Describing Chronic Pain

Describing Chronic Pain Scale

As surprising as it may sound, it can be really difficult to describe how pain feels. Each of us experiences our pain differently – making it highly subjective. This is a challenge for both patient and the health professional. So today we are going to go over some of the things to keep in mind while describing chronic pain.

Describing Chronic Pain to Your Health Care Provider:

We are sure you have realized how common the medical room pain scale is – like the one above.  The doctor asks where you fall on the chart, a 0 rating means you are perfectly fine and a 10 is the worst agony imaginable. However, is it really imaginable when nobody experiences pain the same two ways? This chart is extremely limited when you think that one person’s 8 can be another person’s 3.

Describing chronic pain is relative and that is why there should be more communication between patient and physician.


There are a ton of ways to describe pain – with the most common being metaphors or similes. “It feels like someone is stabbing me,” for example. Again, unless the physician has been stabbed, they really can’t understand your pain. Another way of describing pain is by type (burning, dull, sharp) and triggers (what were you doing, where were you?. It is a lot to remember. That is why the American Pain Foundation created the LOCATES scale.

  • L: Location of the pain and whether it travels to other body parts.
  • O: Other associated symptoms such as nausea, numbness, or weakness.
  • C: Character of the pain, whether it’s throbbing, sharp, dull, or burning.
  • A: Aggravating and alleviating factors. What makes the pain better or worse?
  • T: Timing of the pain, how long it lasts, is it constant or intermittent?
  • E: Environment where the pain occurs, for example, while working or at home.
  • S: Severity of the pain. Use a 0-to-10 pain scale from no pain to worst ever.

While this is probably the best option at expressing pain, the bottom line is describing chronic pain pain as accurately as possible. Some individuals attempt to minimize pain because they are afraid of the outcome and others over exagerate because they are afraid they won’t be taken seriously. Neither is a good option. If you want the best treatment possible, the doctor needs to understand what is wrong.

Our staff at Metropolitan Pain Consultants looks forward to hearing from you. You can contact us at (201) 729-0001. We offer weekday and weekend appointments. Our conveniently located clinics can be found in West OrangeAberdeenClifton, and Lyndhurst.

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