1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Adrienne Dellwo

15 Pain Terms Everyone With Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Should Know

By June 28, 2011

Follow me on:

Blog Classic: July 24, 2010

It's common for a doctor to ask where you hurt and how badly you hurt, but as you likely know if you have fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, pain is a lot more complicated than that. We need to understand how we hurt, and since we're not talking about injuries or physical degeneration, it helps to know why we hurt as well.

To help you understand your body, communicate with your doctor and decipher research, I've put together a list of 15 pain-related terms you should know:

  1. Allodynia
  2. Analgesic
  3. GABA
  4. Glia
  5. Glutamate
  6. Hyperalgesia
  7. Narcotics
  8. NSAIDs
  9. Nociceptor
  10. Pain Threshold
  11. Pain Tolerance
  12. Paresthesia
  13. Serotonin
  14. Substance P
  15. Tender Points

Which terms were new to you?  Are there any other terms you'd like to see defined?  Leave a comment below!

Learn more or join the conversation!


Photo Đ Adam Crowley/Getty Images

July 25, 2010 at 3:54 pm
(1) Dawn says:

I would like to know if there is a set standard or explaination of the pain scale for fibromyalgia. I know that I must rate my pain on a scale from 1-10 but am unsure as to what each number represents or how to rate my pain level. Is there any explaination?

July 28, 2010 at 6:12 pm
(2) Adrienne Dellwo says:


There are a few pain scales in use, but honestly none of them is very good. A “10″ is supposed to be the worst pain imaginable, which varies greatly from person to person, and there’s really no way to quantify pain accurately. I saw a comment recently from someone whose doctor tried to tell her she was a “5″ instead of an “8″ — how in the world would the doctor know? Pain is subjective, and when you’re in pain all the time like we are, you learn to function through a lot of it.

When I go to massage, I’m always asked to rate my pain by how much it impairs my function. That’s tricky, because I know I can function through a lot more than most people.

In the end, don’t worry too much about pain scales. Their only purpose is to help doctors understand us, and they don’t even do that very well.

Hope this helps!

July 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm
(3) judith says:

I agree with Adrienne. Pain scales are not very good for judging any pain level. Each of us has a difference tolerance level and even then some days are better than others.. Sometimes you just have to say to the Drs or whoever “the pain today for me is truly unbearable or today is a good pain day”. If they care about you and know about FMS or CFS they understand, if they don’t understand forget it you can’t explain.

July 30, 2010 at 6:32 pm
(4) Kolbrun says:

Pain is very subjective. I have made some scales for myself . Where 10 is “almost intolerabel” and 1 is “no pain”then 5 “is some pain”The important thing is to define what the numbers on the scale mean. Another one I have made is more complicated- I take the status every so often. Every two hours or three times a day at a beforedcided (this isnīt English?) In the first colum I put how and where the pain is and how bad. In the next colum what I was doing at the time and then what Iwas going to do to make the pain better. In the last colum a word about ifwhat I did worked. I do this every now and then over a period of time. It is good to take a summary to the doctor. Then I also make myself a timetable that doess notworktoo well.
What do you do to keep the “thing” under control?
yes and I make fun of the “thing” and laugh a lot.

July 30, 2010 at 7:56 pm
(5) Barbara says:

I agree the pain scale is a “pain” to use, yet it helps healthcare professionals if we try to quantify our pain. I’ve added a site that shows the 1-10 scale with faces and words to help us. Hope the link works.


July 31, 2010 at 11:55 am
(6) JoAnne says:

Thanks sooo much for your insightful tips! I wouldn;t be able to survive without your website!You seem to always touch on the problem of the day(week) etc.God bless you and I am so sorry you are suffering!I will pray for all of us daily!! Lets continue to keep each other as informed as we can!!!

July 31, 2010 at 3:34 pm
(7) D Winfrey says:

I have diabetes and other issues along with fibro. For several years I have had sharp, momentary pains which my mother and I call “beestings”. Our doctors told us that was diabetic neuropathy. However, the things I read about diabetic neuropathy say that neuropathy pains are only on the limbs. Mine occur all over my body. AND, they are often paired – ie, at two places at once. I just had a couple of pains that hit my hand and butt simultaneously. I often have them on my toes and abdomen together. I’ve had them all over my back at once — I pulled off the road one time so Mother could find the ants biting my back. Nothing there. I haven’t seen this type of paired pain and trunk pain talked about anywhere. Is that fibro? I am pretty sure it is neurological since it is the nerve endings on my skin – but What is it, and what helps it? (Neurontin helped a lot, but made me so groggy I couldn’t function.) Help!!!!

