0 - Pain Free
This is a rare and celebrated state for me. When it happens, I'm likely to seem incredibly lazy, because I'm enjoying it so much that I don't want to do anything but revel in the not-pain.
1 - Very minor annoyance - occasional minor twinges. No medication needed.
This is more likely to be the case than truly "pain free". Basically, I don't notice pain unless I'm specifically checking in with all of the various parts that hurt on a regular basis, which I do to make sure I don't move them wrong and cause more pain.
2 - Minor Annoyance - occasional strong twinges. No medication needed.
This is the level I like to tell myself I'm at most of the time, lately. It's possibly an underestimate. After all, I don't want people to think I'm a whining, malingering fat person who is just making the whole thing up and needs to stop being lazy, dammit.
3 - Annoying enough to be distracting. Mild painkillers take care of it. (Aspirin, Ibuprofen.)
At this level, I'm probably not using painkillers, but might be doing some of the careful complementary stuff (stretches, heat, that sort of thing). This level and the previous are probably when I'm at my most productive, because it's high enough that I'm not simply reveling in "things don't hurt!" like I do at 0 and even 1, but I'm also not too afraid of making it worse if I happen to move the wrong way for a second, because the "worse" isn't likely to be that much worse.
4 - Can be ignored if you are really involved in your work, but still distracting. Mild painkillers remove pain for 3-4 hours.
I woke up this morning at a 4.
I usually experience this level or worse at least once a day from one of the things that hurts - feet (heel spurs and some other weird issues), ankle (from having twisted it a bajillion times), "the break" (the spot above my right ankle where I broke my leg when I was 14), hip (bursitis), shoulder (not sure what's officially wrong with it but it likes to hurt), or hand (tendinitis around the thumb joint, a legacy of the Horrible Job). At this level, I'm probably still not using painkillers other than maybe Tylenol, because I don't want to trade stomach pain for whatever the pain I'm trying to relieve is. This is probably the level where I start doing things like deliberately reading stuff that will evoke strong emotions, since laughter and righteous rage both distract an awful lot of pain away.
5 - Can't be ignored for more than 30 minutes. Mild painkillers ameliorate pain for 3-4 hours.
Here's where I give in and take the ibuprofen or the naproxen, usually, if I can convince myself I'm not malingering. (Yeah, that's why I walked on a dislocated big toe for probably about a year - I was sure I was whining/malingering/it wasn't that bad, even as every step felt like stepping on a nail.) I've improved, in that this used to be the minimum default pain level after standing or walking any meaningful length of time. This is the level where I am most likely to be arguing with myself that It's Not That Bad and trying to convince myself that it's really only a 2. I'm trying to learn not to do that.
6 - Can't be ignored for any length of time, but you can still go to work and participate in social activities. Stronger painkillers (Codeine, narcotics) reduce pain for 3-4 hours.
This is often what's going on when I get grumpy and quiet, and is a frequent consequence of having had a very busy and social day. I don't have "strong painkillers" anymore, but will usually be taking ibuprofen AND using some kind of complementary measure. Fortunately, this is the worst it really gets on a regular basis anymore.
Most of my first-stage labor contractions with Alex were a 6, which is probably why I seemed so chill about labor - I was used to hurting that much on a fairly regular basis, and at least contractions stop for a while.
7 - Makes it difficult to concentrate, interferes with sleep. You can still function with effort. Stronger painkillers are only partially effective.
"Interferes with sleep" is the key here that distinguishes between 6 and 7. If everything hurts and I'm trying to sleep it off, that's a 6. If everything hurts and I can't sleep it off, that's a 7. Fortunately, 7 is extremely rare for me these days, but back before I got the podiatrist to fix my foot it was a fairly likely consequence of trying to have a "normal" day - in other words, of trying to pass for fully able-bodied.
8 - Physical activity severely limited. You can read and converse with effort. Nausea and dizziness set in as factors of pain.
This one's rare for me. Most of my labor with Tori was here, though - for some reason it was a lot more intense, but it also went faster so I can't complain that much.
9 - Unable to speak. Crying out or moaning uncontrollably - near delirium.
I've experienced this twice: Second-stage labor ("pushing") with Alex, and one of my wisdom teeth cracking directly on a nerve.
10 - Unconscious. Pain makes you pass out.
This has never happened to me, for which I am grateful. :)
Thanks to Andrea Mankoski for her original put-numbers-into-words pain scale, and to deza, whose entry is here, for partnering with me this intersection week!