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


  1. If I had a purse, I would certainly put that chart in it…but, being a very senior citizen, I’d probably forget I put it there, so I guess my problems are off the chart. 😦

    P.S. If you think getting old isn’t a bummer, see my new post MAY IS OLDER AMEREICANS MONTH (published today).

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I want to shake some sense and compassion into that stupid nurse. I am so glad (and unsurprised, cause you are amazing) that you stood up to her. I hate that you are in constant pain Kim. I know I can’t take it away, but I really wish I could.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have learned to bark and even bite at times. I do live with pain every day but I got this! I wish I could give you back your full sight too, but we will wish for cures and strive to promote awareness and live our very best life while doing it! Love you! xoxo!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I empathize, going to the ER and getting the automatic knee-jerk reaction of (pain) victim blaming is infuriating. I sincerely hope the planned surgery helps with your pancreatitis!

    My tactic for dealing with the dreaded pain scale is to explain it as; “Overall I live between a 4-7, which can be a challenge but I usually manage. However, the pain that brought me in is an 8, which brings my overall pain level up significantly and I am not able to function.” They don’t like it because it doesn’t fit into their neat little system of boxes they can click, but I do it anyway. We have to keep advocating for ourselves. ( I have been lucky and not had too many medical folks give me a bunch of flack for stuff)

    I broke my arm in October of 2017, went to the ER, I was shaking, but I wasn’t crying and whimpering in the way they expected. The ER doctor that saw me commented that he was surprised I wasn’t in tears. I looked him straight in the eye and said something akin to, “Dr. I live with chronic pain, I have a very high pain tolerance and can function in ranges that healthy people would be overwhelmed by, but that doesn’t mean I’m not suffering or in agony.” He’d already prescribed me pain medication before that comment, but I wanted to reinforce the idea that not everyone reacts the same way to injury.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bravo! If I ever get into a boxing ring, I need you ready so I can tag you in. I love what you’ve done with your explanation on the pain scale!!! I am going to write that down on my phone because my memory goes to Neverland when I hit the doctor’s office. Thanks for commenting and this is a resource you should blog about, for sure! How to handle the pain scale we face… go for it! Thank you so much!~Kim

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know if this is a feature of very strong women or maybe just women or just people like us. I remember when I was in excruciating pain. I never complained, I rarely cried, I smiled. Now I have to say that I have a very high pain tolerance (like my mom, unlike my sister and dad who can’t take pain very well, not even a scratch).
        It’s probably not always a good thing, but that’s who we are.
        And even then, I always thought about my loved ones, how much they suffered because of me. Weird, isn’t it?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Not weird at all. I remember calling my mom after I was in the car accident that caused my fibro and the first thing I said was, “I am OK, but I need to tell you I was in a car accident.”

          Some of us have that protective shield up, we want to shield others from hurt and at other times it comes down to just not wanting to attract ‘that’ kind of attention. When I was hospitalized and had 7 surgeries on my pancreas my mom would call and I’d say stuff like; I’m doing fine, it’ll be OK, don’t borrow worry, etc… little did she know I had just signed my 2nd DNR. I would have felt guilty worrying her. Well, I DO FEEL guilty for not having beat this fibro disease even though I know it’s chronic… plus I knew I’d either beat pancreatitis or I wouldn’t be around to talk about it, thus no guilt!

          So yes, we shield our loved ones, some do not. I don’t understand that but I guess I’m not meant to! HA.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the chart…so accurate. That question is such a thorn in my side, honestly. First of all we all experience pain differently. Secondly, if you’ve been in pain for much of your life (like me) you’ve most likely learned how to deal with it a bit differently than someone who just was hurt in an accident but suffers no chronic pain. There’s got to be a better way to ask these questions for a chronic pain sufferer. And if they could skip the accusatory facial expressions when you give a high number but you’re not crying that’d be okay too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Don’t you just hate how incredibly insensitive the medical field has become?! These nurses and doctors wonder why their patients tend to lose their patients! I really want to print this fabulous pain scale out and just carry it with me to all my appointments!!! Thank you for sharing this Kim! I hope you have a great Thursday!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for this great post. I am going to print this out right this minute and place it safely in my purse. I sure wish I had had this long, long ago…………………so many ER trips, being treated like shit. Can’t wait to use it. When I tell an ER doctor my pain level is 8-10 and they poke around on me and I don’t flinch, they don’t believe me. I have to explain that I’m so used to pain that I don’t jump off the table at this level, even though at this level I am very, very uncomfortable. You know they don’t believe that. If you don’t come up, at least 10 inches off that bed, you’re making it up and just a drug seeker. I really cannot wait to use this pain scale. Hope you’re having a “good” day. You know, with your pain level hanging out at ONLY around 10!!!!! XXX 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! You are delightful! Yes, hanging out with my “10” good lord!!! Use that scale and hopefully they’ll be receptive but it’ll take a while (drug seeker). I couldn’t help it! Haha, yes that’s what they decide as they give us half doses of what the doctor ordered so we don’t get ‘hooked’ as if we go to the ER to party!?!? Time for some good old awareness. Preach! And good luck😉👍! Let me know how it goes… I’m dying to know! Thanks for stopping by!~Kim


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