(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Pain Scale for the Vain Girl

9 January 2012: This blog post has been included in RA Warrior’s blog carnival on pain scales. While my entry is a bit on the irreverent side, check out some of the other entries for more thoughtful perspectives on tracking, quantifying, and communicating pain. Thanks for including my post Kelly!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how easy it is for a continuous level of pain to become the “new normal”— like when your pain is at a “5” consistently, that becomes your baseline and you forget what a “0” or a “1” felt like before you were in pain all the time.

For the last few years, my feet have been the bellwether of my arthritis. When I’m feeling good, my feet feel pretty good. When a flare is bearing down on me, my feet are the first to respond. Last week, I tried (and failed) to put on a cute pair of sandals to go out and realized I’d gone a month without wearing heels.

Since the standard pain chart is woefully inadequate (as outlined hilariously over at Hyperbole and a Half), I decided to make one of my own: a shoe shorthand for my pain levels. Note that these are shoes for my professional life, not necessarily what I’d be wearing if my day involved reading, writing, and picking up some groceries (that’s what slipper socks and Uggs are for, right?). So if you catch me at work in a pair of sneakers, it might not be the best time to ask for that extra favor…

Pain Scale (through Shoes):
Pain Level: 0 
Pain? What Pain? I feel awesome today!

  Pain Level: 2
Ouch. No one can tell these are secretly clogs, right?

Pain Level: 4
You’ve got to be kidding me if you think I’m putting these swollen toes into a pair of heels.
Pain Level: 6
Ouch, Ouch, Ouch. Menswear for women is in right now, yeah?
(Remind me again why it was so necessary that I come in to work today?)
Pain Level: 8
Don’t even ask, or I might have to tell you about how it feels like someone
has shattered all the bones in my feet with a hammer. Literally.
Pain Level: 10
Polite words cannot describe the exquisite torture I feel right now. (Have I mentioned I’m taking applications for someone to carry me from my bed to my kitchen and back?)

For more of my irreverent visual commentary on the often-invisible pain of RA and lupus, check out How my hands look vs. how my hands feel.


  • Anonymous

    I love your shoe pain level chart. Just recently I made it through the church part of a wedding wearing heels only to hobble back to my car to change into clogs for the reception. My eyes always go first, with envy, to the beautiful heals that others are wearing. My advice is to wear them while you are young…….you may not know what is coming. Uggs and Crocs not fill my days.

  • Anonymous

    Great post! I’ve got the same foot/shoe issues and it’s funny because i spend more money on ugly/comfortable shoes now than i’ve ever spent on cute ones! I did recently purchase a pair of heels from Aerosole and they’re really comfy (and cute)- i even managed to keep them on for 2 hours before my toes ruined the fun.

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