Monday, October 15, 2007

Using pain scales to rate pain

Ever wonder how some people can walk on a broken ankle while others feel the slightest bump and bruise? Why some people can manage without many pain killers after surgery, while others can barely move around without as much as often as they are allowed? Pain is very subjective. Pain is how everyone perceives it to be, and we all perceive it to be different.

Those differences make it very difficult for nurses and doctors to assess a patient’s pain. Not only do they have the differences among the patients, they have their own interpretations of pain. So, how can we tell if a patient is having severe pain and if the pain is relieved or not? We use pain scales.

If you've recently been in the hospital or visited an emergency room with severe pain, it's likely you were asked to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10 or 1 to 5. Usually, a response of 1 means virtually no pain and 5 (or 10) is the worst pain imaginable.

Let’s say that you rate your pain as an 8, quite bad. You are then given some pain medications and after the medication has had time to work, your nurse asks you again what your pain scale is. If you answer "8," then we know the medication hasn't helped you. If you answer "4," there was some effect from the medication. If you answer "1," then the medication was fairly effective.

Because you are using numbers instead of descriptions (pain is awful, pain is better, pain is getting worse), every nurse or doctor reports it back the same way, with the number. This gives the whole staff a good reference to work from.

Scales can also be used for children. The Wong-Baker Faces Pain Rating Scale uses facial expressions for children to indicate what their pain level is. Other scales use numbers of items like balloons - 1 balloon means little pain, 10 balloons means severe pain, for example.

News for Today:

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Crabby McSlacker said...

I think the pain scale makes a lot of sense!

It does seem like it's taking some in the medical profession a long time to take subjective pain seriously--which is too bad, because it seems like fear of over-treating pain has caused lots of needless suffering.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Marijke,

Once when I was sick and in the hospital, everyone kept asking me how I felt and I kept saying "it's not so bad" and my son kept saying "she has a high tolerance for pain."

So I'm thinking the scale would be a great improvement. because it gives us a baseline of "no pain."

I also liked the afternoon nap link. I think I just feel all around better on those days I know a nap is on my horizon.


Dawn said...

"Afternoon nap link"! I like the sound of that!

After a year or so of gammy knee being relatively pain-free, I now seem to have some sort of RSI pain in my arm. Not good for a writer, but I'm hoping it will wear off. Seems like no sooner does one complaint ease than another rears its ugly head!