Posted by: Tony Carson | 18 September, 2007

Pain ratings fail sufferers

“So, from 0 to 10, with 10 being high, what’s your level of pain?”

I’ve always felt a little stupid answering this question. How do I know? Am I exaggerating? Am I concealing? Is there a right answer? I mean, am I a wuss or a stoic?

Turns out it isn’t a very good measurement at all: “it failed nearly a third of the time to identify patients whose pain was serious enough to impair their day-to-day functioning.”

Obviously, one’s answer is highly subjective but, with no easy clinical test, like with blood pressure or cholesterol, what’s the alternative?

There isn’t one, not according to this article in the Globe and Mail: Pain ratings fail sufferers.

The numeric scale as a screening tool for patients has been in use in the United States for years. It is less widespread in Canada, although doctors here routinely use the 0 to 10 scale to assess pain in patients during examinations.

What a number means, however, can vary widely from one person to the next. Researchers have also debated the pain thresholds of men and women.

Dr. Jeffrey Coull, chief executive officer of Quebec-based drug developer Chlorion Pharma and a former pain researcher, said pain is a misunderstood concept.

“The problem is measuring it effectively,” he said. “You can’t take a blood sample, so what do you look for? The only choice you have right now is to use these subjective scales and it is a major problem.”


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