a colorectal prostate exploratory. I realized, very quickly, that nothing I said to her was going to convey any useful information about my pain level – about my history with pain, or my perception of pain, perhaps, but nothing of remote relevance to the medical business at hand.

So I said, “I just took two aspirin. And it hurts when I walk but biking really hard helps.”

I realized that I’d actually established two clear, quantifiable, contextual, and useful metrics for expressing my level of pain. One was based on self-medication; the other, distraction activities. Why, I wonder, don’t doctors ask for something along those lines?

Here, then, are my contributions to medical science.





1. an aspirin

2. plenty of aspirin

3. a strong drink

4. 1+2+3

5. i am drinking myself silly

6. i am going to risk a fine and do bong rips

7. i am going to risk jail time and score some painkillers (irony!)

8. i’m going to a pretty place now, where the flowers grow. i’ll be back in an hour or so.

9. i am going to dive head-first into the medicine cabinet and then eat my way out

10. trainspotting time!


…it’s a crime that I don’t run the medical profession.



~ by davekov on 5 October 2012.

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