Fibromyalgia ranks among the most puzzling and common chronic pain conditions. Fibromyalgia pain moves around from one area of the body to another or it seems to be everywhere at once. We experience several different types of pain. The intensity of the pain also changes. It can be very difficult to describe fibromyalgia pain to others. We often feel misunderstood and disbelieved.
It is hard for people who do not have chronic pain to understand how it is for us to live with it. Even those closest to us can not fully understand. They cannot and do not know the painful life we experience.
It can be just as difficult to describe how your pain feels to your doctor. Many doctors use a 0-to-10 pain rating scale, which has its limitations. Each of us experiences our pain differently. One persons 8 may be another person’s 4. I often feel that because I always have pain, I under-rate my pain on the pain scale.
Describing Your Pain To Your Doctor
We have to rely on our words to communicate our pain to our doctor. The better we can describe our pain, the easier it may be for our doctor to help. Your doctor needs to know not just how much the pain hurts, but how the pain hurts and how it impacts your life.
Those of us with fibromyalgia suffer from different types of pain. Some words that can help you describe the way your pain feels include:
- Dull, deep aching pain
- Sharp, stabbing pain
- Radiating or shooting pain
- Stinging pain that feel like a sunburn or pins and needles
- Strange sensations that feel like crawling, tingling, burning, itching or numbness
- Shocking pain, it can feel like electricity zinging along the nerve and explodes in a certain area
Keeping a pain diary is a good way to track your pain over time and will help you be more specific at your doctor appointments. You can also use the American Pain Foundation’s LOCATES memory aid. It is a good way to remember how to describe your pain. Each letter of LOCATES stands for information you should tell your doctor:
L: Location of the pain and whether it travels to other body parts.
O: Other associated symptoms such as nausea, numbness, or weakness.
C: Character of the pain, whether it’s throbbing, sharp, dull, or burning.
A: Aggravating and alleviating factors. What makes the pain better or worse?
T: Timing of the pain, how long it lasts, is it constant or intermittent?
E: Environment where the pain occurs, for example, while working or at home.
S: Severity of the pain. Use a 0-to-10 pain scale from no pain to worst ever.
If you want your pain to be taken seriously, don’t ever rate your pain at a 10! Unless you actually look as if your pain is a 10, your doctor will think you are exaggerating.
Dealing with fibromyalgia pain is a process. The more specific and detailed you can be when describing your pain, the more likely your doctor will be able to help you manage your pain.
Chronic pain not only makes us feel helpless, sometimes it makes doctors feel helpless, too. I came across an interesting article that explains how frustrating treating chronic pain can be from a doctor’s perspective: How doctors respond to chronic pain.
Do you have trouble describing your fibromyalgia pain to your doctor or to your family and friends? Do you keep a pain diary?