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Pain scales

Measuring pain can be difficult because there is no easy instrument or accurate device to assess the amount of pain. Each person’s experience of pain is also different, which makes communication so important in pain management.

Being able to talk well with your healthcare team is a good first step to getting help for your pain. Using a pain scale is a good way to let your doctor know how much pain you are experiencing. These are some scales your healthcare team may use.

Visual analog scale (VAS)

This 10-cm line scale is designed for adults. Use the scale by pointing to a position on the line that best represents your current level of pain, with ‘no pain’ at one end and ‘worst pain imaginable’ at the other.

Numeric rating scale (NRS)

This scale is similar to the VAS scale. You can tell your doctor which number corresponds to your pain at the moment, or make a mark on the line, where 0 is no pain and 10 is worst pain imaginable.

Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale

The Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale uses drawings of faces to show the range of pain. It is used for people aged 3 and older. Just point to the face that best shows your pain.

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Faces Pain Scale – Revised (FPS-R)

The Faces Pain Scale – Revised (FPS-R) is a version used for younger children (<8 years old).

Brief Pain Inventory-Short Form (BPI-SF)

This is a short questionnaire, used to assess pain severity and its impact on daily life. It is takes about 5 minutes to complete. It is often used for people with chronic pain (such as low back pain) or acute pain (such as post-operative pain). The BPI-SF is available in many languages.

A sample of the form can be viewed here.

British Pain Society pain rating scales

The British Pain Society (BPS) has produced a series of pain scales in multiple languages. These pain scales are very easy to use and understand.

A sample of the English pain scales can be viewed here.