As a pain management practice in Pasadena, we are always asking our patients to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10. We feel it’s a reasonable question — except many times our patients don’t know how to interpret their pain accurately. They wonder, “what should I say?”
Patients are sometimes concerned that if the number is too low, we won’t understand how much they are hurting. Or, if the number is too high, patients fear they may look like they’re trying to get pain medications.
So, what do the pain scale numbers mean exactly? Here is the most commonly accepted description of each number on the scale.
The Pain Scale
0 – Pain free.
1 – Pain is very mild, barely noticeable. Most of the time you don’t think about it.
2 – Minor pain. Annoying and may have occasional stronger twinges.
3 – Pain is noticeable and distracting, however, you can get used to it and adapt.
4 – Moderate pain. If you are deeply involved in an activity, it can be ignored for a period of time, but is still distracting.
5 – Moderately strong pain. It can’t be ignored for more than a few minutes, but with effort you still can manage to work or participate in some social activities.
6 – Moderately strong pain that interferes with normal daily activities. Difficulty concentrating.
7 – Severe pain that dominates your senses and significantly limits your ability to perform normal daily activities or maintain social relationships. Interferes with sleep.
8 – Intense pain. Physical activity is severely limited. Conversing requires great effort.
9 – Excruciating pain. Unable to converse. Crying out and/or moaning uncontrollably.
10 – Unspeakable pain. Bedridden and possibly delirious. Very few people will ever experience this level of pain.
Avoiding Misperceptions About Your Pain
When rating pain, the most common mistake people make is overstating their pain level. That generally happens one of two ways:
- Saying your pain is a 12 on a scale of 0 to 10.
While you may simply be trying to convey the severity of your pain, it may appear that you have given in to exaggeration and you may not be taken seriously.
- Smiling and conversing with us, then saying that your pain level is a 10.
If you are able to carry on a normal conversation, your pain is not a 10—nor is it even a 9. Consider the fact that natural childbirth (no epidural or medication) is generally thought to be an 8 on the pain scale.
Because pain is subjective, it is difficult to explain what you’re feeling to another person—even to us. The pain scale may not be ideal, but it’s the best tool we have right now. IMPORTANT: If you want your pain to be taken seriously, it’s important that you take the pain scale seriously.
About Pasadena Pain Management
Pasadena Pain Management offers sleep apnea and pain management treatment for TMJ/TMD, migraine, headaches and neck pain in Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. At Pasadena Pain Management, we offer the exclusive TruDenta treatment therapy — a highly specialized form of care that involves cutting-edge dental technology, without needles or injections. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable pain management care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping our patients happy and pain free.