Pain is an indelible part of human life, yet it is almost impossible to communicate its existence or breadth to others. The majority of the healthcare industry is concerned with minimizing pain, but no machine or procedure exists that can quantifiably measure it. Today, three methods are most commonly used for patients to self-report their pain intensity: the numeric rating scale, Wong-Baker Faces Pain Rating Scale, and the Faces Pain Scale-Revised. Each rating scale has certain advantages and limitations that make it appropriate for different populations.
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Firstly, the numeric rating scale commonly uses a range of 0-10 and asks patients to rate their pain with zero being “no pain” and ten being “the worst pain imaginable”. This is typically used with all patients over the age of eight because it requires the cognitive ability to assess pain levels and assign numerical values. However, it is still extremely subjective because all patients have different previous experiences and pain thresholds. Secondly, the Wong-Baker Faces Pain Rating Scale uses the same internal logic but with a visual representation of emojis in six successive stages of pain. Thirdly, the Faces Pain Scale-Revised also visualizes pain intensity, but without the affectation of smiles or tears. These two scales are most appropriate for children under eight or mentally impaired patients because they only require them to point to the cartoon face that best matches their state. However, patients may misinterpret the chart as representing their internal mood or think their pain is insignificant because their facial expression is different. The numeric rating scale is reserved for patients older than eight, while the Wong-Baker and Faces Pain Scale-Revised are mostly used with children from three to seven years because visual information is easier to comprehend.
In conclusion, different pain scales should be used depending on the patient’s age and cognitive ability. The numerical rating scale should be used with patients over eight, while Wong-Baker and Faces Pain Scale-Revised have visualizations of pain intensity that are useful with younger children and mentally impaired patients. In any case, reporting intensity is only one part of a complete pain assessment. Healthcare professionals should also inquire about region, timing, quality, and provocation to gain a full understanding of patient’s pain and pinpoint its causes.
Zambon, V. (2020). Pain scale types. Medical News Today. Web.