When I went in for physical therapy the other day, my therapist asked me that ever-annoying question that us chronic pain sufferers hate to hear: “What is your pain level today on a scale of 1 – 10?” I know that it is the therapists’ and doctors’ jobs to ask us that question, but they don’t realize how difficult that can be to answer. For me, and for many of my chronic pain peers, trying to rate the level of our pain is like a ME/CFS patient trying to rate the level of their fatigue. When you are exhausted all of the time, day in and day out, it always seems like the fatigue is bad. When the pain is there all of the time, day in and day out, it’s hard to rate it and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it is coming from all of the time, too. All I can tell him is that it hurts and I try my best to describe it.
I did finally think of a way to describe my chronic back pain to the therapist the other day when I got the “pain level” question. I told him that the pain I experience is like an annoying person you don’t like who never goes away. When you have to deal with an irritating or annoying person for a couple of hours or a day or two once a month or a few times a year, it’s manageable – it’s easily tolerated. You know at the end of those few hours or at the end of the day that your life will return to normal and that you won’t have to deal with that person again or at least anytime soon. You may get a little upset or a little frazzled by being around this person, but it doesn’t turn your whole life upside down because you realize that it is short-lived.
But imagine if you had to live with this very annoying person that you don’t like, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You are with him all of the time, he is by your side constantly, and is never out of sight or mind. What may be just a minor annoyance to someone else is magnified times ten to you because you have to deal with this person you don’t like all of the time without ever getting away from him.
This is what chronic pain is like. Being in pain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, despite the “pain level” is too much to deal with and many of us have been dealing with it for too many years.
During therapy and while I’m doing the exercises he gives me there, my pain usually doesn’t increase or decrease – it almost always stays the same and I think this confuses the therapist. But that is what chronic pain and Fibromyalgia is. It’s constant, never-ending, and there is easy way to describe how it feels, except that it hurts all of the time and I want it to stop. I’m sure if I were doing the exercises for a longer period of time I would probably feel more pain, like I do after being at work for a couple of hours, but my therapy is only 30 minutes long and at least 10 minutes of that is ultrasound.
No one should have to live their life in pain – not one day, let alone every day of the year.