American Pain Scale Needs Radical Revamping

Instead of Asking About Worst Pain, How About Recalling Comfort?

Just before 6 am the lights came on and in walked a young nurse wheeling a brightly-lit computer.

And without looking my way, she asked, “On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the worse pain you’ve ever experienced, how do you feel?”

The second day she came in, I stopped her.

“Oh no,” I said.  We’re not starting the day this way again . . .”

The physiology of emotions

Fort Collins, Colorado counselor and hypnotist, Ed Rupert, says asking someone to revisit pain is asking her to re-experience it.

It’s re-traumatizing.

That’s because the brain cannot distinguish between present and remembered sensations.

You need only re-experience the feeling of appreciation or awe or love to know the truth in that statement.

Seminal research from the HeartMath Institute shows that evoking strong emotions impacts our physiology.

Below is the heart-rate variability of the same person being asked to recall feelings of frustration and then appreciation.

Frustration Versus Appreciation HRV Coherence

While the first graph brings to mind chaos, harmony and ease could be ascribed to the second.

And given a choice, most of us would choose to spend time in the latter, and with the tools of HeartMath it’s possible to do.

Redefining pain and comfort

With Ed’s guidance I prepared for recent surgery by describing to him the most comfortable I’ve ever felt.

I return to floating on my back.

In the safest comfort I’ve known, I am a child. My arms and legs are splayed, and I’m surrounded and supported by a cool, Maine lake. It’s also there as an adult when I’m buoyed by the salty water of the Aegean.

And simply recounting this to Ed transports me to well being.

Surgery came and went with surprisingly little discomfort.

And here’s what I now know for sure.

A transformation is needed in the language, culture and way we train people to perceive pain and how we put to good use life-affirming emotions such as comfort and ease.

Take action!

Join a HeartMath class to learn more about the ways our emotions impact our health. Write me at:

Contact Ed Rupert at Changes in Attitude Hypnosis.

Read about immigrant elder care in the U.S.

.  .  .

Ellen is a native of northern Maine. She is a HeartMath® trainer and coach and can be reached at