After an ER doc determined that a tiny kidney stone caused my husband’s sudden agony last year, a nurse came to deliver more pain meds and a dose of sympathy: “I passed a stone a couple of months ago, and it was worse than any of my four labors,” she told him. Indeed, when Prevention asked doctors for their opinions about which conditions trigger the most horrific pain, kidney stones made the list. But even they’re outranked by several other diagnoses with more intense, longer-lasting distress. Here, from bad to horrible, are the worst of the worst.
10. Post-Surgical Pain
Whether you were in the hospital for work on your shoulder or your ticker, you’re at risk for nerve injuries that lead to constant pain. “Some research has shown that half of people who have chest surgery develop chronic pain,” says Lynn Webster, MD, past president of the American Society of Pain Medicine. “In the future, we’ll be able to identify, through genotyping, who is most at risk.” In the meantime, he cautions patients not tough it out in the hospital because managing the acute pain lessens the risk of long-term problems.
9. Kidney Stones
JONATHAN KIRN/GETTY IMAGES
The pain from these itsy bitsy masses (which range in size from a grain of salt to a pearl) comes on fast and furious, with the back, lower abdomen, and groin area being in the greatest discomfort. Most of the time, doctors prescribe pain-killers and advise you to drink plenty of water and wait. Once you pee out the stone, the pain subsidies almost immediately. But don’t think you’re out of the woods yet: The doctor will probably suggest that you have the stone tested, because, depending on the type, changes in your diet may prevent the whole ordeal from happening again.