14 Pain Scales to Measure the Intensity of Your Pain

stomach pain
Stomach pain - Photo by: James Palinsad - Source: Flickr Creative Commons

In this article, you’ll find descriptions of popular and efficient pain scales. You’ll be able to choose the one that suits you best and use it when talking to your doctor.

To correctly diagnose your condition and prescribe you an appropriate treatment, the doctor needs to know how intense your pain is. Medical professionals might use different pain scales for this purpose. No scale is perfect — yet so far, technology can’t offer more advanced alternatives. From this article, you’ll get to know about the most popular pain scales and be able to decide which one seems the most useful to you.

Pain Scale 1-10

If you experience the mildest pain, you can characterize it as “one”. To explain to the doctor that you’re suffering from extreme pain, you should say “ten”. At first sight, such a scale seems very intuitive and universal. But how can you know whether your level of pain corresponds to “five” and not “four” or “six”? And how can the doctor be sure that two different patients mean the same level of pain when saying “five”?

Visual Analog Scale

Instead of using numbers, the patient needs to mark their pain intensity on a continuum. Such an approach is perfect for people who find discrete units like numbers a bit confusing. Most scales of this type look like straight lines of a fixed length. Some might be meter-shaped or have middle points.

Faces Scale

Its target audience is children who might find it challenging to describe their pain levels with numbers. They look at a series of simple portraits with different facial expressions and show which one mimics their own sensations the best. The main shortcoming of this method is that it isn’t effective  with autistic patients.

Color Scale

This scale can be regarded as a modification of the previous one. It is shaped like a thermometer. Darker red colors typically indicate the most intense pain and blue stands for no pain. People with developed associative thinking find such an approach very helpful. Also, it delivers very good results for kids.

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Color-Coded Numerical Scale

This color-coded scale was first shared by a fibromyalgia patient and it  relies on both colors and physical descriptions to help patients categorize their pain. This scale has three competitive edges.

  • You can clearly understand the difference between the two adjusting colors.
  • It becomes easier for the doctor to interpret the results.
  • The scale suits any type of patient. Some people prefer to explain verbally how their pain feels. Others find it more convenient to show the degree of their sensations. Both types of patients can efficiently use this scale.

Randall Scale

It resembles the previous one as it also uses colors and verbal explanations but the patients fill in this scale themselves. They need to determine which word better describes the level of pain that a particular color stands for. For example, they can suggest such expressions as “no pain”, “mild”, “tolerable”, “distressful”, “severe” and “disabling”. Also, they can add comments to each level of pain. Once they compile this scale, they should stick to it without changing its contents. Only minor corrections are allowed — for instance, they can replace the word “distressful” with “moderate” for greater accuracy.

Global Scale

This one allows the doctor to understand how the patient experiences pain and how it affects their life. The medical professional will ask you questions about the following aspects.

  • Current pain levels
  • Emotional well-being
  • Clinical outcomes
  • Ability to engage in activities of daily living

You can use the same questionnaire alone at home to assess your recovery progress.

McGill Scale

The target audience of this scale is patients with complex regional pain syndrome. According to this method, you should compare the intensity of your pain to the sensations that you experience because of different types of injuries, from bone fracture to unprepared childbirth.

Mankoski Scale

It combines a numerical pain scale with brief descriptions. The patient should also explain how medicines affect their sensation of pain.

FLACC Scale

To categorize a child’s level of pain, the medical professional relies on the following parameters.

  • Facial expression
  • Leg movements
  • Activity
  • Crying
  • Consolability

Doctors apply it to assess the condition of younger children who can’t talk yet.

CPOT Scale

Sometimes, adult patients might also be unable to report their pain themselves. In this case, the clinician should assess the following parameters.

  • Facial expression
  • Body movements
  • Muscle tension

This method is based on observation.

Humorous Scale

Scientists have proved that humor and a good mood can release stress and relieve suffering. When the patient experiences severe pain, it might be easier for them to recognize it and put up with it if they see funny pictures on the scale.

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Hyperbole and a Half Scale

This scale got its name after the popular Hyperbole and a Half blog that uses humor to approach tough topics like mental health and pain. The authors of the blog shared this scale in one of their posts and people fell in love with it. Many patients claim that this scale enables them to describe and express their sensations very precisely.

Rather often, this method inspires patients to create their own individual scales. This creativity helps people who experience pain regularly lift their spirits and develop a more philosophical attitude to their condition.

Personalized Scale

Patients might create not only humorous scales but also serious ones. Your individual scale might include any parameters that are relevant to you. You might turn it into a well-structured diary where you put marks, use colors and add verbal explanations. You might describe your daily activities and accentuate the ones that made your pain decrease or become more intense. Such a scale should help you to analyze how your sensations evolve over time. Also, you can add to this scale the information about the measures that you took to relieve your pain and report the efficiency of each of them.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article came in handy and now you know which pain scales you can choose from. The earlier you find your pain doctor and make an appointment, the easier it will be to get rid of unpleasant sensations.