How Is Pain Measured And How Should I Talk About Pain With My Doctor?

Dr. Russell Portenoy answers the question: 'How Is Pain Measured?'

— -- Question: How Is Pain Measured And How Should I Talk About Pain With My Doctor?

Answer: A person with pain often asks whether or not pain can be measured and whether pain should be discussed with a physician. To answer this question, it's very important to understand that although pain is a natural, biological phenomenon without which a person could not survive, when pain is acute and severe or pain becomes chronic, there's no biological advantage.

In fact, any patient who has chronic pain, pain that goes on for a period of months or outlasts the healing of an acute injury, any such person should consider the pain as being a chronic illness.

Now, obviously people with the chronic illness of pain should be discussing this with their physicians. And they need to recognize that pain can be described in a variety of different ways. One way that's common is to describe pain in terms of its severity or its intensity. And pain specialists have known for many years that we can measure pain in a variety of different ways. We can measure pain on a verbal scale: mild, moderate, severe. We can measure pain on a number scale from zero to ten, where zero is no pain and ten is the worst pain imaginable. And there are a variety of other, more sophisticated ways to measure pain as well.

Patients should express to their physician that they have a pain syndrome, they should be available to describe their pain to their doctor, and as part of that description they need to tell their doctor how severe the pain is, often by using a number from zero to ten.

Next: Are There Any Blood Tests That Can Determine How Much Pain I am Experiencing?

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