real life

"It's like someone sandpapered my flesh off." 19 women on the worst pain they've ever felt.


Physical pain is an interesting beast.

We’ve all felt it.

But we all have different thresholds.

Some would argue emotional pain is worse.

The childbirth questions you were too afraid to ask. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

As women we’re often told childbirth will be the most excruciating thing we’ll experience in our lives on a physical level.

And for some, it is.

For others it’s a mere blip on their radar.

When we asked the Mamamia community what the worst pain they’ve ever felt is, we were inundated with responses.

There were repeat offenders: gallstones, tonsillitis, endometriosis, pelvis instability during childbirth, migraines, a lot of things with teeth…

For some the pain is brutal but quick, for others it’s drawn out and debilitating.

Here are some of their stories:


I broke my foot and the doctors ignored it for a year, telling me it was “anxiety”.


I ended up in so much pain, I could hardly move my leg or walk properly, and turns out the bone that had broken died and rotted inside my foot.

It was on its way to becoming gangrenous.

It was the most horrible pain I have ever experienced and I’ve had broken four bones and had three operations.


The worst pain I’ve experienced is when I had an abscess in my colon.

I’d never experienced anything like it.

I’ve broken my wrist bone in half and my arm was off to the side, but this pain was worse.

It was days before doctors took me seriously and nothing I did could stop the pain.

I ended up in hospital for a week, had to have the abscess drained and then a drain stay in that region for the week.

Worst pain ever.


I had chronic bulging disc, sciatica and piriformis syndrome.

Even with Endone and other hardcore drugs I couldn’t sleep lying down for more than two hours, and spent four months sleeping kneeling up on the sofa.

Eventually I passed out from the pain and banged my head, and spent 10 days in hospital.

I had to be driven 50km away to have the disc chopped out.


I get migraines that pulse like a jackhammer through my brain.


They leave me collapsed on the bathroom floor vomiting from pain until the mercy of sleep envelopes me.

I wake next day exhausted and bedridden, while my body slowly recovers.

Not to mention the emotional pain of staying silent about it because no one believes “headaches” could be that bad.

Welcome to invisible illness.


I have complex regional pain syndrome that affects my hands.

It feels as if someone is sandpapering my flesh off.

I was told by a pain specialist that it is known colloquially as suicide syndrome because painkillers don’t have any effect.

It is so bad and so constant that many people who have it just can’t take it and kill themselves.

I’m not there yet, but sometimes at 4am when it’s particularly bad, I do fantasise about chopping my hands off just so it will end.


A chef accidentally knocked an industrial fish steamer off the stove as I was walking past.

It burnt both my feet through leather shoes and socks.

I had to have skin graft surgery and twice daily physio to learn to walk again.

The initial burn was excruciating but so was the recovery.

I spent six months on heavy pain medication, bed bound.


I removed a contact lens and part of my cornea was torn off with it.



The second time I had shingles I was 15.

It was so bad I could barely walk and couldn’t turn my head.

The nerve pain was excruciating and even the pain clinic couldn’t find a combination to reduce it.


My first Brazilian wax.

I’ve since given birth twice with no drugs.

The wax was still worse.


I had severe mastitis where my boob was as hard as a rock.

It was burning hot to touch and was red and purple in colour –  it looked like an alien boob.

I also had a 41 degree fever to go with it.

It was worse than childbirth, and I begged the doctor to just cut it off.

Fortunately, they refused.


The anaesthetist hit some nerves in my spine when he was administering the epidural for my son’s birth.

It was like a jolt of electricity through my body.

I still have nerve pain from it, and my son is now 10.


I had a stomach ulcer that went undiagnosed for five months.

I spent that time on various very strong medications until the doctors finally found out what was causing my agonising pain and drastic weight loss (54kg in five months).

I ended up also having to have my bowel resected, the agony was unbearable.


I’ve since had another child and that was a breeze compared to the ulcer.


I have a chronic disease in my large intestine called diverticula disease.

It means my large intestine has holes torn in it, so food and fecal matter gets stuck in the torn pockets and it frequently gets infected causing a thing called diverticulitis.

It’s hands down the worst pain I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a baby.

It seizes on and off for days, I’m usually admitted to hospital and given morphine to handle it.

I have flare ups every month when I get my period because the expanding of the uterus irritates the condition.

I’m about to have two thirds of my intestine surgically removed this week and I can’t wait.


I was stung by an Irukandji jellyfish 20 years ago.

I was working on a tour boat off Cairns and it got me around the chest and arm.

The agonising waves of pain moved all the way to my back and legs.

I was winched up and choppered off the top deck of the boat and flown to Cairns hospital.

I was very lucky to walk out of that hospital two weeks later.


When I was six I got chilli in my eye.

It was excruciating.

My friends had a chilli plant in their garden and being little, we didn’t know what it was so we touched it.


Because my skin is so sensitive I had an allergic reaction, which made me cry, which then made me rub my eyes with my hands and then it felt like my eyes were ON FIRE.


Delivering a stillborn baby without pain relief.

The midwife said I’d “be fine”.

Turns out your cervix doesn’t dilate but the baby forces its way through anyway.


When my chronic back pain flares up I can’t think.

I can’t do anything but try to sleep, but I can’t even do that.

Even when it isn’t bad it’s still there, it’s this ever present thing that underlies everything I do – but it’s invisible.

No one can understand why I am in pain because they can’t see it and I look perfectly healthy on the outside.


I have an eye condition called keratoconus.

The pain is constant and searing and I had it for about five years before having two corneal transplants.

It was worse than childbirth, because it went for so long.

It was literally like I was being stabbed in the eyes for years.


Equal battle between childbirth and the time a fish bone pierced my tongue and got stuck there.

My husband had to tweezer it out.