You’ve probably heard the question many times: “On a scale of one to ten, what is your level of pain?” A desire for more swift care has often led me to answer “around 10.” But, in reality, it’s difficult for someone to rate their pain on some kind of universal scale. “How does a patient imagine the worst pain ever and give their own pain a number? Middle-class British men who have never been in a war zone may find it hard to imagine anything more agonizing than a toothache or a tennis injury. Women who have experienced childbirth may, after that experience, rate everything else as a mild 3 or 4.” And when we move beyond numeric levels, the descriptions of pain become even more elusive. Is it sharp or dull? Cold or hot? Nagging or intense? Nerve or muscle? Stabbing or tingling? The questions are often hard to answer, and your answers are often even harder to treat. Aside from throwing buckets of often ineffective drugs at the problem, how can the medical community solve pain when it’s so hard to even understand it? From John Walsh in Mosaic: How much does it hurt?