I have long been a proponent of listening to what your body tells you. All those little aches, pains, strains, niggles and general “something doesn’t feel right” moments are just Mother Natures way of focussing your attention on problems that need to be addressed. In the case of Crohn’s Disease, those “problems” can range from something that you may be able to sleep off, to something that requires immediate medical intervention. Regardless of how you look at it, pain is something that those of us with Crohn’s Disease (or any form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease for that matter) have sadly gotten used to over time. Quite often pain can become a new and perverse reality for us, sometimes to the point that we can’t even remember NOT being in some degree of pain. Our pain threshold gradually increases to a level where normal – whatever that is – no longer applies. For me, the main concern is that most of the medical people with whom I interact seem to be blissfully unaware that the traditional pain scale – like the one shown below – is practically useless for assessing someone with Crohn’s Disease pain:
Personally speaking, my pain scale starts at what other/normal people would probably consider a 3. So by logical extension, on the “standard” pain scale, my 10 would actually be closer to a 13. On the mercifully rare occasion that I am admitted to the Emergency Room, the thing that really annoys me is being met with disbelief from the medical fraternity when I express that my pain is a 10 or more. It’s almost as if they refuse to grasp that pain (or the perception thereof) is a relative concept. Everyone is different. Pain thresholds and tolerances vary widely from one person to the next. There is no universal constant – no one size fits all. To be fair though, I kind of blame either medical ignorance or lack of training for this draconian mindset.
Now here’s the salient point; according to the research I have done, there are pain scales for neonates, children, adolescents, adults, seniors and those whose communication is impaired. There are even a few pain scales for fibromyalgia and other specific illnesses – but nothing for those of us who have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Therefore I have both a question and a challenge for you. My question, based on the ever-increasing number of people getting diagnosed/being treated for IBD and the overall increase in our respective pain thresholds is; why is there no readily available, adjusted pain scale for more efficiently and effectively treating patients with IBD? Subsequently, here’s the challenge; what do you think an adjusted pain scale for Inflammatory Bowel Disease should look like? All constructive answers, comments and feedback will be warmly welcomed. If you happen to be a talented artist or graphic designer who has IBD, I would be very excited to see what you come up with – and so, I think, would everyone else
Editor’s Note: Stephen Dempster is a monthly contributor to our blog. You can find Stephen on Google+, on Twitter @sdempsteruk, and his blog at Stephen Dempster on Medium. Stephen also is the creator of the Flipboard Magazine: A Little Behind The Times