Measuring Your Pain: How Doctors Standardize the Subjective
Pain is – in its nature – a personal experience. Though it has a definite physical cause, your pain is as subjective as your emotions and identifying its root cause can be difficult without a concrete method of defining it.
For your doctor, measuring a patient’s pain is as difficult as it is for the patient to describe it – and fortunately, there are a number of ways around it. By using predefined pain scales, physicians can acquire a more accurate picture of their patients’ pain levels, form a better diagnosis, and ensure they prescribe the right treatment.
Most chronic pain patients are familiar with the “0-10” pain scale. Patients are asked to rate their pain level on a scale of zero to ten, with zero representing “pain-free” and ten representing the highest level of pain imaginable; the test is simple, non-specific, and often the most effective and accessible way to reach a patient.
Often physicians will ask their chronic pain patients to record their pain levels daily or during certain tasks using a Visual Analog Pain Scale on a scale of zero to ten. Varying situations – such as an emergency room visit versus a monthly appointment with a pain specialist – require different methods of analysis, and having an effective method of measuring pain makes the diagnosis more accurate. For a chronic pain patient, being able to communicate pain levels in a medically standardized way opens a world of opportunities in pain management – and in life.