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8 Tips for Creating Your Own Pain Scale

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Sometimes, traditional pain scales aren’t enough to express how you really feel. Our Mighty community understands that all too well. See some creative scales they’ve shared over the years and let us know if you find them relatable.

Creating your own pain scale can be a valuable exercise if you find that standard pain scales don’t accurately capture your unique experience of pain. This personalized approach can also be helpful for caregivers or health care providers working closely with a specific patient whose needs aren’t fully met by conventional scales. Here are some steps to consider when creating your own pain scale:

1. Define Objectives

Decide what you want the scale to achieve. Are you interested solely in measuring the intensity of the pain, or do you also want to capture other dimensions like location, duration, or emotional impact?

2. Identify Key Parameters

Decide what factors are most important for you to gauge. This could include:

  • Intensity: How strong is the pain?
  • Quality: Is it burning, stabbing, aching, etc.?
  • Location: Where exactly is the pain?
  • Duration: How long does it last?
  • Triggers: What activities or circumstances trigger or exacerbate it?
  • Emotional Impact: How is it affecting your mood or emotional state?
  • Physical Limitations: To what extent does it limit your physical activities?

3. Choose a Format

Decide how you want to represent your pain scale. It could be numerical, visual, descriptive, or a combination. A color-coded system or a series of descriptive words/phrases can be more informative than a simple 0-10 scale.

4. Develop Descriptors or Indicators

If you choose a numerical or visual scale, think about attaching specific descriptors to each point on the scale to make it clearer. For instance, rather than saying “5,” you might say “5 – can’t focus on work but can still walk around.”

5. Test and Revise

Before relying on your custom scale, test it out during various pain episodes to see if it captures your experience accurately. Revise as needed. Consider sharing it with your health care provider for feedback and to see how it can be integrated into your treatment plan.

6. Make It User-Friendly

The scale should be easy to use and quick to fill out. If it’s too complicated, you’re less likely to use it consistently.

7. Record Keeping

Consider maintaining a pain diary to record your ratings and additional notes about activities, triggers, and treatments you tried. This can be invaluable information for your health care provider.

8. Share With Health Care Providers

If you’ve developed your scale, it’s important to share this with your health care providers to ensure that it’s clinically helpful and that your pain management strategies can be adjusted accordingly.

Why You Should Consider Creating Your Own Pain Scale

1. Personalized Assessment: Everyone experiences pain differently. Creating your own pain scale allows for a more tailored evaluation that aligns with your unique experiences and sensations.

2. Better Communication: A customized scale can help you communicate more effectively with health care providers, ensuring they understand your specific pain levels and nuances.

3. Track Subtle Changes: Standard scales might not capture the minute variations in your pain. A personal scale can detect subtle shifts that are significant to you.

4. Inclusion of Emotional and Mental Aspects: Many pain scales focus on physical pain. Crafting your own allows you to integrate emotional or mental effects associated with your pain.

5. Empowerment: Taking an active role in defining and assessing your pain can make you feel more in control of your health journey.

6. Comprehensive Understanding: By reflecting on and creating a scale, you may gain deeper insights into triggers, patterns, and effective interventions for your pain.

7. Flexibility: As your condition or experiences change, you can quickly adapt your personal pain scale, whereas standard scales remain static.

8. Capture Multi-Dimensional Pain: Your scale can be designed to assess multiple dimensions of pain, such as intensity, duration, and type, all in one.

9. Encourages Self-Awareness: Designing a scale requires introspection, which can increase self-awareness about your pain and its impact on your life.

10. Enhanced Treatment Planning: A personalized scale can assist health care providers in crafting a treatment plan that truly aligns with your needs and experiences.

Creating your own pain scale can offer a nuanced way to understand, quantify, and communicate your experience, making it easier to manage and discuss your symptoms with health care providers. It also gives you a personalized tool that can be easily adapted as your needs and experiences change.

Getty image by Milko

Originally published: October 12, 2023
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