3 Ways to Describe Pain Easily

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Man in pain

The ability to the describe pain levels that you are experiencing to your doctor or friends isn’t easy, especially when you are newly diagnosed and don’t necessarily have the vocabulary to use. However, describing your pain accurately and thoroughly is important for both your GP and specialist. In addition, your friends, family and work colleagues will appreciate and better understand what you are experiencing if you can clearly describe it. So I am going to make it easy for you.

Below are three charts that I find extremely useful, so I hope this helps you too.

Assign star ratings to show your preference for each chart.

Share with others, by commenting on this article what methods you find best to describe your pain to the medical profession and friends, colleagues and family.

Describe Pain Using a Visual Chart

I think visually, so I love the images in this pictoral pain scale and find them particularly useful as a way of describing pain. Each persons experience of pain is unique from daily arthritis to chest infections and simple headaches. It’s my go to chart.
Describe pain with a visual chart
What does your pain feel like in pictures level 1-12
What rating would you give this chart?

Describe Pain Using a Numerical Chart

Most frequently, we are asked to describe our pain using a scale of 0 to 10, with zero being no pain and 10 being the worst pain imaginable. I used to hate being asked this question. It is such a subjective scale. The pain level changes depending on what body part it is affecting, what time of day it is and how I’m feeling emotionally. I am always fearful too that my gauging of the level is different to other peoples levels. Am I being too precious? Is it really that bad?

One of the hardest things about chronic pain is it only YOU know just how bad your pain feels. The Pain scale chart below includes an explanation of each of the pain levels and helps you better explain to others the pain that you are feeling.

Describe pain using a pain scale chart
caption a colourful infographic of the pain scale levels, listing the number rating of the pain and a short descriptor for that level. This has been produced by ProHealth.com
What rating would you give this chart?

The McGill Pain Questionnaire

The McGill Pain Questionnaire is an oldie but a goodie. This chart assesses three separate components of pain experience:

    1. the sensory intensity (what you believe is the strength or magnitude of the pain What Does Your Pain Feel Like?) 
    2. the emotional impact (effects on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. How Does Your Pain Change with Time?)
    3. the cognitive evaluation of pain (How Strong is Your Pain?)

It assesses the quality and the intensity of subjective pain.

The following is a printable version of the chart below which you could use to monitor your pain over time and the effectiveness of any interventions or treatments that you may try.

McGill Pain Levels
Image: Image of a document showing McGill Pain Levels. There are lists of words that describe pain and two outlines of the front and back of a human body.
What rating would you give this chart?

Describing Your Pain - other methods

If you want to explore alternative pain level descriptors the following article has a comprehensive collection. 

Very Well Health “Pain Scales Assessment Tools”

Pain and Excercise

Do you experience fear that exercising will only worsen your pain levels? You may find my article: Pain – Taming the Rattlesnake helpful

Interested in learning more about chronic pain?

The teacher librarian in me now needs to let you know of some books that might help you learn more about how to deal with your pain

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