How to Measure Pain

If you’ve been at a doctor in the past five years, you realize that the medical industry is more interested in knowing your assessment of your own pain than ever before. For instance, you may go into the ER and say, “I’m having a really bad migraine. Can you help me?”

Medical practitioner or nurse on duty responds: “Describe this pain on a scale of 1-10 if 10 is the worst pain you have ever felt.”

This change in practice is a relief to me who feels pain about 5-10 times more than most, because I have a condition called “Sensory Defensiveness.” This means my neural pathways fire much more quickly than most people. I can smell better, taste better, feel the slightest touch, and sometimes even have very intuitive or empathic senses, as well.

Does this 6th sense come from being too sensitive? No one really knows for sure. But I do know a great many empaths are sensory defensive.

From the time I was a little boy, I couldn’t stand to play hard or tumble or fall. I also disliked most food because of texture and smell. I was sensitive to cigarette smoke and had allergies that kept me inside most of the time. I felt fragile and, in fact, was called names because I couldn’t play like a boy.

Now, because I practice yoga and I’m a vegan, most people ask me why I take medication, almost as if they are incredulous that I could possibly put a pill in my mouth.

For this reason, I write this article. You can live the healthiest life known to man, but have genes that give you the propensity to have arthritis, heart issues, high cholesterol, and even psychiatric issues. No matter your belief about binding and barring the past from affecting your present, genetics are passed down from generations. Denying this would be like saying an African American man and and Asian Woman could have an Italian baby. Genetics are not only looks, they are chromosomes built into the very DNA fabric of our lives—the good and the bad. Knowing this, you may perceive my story to be similar to yours, or you just might understand the dynamics of pain. Either way, I’m glad you’re reading this article.

I saw my mother and father begin to develop problems much like their parents. At only 19 years old, I decided to be a vegetarian. I committed to a life without medicine, as well. I even tried to use any and all homeopathic and medical alternative instead of traditional medicine.

Many people came to me with problems during that time. I would help them modify their diets, their exercise plans, the vitamins, and start on holistic treatment. Never did I imagine that I would wake up one day and barely be able to get out of bed from so much pain. Never did I believe that I would be doing something as simple as vacuuming and would end up on my back in pain for a week. This couldn’t be possible, and yet, there it was.

Still, it took me trying every modality of alternative medicine and four years of teaching my yoga classes every day without traditional medical intervention. After the fourth year I had had enough. The first doctor I went to was a sports medicine doctor. I told him of my pain at 40. He asked me to bend over slowly and try to touch my toes. As I said, I was a still teaching yoga, so I was limber and in pain at the same time. I bent down and put my palms to floor fairly easily. The doctor politely said, “Get out of my office!” He didn’t understand my pain. In fact, it took a very kind and empathetic nurse practitioner to actually listen one year later.

My angel practitioner started off with blood tests. From their, she thought I may have a tumor on my brain. After an MRI, I was diagnosed as having an under-active pituitary gland.  I was sent to an Endocrinologist who immediately started me on a testosterone replacement program. The same nurse practitioner also helped me to understand my depression from this same pain and how the three migraines I was getting a week may be a result of little serotonin to the brain and lots of pain.

However, until I actually saw a rheumatologist years later, I received the diagnosis of having Osteoarthritis. There are no disease-modifying medications available to reverse or eliminate osteoarthritis or centralized pain syndrome, There are effective medications available to treat inflammatory forms of arthritis and related diseases. Reducing inflammation will help reduce your pain. So, the drugs that are used to reduce problems with arthritis are for generally for those with Rheumatoid arthritis. Most people with any other kind of arthritic pain must use pain medication to eliminate the problem. (All information in this article about medication came from Arthritis.org.)

So, the rollercoaster begins.

Medications you take by mouth, rub on the skin over the joint or have injected into a joint include the following:

  • Acetaminophen is an over-the-counter (OTC) analgesic that helps to relieve pain and reduce fever.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are available over the counter and by prescription. OTC NSAIDs relieve pain and reduce fever. Prescription-strength NSAIDs can both relieve pain and reduce the inflammation that causes pain.
  • Topical pain relievers may contain combinations of NSAIDs, salicylates, skin irritants and local anesthetics that temporarily relieve pain. Salicylates make it harder for nerve endings in the skin to sense pain. Irritants stimulate nerve endings to cause feelings of cold, warmth or itching, which distract attention from the actual pain. Some topical pain relievers contain capsaicin (the chemical that makes chili peppers taste hot), which blocks pain messages to the brain.
  • Sedatives and sleep medications can help you get more restorative sleep, helping to break that part of the pain chain.
  • Anti-seizure medications can be used to treat neuropathic pain and centralized pain through their effects on the central nervous system.
  • Antidepressants are used to interrupt pain signals in the central nervous system.
  • Opioid pain relievers work on receptors located in the nerve pathways that start in the brain and move to the joints and other tissues.
  • Corticosteroids are medications that mimic the effects of the hormone cortisol, which is produced naturally by the adrenal glands. Taken orally, given by infusion or injected directly into inflamed joints, they can quickly bring down inflammation and ease pain.
  • Viscosupplementation involves injecting the lubricating substance hyaluronic acid into the knee to ease movement of the joint and relieve pain.

I was placed on sleep medication, because the pain woke me up throughout the night. I was encouraged to stay on the antidepressant. I was given Tramadol to help with the pain. I was allowed 8 a day. After trying to slowly integrate the medicine and assess the pain, I ended up taking the smallest amount of antidepressant, a light sleep aid, and 3 Tramadol a day to feel normal again.

So, when I say that I feel normal, I don’t mean high. I mean that I experience little to no pain. I have simple aches and pains, as one would at 56, but I don’t fret about them unless they are becoming worse every day.

You see, many people who are young, been living holistic lives, and have a disdain for Western Medicine have a real distaste for pills. I feel as if I need to write this to help me people understand, some people, even the ones who have vowed against them, may be the ones who need them the most.

For me, this is Spiritual Growth at its best. I don’t know of too many times in my life that I have sworn off something that Spirit hasn’t shown me my fragile, judgy little human mind  just how wrong I can be.

Let’s take care of ourselves and stop judging others. We can’t get inside anyone else’s mind and decide what’s best for them. Nor can tell each other what to think or how to respond. 


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One observation on “How to Measure Pain
  1. Bo Sebastian

    If you have been judging yourself or others for taking medication of any kind to stay above water or keep from drowning, this is the blog to read.


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