Assessment of pain

Doctors have developed many types of pain charts to help medical staff asses how much pain their patients are experiencing - as it can be difficult to judge. What's more, pain is often underestimated by the onlooker.

The simplest rating of pain is: mild – moderate – severe.

Also easy to use is a straight line containing numbers from 0 to 10. The person can indicate how severe the pain is by making a mark along the line: 0 is no pain, 10 is the worst pain imaginable. This method is also very useful to follow the progress of the pain: the person makes a mark every six hours or so, which tells the doctor whether the pain therapy is effective or not.

Mild pain corresponds with a score of 0 to 3; moderate pain with a score of 4 to 6; and severe pain with a score of 7 to 10.


Pain can of course also be verbally rated from 0 to 10.

For children, a linear scale with smiley faces can be used:


Pain perception versus pain tolerance:
Pain perception is the level at which a person starts finding a stimulus painful. The pain threshold is very similar for different people. For example, most people will experience pain if they touch an object that is hotter than 45°C.

Pain tolerance is more subjective. It varies greatly from person to person and in the same individual at different times.

Two people who undergo the same procedure may have very different experiences – for one the pain may be intolerable, while the other may experience it as merely uncomfortable. When a person is tired and irritated as a result of poor sleep, pain is less well tolerated.

An important part of postoperative pain relief is reassurance and comfort. It is a great help if medical staff can take time to empathise with a patient and offer TLC.
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