Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy usually divides his levels of pain into three (broad?) categories: “It hurts”, “It hurts a lot”, and “It hurts a heck of a lot”. (Okay, that’s not what I really call the last category, but I’ll go ahead and keep things G-Rated here on my blog.) Sure, if I really wanted to, I could fine-tune it even more…but I usually don’t.
Pain levels. Thinking about this topic immediately raises questions of subjectivity. How can we know if your pain is worse than my pain? Or if we want to keep it personal, how can I know that the pain I experienced yesterday was worse than the pain I experienced today, when throughout both days all of my major joints were semi-numb from the constant pain and inflammation? And while each new flare feels like “the worst pain ever”, is there actually a way to quantify such a statement?
I do have one objective measurement of my pain, though, which I have used continually for over the past year: the electrotherapy treatments that I receive while at physical therapy. (I don’t know how scientific this is, but a quick search on “objective measurements of pain” did return quite a few references to electrostimulation and electrotherapy.)
Here is the chart that I have created, based upon the level of the first (of many) analgesic/anti-inflammatory currents that is delivered to my knees and ankles during these sessions:
- 3: It hurts.
- 7: It hurts a lot.
- 10: It hurts a heck of a lot. This also corresponds to the highest level of current that can be applied…I can go beyond this level if necessary, but only for extremely short periods of time.
- 12: The worst pain ever. Over the past year, I have reached this level only a handful of times.
This past Thursday, however, I had to make a modification to the last entry on this chart…the one that corresponds with “the worst pain ever”.
When the current reached 12 and I couldn’t feel a thing, I was convinced that the machine was not turned on or that the electrodes were not plugged in correctly. I’ve said this before to other therapists, innocently enough, only to see them jump up pain after they have carefully laid their fingers on the electrodes to see if they are working…only to find out that they are! My current physical therapist know better by now, so she continued to slightly increase the level of current that was being administered.
14…Nothing. 16…I can’t feel a thing. 18…Still can’t feel it. Nanny nanny boo boo.
And then, finally, I felt sometimg. We had reached 19.
Was this indeed “the worst pain ever”? (According to the machine, it was.) The thought of “How am I even still walking around?” no longer seemed like a strange question to ask. I could see my physical therapist’s face, and I could tell that she was really concerned…even though she didn’t say a word.
I’d love to say that my feet and ankles improved greatly on that day…but they didn’t. These levels of pain continued on through Friday. But I do have some good news. Yesterday, I went back to physical therapy, and my levels were back down to an 8. Phew!
That’s right between “It hurts a lot” and “It hurts a heck of a lot”. (And I’m acting relieved???)
This drop over the past three days, from 19 to 8, comes out to a 58% reduction in pain! I may not be out of the woods yet, but I have no doubt that I will be there soon.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!