The Value and Importance of Pain Scales

Source: MayoClinic

Pain scales have been one of pain management's most reliable assessment tools for many decades. Although pain can be viewed as subjective, it is personal to the individual experiencing it. Identifying a root cause of the pain can be challenging, therefore, it is important to monitor your symptoms, emotions, and sensations over time on the pain scale to evaluate what treatments make your pain better or worse. To help define your pain when communicating with your physician, the following descriptors may be used:


This consists of the interference that pain causes in activities as well as the pain’s intensity. It is referred to as a disability and is an indicator of how severe the said pain happens to be. Numerous tools have been created to test pain-related disability. The tools test the limits of various activities like walking and dressing.


Chronic pain is defined in various ways. The ‘chronicity’ with regards to pain can be determined with the help of a depression scale and the time frame for which the pain lasts.


This includes both the pain related affect and the intensity. The intensity talks about the amount of pain whereas the affect talks about the emotional arousal due to sensory pain. Patients generally tend to describe intensity easily; however, the ‘affect’ is hard to describe. Since the perception of pain changes continuously, patients should be asked to rate the experienced pain in short periods.

Instruments for pain intensity assessment

  • Visual Analogue Scale/Graphic Rating ScaleThis scale has a straight line, and the endpoints define the two extreme limits; no pain and quite unbearable. The patient has to mark the pain level somewhere in the middle of the two points.
  • Numerical Rating ScaleIn this instrument, patients have to circle a number from the given range that corresponds to the intensity of their pain. The range most often used is from 0 to 10. Zero means painless, and ten refers to the worst pain imaginable.
    Verbal Rating ScaleA VRS scale uses adjectives to describe the various pain levels. The patient has to mark an adjective that best corresponds to the intensity.
    Pain drawingIn this instrument, the patient is provided with the outline of a human body. He or she has to mark the areas where pain is felt. This tool has been suggested for testing out psychological involvement as well.
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