Are you having trouble describing your pain?
Can you rate your pain on a scale of 1-10? We all dread that question when we go to see the doctor. What does it even mean? As a Physical Therapist, I do not enjoy asking that question (in fact I avoid it as much as possible) because most of the time people feel that they have to be EXACT and maybe their pain isn’t so exact as a number. It can be frustrating to pick a number that represents our pain because pain is more than just a number; it affects our lives, our ability to exercise, perform our jobs, and enjoy time with family and friends.
I myself have dealt with pain involving back and sciatic pain. What I found through my rehab process is that it was more beneficial to focus on what I could do and how I did it, as opposed to my levels of pain. The more I focused on my “pain” the negative thoughts that came with it would creep into my head. I worried about if there was any end in sight. It made all the difference when I switched my view from focusing on “pain” to focusing on what I could do. When the focus was placed on my pain the thoughts would creep into my head…. ‘Will I need surgery?’ ‘How much longer will this last?’ Even as a Physical Therapist I questioned whether I would get better.
What Is Causing Your Pain?
What’s more important than rating our pain on a scale of 1-10 is to know what “causes” our pain. Whether it be sitting, standing too long, running, or exercising, this information can give us good intel into how to handle our pain. From there we are able to determine what can help alleviate our pain, which may include moving more often, performing a certain stretch, or resting from exercise. All of this information is key to finding out the solution on how to fix the problem.
Many people have a fear of explaining or discussing their pain because it’s so hard to describe that they may not think its believable. I find that using common descriptions can be helpful in this situation. I’ve often heard patients tell me “it feels like an ice pick” or ” it feels like there is a block that won’t let me move further”. These analogies can give good insight into whether the pain is coming from a muscle, joint, or nerve.
Pain can often be complex, we all may have experienced it at some point in our lives, but each of us experiences it differently. It may be time that we shift our focus from the “number” of the pain and more towards our pain experience. From there we can assess what areas of our lives it affects and how we can go about changing it. Once you find a health care provider who listens and understands your pain, it can make all the difference in the world in helping you return to the activities you love.