mapping pain

My ex told me that people “can’t remember pain”.  I scoffed at him.  Of course we can.  No, you can remember having had pain, but that’s different.  People suck at remembering the pain itself.

I have never researched this to see if ex was right or was just running on and presenting his own theories as fact.  But now that I’ve had to try to explain the location, character, and intensity of pain in various medical settings, I can tell you that I truly do suck at it.  What helps is if I keep a journal.  I don’t like doing that because I find it draws too much of my conscious attention to it.  It’s not like you can NOT attend to it, part of the nature of pain is that it is a compelling sensation which demands attention.  For some kinds of pain, I can “zone out” and displace it for a while.  It’s still there, but I have this trick I used to do with menstrual cramps where I could sort of put them off to the side – I explained this trick to a therapist once and she said that what I was doing was a form of self hypnosis.  Cool.  Not all pain allows for this though, and very few circumstances do.  I need to be in a very controlled environment.  I.e. not at work, not at a gathering where I need to interact, not in a noisy place.

Trying to recall pain on the spot, pain that is intermittent and so isn’t always manifesting by the time I get to a medical appointment, turns me into a blathering idiot.  “It’s like sort of stabby…” I say, as if I don’t have a bachelor’s degree in English.  So when I need to communicate about the location, nature, and intensity of pain, I need to take the time to chronicle it as it happens.  I’ve had a hell of a time finding a good pain mapping application or utility.  Some are not too bad, but none fits the bill.  The American Chronic Pain Association has some really neat interactive pain maps for Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy and Fibro, but neither of those patterns fit mine in terms of location so I can’t use them.  What I’ve had to do is download a “body blank” image and then draw on it.  Below is an example.  The text description of the pain image is below the image

Illustration of woman's body from front, back, left and right showing patterns of pain.

Decriptive text:  12/19:  Waking with pain, worsening in leg as day progressed.  Activity = walked approximately 1 mile at work on break.  Pain on waking was left hip sharp/catching pain, bruise-like right inner/upper thigh pain, sharp right ankle pain less intensity than night before on waking, and back pain like the night before but more diffuse and higher.  Left hip pain was very intense – low, back/outside, juncture of top of thigh bone and hip.  Felt more in top of thigh bone.

By the time I had walked ¼ mile, right thigh pain had extended down front to just above knee.  Very tender, even clothing on it felt bad – like I’d been skinned down the front of my thigh.  Right ankle/calf pain made it hard to step up and down curbs and stairs.  Back pain increased in intensity with catching in sacrum and left hip.  On the way back, legs felt heavy and weak.

So this is what I take with me today for my second PT appointment.  Let’s hope it’s helpful!

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1 Comment

  1. Interesting post. Thanks.


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