Pain on a Scale of One to Ten

Pain can be all consuming. It can be debilitating. Pain can make us stronger. We can be afflicted by pain on a physical level due to an illness like PKD or an injury. We can be consumed with so much distress that a particular part of our body aches, like our heart. Mental or emotional suffering can cause us pain. Regardless of the circumstances, it is awful and tests us to our core.

Pain Scale

“On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?” I have heard this question umpteen times when in the hospital and at doctor appointments. This seems to irritate me more times than not. I know it is important but sometimes you are in so much pain that rating the level of discomfort from one to ten doesn’t seem to do it justice.

Before doctors removed both of my kidneys, they were so huge they were pushing on my lungs and limiting my breathing. I was forced to take shallow breaths. If I would take a normal or deep breath, the pain was unbearable. I am thankful that both of my kidneys were removed which allowed my organs to get back into a happier place. That was 11 years ago. Until the beginning of this year, I have been fortunate to not experience that level of pain. However, I am now finding myself breathing shallow to protect my body from my back pain. Due to my adverse reaction to pain pills, I have not taken any since the end of July. The pain is constant and I feel as though it is starting to take a toll on me.

Acupuncture Needles

A few weeks ago, I decided to give acupuncture a shot. This week I had a rough treatment. My lower back is so inflamed and irritated, it is quite painful when the needles are inserted in my back. I was lying on my stomach with my head face down in the upside-down horseshoe-shaped pillow. The acupuncturist began by inserting needles in my ears, hands, feet and then my lower back. She put the needles at the locations that are most sensitive right now in my back. It was so painful that my body flinched with each inserted needle. When she was finished, I found myself in tears. Fortunately the pain diminishes once the needles are inserted.


As I lay there face down in the pillow with tears streaming down my face, I silently questioned why I was inflicting more pain on myself. I took many deep cleansing breaths and reminded myself that sometimes we need to deal with more pain to get to a point of obtaining a better quality of life again. I am hoping this natural course of action will be beneficial for me. I calmed myself down and tried to get to a happy place for the rest of my treatment.

I believe that is a struggle when dealing with pain – finding a happy place – whether that is mentally, physically or both. Everyone’s pain is different. A different magnitude, a different kind, and each affected on a different level. However, everyone’s pain is of the same importance and we should not think ours is less or more by comparing it to others.


“The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.”

I continue to forge through my health obstacles and my pain, because on a scale of one to ten, my hope, strength and determination is off the charts.

Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with pain? How do you find your happy place in the midst of pain?


  1. Robert Chiuchiarelli

    Meditation and mental exercises have always been my primary way to deal with pain. They were essential when dealing with multiple hemorrhagic cyst ruptures last year.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Robert,
      Thank you for sharing this. My acupuncturist has been discussing meditation with me and how it can play a huge role in dealing with pain. I am glad to hear that this is a positive outlet for you when dealing with pain. This gives me encouragement to give it a try. Thank you!

  2. Marsha Byers Etnier

    Valen, your words are such encouagement and comfort to me! I don’t know how I missed this post today…I guess I need to check each morning. Your description was so real for me…just three weeks ago I was in the same position that you described having cysts drained! I too was asking myself why would you purposely put yourself through more pain…the answer, to hopefully eventually get some relief. I make a conscience choice to dwell on every good thing that is going on in my life or in the lives of my family. This past month my pain has been pretty intense and that is when I found your post!!! You are an incredible source of strength to me Valen. Thank you sooooo much. Thank you to for reminding me not compare my pain with anothers, good or bad. Today I received this quote from an email from one of my daughters, I though you might enjoy…” I believe God wants you to know…
    …that illness is not a sign of spiritual weakness, but of
    spiritual strength.
    When we fall ill there are some who will say, “Why
    did you create that for yourself?” They might convince
    you to see it as a sign of spiritual weakness or failure.
    It is not. It is a sign of spiritual strength.
    All challenges are a sign of spiritual strength, and of
    the readiness of the Soul to move on;
    to evolve even further. Keep up the STRONG fight you are fighting and Valen, thank you for letting us walk with you! Blessings……xxooxo <3 Marsha

    • Valen Keefer

      Dear Marsha,
      I am so glad that you were able to connect with this post. It has been such a delight meeting you. I love your positive spirit. Thank you for this beautiful message and sharing the powerful quote. Your friendship and thoughtful words of support mean so much. xoxo

  3. dominique

    i sure hope this helps your back,,keep the faith,,i deal with pain by thinking of someone or something something pleasant also music you like a tune, or anything funny weather its a phrase a show audio ..if i am somewhere a favorite photo helps to look at..

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Dominique,
      Thank you for sharing your wonderful insight on what helps you when dealing with pain. Music is big for me. I love it. It helps me to drift off to a happy place or takes me back to a special moment in time. 🙂

  4. Kati

    Myofascial Release has helped me a lot with all of my headaches and neck and back pain. It uses a very gentle touch (similar to massage but softer and focuses on restrictions in your fascia and muscles) and helps your body unwind and relax naturally. It’s not very well-known, so you may have to do some research to find someone, but it works wonders especially when you don’t have anything else left to try.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Kati,
      Thank you very much for sharing this. I am glad to hear that you have found this helpful outlet. I will definitely look into this. I am open to trying new things as we are all so different and it is sometimes difficult to find what is best for each of us. My mother-in-law recently became certified in bowenwork which sounds kind of similar. She tried that on me when she was visiting from PA last week.

  5. Victoria

    Hi Valen,

    I’m so sorry you are dealing with pain. I dealt with a lot of pain during leukemia and I, too, was so perplexed by the 1-10 rating, preferring the “Ready to go running” to “It’s okay to die now” scale. I also think perception of pain varies with other things that are going on and if you have been raised a stoic, it’s another element. I was pleasantly surprised by the Pain And Tox docs who really have this fascination and hope of providing pain relief through whatever avenue works. One thing really resonated with me though: the energy to fight pain on your own distracts the body from focusing on its own healing powers. So whether it’s acupuncture, drugs, massage, meditation, sleep, music, videos, whatever – exploit those in the hope of lessening pain – or the perception of pain – so your body can latch onto something in addition. Pain is totally unique and I hope yours lessen and you find some relief. Big hugs to you. Hope to see you soon, it’s been too long.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Vicki,
      You always make me smile, laugh and share such wonderful words of wisdom. I read your comment several times as the thought you shared that really resonated with you, sure did resonate with me too. That really helps to put things in perspective and makes total sense. I really appreciate you taking the time to share this with me. Your friendship and support means a lot and I would love to see you soon, it has definitely been too long. Big hugs! xo


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