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Medical 1-10 Pain Scale

Posted: Sun Dec 28, 2014 7:18 am
by rogerwimmer
Doc: I have been to doctors in the past few years with different types of pain, and the doctors always ask me to rate the amount of pain I’m experiencing on a scale of 1 to 10, where “10” represents severe pain (or something like that). My question is…Do doctors compare my rating to some type of standard, or how is that used? - FS

FS: You’ll notice that I edited your question and deleted the specific pain situations you experienced in the past few years. I think the specific situations are personal and don’t need to be included here. I hope that’s OK with you. On to your question . . .

Medical doctors use a 1-10 pain scale rating to get a subjective analysis from the patient about how much pain the patient is experiencing. If a patient’s pain rating is on the low end, maybe 1-5, the doctor knows that the patient is hurting, but not terribly (from the patent’s perspective). If a patient’s pain rating is high, the doctor knows the patient is experiencing a lot of discomfort. And that’s all that matters. There is no need to compare a patient’s pain rating to anything because a doctor is only interested in the patient’s perspective about the pain. If a patient’s pain rating is a “10,” the doctor knows immediately that the patient is hurting badly – a comparison to any type of standard is irrelevant.

The 1-10 pain rating scale is also helpful to doctors once treatment for the pain has been performed. For example, if a patient’s initial pain rating was a “9,” and then drops to a lower rating after the treatment, the doctor knows that the treatment is/was successful.

In summary, medical doctors don’t need to compare patients’ pain ratings to any type of standard because they are interested only in an individual patient’s perception of the pain.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

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