The Importance of Describing Your Pain

The presence of pain often comes from an underlying issue or injury. And while we've all experienced pain at some point in our lives, many live with it on a daily basis. Though pain is common, its symptoms can vary, making it a subjective experience.

To best evaluate the situation, a doctor will ask you to describe your pain on a level from 1-10. This, along with a list of questions, are critical in finding the best course of treatment for you. Here’s what you need to know before discussing your pain with your doctor:

Acute vs. Chronic Pain

The first step in treating pain is knowing the type that you are experiencing. Acute pain is the result of immediate action from a specific injury or disease. When acute pain is ignored, such as a sprained ankle that has not rested, it may become what is known as chronic pain. When pain outlasts average healing time or is associated with several factors, such as a disease or illness, it’s considered chronic. Treatment for both may vary, as acute pain can be treated by identifying the underlying cause and going from there, and chronic might be treated by reducing or managing the pain.

Why You Should Fully Describe Your Pain

Beyond identifying the location and type (acute or chronic) of pain you are experiencing, your doctor will also want you to describe the severity of your pain. The most common form of this is through a scale that ranges from 1 to 10; starting at 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst possible pain. This might seem like a simple evaluation, but for many, it can be a challenge to understand where they fall on this scale. Here’s how to properly break it down:

Mild Pain (1-3): Will be annoying and uncomfortable, but will not interfere with your daily activity level. This often falls between the numbers 1-3, with 1 being minor pain that you can often forget about and 3 being pain that is distracting but easy to get used to.

Moderate Pain (4-6): If your pain disrupts your day-to-day, what you are experiencing may be moderate. Level 4 on the pain scale would be something that you’re aware of during activity, where as a level 6 pain is present in your mind almost to the point of distraction.

Severe Pain (7-10): When pain is severe, your daily activities will suffer, and daily living activities may stop. A level 7 pain might alter your normal activities and interfere with sleep, with level 8 pain being intense pain that makes conversation hard. Pain that hits a level 9 will leave you unable to converse at all, crying, or moaning. However, level 10 is rare, and something few people will experience. Pain this intense will leave you unable to speak, bedridden, and possibly delirious.

Not only will doctors ask for your level of pain, but they pay close attention to how you are describing it. Severe pain will leave you wincing and unable to converse fully — all these reactions are noted, too. If you are unaware of precisely where you fall on the pain scale, be open with the doctor so they can find a better way to find the cause.

Getting a Handle on Your Pain With Orthopedic Care

If your pain is slowly creeping up the scale, it’s time to find the cause. At KMC Orthopedics doctor can help you manage your pain so you can get back to a better quality of life.