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Using the Pain Scale Effectively

by Karen Lee Richards, ChronicPainConnection Expert

If you are a chronic pain patient, you have most likely been asked to “rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you can imagine.”  In fact, you're probably asked to do that on a regular basis.  The problem is, no one ever tells you what the numbers between 0 and 10 mean.  We silently wonder what the doctor thinks they mean and try to pick a number that will adequately convey how much we're hurting.

In an effort to remedy this situation, I've researched multiple interpretations of the pain scale and compiled what I think is the most commonly accepted evaluation of each number on the scale.  You may be surprised by some of the descriptions.  Please note: This guide is not official, nor is it approved by any medical associations.  But hopefully it will help you rate your pain more accurately the next time you're asked.

 THE PAIN SCALE

0    Pain free.

Mild Pain  Nagging, annoying, but doesn't really interfere with daily living activities.

1    Pain is very mild, barely noticeable.  Most of the time you don't think about it.

2    Minor pain.  Annoying and may have occasional stronger twinges. 

3    Pain is noticeable and distracting, however, you can get used to it and adapt.

Moderate Pain – Interferes significantly with daily living activities.

4    Moderate pain.  If you are deeply involved in an activity, it can be ignored for a period of time, but is still distracting. 

5    Moderately strong pain.  It can't be ignored for more than a few minutes, but with effort you still can manage to work or participate in some social activities.

6    Moderately strong pain that interferes with normal daily activities.  Difficulty concentrating.

Severe Pain – Disabling; unable to perform daily living activities.

7    Severe pain that dominates your senses and significantly limits your ability to perform normal daily activities or maintain social relationships.  Interferes with sleep.

8    Intense pain.  Physical activity is severely limited.  Conversing requires great effort. 

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