On a scale from one to ten, how confusing is it to put your pain level
to a number? Understanding the pain chart can be a level ten chore in
itself, and doctors know that. As Dr. Ammar Alamarie, a physician at CaroMont
Health, explains, “Pain is subjective, and it is often difficult
for a patient to put a number to.” That’s why using the pain
chart, one of the most common tools in doctors’ offices across the
country, can be tricky.
Not everyone experiences pain in the same way. In fact, pain tolerance
is different for everyone, so it’s not only important to explain
your pain accurately to your doctor, but for your doctor to know your
symptoms and medical history for the best possible diagnosis and treatment plan.
While many doctors may use smiley faces or temperature scales to help patients
pinpoint their pain, Dr. Alamarie typically asks his patients to rate
pain on a numerical scale from one to ten.
But what do those numbers actually mean? To some extent, they’re
subjective. Again, pain is different for everyone, but the most common
rating system is an 11-point numerical scale designed to allow a patient
to self-report their physical pain.
The chart begins at zero, which means no pain, and ends at ten, meaning
you’re feeling severe pain. Not sure what severe pain is? Think
about the worst pain you’ve felt – maybe childbirth or a broken
bone – and go from there. Talk to your doctor about what the “severe
pain” situation was so they have a better understanding of where
your mind is when you’re describing the severity of your pain.
Once your doctor has an understanding of the level of pain you’re
experiencing, Dr. Alamarie says the next step is to see “how functional
the patient is, their activities, and any changes in mood.” This
observation includes your vital signs, specific symptoms and relevant
medical history, and is unique for every patient. This information, when
combined with hearing directly from you the severity, frequency and type
of pain you’re experiencing, helps your care team know how to appropriately
treat and manage your pain.
At the end of the day, improvement is a top priority for Dr. Alamarie.
He adds, “We also take into consideration a patient's ability
to do activities of daily living and being able to live an overall more
functional and happy life.”
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