When Joey Tribbiani was bitching over his kidney stones while Phoebe was giving birth to triplets, little did we know he may have had reason to consider his passing of the tiny crystalline lumps as potentially as bad as having a human pushed out of your vagina.
Several lists over the years have detailed the most painful experiences known to humankind, whether comparing various ailments to childbirth or ranking the worst insect stings (by a scientist so devoted to the cause he was stung by each and every bug on the list).
And now a Reddit thread on the very subject has stirred the pot once again, throwing up all kinds of terrible experiences from people eager to share the worst physical pain they’ve ever endured, from agonising appendicitis:
To kidney stones:
To how it feels to be run over by a truck:
Of course, people have different thresholds (it’s possible women feel pain more acutely than men, but manage it better) and it could be argued that some pains are so different it’s like trying to compare eating a Twix with throwing a ball.
On the list are conditions many people are familiar with, such as migraines, stomach ulcers, heart attacks and broken bones.
But while the list isn’t in any particular order, it does say cluster headaches could well take the top spot pain-wise.
Cluster headaches “come on very suddenly without warning causing a sharp, stabbing pain around one eye. Attacks can be as short as 15 minutes or last three hours or more”.
The page states: “Imagine giving birth without painkillers once or twice a day for up to 10 weeks at a time and you have some idea of the sheer misery of cluster headaches.
“Cluster headaches are also called ‘suicide headaches’ because they’re so excruciatingly painful they’ve been known to drive people to take their own lives. They tend to “They’re acknowledged to be the most painful type of headache, worse even than severe migraines. In fact, experts have suggested that cluster headache may be the most painful condition known to medical science.”
Endometriosis also makes an appearance, an extremely painful condition in which cells usually found in the uterus grow elsewhere in the body, causing inflammation, pain and scar tissue. Symptoms include heavy and painful periods, painful sex, exhaustion and stomach and back pain.
The condition can lead to associated mental health problems, such as depression, and fertility issues, and though up to two million women are estimated to be affected by it in the UK, many report that their symptoms aren’t taken seriously.
The condition also came up in the Reddit thread, with one woman describing the pain as feeling like she was being stabbed “with a white hot serrated knife”. Another said: “This is the worst pain I have in how it affects my life. I've had migraines that have made me seriously consider suicide but endometriosis has ruined my life.”
Another condition on the list is shingles, described here as “one of the most painful medical conditions you can be unlucky enough to experience”.
“Caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox, it’s characterised by a rash or crop of blisters on one side of your body, often around the waistline.
“The pain of shingles tends to be burning or tingling and often affects only one side of your body. It can be so bad that you experience an excruciating stab of pain when someone simply brushes lightly against the affected skin or a breeze wafts over it.”
Meanwhile, Joey’s kidney stones are said to a result in a “sudden, incredibly sharp, cramping pain in your lower back or the side of your abdomen, or occasionally in your groin, which may last for minutes or hours”, with many on the Reddit thread in agreement that it’s the one thing guaranteed to floor them.
A perhaps lesser-known condition in the top 20 is trigeminal neuralgia, an unpredictable pain “often described as feeling like an electric shock shooting through the face” or “intense sensations of burning or stabbing” that can be brought on by nothing more than a breeze.
The NHS page is due for update this month, so keep your fingers crossed – post-work-drinking-from-5pm-forgot-to-eat hangover could make an appearance.
FYI, the largest kidney stone ever removed from a person (surgically, you’ll be pleased to know) was 13cm wide.