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If you have ever been to a doctor’s office or emergency room, you’ve probably been asked to rate your pain “on a scale of 1-10.” A recent article from NPR says the scale may be too simplistic, preventing patients from getting the right plan for their pain management.
Dr. John Markman, director of the Translational Pain Research Program at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, says the scale may be preventing patients from receiving the best treatment plan as doctors tend to “treat by numbers.”
Giving your doctor the wrong idea about your pain can cause a number of issues. This can happen in a number of ways and isn’t necessarily your fault. Let’s dive deeper…
The first is medication. Without an accurate level of pain, patients can be over or undermedicated, leading to a host of problems. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it can have a negative impact on your treatment, especially when recovering from an injury. Most treatment plans utilize medicine, therapy, and exercise. When these tools are out of balance, your pain can linger or even get worse.
Dr. Chrystina Jeter, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist with UCLA Health, doesn’t use the pain scale at all. “It’s perfectly OK to be a little more flowery in the description of pain,” she says. “My pain is aching, burning. What does it feel like to you? Where is it? Does it move?”
The best tool you can give your doctor is information. Be sure to tell them how the pain is affecting you. How does your pain interfere with your daily activities? What is your pain history? Does it come and go? When is it worst? Jeter often uses a patient’s worst pain as a benchmark. “If you’ve experienced childbirth, how does this compare?”
Additionally, there are many different pain scales in use that provide a more accurate account of a patient’s pain. Many people with chronic pain even create their own scales to track their pain and how it has affected them.
As always, we recommend talking to a holistic doctor or naturopath about options such as turmeric, cannabis, and other natural pain remedies.
The most important takeaway is to talk to your doctor. Tell them how you feel, how you are affected, your history, which treatments/herbs/ have worked, and which haven’t. The more information your doctor has, the better they’ll be able to create the management plan that’s right for you.