My Invisible Pain

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. ~2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV


When we are feeling pain of any sort, sometimes the biggest challenge is to decide whether it serves best to speak or be silent. I decided to speak.

During a long interview with a broadcasting company that specializes in medical topics, I was able to give voice to my own struggles about dealing with pain day and night. It was an afternoon where I was being asked to be honest about how I felt, both physically and emotionally, about living with a specific medical problem that may never resolve itself. The interviewer posed questions that made me think hard about how I view my life where I now need to set some limitations on myself and activities I once enjoyed.

One of the highlights of the discussion was what I’ve personally found to be one of the most difficult aspects of this challenge—the fact that I look healthy. Unless I tell someone I’m hurting, they don’t know and even if I do, some don’t believe me. So I’ve learned to communicate the way I feel by using very descriptive words with vivid mental pictures; then I’m better understood.

Since I have felt the frustration of not being understood when describing the pain I’m experiencing, I once again asked Dr. Foetisch to weigh in on how patients can best communicate their pain levels when they talk with their doctors.

I asked if there is a trustworthy gauge or guide that a person can accurately use to communicate her pain levels to others and to her physician in particular. He helped me understand what a physician silently thinks in answer to a patient’s description of pain.

  • When communicating pain scales, it’s important to be realistic. Exaggerated numbers do not impress physicians. In fact, doctors will be less inclined to believe patients are credible if they tend to exaggerate.
  • For reference, the definition of “Level 10” pain is, “Pain so intense you will go unconscious shortly.” This type of pain occurs in those who have suffered a severe accident with multiple broken bones or an injury such as a crushed hand
    or leg.
  • Most people come to a physician’s office with a “Level 6” pain or less.
  • How much pain someone is in comes from nonverbal clues such as pacing or rocking, difficulty thinking clearly or rationally, and difficulty speaking due to waves of pain or shortness of breath.
  • If your pain is truly a “Level 7” or greater, you should be in the emergency department and not in a doctor’s office.

Lord, experiencing ongoing, daily, unrelenting pain is hard work. At times, coping with the pain leaves me exhausted. Help me to learn to pace myself, to be kind to myself on those especially difficult days, simply because You give rest to those you love. Amen.

(Excerpted from One Size Fits All by Michele Howe, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Used by permission.)

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Your Turn

Have you ever or do you currently live with chronic pain? How has it affected your relationship with others and with God? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.


One Size Fits All

by: Michele Howe

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MicheleHoweMichele Howe is the author of twelve books for women and has published more than 1,600 articles, reviews, and curriculum to more than 100 different publications. Her articles and reviews have been published in Good Housekeeping, First For Women, Single Parent Family, Christian Single, and many other publications. Michele’s single parenting titles include Going It Alone and Still Going It Alone. After having undergone six shoulder surgeries, Michele saw the need for a women’s inspirational health-related book co-authored with her orthopedic surgeon, titled Burdens Do a Body Good: Meeting Life’s Challenges with Strength (and Soul), released in 2010 and from which Prescription for Life, their health, medical and surgical informational book, is based.