When a Medical Resident Questioned How I Rated My Pain Level


I recently began seeking treatment at a teaching hospital which has its pros and cons. Some of the pros are that there are a lot of diagnoses and treatment being thrown out, giving the patient a better opportunity to get what they need. The cons, however, is that although you continue to see your doctor, you also see the residents that are there. At almost every appointment, you are seeing a different resident that has to learn your history in the few minutes before they walk into your door. Once they come in, they ask you the typical questions: How are you today? How are you feeling? Are you taking anything?

This particular resident asked me to rate my pain. When I did, he looked at me and commented, “That is really high. Are you sure that is what you would rate it?” I said yes and as he was walking out the door to converse with the doctor, he said, “Maybe your pain scale is different than ours. Because people in that much pain are usually not functioning.”

This comment made me mad originally, but after thinking about it, he is a resident – not my doctor. He doesn’t truly know my history and what I have gone through. This is the first and only time he has seen me so he has no way to compare that day with the past. He doesn’t know that I have been battling complex regional pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, and Lyme disease for the past six years. These last six years have truly taught me to power through the pain. Life does not just stop at the moment of a diagnosis, I must keep on going.

So yes, my pain can be higher and I can still function with it. Maybe my pain scale is different. But, if you ask anybody who really knows me, they know that I continue to push through high pain levels. And, my pain level of a five may be an eight to someone else. Nobody knows your history and what you are going through like yourself.

Nobody has ever walked in your shoes and experienced life through your eyes. The opinions of others do not matter. All that matters is that you feel you are being respected and treated properly by not just your doctor, but by you friends, family, and peers.

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