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Comparative Pain Scale

May 11, 2010 - 5 comments

0 No pain. Feeling perfectly normal.

MINOR: Does not interfere with most activities. Able to adapt to pain psychologically and with medication or devices such as cushions.

1. Very Mild:  Very light barely noticable pain, like a mosquito bite or a poison ivy itch. Most of the time you never think about the pain.

2. Discomforting: Minor pain, like lightly pinching the fold of skin between the thumb and first finger with the other hand, using the fingernails. Note that people react differently to this self-test.

3. Tolerable:  Very noticable pain, like an accidental cut, a blow to the nose causing a bloody nose, or a doctor giving you an injection. The pain is not so strong that you cannot get used to it. Eventually, most of the time you don't notice the pain. You have adapted to it.


MODERATE: Interferes with many activities. Requires lifestyle changes but patient remains independent. Unable to adapt to pain.

4. Distressing  Strong: deep pain, like an average toothache, the initial pain from a bee sting, or minor trauma to part of the body, such as stubbing your toe real hard. So strong you notice the pain all the time and cannot completely adapt. This pain level can be simulated by pinching the fold of skin between the thumb and first finger with the other hand, using the fingernails, and squeezing real hard. Note how the similated pain is initially piercing but becomes dull after that.

5. Very Distressing:  Strong, deep, piercing pain, such as a sprained ankle when you stand on it wrong, or mild back pain. Not only do you notice the pain all the time, you are now so preoccupied with managing it that you normal lifestyle is curtailed. Temporary personality disorders are frequent.

6. Intense  Strong: deep, piercing pain so strong it seems to partially dominate your senses, causing you to think somewhat unclearly. At this point you begin to have trouble holding a job or maintaining normal social relationships. Comparable to a bad non-migriane headache combined with several bee stings, or a bad back pain.


SEVERE: Unable to engage in normal activities. Patient is disabled and unable to function independently.

7. Very Intense:  Same as 6 except the pain completely dominates your senses, causing you to think unclearly about half the time. At this point you are effectively disabled and frequently cannot live alone. Comparable to an average migraine headache.

8. Utterly Horrible Pain: So intense you can no longer think clearly at all, and have often undergone severe personality change if the pain has been present for a long time. Suicide is frequently contemplated and sometimes tried. Comparable to childbirth or a real bad migraine headache.

9. Excruciating Unbearable:  Pain so intense you cannot tolerate it and demand pain killers or surgery, no matter what the side effects or risk. If this doesn't work, suicide is frequent since there is no more joy in life whatsoever. Comparable to throat cancer.

10. Unimaginable Unspeakable: Pain so intense you will go unconscious shortly. Most people have never experienced this level of pain. Those who have suffered a severe accident, such as a crushed hand, and lost consciousness as a result of the pain and not blood loss, have experienced level 10.

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by aheart, May 11, 2010
Thank you for this Tuck!

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by Dalubaba, Aug 28, 2010
The above catagorization is very informative. we will can rithly label our pain. I think ritht labeling may reduce pain to some extent.Thanks for inormation.

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by Tuckamore, Aug 28, 2010
You're Welcome Dalubaba...and of course aheart.

This is one of the best scales I have seen that adequately describe the levels of pain. Pain is so subjective. I think this scale spells out and defines the levels/numbers for better communication to your physician(s) and medical care providers.

Because I have so many medical issues that can and does produce pain I carry this Pain Scale on me. Often when we are at a high level of pain we are not able to communicate as well as we should. If ever I have to go to ER and they ask (which they always do), "How would you rate your pain?".....I hand them this and tell them the number. It saves a lot of questions. I have also given my PCP a copy. It has been very beneficial in relating my pain to medical practitioners.

In theory, the better we are able to communicate with the treating physician/medical staff the better our care should be.  

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by peekawho, Aug 28, 2010
Will print this out.  Thanks, Tuck.

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by houseofgirls, Aug 29, 2010
I know that I don't experience a 10 or even 8 or 9.  I'm usually at 5-7.  I had 1 kidney infection when I was 20...That was probably beyond a 10.  I almost died, and definately lost consiousness.  I couldn't even put my clothes on because it hurt my skin, and I was hallucinating.  All pain for me has been compared to that.  Even my c-sections and other surgeries never came close to that feeling.  According to my doctor at the time, I was about a day away from dying.  Makes you pay way more attention to your body, thats for sure!

Thank you for this pain scale.  I think really understanding it helps so much when you have to explain how you feel to your doctor.

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