08:35 AM

How to Use a Pain Scale to Assess Your Pain

TheHealthy reports on how physicians use different pain scales to measure pain according to experts including Gregory A. Liguori, MD, director of the Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Management and anesthesiologist-in-chief at HSS.

Pain scales are “essential in managing both acute and chronic pain,” said Dr. Liguori. “Having a quantitative scale that can assess how much pain someone is experiencing is quite important. These scales are widely used and provide the basis for assessing pain and guiding caregivers as to the efficacy of pain treatment options,” he explained. Different scales work better in different populations of patients, he added.

According to Dr. Liguori, pain scales have two main limitations. “The first is the interpersonal variability in pain responses: If you prick your finger on a thorn, one person may rate that a 2, mild pain, and another person may rate that as a 9, severe pain—each patient perceives pain differently,” he cited. “The second limitation is that there is no way to independently validate one’s response to the scale.” He continued, “If a patient says their pain is a 10, they should be medicated with an analgesic [pain reliever]. Maybe that person truly is in pain, but maybe they are seeking pain medications for secondary reasons.”

Even with their limits, pain scales can be helpful both for acute and chronic pain situations. One reason to use them is to determine when and how much to medicate a patient in pain, said Dr. Liguori. “For example, when a patient awakes from surgery, the PACU [post-anesthesia care unit] nurse will ask them about their pain using the NRS. If the patient says their NRS is a 0, no pain medication will be offered, as it is not needed.” However, if the patient says their NRS is a 3-4, then the nurse may discuss a small dose of pain medication. If the patient says their NRS is a 9-10, the nurse will likely start some pain medication quickly, he said.

Read the full article at Thehealthy.com.