NPR

Words Matter When Talking About Pain With Your Doctor

When you go to the doctor in pain, you'll probably be asked to rate your discomfort on a scale of 0 to 10. But doctors say there may be a better way to assess pain.
Describing how pain affects your daily activities may be more effective than the standard pain scale. Source: Lynn Scurfield for NPR

If you're in the hospital or a doctor's office with a painful problem, you'll likely be asked to rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10 – with 0 meaning no pain at all and 10 indicating the worst pain you can imagine. But many doctors and nurses say this rating system isn't working and they're trying a new approach.

The numeric pain scale may just be too simplistic, says , Director of the Translational Pain Research Program at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. It can lead doctors to "treat by numbers," he says and as a result, patients may not be

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