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Pain measurement

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In medicine, pain measurement is the use of "scales, questionnaires, tests, and other methods used to assess pain severity and duration in patients or experimental animals to aid in diagnosis, therapy, and physiological studies."[1]

Numeric rating scale

Pain may be quantified on a pain numeric rating scale (NRS) that ranges from 0-10 points (0 means no pain); however, the accuracy of such as scale (using a cut point of 4 or more) for predicting pain that interferes with functioning is:[2]

This score does not correlate with heart rate.[3]

Reliability of measurement may be improved by increasing the frequency of measurement.[4][5]

Visual analog scale

Visual analog scales (VAS) have been used to measure pain. An observational study concluded "the minimum clinically significant change in patient pain severity measured with a 100-mm visual analog scale was 13 mm."[6]

The PEG is a 3 item scale that rates pain and its impact on the patient's life.[7]

Other scales

The McGill Pain Questionnaire is available.[8]


  1. Anonymous (2019), Pain measurement (English). Medical Subject Headings. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  2. Krebs, Carey, and Weinberger, “Accuracy of the Pain Numeric Rating Scale as a Screening Test in Primary Care,” Journal of General Internal Medicine 22, no. 10 (October 21, 2007): 1453-1458, DOI:10.1007/s11606-007-0321-2 (accessed September 28, 2007)
  3. Lord B, Woollard M (2011). "The reliability of vital signs in estimating pain severity among adult patients treated by paramedics.". Emerg Med J 28 (2): 147-50. DOI:10.1136/emj.2009.079384. PMID 20926627. Research Blogging.
  4. Heapy A, Dziura J, Buta E, Goulet J, Kulas JF, Kerns RD (2014). "Using multiple daily pain ratings to improve reliability and assay sensitivity: how many is enough?". J Pain 15 (12): 1360-5. DOI:10.1016/j.jpain.2014.09.012. PMID 25283469. Research Blogging.
  5. Stone AA, Schneider S, Broderick JE, Schwartz JE (2014). "Single-day pain assessments as clinical outcomes: not so fast.". Clin J Pain 30 (9): 739-43. DOI:10.1097/AJP.0000000000000030. PMID 24281295. Research Blogging.
  6. Todd KH, Funk KG, Funk JP, Bonacci R (April 1996). "Clinical significance of reported changes in pain severity". Ann Emerg Med 27 (4): 485–9. PMID 8604867[e]
  7. Krebs EE, Lorenz KA, Bair MJ, Damush TM, Wu J, Sutherland JM et al. (2009). "Development and initial validation of the PEG, a three-item scale assessing pain intensity and interference.". J Gen Intern Med 24 (6): 733-8. DOI:10.1007/s11606-009-0981-1. PMID 19418100. PMC PMC2686775. Research Blogging.
  8. Melzack R (2005). "The McGill pain questionnaire: from description to measurement.". Anesthesiology 103 (1): 199-202. PMID 15983473.