pain word cloudLet me say up front that in the realm of people who suffer from chronic pain I am lucky - It's not getting worse over time, I manage a full time job just fine, take no more sick time than anyone else, and spend very little of my time feeling so awful I can't manage.

That said, I also spend very little of my time feeling physically good, and sometimes I manage just by sheer stubbornness. I'm in some amount of pain every day, worse in the mornings. I have been living with chronic pain and fatigue my entire adult life, and was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in my late twenties. Fibro is sometime of a junk drawer diagnosis, but it's handy to have as vocabulary to describe what's going on for me.

Here are two tools that people who cope with chronic pain (or who cope with those of us who cope with it) should know about.

The birth of "Spoon theory", by Christine Miserandino

Even if you (think you) already know what "I'm out of spoons" means, it is 100% worth reading this.  One day, Christine Miserandino was out with a friend, when her friend asked her what is was like to live with Lupus.  

I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.

From there, Spoon Theory was born.  Go read it, I'll wait: 

All pain scales are not alike

painscaleYou know what are terrible? Almost all of the pain scales I have found, save 1. Also, there are a lot of them: lists abut 50 of them!

Look at this example: What exactly is the worst pain imaginable? Are you measuring my pain, or my imagination?  How is this helpful?

(I just recently wished I had been clever enough to tell another dismissive doctor. "Look.  I walked around on a burst appendix for three days.  If it tell you this hurts a lot, listen."  )

The pain scale I am a fan of was written by Andrea Mankoski.  What do I like about it? It's hard to bullsh*t.  It's hard to say your pain is not so bad, or worse than it is. It doesn't really relate to how you emotionally react to the pain, it's just.. what it is. 

Mankoski Pain Scale

Copyright © Andrea Mankoski. All rights reserved. Right to copy with attribution freely granted.

Pain Free No medication needed.
Very minor annoyance - occasional minor twinges. No medication needed.
Minor annoyance - occasional strong twinges. No medication needed.
Annoying enough to be distracting Mild painkillers are effective. (Aspirin, Ibuprofen.)
Can be ignored if you are really involved in your work, but still distracting. Mild painkillers relieve pain for 3-4 hours.
Can't be ignored for more than 30 minutes. Mild painkillers reduce pain for 3-4 hours.
Can't be ignored for any length of time, but you can still go to work and participate in social activities. Stronger painkillers (Codeine, Vicodin) reduce pain for 3-4 hours.
Makes it difficult to concentrate, interferes with sleep You can still function with effort. Stronger painkillers are only partially effective. Strongest painkillers relieve pain (Oxycontin, Morphine)
Physical activity severely limited. You can read and converse with effort. Nausea and dizziness set in as factors of pain. Stronger painkillers are minimally effective. Strongest painkillers reduce pain for 3-4 hours.
Unable to speak. Crying out or moaning uncontrollably - near delirium. Strongest painkillers are only partially effective.
Unconscious. Pain makes you pass out. Strongest painkillers are only partially effective.