A Happy Face Belongs in The Chronic Illness Pain Scale

The last memorable time I was in the actual Emergency Room was in 2012. The nurse asked me to rate my pain… (oh, yippee). We know we are usually at a constant four. I haven’t seen Mr. Happy Face for over 20 years. So I said a “10”, and she asked if I was sure? I told her no, I’m probably more like a “13.” I explained the pain was really bad and that is why I was here in the ER with her. She just kept looking at me like I was speaking in tounges. (This is why I no longer go to the ER. When I need medical intervention for pain, my doctor just calls ahead and orders a bed for me and I am admitted.)

I explained I am a chronic pain patient but had also recently been dealing with idiopathic pancreatitis. I was waiting for my surgery date to have stents placed in my pancreas. She wanted to know why I wasn’t in tears if I were at a 10 (notice, she wasn’t going to allow me to have my number 13) and did I need to see an addiction counselor for my drinking problems? I explained my pancreatitis was idiopathic in nature, the doctors weren’t able to detect a precise reason for my type of pancreatitis and it was very hurtful that she just assumed I had an addiction problem. By this time we were face to face and ready for a showdown, but I said the following;

“So, no nurse, I do not need to see a counselor for my non-existent addiction to alcohol, and as for my pain level, I’ve learned to compartmentalize. I have the right, as a patient of this hospital, to be medicated for my pain, do I need to call Sally [my doctor]?”

No, she did not want me to call my doctor! I knew there was a healthy respect for my doctor in this hospital system. I was eventually treated to get my pain level  ‘tolerable,’ and never reached pain-free. Since getting fibromyalgia, to this day, I have never reached pain-free! They ask what number is tolerable, they will see you reach that number, but there is no more Mr. Smiley Face to greet on the ER’s pain scale.


The following is a pain scale I found on a social media site. I only wish I could find its author. If you know who came up with this chart, please let me know in the comments so I can give credit and personally thank the person! If I’d had this in my pocket to show the nurse, she maybe could have understood me. She may have found it a valuable resource for other pain patients. She even could have understood why I reported being at a 13. There may be hope…


I would suggest printing this out and making sure whenever you are asked to rate your pain, you do so off of this incredible chart. To the brilliant person who came up with this chart, many thanks and I’d love to give you credit! Thank you!!!

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 12.48.43 PM~Kim