Almost everyone is asked the same question when entering just about any healthcare facility with pain. “On a scale of 0/10, could you rate your pain for me?”
Everyone experiences pain differently. The purpose of this blog is to inform the general public more specifically, what each number on the scale represents in terms of pain. (Note: 0-3 is grouped as minor pain; 4-6 is grouped as moderate pain; 7-10 is grouped as severe pain.)
0) No pain – feeling perfectly normal
1) Very mild– light, barely noticeable pain, no observable limitation
2) Discomforting– minor pain, but doesn’t interfere with daily activity
3) Tolerable– very noticeable pain, (a blow to the nose that makes it bleed, an injection, an accidental cut) but it isn’t so strong you can’t get used to it; increased limp
4) Distressing– Strong deep pain, (like a toothache, or the initial pain from a bee sting), this pain is always noticeable, and most are unable to completely get used to it
5) Very Distressing– Strong, deep, piercing pain, (a sprained ankle that is stood on wrong), pain is noticed all the time, and starts to interfere with normal activities
6) Intense – Pain so strong it starts to partially dominate your senses (bad back pain, bad non-migraine headache), very restricted movements
7) Very Intense– Pain completely dominates your senses, holding a job would be difficult with this type of pain and you are effectively disabled at this level; tearful, needing to lie down, taking extra pain medications
8) Utterly Horrible – Pain so intense you can no longer think clearly at all, suicide is often contemplated (childbirth, or bad migraine headache)
9) Excruciating/Unbearable– Pain so intense that pain meds or surgery are demanded, suicide is common as joy in life is no longer present (throat cancer)
10) Unimaginable/Unspeakable– Emergency hospitalization, worst imaginable pain. This pain is so intense that you usually are unable to remain conscious. Most people have never experienced this level of pain (comparable to crushing your hand and losing consciousness from the pain, not blood loss).
Pain questions are not asked because your healthcare provider wants to see how tough you are, but to gain a better understanding of what you are experiencing. If a patient is sitting in a chair and not in obvious discomfort, but tells the provider they have an 8/10 pain rating, no real helpful information has been provided (as the above scale rates 8/10 as childbirth). Hopefully the above scale will provide a more accurate description of what each level of the 0-10 scale means, so both the patient and the provider can be on the same page regarding discomfort. This will allow the patient to receive better care, as they will be able to give the provider more accurate information.