How bad is your pain?

One of the questions that gets asked a lot on calls and at hospitals is, “How bad is your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst?” I don’t really like using it unless we’re talking about legitimate chest pain or discomfort because upwards of 95% of the time, the answer is “10.” OK, so your cut finger is a 10? So what is it when I chop your hand off?

I see the value of this rating in situations that involve comparisons, such as administration of pain medication. Number gets lower, pain medication works. Otherwise I don’t see much use in it.

Now, in response to this question, a lot of people say “11.” And I just look at them and wonder how early in life they failed out of 1st-grade math class. Sometimes, they say “20.” In any event, the ones who give me these numbers are usually the ones who are the biggest pussies.

The other day, this lady screaming with back pain gave us “100.” I have to admit that I’ve never heard 100 as an answer, which made me laugh, even though I believed that she was genuinely in pain.

4 thoughts on “How bad is your pain?”

  1. My favorite response to that question came after 13 years of being in EMS. The other night the young man told me he chest hurt, “it’s like am 80 on 1-10 scale.” then he followed it up with “no exageration”.

  2. I’ve adopted a pain scale from an ER nurse that I brought a patient into one day.

    “How bad is your pain” the RN asks.

    “Ohhh myyy Goddd” the patient says.

    “Give me a number on a scale of 1…to..”

    “—It’s a 100!!”

    “Let me finish what I’m saying or you won’t get the pain meds that you so desire.”


    “Zero for no pain, 1 for a little, and a 10 is if I open this cabinet, pull out a canister of gasoline and pour it all over your body then follow up with match to light you on fire.”

    She looked dumbfounded.

    “Umm…I guess it’s not that bad” was the patient’s answer.

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