Rita Riebel Mitchell

Pain Scale

What’s a Pain Scale?

You’ve seen one in doctors’ offices or hospital rooms. A pain scale is a chart or poster with numbers and/or silly little faces that are supposed to help you describe your current level of pain.

pain scale chart

Raise your hand if you know the difference between “very severe pain” and “worst pain.” Do you think your “moderate pain” is the same as your brother’s or your girlfriend’s? Pain is subjective, and different people have different tolerances for it.

Another Pain Scale

This is another version of the Wong-Baker Faces Pain Scale (above). Is this one more helpful?

pain scale chart

A More Descriptive Scale

Realizing the need to develop something to help patients communicate their pain levels, the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs wrote more reasonable descriptors for the little faces.

military pain scale chart

Do I Need to Know This?

I don’t need a pain scale today, and hopefully I won’t need one tomorrow. But when I do need one, I want to know how to describe my pain to the people who will care for me.

Descriptors of Unknown Source

A few months ago, I found another reasonable set of descriptors online (I don’t know who wrote them).

  • 1-2: mild annoyance
  • 3-4: I notice it, but it doesn’t really get in the way of me doing much
  • 5-6: I have to modify actions but can still do them
  • 7-8: avoiding some things cuz of the pain
  • 9-10: avoiding almost/everything because of the pain

That somewhat humorous list inspired a 100-word story that I recently included in my weekly email, Friday Micro (it’s free to join).

To Find Out More

Click on the images or links above for sources or to read more. And please subscribe to Friday Micro to read a free, original micro-fiction story every week.

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