Describing discomfort: How do you feel about pain faces?
Chronic illness hurts. That much is clear. But how much does it hurt, and what’s the best way to let others (particularly medical professionals) know how much it hurts?
Surely we’ve all seen the pain assessment charts that show ranges of faces, from happy to sad. (The original version, designed for evaluating medical discomfort in children, has been widely credited to Wong-Baker.) Some contain five different faces, while others have 10. Either way, the array of expressions is supposed to help a person to quantify his or her current level of pain.
Sounds simple, right?
What about the widely ranging pain tolerance thresholds of individual people? Don’t we all know someone who screams bloody murder over a splinter in a finger? What about the person who barely grimaces over a serious sprain or a broken bone?
And how about the whirling waves of come-and-go pain, the intermittent stings and spasms that seem to be a hallmark of MS and other neurological disorders, and the unpleasant pins-and-needles episodes that crop up without warning? These inconsistent, but persistent, pains can be difficult to measure.
Still, it’s a start.
Adapted from public domain artwork and photo