Chronic Pain

Pain Scales and How it Works

Source: Healthline
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A pain scale helps doctors measure a person's pain.  A patient typically self-reports their pain using a specially designed scale with the assistance of a doctor, parent, or guardian.  Doctors use the pain scale to improve their understanding of different aspects including pain duration, level of pain, and type of pain.  Additionally, pain scales allow doctors to make a more accurate diagnosis, form a treatment plan, and gauge the effectiveness of a treatment.  


There are two different types of pain scales.  The Unidimensional pain scales are used to rate the intensity of their pain.  Some of the different types of these scales include numeric rating scales, visual analog scales, and categorical scales.  Another type of pain scale tool are the Multidimensional tools which are often overlooked.  One multidimensional scale is an initial pain assessment tool utilizing a paper diagram showing a body which the patient can mark in order to indicate the location of their pain.  Other tools include a brief pain inventory in which questions are given, addressing aspects of pain felt over the past 24 hours.  The McGill questionnaire is another tool that evaluates a person's pain based on the words that are used to describe their pain.


Though pain scales may be used to measure a person's pain, these tools may sometimes oversimplify the pain evaluation process.  Pain is multifaceted and has different characteristics that affect different parts of a patient's life.  For this reason, it may be more beneficial to use multidimensional pain scales in order to assess complex or chronic pain.