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How to Use the Pain Scale to Best Explain Your Back Pain

Back pain

Pain can be a tough thing to explain because everyone’s tolerance is different. What you may be debilitating back pain to you might be manageable to someone else. But, the universal pain scale is the best way to explain your back pain in order to help your physician understand and diagnose its source.

What is the pain scale?

The pain scale measures discomfort on a range from 1 to 10. It is commonly used by healthcare professionals to determine if pain interferes with a patients daily life, and if so, to what extent. A zero equates to being completely pain-free, whereas a 10 is inconceivably painful.

How the pain scale works

The pain scale isn’t an exact science because it is highly subject, but it still remains one of the best ways to help your doctor understand how you are feeling. Understanding how the pain scale works can help you more accurately explain your back pain.

0- No pain at all; You can function completely without any pain or discomfort.

1- Pain is present, but you only really notice when you stop to think about it.

2- Pain is annoying; You may experience stronger, occasional twinges, but you’re able to tolerate it. It’s not enough to slow you down.

3- Pain is distracting; You can still work around it, but you may try to find relief by changing your routine or behavior.

4- Pain is moderate; It can still be ignored for a short time period but eventually builds to a point that you are unable to focus on anything else.

5- Pain is moderately strong; With some effort, you can still manage through it, but this pain can’t be ignored for more than a few minutes.

6- Pain is interfering; This level of pain requires so much concentration and energy to work through that you are unable to concentrate on anything else. It takes up enough space in your thoughts that normal daily activities are not possible.

7- Pain is dominating; The pain has taken complete control of your senses and significantly hinders your ability to perform normal daily activities such as sleeping or maintaining social relationships.

8- Pain is intense; Its intensity often causes you to catch your breath, stop conversations and change your breathing patterns.

9- Pain is excruciating; Not only are you unable to carry out a conversation, but you may also find yourself uncontrollably moaning or crying out unexpectedly as a result of the pain.

10- Pain is unspeakable; This level of pain is rare but certainly possible. It can lead to delirium and unconsciousness.

pain scale to explain your back pain

Using the pain scale to explain your back pain

If you are suffering from a back injury or condition, the location of your pain is equally as important as where it falls on the pain scale. The more information you can provide your doctor to describe the pain, the better. Other questions you should be prepared to answer include:

  • How long have you had this pain?
  • How frequently does it occur?
  • How long does the pain last?
  • Have you noticed anything in particular that worsens or lessens your pain?
  • Is your pain limited to a specific area of your back or does it extend to other parts of your body?

It’s also important to understand that there is more than one type of pain. You may experience one or more of the following types:

  • Sharp stabbing pain
  • Extreme heat or burning sensation
  • Extreme cold
  • Throbbing, swelling, or inflammation
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Itching
  • Numbness, tingling or pins and needles

It can be helpful to keep a daily log of this information and bring it with you to your appointment with a spine specialist. Doing so will decrease the likelihood that you’ll forget something important and help you get the most out of your appointment.

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists

Our goal at Pacific Spine Specialists is to understand the source of your back pain so that you can resume doing what you love with the ones you love. Dr. Keenen has more than 20 years of experience performing the most technically advanced spine surgeries resulting in faster recovery times. Now that you understand how to effectively use the pain scale to best explain your back pain, call our new patient coordinator at 503-885-9391 to discuss your symptoms and schedule an appointment today.