What Does Your Pain Feel Like?

By Pat Anson, Editor

Does your chronic pain feel like you’ve been hit with a hammer, a bad sunburn that won’t go away, or ants crawling under your skin?

Those are some of the choices patients have in a new campaign launched in Ireland to change the way patients describepain to their physicians.   

Accurately assessing pain is difficult because pain is so subjective. For many years doctors have relied on various versions of the Wong Baker Pain Scale – a series of sad and smiling faces a patient chooses from to help their doctor understand how much pain they are in. The scale is so simple it was originally developed for children, but is now used around the world for adults.

The “Mypainfeelslike…” campaign aims to improve on that method by using more descriptive images and phrases to help doctors understand and diagnose their patient’s pain. The campaign focuses on neuropathic pain, but can be used for many other types of chronic pain. The initiative is sponsored by Grunenthal Group, a German pharmaceutical company.

Instead of an unhappy face, patients can choose from a dozen images, ranging from a burning flame to a rope tied in knots to a set of ice cubes. They also fill out a questionnaire and select different phrases to describe their pain, such as “a hot iron on my skin” or “a volcano erupting.”

Patients are also asked to fill out a questionnaire to select different phrases to describe their pain, such as “a hot iron on my skin” or “a volcano erupting.” And there's a list of multiple choice answers to describe how pain affects their ability to work, exercise and socialize.

It may take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire, but the idea is to get patients to “invest more time and accurateness in thinking about their symptoms, describing them more precisely, and preparing for doctors’ appointments.”

“Doing so forces us to reconsider our chronic pain, and the different ways that we feel it. This improves our self-awareness, allows us to better communicate our situation, and helps us get the most value out of the very short time that we usually have during doctors’ appointments,” the website says.

To take the questionnaire, click here.

According to a survey by Grunenthal, over half of Irish pain sufferers feel frustrated when trying to communicate their pain to a doctor. Over a quarter say they delay discussing their pain because they’re not sure how to do it.

“Living with chronic or nerve pain affects people’s well-being, their ability to be independent, their productivity and relationships, which can lead to feelings of depression," John Lindsay, chair of Chronic Pain Ireland told the Irish Independent.  “The ‘Mypainfeelslike’ campaign will help raise awareness of the impact of chronic pain and give people living with this disease the tools to re-evaluate their pain management plans.”