McGill University (Canada) developed a pain scale by cross-referencing questionnaires sent to patients. Here is a ranking of the most intense pain; graded from the most unbearable.
1. Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
This syndrome most often occurs after an injury (fracture, minor surgery) that damages a nerve and causes dysfunction. The patient then experiences burning pain with hypersensitivity, swelling, etc. An attack can last several months and there is no cure for CRPS.
2. Paraponera Stitch
This ant, which lives in the Amazon, emits an extremely painful neurotoxic venom through its sting. An intense burning sensation radiates throughout the affected limb and causes involuntary muscle contractions for several hours.
3. Giving Birth
The first delivery is often described not only as painful but also as very prolonged (sometimes more than six hours) with pain due to sudden contractions of the uterine muscle and then dilation of the perineum as the baby’s head passes.
4. Amputation of the fingers
As the finger is the part of the body with the most nerves, amputation without anesthesia causes very severe pain. The victim often suffers from so-called “phantom pain” afterward.
5. Crohn’s disease
This inflammation, probably autoimmune, of the digestive system, leads to acute pain attacks similar to appendicitis, which cannot be treated. The causes appear to be genetic and environmental.
6. Rheumatoid Arthritis
In Rheumatoid arthritis the patient’s immune system attacks the synovial membrane, which in response swells and produces inflammatory enzymes, causing severe pain that is further aggravated by touch (a piece of clothing will do…). Persistent inflammation eventually leads to damage to tendons, cartilage, and bones.
This disease causes diffuse pain in the joints and muscles. As no damage or inflammation can be detected, doctors were slow to recognize fibromyalgia, even though it is very debilitating. The causes of the disease are still poorly understood.
8. Renal Colic
A kidney stone blocking the urinary tract causes swelling of the kidneys and very severe and sudden unilateral pain starting from the lower back and radiating to the groin. No position provides relief.
Migraine attacks are caused by inflammation of the blood vessels of the dura mater as a result of central nervous system dysfunction. This hereditary disease is characterized by severe pain in the center of the skull, vomiting, hypersensitivity to light, etc.
10. Trigeminal Neuralgia
This disease, also known as “tic douloureux”, is characterized by sudden and unexpected attacks of severe pain in half of the face between the eyelids and upper lip, causing involuntary contractions. This is often due to compression of part of the trigeminal nerve, which extends from the back of the skull and innervates the face.