June 29, 2011 at 12:50 am
(8) Sandie Osborne says:

D Winfrey, in response to your comments, I also have trunk pain. The pain is so severe in my chest straight through to my back. It’s as if I’m being twisted in the very core of my body. Without Lyrica and pain medication, all I can do is cry. I was diagnosed with fibro in 1998 but this started 4 yrs ago. I have had MRI’s, Cat Scans and every test you can think of. I even convinced the doctors to take out my gallbladder. It did not help. I was ready to do anything. My doctor finally told me I could stop going to doctors. Ended up in pain management and with the meds that I am on now. I sleep with heat and ice at night. I have a massage therapist and chiropractor. What else is there to do? My job of 15 yrs ended last October. I could not function any longer. Where do I go from here?

August 1, 2010 at 1:18 am
(9) Jenny says:

Today I had an interesting insight about pain and Fibro and CFIDS. I’m on a crash right now and have been spending a lot of time in bed, so my body aches from being in bed a lot. But those aches are really different from what happens when I raise my arms and pain is there. Or different from when I try to stretch to release some tension pain, but then I get pain from blood rushing/lacking. Then there is pain associated with mental fatigue… looking at a white page with black letters “hurts” but not in a headache way… so confusing!

August 1, 2010 at 1:25 am
(10) Jenny says:

A scale I’ve found pretty useful (as it CAN be) used for daily functioning can be found here: http://www.ocfp.on.ca/local/files/EHC/ActivityLog%20&%20FunctionalCapacityScale.pdf .
It doesn’t specifically denote a pain scale, but overall functioning. For me this is really hard to determine since I push myself through my daily activities. This is from the book “Hope and Help for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia”, which has taken me a long time to get through, but is informative.

August 1, 2010 at 9:47 am
(11) ladymag says:

To ensure appropriate assessment and treatment it is critical that pain is properly defined. A good pain scale not only includes a numbering or facial expression system but also definitions of the pain.
As a health care professional and a person with fibro I recognize the importance of pain management and that it can only occur with an accurate assessment. It is important to use the same pain scale that your health care provider uses and to make certain that you both interpret the scale in the same way.
Health care providers do understand and recognize pain if it is explained to him/her in a manner that is realistic and understandable. All too often pain explanations are vague and lack accurate details. That is why it is important to use the same pain scale with a unified understanding of that scale. We are responsible to give our provider the information needed to make appropriate assessments and thereby effective pain management.
If you google pain scales there are approximately 1,000 different scales that are in use; every provider has his/her preference.

August 1, 2010 at 9:49 am
(12) ladymag says:

Sorry, that should have been 100,000 pain scales rather than 1,000.

August 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm
(13) Adrienne Dellwo says:

D Winfrey,

I get those “bee sting” pains occasionally, and a few times I’ve had them in more than one place. It’s one of those things that falls into the category of “It happens, we don’t know why.” My neurologist says he sees odd nerve issues in fibromyalgia patients all the time.


December 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm
(14) Christi says:

I have a basic 1-10 pain scale but when the dr. Asks me I say that giving birth (I did natural births) is a 15 unbearable. And the 1-10 is normal life pain 10 being, I can’t function (ex, sleep, eat, move around. Etc). it’s amazing how we just get used to being in pain all the time and living with it.

June 28, 2011 at 2:14 pm
(15) Tammy says:

Regarding the pain terms, I was speaking with my wonderful, sympathetic doctor in my last appointment and said I was having particular trouble with allodynia. He said he’d never heard the term! Surprised me.
The way I categorize and describe my pain is by using a four tier scale. Level one is the constant, low-level pain that I have all the time, but I have learned to block out. Level two is when acute pain breaks into my consciousness for periods of a few minutes, off and on throughout the day, which is loud and difficult, but manageable. Level three is when my pain is so consistent and at such a high level that I feel as though I am encased in a lucite box of pain, and everything about the world is seen through the filter of that pain. Level four is the excruciating, unbearable pain, all encompassing, which has sent me to the ER, and I have had too often.

June 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm
(16) Tammy says:

Sorry, another post, but thought it worth mentioning. My neurologist asks questions about what types of pain I’m experiencing — burning, gnawing, stinging, stabbing, aching, etc. He lists about fifteen different types. I’ve used those terms with other doctors, and with my acupuncturist, and I’ve found it to be helpful to be specific in that way. When I’m asked a “1-10″ pain scale question, at a doctor’s, I will sometimes say I have several types of pain, on different spectrums of the scale. But I find it has the most impact when I describe the pain in specifics of how it limits what I can do. A ten to one person who has not had much pain can be a five to someone who has pain all the time and has extreme pain at times.

June 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm
(17) Cyndi Hobson says:

There were only 6 that were new to me. I should write them down and google them.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.