Using Pain Scales With a Health Care Provider
Since individuals feel and experience pain differently, doctors often use pain scales. Using a pain scale is an effective way for individuals to gauge how they are feeling on a daily basis. They can also indicate any improvements over time, or if their treatments are not working as well as hoped and need to be adjusted.
Using a pain scale
To gain the most benefit from a pain scale, individuals should note the following:
- Think about the worst pain they have ever experienced in their lives. This creates a benchmark for their current pain.
- Note the intensity of pain they have felt over the past week and assign numbers for the most pain, the least pain and the average pain felt during that time frame. Most pain scales use a rating scale ranging from zero (no pain) to ten (agonizing pain).
- Assign a number for an acceptable pain level. (Of course the preferred “acceptable” number is zero, but that may not be possible in all cases.)
Questions to consider
When talking with a health care provider, giving detailed information can help determine the origin of the pain and the best methods of treatment. Questions to consider before a doctor’s appointment include the following:
- Is the pain worse certain times of the day?
- Is it a constant, dull ache?
- Is it shooting pain? If so, when? Where?
- Does the pain affect sleep?
- Do certain activities make the pain worse or alleviate it?
- Do certain treatments ease the pain better than others?
- How long does the worst pain typically last?
When answering these questions, it is important to rate them on a pain scale as well. Providing answers to these questions helps health care providers better understand the level of pain experienced and how it affects daily life.
Treating chronic pain takes time and patience. Using a pain scale and answering key questions helps individuals and their health care providers better gauge what triggers the pain and what treatments help reduce the pain.