On a scale of 1-10, where do childbirth and wartime amputations fit in?

I ask not because I’m in the market for either, but because I always have trouble with the “rate your pain on a scale of one to ten” question from doctors.

No matter how much pain I’m in, I never think it could possibly be a ten. Isn’t childbirth astronomically more painful than anything I could possibly be going to the chiropractor for right now? I’ve fallen from 16 feet, bruised ribs, overdone leg day, and interacted with cats, but Civil War soldiers had their limbs sawn off with no anesthetic but a swig of whiskey – if they were lucky.

I woke up earlier this week and couldn’t turn my head to the left or bend over to wash my face. I was in pretty severe pain on a scale of  one to not-childbirth-or-wartime-surgery, but my chiropractor’s paperwork didn’t specify that scale, just one to ten. I chose nine, but I explained to the doctor that I was working under the assumption that birth and loss-of-limb were on their own scale.

I’m always torn between representing pain on my own personal scale or one I figure more people buy into. Let’s say I call a knee pain that makes walking unbearable a seven because being shot in the kneecap would almost definitely hurt a lot more. Surveys suggest* that other patients don’t consider kneecap shootings when they define their pain, so am I doing it wrong? If I am, what do other people put at the top of their pain scales?

I know at the end of the day all feelings are relative, and what matters is that treatment reduces the pain, wherever it started from. Still, perhaps one day I’ll make my own scale to more accurately represent how I feel instead of trying to blend in. It could look something like this:

1 – Alive and loving it
2 – Alive and liking it
3 – Something’s not quite right, so let’s ignore it
4 – I could do without that feeling, but a cup of tea will help
5 – I would be having a much better day without that feeling. Let’s try beer.
6 – Ignoring it doesn’t work, beer isn’t helping, and I’m getting pissed off
7 – I hate everything and want new body parts.
8 – I can’t even mope comfortably. This is untenable.
9 – Is life still worth living?
10 – DEATH CANNOT COME FAST ENOUGH (aka what I assume childbirth and battlefield amputations feel like)


*Survey results may be skewed due to small sample size, because I stopped conducting them after my boyfriend gave me a look that I think said, “No, Kay, other people do not think about being shot in the kneecap when they go to the doctor.”

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