One of the most frustrating aspects to pain and effective pain treatment is that not everyone feels pain in identical fashion. While there is a 0-to-10 pain scale that attempts to establish a standard, it is descriptively subjective both in the 3 major unit scale, i.e., minor, moderate and severe, and in the minor unit scale, 0 through 10, which are described as (minor 1, 2, 3): very mild, discomforting, tolerable; (moderate 4, 5, 6): distressing, very distressing, intense; (severe 7, 8, 8, 10): very intense, horrible, excruciating, unspeakable.
The major unit scales are further described as: (minor): does not interfere with regular activities with use of medications or other relief aids; (moderate): interferes with regular activities and requires lifestyle modification, even with typical treatments; (severe): unable to engage in regular activities, not able to function independently.
One problem with these descriptions is that it does not account for individual variations in pain sensitivity. For example, childbirth, which comedienne Carol Burnett described as “like pulling your lower lip up and over your head,” is a relative pain experience. For some women, the effort is much less painful, even without medication, than it is for others. This may be due to the numerous variations affecting the process of birth, but regardless, there really is no standard measurement and no standard perception of pain.
The best we can do is apply descriptive comparisons, such as Ms. Burnett’s lower lip analogy. Everyone can try the maneuver – and hopefully, no one succeeds — but it is still a virtual certainty that only women who have experienced childbirth can fully appreciate Ms. Burnett’s comparison. Hence, the 0-to-10 scale, which really is a more accurate scale than sound-byte comparisons, even though one person may describe their pain from a sprained ankle as a minor 3, while another with the same injury may consider it a severe 7.
Health care professionals are presented with a conundrum. Regardless, there standard treatment suggestions to reduce or eliminate pain in addition to prescribed treatments.
Begin and maintain a regular exercise regimen focused on movement to achieve and keep joints flexible. Flexible joints are less prone to pain short of an incidental injury.
Eat foods that are natural bone and muscle enhancers to minimize pain: foods that contain vitamins C, D and K and omega-3 fatty acids. It is best to seek natural foods containing these elements rather than vitamin supplements.
Achieve and maintain healthy weight. Excessive weight creates stress on joints and tends to make us more sedentary. If you are overweight, diet and exercise to reduce.
Do not ignore pain. It is a signal that something is wrong. Whatever it is will likely increase in intensity if left untreated, and it may lead to further complications.
If over-the-counter medications do not reduce or eliminate pain, or if the pain is chronic, seek the advice of a health care professional and follow their pain treatment advice.