When it comes to addressing chronic pain conditions and adopting successful pain management strategies, accurate assessments of pain are essential. NSW Health recommends the following methods as legitimate ways to assess pain experienced by patients.
A physical examination is one important aspect of pain assessment. Self-reports are usually the most reliable indicators of pain severity or intensity, although many patients have difficulty describing pain sensations. As a result, it is important for health practitioners to aid patients during physical examinations with measurement tools, such as numeric scales, visual analog scales and verbal rating scales. When it comes to numeric and visual scales, pain is usually measured on a horizontal line, rated from ‘no pain’ on the left to ‘worst possible pain’ on the right. Patients can use such scales to mark their level of pain.
Deciding which measurement tool to use during a physical exam is an important step, as assessments need to be as accurate as possible, as well as comfortable for the patient. Assessments used should be appropriate to a patient’s cognitive development, culture, preference and language.
A pain diary is another way of assessing pain. A pain diary is kept by the patient themselves and they should record details of their pain daily (or whenever it is felt). For example, patients can record details such as when the pain begins, where they feel the pain, the duration of the pain and the severity of the pain. They can also include what they think makes the pain better and what makes it worse. Health practitioners can read pain diaries when consulting with their patients for a more accurate picture of their patients’ health conditions.
Health practitioners are trained to apply appropriate pain assessments when diagnosing and treating patients. If you are experiencing pain, be prepared to be met with the above two pain assessment methods when visiting your health practitioner.